The challenge of my mother-in-law’s visit

My mother-in-law arrives from Russia tonight; she’ll be staying with us for some six weeks. She used to visit us once annually, but we haven’t seen her in person for three years due to COVID-19; and, given the unpredictability of Russia’s political relationships with other countries, it’s not clear that flights between Russia and Israel will remain available indefinitely.

The challenge is that my MIL is a patriotic Russian woman who fully buys into the Kremlin’s propaganda, as she has for many years. Regarding the war in Ukraine, for example, she was speaking to my wife a few months ago, expressing her concern for the Ukrainians living in the city of Mariupol, which was being leveled by the Russian army.

My wife, surprised that her mother was expressing concern for the city, listened. Then, sincerely, innocently, her mother dropped the bomb: “Yes, it’s quite unfortunate that the Russian army must continue its attacks until the remaining several thousand Nazis in Mariupol are taken care of.”

Meanwhile, since the very outbreak of this war, my wife has been actively fundraising for and supporting organizations in Ukraine, as well as organizing services for Ukrainians who are currently living and working in Israel. Of course, she keeps this from her mother. After all, why sow the seeds of conflict?

She has friends and colleagues who live in Ukraine, you see, and she used to travel there several times a year for work; so, this war is very personal for her in two ways: 1) her entire family lives in Russia, where she was born and raised; and 2) she has deep personal and professional ties to Ukraine.

When my wife speaks to her mother by phone, she simply doesn’t allow the conversations to ‘go there’. When her mother attempts to raise the subject, my wife responds, “Mother, we hold different views on this matter, and it’s best to avoid touching upon it in order to avoid getting into a hurtful dispute.”

Thus far, this approach has more or less worked, but now her mother is coming to stay with us for an entire one-and-a-half months… Is a dispute avoidable, realistically?

Personally, I am 100% on the side of Ukraine in this conflict, and I am aghast at how so much of the Russian populace has bought into the Kremlin’s messaging, hook, line, and sinker. Aghast, but not surprised, mind you, as I’m familiar with the country and its people.

Nevertheless, I don’t take the evil Russian aggression against Ukraine personally, as my wife does. I’m not personally close to anyone in Ukraine, and I don’t have any immediate family (on my side) in Russia, nor was I born and raised there. So, yes, I’m livid at Vladimir Putin’s evil terror campaign, scared of the prospect of nuclear war, and appalled by Russia’s war crimes; but… I’m not living in a state of constantly heightened anxiety, as my wife is.

I worry that a major argument between my wife and her mother is unavoidable. One-and-a-half months is quite a long time to live with and interact with a close family member on a daily basis; and, regardless of good intentions and love, I’m far from convinced that the two of them will manage to avoid the subject.

See, it’s not merely a political dispute for either of them. My MIL deeply feels that she and her country are being persecuted… This isn’t some distant, hypothetical country that we’re talking about – it’s her country, which she is a very proud citizen of.

My MIL will certainly end up raising the issue of Russia’s war against Ukraine in one way, shape, or form… After all, the current events effect her life in countless ways, so this is unavoidable.

The question, I suppose, is whether we’ll be able to keep the tension to a simmer.

73 thoughts on “The challenge of my mother-in-law’s visit”

  1. Wow. This is going to be difficult for you and your wife. I don’t see how people can buy into crazy Russian propaganda, but in a way, it’s universal. Everywhere we have people buying into fascist propaganda and jingoism. It seems like a country’s authoritarian policies are robbing the individual of his/her individuality. It’s frightening.

    1. ❤ Nitin ❤ ~ well, my MIL lives there… so she not only lacks access to alternative channels of information, but she’s predisposed to wanting to believe in her leader and in her government and in her country… We all have biases built into us, ya know?

  2. Indoctrination can be a two way street, blind to both passing motorist… if both can remain on their side of the dividing line, there will be no accidents… even though both are going in the direction the other wishes not to go…!

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