I am breathing in through the nose, out through the mouth. My mother-in-law gets more comfortable with each passing day, and the thin wall between her brain and her mouth continues to deteriorate.
Last night Rob came upstairs on the verge of tears, saying that he'd accidentally knocked the bag of Scrabble tiles off the table, and tiles had gone everywhere. He was despairing about having to pick them all up, since he and William had JUST finished cleaning up. I know exactly how this feels, so I was telling him some of the ways I cope with this kind of thing: (1) clean it up fast and get it over with; (2) make a game out of it; (3) take a few minutes to do something soothing before approaching the frustrating task. My mother-in-law said "quietly" to Paul, "OR, you could just PICK THEM UP." She followed this with a duh-flavored "ckkk" noise, like, "Buncha idiots."
This morning I put some already-made muffins into the oven to heat them. Normally I put muffins in the microwave, but they're so much better if you can make the top crunchy again, so since we have company I put them in the oven. She said, "You know, Swistle, you can just put those in the MICROWAVE." Oh! I can use OTHER SOURCES OF HEAT? I NEVER would have realized that if you hadn't told me! So I explained in a light tone about how I wanted to make the tops nice again. She made her duh noise again, followed by, "It's not that important to ME." Tone: "You crazy, wasteful idiot."
Paul made an experimental dinner that came out GREAT. I mentioned it no fewer than six times while we were eating, praising the seasonings, the colors, everything about it. Toward the end of the meal, he made a little joke about how awesome the food was. My mother-in-law said, "I guess you have to toot your own horn if no one else is going to do it." Tone: "My son does his WIFE'S job, and she doesn't even appreciate it."
I was playing with Henry, telling him what a cute baby he was. My mother-in-law said in a "joking" voice, "Except for that spot on his head!," referring to a patch of cradle cap. I decided not to get into it, and just went on playing with Henry. She couldn't let it go, and said, "NOT his most attractive feature!"--still in her "joking" tone.
I made a batch of brownies, which mother-in-law really liked. I thought they were insufficiently chocolatey, so when I made another batch, I added an extra chunk of baking chocolate. My mother-in-law kept making little remarks like, "Well, you wouldn't want to make them BITTER" and "They tasted chocolatey enough to ME"--with a little laugh like I was weirdly picky and possibly crazy. I brought her a plate of brownies when they were done, and she ate them silently. Then she said in an unpleasant tone, "Well, I wouldn't want them any MORE chocolatey, THAT'S for sure." I didn't respond, so she said it again. I tried to pretend that we were just having a fun cooking discussion, so I said contemplatively that no, I didn't think I'd add more chocolate that this, and that the only thing I might do is try half an extra square instead of a full one next time. She said flatly, "Yes. That would be better." Tone: "This was a stupid idea. You ruined these brownies because you couldn't be happy. Half a square will ruin them less than a full square did."
She asked when Henry would start solids. I said that the current recommendation for breastfed babies was around six months, but that my pediatrician said it was fine to start as early as four months. She said, "Oh, because he's nursing SO FREQUENTLY. I think he's HUNGRY." Henry is nursing six times per twenty-four hours, which is if anything INfrequently.
She said the twins were learning to talk so rapidly! And just think of how much more they'll be talking in even just a month! And that's even with Rob and William being "such poor role models!" Rob has a mild articulation delay; William does not.
She has referred to Paul many times as a "chocoholic." Not only does this term give me a flash of Garfield posters and "funny" email forwards about how broken cookies don't have calories, but Paul is not a big chocolate eater. He likes it fine, but can take it or leave it most of the time. She's trying to say he's fat and eats a lot of junk food: she always uses the word when referring to his size or his eating habits. She'd talk about Paul's father and how much weight he's put on, and then sigh and say that he was "a chocoholic, just like Paul." I finally said, "Actually, Paul doesn't eat much chocolate," and she IMMEDIATELY jumped on it: "GOOD! Because he doesn't need it! No, he SURE DOESN'T NEED IT."
She was reading to the twins. They were bringing her the paperback Maisy books they like. She made a sarcastic remark to the twins, "Oh, ANOTHER Maisy book? Oh GOOD," then rolled her eyes at me and said, "These BOOKS. There's nothing TO them." Oh, dear, are my TWO-year-olds not reading War and Peace yet?
We went to Target, and she told me about these wonderful cooking utensils she'd bought on her last trip to see us. She did not buy those. I gave them to her for Christmas. She never said anything about them; I assumed because she was too busy telling me that she had no use for the tea I'd also given her.
One of the things that has always pissed me off mightily about my mother-in-law is the way she has falsely predicted my future behavior/feelings. She's a terrible "Wait until you...." type. When I was pregnant, it was, "Better sleep now, because after the baby comes you'll never sleep again!" When I professed to enjoy the new baby, she said, "Wait until he's a toddler!" If we bought anything at all for the new baby (crib, car seat), it was, "First-time parents have to buy ALL the trimmings!" When I mentioned wanting another baby, she said she'd wanted that too until her second was born. Etc.
One thing I hate about that kind of prediction is that I can't argue with her about it: I DON'T know how things will be later on, so even though I think she's wrong, it's hard to say so. NOW she has added a new spin: telling me false things about the PAST. She said, "When Rob was a baby you had a SCREEN over the nursery door to keep the cat out! Now the cat just walks right over the baby!" And: "When Rob was little you kept ALL the toys JUST SO on the shelves! But NOW look!" Merry laughter as she simultaneously mocks my past self and my current self.
But the fact is, when Rob was a baby we let the cat hop right into his crib--with my mother-in-law FREAKING OUT about it. And we had toys all jumbled together in a bin and on the floor next to the bin, with my mother-in-law saying "to Rob" things like "Let's try to make some order out of this chaos," and then "under her breath" (i.e., loudly enough for me to hear in the next room), "This is just IMPOSSIBLE!"
See, this way she gets me again and again. She predicts how foolish I will be and mocks me for that future behavior. Then she criticizes the way I actually do things, without noticing that she was wrong about how I would behave. Then she remembers my behavior hugely incorrectly and mocks THAT. Then she also criticizes my current, "inconsistent" behavior. And none of it can be argued with. Wow. She is a MASTER.
Life-improving products, part 4 - (Continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3.) Stearns Youth Life Vest (photo from Amazon.com). I’d been too scared to take the kids to any body of water oth...