October 21, 2007

Last Day

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.

39 comments:

Marie Green said...

I don't know how you made it a whole week with that woman.

I. DON'T. KNOW. HOW. YOU. DID. IT.

I got so tense just reading that. I simply cannot imagine.

Thank GOD she's going home tomorrow.

AndreAnna said...

You poor thing!! I am cringing for you reading this...it WILL end. And in the meantime, I hear vodka helps.

Devan said...

Last day. Last day. Last day.

Thank goodness it's almost over!! WOO! She's such a loony.

JMC said...

I think a trip to the local bakery, ice cream parlor and liquor store is in order.

Jen4 @ Amazing Trips said...

You are so much better than me. Because at some point, probably early in the week I would have said "Yeah. You know it's funny. I used to think you were a bitch and WOW you still are!! I sure as hell got that one right, eh?"

Pregnantly Plump said...

Wow. I just finished reading the last three posts and I think my blood pressure went up! I cannot imagine a grandmother acting like that. I always thought the bad MIL's in the movies were a gross exaggeration -- I guess they weren't. I'm glad it's almost over.

hello insomnia said...

Let freedom ring! Thanks for sharing Swistle.

Erica said...

Dear Paul,

Your mother is never, ever allowed to come back. She is a hateful, spiteful old crone and she is unfit company for anyone but herself.

Love,
Erica

Jess said...

I was seriously twitching while I read this. It must be interesting to be able to deconstruct her strategy so fully, though.

Katie said...

Holy, Holy, Holy Crap! Is that beeyotch ever KRAZEEEE? Well, yes, I do believe she is.

You did it. You survived. I can't imagine HOW, but you did it! This was almost too painful to read.

Stacie said...

You made this woman brownies?! Twice?!

You are a saint.

Nellyru said...

I am definitely an extremely non-confrontational person. Which means when I am annoyed, the most I typically do is toss out the occasional passive-aggressive comment.
However, I feel certain that if my MIL behaved this way that I would have ripped her effing head off by now. I don't know HOW you maintain your composure when she starts making comments about her grandchildren...I mean, it's just UNNATURAL for a grandmother to be that way!

Mommy Daisy said...

This made me literally Laugh Out Loud. At about the part where she started talking about Henry's flaws ....what? That kid is ADORABLE! And the laughing, it was more of a "OH no she di'nt" sort of laugh.

mom huebert said...

I'm reading along, thinking, this is just ridiculous, when it struck me: by now, it IS ridiculous. You know how when things go wrong it's very annoying, until one more thing happens, and then all of a sudden it's funny. I think your week has suddenly become a situation for laughing. Partly because so many bad things is just SO WRONG that is must be hilarious; and partly because if you don't laugh you may begin to cry hysterically. Do the laugh thing-- it's easier.

Ashley said...

Mother in law must have a serious inferiority complex to constantly act like she is better, more experienced, more enlightened, more entitled to her opinion than anyone else on the planet. Nothing like a guest that brings a giant rain cloud with them.

donna said...

The fact that she is still alive and doesn't have a black eye by now is a true testament to your self control. I salute you, Swistle!

mamaDB said...

My God, Swistle. We should introduce her to my mother.

I just took care of her for a week, after foot surgery and they are two peas in a pod. I really thought I was going to lose my mind.

She kept criticizing everything. How I talk to my kids, how they interact with each other, how they talk, how I've dressed them. They were on their best behavior and doing the cutest things but she never noticed that. Just kept right on talking about how BB still had cradle cap at 17 months and blah, blah, blah.

Sorry, this is your blog. My stomach just got all knotted up again when I was reading and I had to vent.

She's still alive, btw. I didn't want my children to witness any violence so I just kept counting to 10. It had a strange meditating effect.

tulipmom said...

Master Pain in the Ass!

Swistle, you deserve an award for putting up with that crap. Quick, Paul, think of something good. Sparkly. Decadent. Whatever!

Shannon said...

Next time...add more chocolate. and booze.

LN said...

Swistle-
I think we might be soul mates because reading this actually made me feel relieved-- there is someone else in this world who has a MIL exactly like mine. Exactly. Our last visit with them went so. completely. terrible. that its been over a year since we've seen them. She does the exact same crap- especially the criticizing the future and remembering the past completely incorrectly. And the snide comments- those are her FAVORITE.

