“I can’t take it any more! I am a mother of four and my kids love their grandmother, my mother-in-law, very much. We have a great relationship overall. I take the kids over every weekend to hang out with their grandparents and help them do household chores, eat a nice family dinner, and play board game. They just love it. Here’s my problem: all she does is complain! All weekend long I have to make small talk with her about everything from the way people drive like maniacs, the way people have too much in line in front of us at the speedy checkout, the way young girls today wear their hair, and how bumpy roads are even though we all pay taxes. It never ends from the moment I walk in the door until we say goodbye! What can I do to stop the negative chatter?”
I wish I could say I feel your pain, but as my parents have gotten older they have taken a turn in the other direction and have become completely benign. Nothing disturbs them; everything in their lives is peachy. Whether or not that is true is another story, but it seems to me that as we age we tend to take one side or the other on all matters and are often too willing to spout our opinions to those we see as needing our wisdom.
I would like to see if a small experiment wouldn’t help your situation. Be direct with your mother-in-law. Tell her “Mom, you know the kids and I love spending time with you and helping out around the house. You are always positive towards us, but I notice you are very negative towards other people and even about things you can’t control. Why do you feel so much anxiety about these things?” I wonder if you told her this every time she said something negative if she wouldn’t just give up the battle entirely.
You may also try a slightly nauseating approach to the situation- fight fire with flowers! Be positive about everything Mom doesn’t like. If people have too many items in line, mention that you forgot the very thing the woman in front of you is holding. If roads are bumpy, offer to take another route to satisfy her tastes. Make her day so pleasant and palatable that there isn’t anything left to complain about!
Sometime all we need is a gentle shovel in the direction of positive thinking, especially if we are good people at heart. Your mother-in-law must be a great lady to have raised such a great child to deserve a patient and positive woman like you!