Unexpected Behavior

So far my Chinese mother-in-law has visited us three times. The first time together with her husband staying for a month with us, the second time for three months when Nathan was born and the third time this year again for three months. Besides that we have been multiple times in China spanning altogether again roughly 4 months, not to speak of all the video chats over the years. You might think that after so much time that I would know about MIL and what to expect. No.

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MIL and bloated Nathan

Each time she visits or we go to China I learn a bit more about her. This is usually a good thing however in this case it results that all my prior “knowledge” about her becomes useless. Every time when I have the feeling that I know what kind of person she is and how her mind works she destroys it by doing something totally out of her normal behavior. For example I always thought for years that she loves to share everything she has with her family that she likes giving. This was true for many years but then suddenly she was the exact opposite. When my wife was still a beauty consultant at the airport in Finland she got many cosmetic products for free so of course she gave tons of it to her mother. In fact she gave so many things that MIL wouldn’t be able to use them all up in the next 40 years, several suitcases full. When my wife asked her mother to give her some creme as she had forgotten to take it with her MIL just refused. She needs it herself urgently, she has not enough and so on. Not enough? Alright…

I told you already about her magical ability to twist reality as according to herself she has never done anything wrong in her life. The toaster she broke 3 years ago in Finland?  Wasn’t her, it just fell apart itself. All the bowls she dropped? Wasn’t her, they just fell down themselves as someone else has place them in a bad position on the table. The ugly clothes she bought her niece? Wasn’t her, everyone else remembers the story wrong. You see, it is a bit strange with her. When we told her not to spoil Nathan so much and be more strict with him when he does something wrong she didn’t understand. My wife asked her then how she raised her up and MIL said that she did the exact same thing as with Nathan now. Lets just say I could see my wife’s jaw drop after that remark. When my wife was little her mother was pretty much what you hear about Asian Tiger Moms. Yeah, MIL had forgotten/ twisted her view on the reality that she has never been a strict mother, punishing if needed with a slap or two.

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She smiles but you never know what will happen next!

Another thing she surprised me with two years ago was how and to whom she expresses it when she is angry. There was this one time we went to the Muslim Area in Xi’an in order to get some nice food. Aunty, MIL’s sister, had the idea to take us to a certain restaurant with nice food whileas MIL wanted to go to a total different restaurant. They both did not argue but something very interesting happened once the food was served. I immediately digged in and loved the food (a cold noodle dish) however when MIL tried her noodles she started shouting at the waitress how they could dare to bring her so terrible food, the noodles were too hard and all in all it was the most disgusting food she has ever tried. Another jaw dropper…all the huge argument starting like a fire between my wife and her mother is another story altogether. While they had their argument I ate the delicious noodles and was wondering about MIL. Later I experienced several times her “anger” directed towards other people when something didn’t work out the way she wanted. Funny though that this anger is always unleashed on people who are on a bit lower social status than herself. I am saying this because once she returned bread in a very expensive supermarket. The reason was that the bread had tiny worms crawling around just a day after buying it. Both my wife and I expected another furious clash but no, she calmly talked to the staff and the manager of the store and even said it is not that bad and that no refund was needed. Once again a jaw dropper!

disgustingfood
The most disgusting food ever

My crazy Chinese mother-in-law is surely a strange human being. I am not condemning her for that but it is always strange as she is so unpredictable, you never can even guess what will happen next. Despite all of that we still love her, even though she is a bit crazy and her next three month visit is already been planned in order to help us as I am mostly not able to do much due to my health. Without doubt she will surprise us once again with some unexpected behaviour.

Do you know a person who always surprises you with unexpected behavior?

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40 thoughts on “Unexpected Behavior”

  1. It sounds like your MIL is temperamental. And fickle minded at times with all the unpredictable behaviour. I have to give it to you for keeping calm when that happens and don’t join in with her and make a big scene when she does 😀

    Sometimes I surprise myself with my own unexpected behaviour. At times…like pushing past people to get to the front of things like queues. It surprises me because I am a shy person and like to move away from people 😀

    1. I am pretty much the calm one with her but my wife…well they had some fights already about MIL’s behavior :p
      For me it is similar, I also have sometimes a “stronger” personality in times I really need it. Otherwise I am more of a shy person who prefers to do most things via Mail instead of calling or face to face…

      1. I am sure it is not the last we hear of MIL’s two-sided personality. Maybe it comes with age, I don’t know.

        I too prefer dealing things with mail or the internet. But my job demands calls and face to face, so challenging.

      2. Yes, you can bet that there will be still a lot coming about her two-sided personality 😀
        I never liked the face to face meetings but then again it always depended on the other person, sometimes it could be also very enjoyable 🙂

  2. One thing you have to say for your mother-in-law: She is full of life and fun-loving. She’s an especially good subject for a writer to study. It’s better to write about a multi-faceted character than about one who is totally predictable. We all have our good and bad points, our good and bad moments. Maybe with her, it’s just more obvious. You can see, we all enjoy reading about her.

    1. Yes, I have so much to write about her and so many things to study that I won’t run out of stories for some time. For example my father-in-law is a very predictable person, I do not really have much to write about him at all!