Nora Bee said...

Oh my. My sympathies. My MIL is the "wait until you.." type also, and you described it better than I could. Good luck!

Poppy said...

omg...slam the door and lock it behind her when she leaves! Bitch!

Kudos to your for not poisoning her brownies!!

Meg said...

Holy crap, Swistle! You poor bugger.

Have you tried making her tea with holy water? Making little cross shapes out of the brownies? Oh! Howsabout you add some GARLIC to the brownies!

Antique Mommy said...

Well I'm exhausted, so I can only imagine how you feel. I used to know someone like that in a previous life.

Jennifer aka Binky Bitch said...

Unbelievable. Just unbelievable.

Nowheymama said...

The things that really gets to me are the comments about the kids. (I know the comments about you are no picnic, but you're a grown woman and you can take the heat.) How can she say such things about her precious grandchildren?!?!

Erin said...

Swistle, YOU are the master. You are the master of dealing with an awful personality with patience and grace. You have survived another visit! You did it! And you led your family through with muffins & brownies!

I hope you feel a tremendous sense of relief. And accomplishment. Now try to banish her from your mind for a while, and enjoy the comfort of having just YOUR OWN FAMILY in your home.

Giselle said...

What a miserable, miserable woman. I don't even know what to say to you...just want to send you a hug over the internet. Thank heaven and earth she lives too far away to visit frequently.

Maybe next time you should grind up some anti-depressents and put them in her food. Extra-happy brownies. Cause there has to be something seriously wrong with her brain chemistry. I can't imagine a place on earth where behavior like this is acceptable.

Kelley said...

Oh, I feel your pain. And as much as it makes people cringe with disgust, I am glad that my horrible monster in law is no longer around to torment me.

She was like that. But she stayed MONTHS at a time!
She supplemented my breastfeeding with bottles in the middle of the night causing my daughter to put on so much weight that she could sit up at 2 months old! Just on her fat!

She refused to call my daughters by their names because they were not ethnic enough.

She washed my angora sweater in hot water and put it in the dryer.

She told my husband that I slept all day and made her do the housework and watch the baby.

She would tell my husband to leave me and take the baby IN FRONT OF ME!

oh, I could go on for days.... and you know why she didn't like me. I am 10 years younger and another nationality....

So I feel your pain babe, and thank God for your sake that it is now over..... for now.

Shelly Overlook said...

It's almost over. YOU are the better person. It's almost over. YOU are the better person. It's almost over. YOU are the better person. It's almost over. YOU are the better person.

Misguided Mommy said...

anger is just boiling up inside of me. i am appalled. what on earth is wrong with this woman??? Oh my gosh I just can't handle this. if only you could see the picture of this woman i have created in my head.

mdvelazquez said...

When my mother does the false recounting of the past, I call it selective memory. Selective because her memory of it only ever helps her in one way or another.

Kathryn said...

Oh my lord, woman. Just reading that made me want to either cry or slap a bitch.

Phat Phannie said...

Oh. My. Gosh. I am so tense after reading that. How on earth did you keep your mouth shut? How did you fight the urge to bitch slap that woman?

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Wow, Swistle. I have no idea how you would handle a second week! And man! Mother-in-law or not, I would never allow that woman access to me or my children ever again. Life is too short for that kind of stress and aggravation.

I can't believe how mad I am at someone I've never met on the behalf of someone else I've never met!

On a more useful note, I'd be glad to tell her off for you. Repeatedly. I like what Jen4 suggested. No one should be that hateful to their own family. Time for celebratory extra-chocolatey brownies!

Jamie said...

How do you survive that shit?! I would have to say something if my husband did not.

Shelly said...

It's official - I will kill her for you. How can she be that horrible to your sweet, adorable children? She is evil and must be destroyed.

Sleepynita said...

You must be so PLEASED that she is staying ELSEWHERE overnight, just so you can't maim her in her sleep.

I have no idea how you do it, actually I do since my MIL is a pain sometimes too and only lives 5 minutes away. But then again I am no where near as nice as you..

No offense though, I hope she visits you many times since she makes for some really good reading....

Pann said...

Wow. that's one awful MIL you have there.