  3. Your MIL sounds more unpredictable than Danish summer weather, and I’m quite surprised how she handled the bread situation. I don’t think I know anyone like your MIL…

  4. I have to say that my own MIL is a bit emotional and temperamental herself. Nowhere close to yours, but sometimes it’s difficult to predict her behaviour! But, she stays with you for 3 months at a time!?!? Wow! I don’t think there’s any way I could have a parent live with me for 3 months in a row…

    1. Yeah she is always staying three months as the tickets from China to Europe are so crazily expensive (around 1000-1200euros…)
      I pretty much switch off my brain while she is here so I don’t go crazy while she is here but just afterwards when I asses all the damage :p

    1. She is very good in keeping us busy all the time.
      My health is like on a rollercoaster since this spring, sometimes calm where everything seems alright and suddenly it all goes rapidly downhill. Not so much fun and so far there is no real prediction when I can have a normal life again

  5. I hope you get better long term, CrazyChineseF and you have medical/professional support.

    I’m glad you try to ignore certain outbursts if they don’t involve you and MIL directly.

    Sure my mother has a temper (she can yell if she’s angry) but I do give her credit for trying hard consistently as mother in her behaviour for..6 children.

    I think your MIL wants to be right, in control and she wants to look “good”. This will not work as she ages.

    Is there anything that she in very good consistently to all of you that she gives to all of you in terms of something as an act/gesture? Praise her on this.

    As for all the other stuff, especially how she treats Nathan vs. you/wife as parents to discipline child, she truly needs to understand some day.. Gets complicated if she only visits.

    Is your FIL, mild tempered or just goes along with his wife/your MIL?

    1. Thank you for your kind words.
      Father in law just goes with it and rarely defends his position. I guess through that she got more and more used to her strong position and thinks that it is her normal position also with other people (except with wealthy people!).
      She surely has her good sides when she organizes where we should eat, make some delicious noodle dishes or let’s just say in general taking care for us.for these things we are grateful and tell her this also.
      My wife tries to “teach” her mother not to behave so bad towards other people when it is her own fault when something goes wrong. I wonder that she will actually learn from it but they had some big arguments about it and at least sometimes she does behave better later on, at least whil my wife is there

      1. It is good that your wife stands firmly for key matters. Actually my father was little like your FIL except he was gracious enough to tolerate the small ruckus vs. key matters. I miss my father. He passed away a yr. ago. He was the family mediator, translator and well respected among my extended family because of his more diplomatic and even temperament. My mother knew she married a kind man.

      2. Sorry to hear about your father, he sounded like a great person.
        My father in law is a quiet person and stays in the background. I think he is happiest when his wife is always for three months with us. He has OCD when it comes to cleaning so he cleans everything three times. The thing is that MIL is not a real clean person and leaves eveywhere where oily handprints etc, my wife once told her after she stayed with us for a while that she understand why her father got that compulsive cleaning as even I started to clean the apartment on a daily basis!

  6. I’m having flashbacks, especially hearing about how your MIL assigns the blame to everyone else or conveniently “forgets” how things REALLY were. My Chinese MIL has certain similarities to yours, although she doesn’t kowtow to anyone supposedly higher on the social ladder. Nor airport police. Last time at the airport, one of them complained about her parking job and she dropped the F-bomb on them. Good times.

    1. Oh yeah, airport police isn’t safe either from my MIL. Few years ago she was just running through the security check and the police came and she started shouting at them. Thankfully my wife was working at the airport back then to get her out of that situation otherwise they would have put MIL inthe next plane to China :p

    1. Well it is a special thing with Chinese. A lot I can understand through the words I know and especially the tone used but often I have to rely on my wife because MIL drifts into Xi’an dialect when going crazy

  7. HI CCF, …. your motherinlaw is not crazy, she’s just typical of Chinese women of her generation. Actually, I think she is quite tame. I prefer not to think about the times spent near my ex-mother-outof law ( 🙂 )….the only word that comes close is simply “rude”. Very. my ex-hubbie could never see that though. We moved out of town quick smart when my daughter was a baby – couldn’t stand the interference. You have to remember to, your m.i.l’s attitudes to child-raising – and everything else – are simply cultural. “discipline children”??? huh, what’s that? the prevailing attitude is “they will grow out of it”. Well, in these days of one child from a family whose parents were also one children – with a heady mix of born again capitalism and shopping as the only leisure activity known to human kind – let me tell ya, these kids don’t grow out of it. it’s a worry. At least you dont live with your inlay, as many young chinese familie often do.
    Your post captured cultural misunderstandings perfectly, and was so humorous 🙂 ( though annoying for you undoubtedly)

    1. Yeah the whole thing of treating children/ grandchildren as little empresses/ emperors is just too common in China. I yet have to see there that someone stops their child doing something wrong. For example my wife’s little cousin (now 6 years old) still needs nearly two! Hours to eat her food however once we went to McDonalds and she ate the damn burger in seconds and everyone was just laughing! My parents would have behaved a bit different…

      It is just sad to see that for my mother in law only expensive things are worth something. It goes as far as she only wants to buy certain products from Europe as they are more expensive but in the end they are still made in China.

      Thankfully my wife is pretty much different than her mother/ family and friends of her who I have met in China thus far and some in Finland. It might be also because she has been away from there for eight years and started earning money on her own right away when she started her studies in Finland and thus didn’t need any support from her family.

      1. Chinese people laugh when they are embarrassed. One child people having one child has created a second generation of selfishness, mixed with the whole ‘get rich quick’ thing. I hear you about not making a scene in expensive stores – I have seen that happen also, very very frustrating, and so hypocritical.

        Products made for export, even though made in China, are heaps better quality than products made in China for the domestic market, so anyone with a bit of spare cash wants to by the ‘made for export’ variety as its bound to be much better.

        As you say, thankfully your wife has been away from China for long enough to have been exposed to different ways of interacting!

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