October 19, 2007

More About Aging Fish

There were many who asked of my last post, How could I say this mother-in-law visit wasn't horrible? And very gratifying it was, too, as were all the other comments, some of which made me cry-laugh. When I delete these posts, I always save all the comments into a wordprocessing document first, so that I may pet them and love them and hug them to me like little sweet hamsters of love.

And now I will answer the question. I have many, many answers:
  1. Because it is relative. Normally she stays 2.5 weeks. At this point I would still have almost 2 weeks left to go, and black despair would be filling my heart--but instead I have only the weekend. I can make it to Monday.
  2. Because I am getting used to it. Just as I now know from experience that for a month or so after childbirth I will require frequent hot meals to remain sane, I now know from experience that a visit from my mother-in-law will require certain coping devices: bag of candy per day; a nursing station in another room; liquor and tranqs if not nursing; caffeine every single morning in large quantities; scheduled activities; pushing her into interactive activities with the children.
  3. Because Paul, too, is getting used to it. Just as he now knows to provide me with plenty of meals after a baby is born, he now knows to take a few days off of work while his mother is here--ignoring my protests about how much smaller his paycheck will be. He knows to take his mom and Rob and William to a museum a couple of hours away, so that they will be gone all day, giving me a day to enjoy my quiet, empty house. (Well, quiet and empty except for two toddlers and a baby.) He knows to invite his mom to play games in the evening, so I can go off to another room and breathe. He knows that when she says for the fiftieth time that we should "add a can of corn to stretch that hamburg," he should reply, "Oh, gross! No, mom, we're not going to do that"--rather than leaving me to flounder in politeness. He knows to TELL me that if we buy such-and-such she'll make comment X, or that if we do such-and-such an activity she'll make comment Y--so that I will not fall into traps. He knows she is HIS mother, and that he must not disappear to his computer, leaving me alone with her. He knows not to defend her if I complain later. And he knows how to make an excellent dismissive sound combined with a dismissive hand gesture, as if to say, "She is nothing to us."
  4. Because my expectations have changed. At first I hoped for good visits and a good relationship. Now I hope not to kill her, and not to have a horrible uncomfortable fight with her. I hope to GET THROUGH IT, that's all. If I also manage to make things easy on myself by avoiding a feud, all the better.
  5. Because I am selective in what I tell you. Do I tell you about the perfectly pleasant--if boring--chat we had over a breakfast of coffee and juice and fresh-baked muffins? No. Do I tell you how she several times praised the muffins? No. Do I tell you about how I got her talking about her job and thus passed several hours of nearly irritation-free evening? No. Do I tell you how she's been going back to her motel around 8:00 p.m., giving me a couple of hours each evening to restoreth the soul? No. I just tell you the bad stuff, so that you will pity me and leave comments that further restoreth my soul.

Speaking of which, let's have some more bad stuff. It's more interesting to talk about, and it helps to vent to you--I don't like to complain TOO much to Paul, since she IS his flesh-and-blood (*shudder*).
  1. Paul and I went to pick up our car at the shop the other evening, leaving her in charge of the sleeping kids. When we returned, there was the STRONG smell of pesticide in the house. We were totally mystified, searching all around for leaking cans or outdoor breezes. Then we looked at each other, as both of us realized the most likely explanation was that his mother had sprayed while we were gone. Using the pesticide we use ONLY outdoors, and ONLY for severe infestation problems. We'd seen her making faces at the few flies that always manage to get into the house this time of year, and she'd commented on the fruit flies "all over the place." To be fair, we don't know that this is what happened. Those mischievous fairies could have been to blame.
  2. I was running around this morning as the children cried and fought and needed things and the mother-in-law sat in her chair regarding the spin of the earth. Henry was fussing, so I gave him to my mother-in-law to hold. After awhile she said, "Could he possibly need to EAT again?" I figured he needed a nap, so I took him. And he was totally blown out, all the way up his back. She couldn't have failed to notice: it was completely visible and smellable. Note: There was no way she could have won with me on this one, though. If she'd said, "Swistle! This baby needs changed!" (there's evidently an Infinitive Conservation Initiative where she comes from), I would have been even more annoyed. If she'd changed him herself, I wouldn't have liked her questions or her rummagings or her comments about it. So I fully admit it was a lose-lose-lose situation for her; nevertheless, I was annoyed and the situation seemed indicative of deep character flaws. In her, I mean. We can talk about mine another time.
  3. The morning she and Paul went to the museum, she brought over a sack of dirty laundry for "if" I was doing laundry today. First: the dirty laundry was FOLDED, which irritated me immensely. What does it MEAN? Second: as I discovered after the first load and again after the second, she had tissues in most of her pockets. Surely I was not expected to check her pockets. (You might think I'd mind doing her laundry at all, but again, this is lose-lose for her: if she does it herself, I resent her "snooping" my laundry.)
  4. She keeps making these fake-laugh comments about how riDICKulous everything is at our house. The counters are SO HIGH! The changing table is SO HIGH! The cupboards--she can't REACH, because they're SO HIGH! She TRIED to set the table, but she just can't REACH that HIGH! It's riDICKulous! Shrill fake laugh! She is five feet tall. Pardon us for having standard counters and changing tables.
  5. She keeps doing things I can't interpret. I find a few clean cups from the drying rack in a little stack of unmatched types on the counter. Is she trying to...help? But also commenting on how riDICKulously high the cupboards are? I can't tell. What does it mean that all our shoes have been lined up by the door? And the FOLDED dirty laundry. Like crop circles, the meaning defies interpretation.
  6. This afternoon, she commented, "Whooo, we'd better get a start on dinner!" If you think this means that the two of us work side by side to get dinner ready, you would be SADLY MISTAKEN. This was her way of telling me that she thought I should be starting dinner.
  7. This morning she and I went out shopping with the three littles. She commented that I could do this now that I had another adult to help me out. I can't explain to you how VERY HELPFUL she was. Like when we were getting ready to go, and she got her own coat on and sat quietly while I got all three children changed and coated, the diaper bags gathered and readied, the house ready for us to leave it--and then she remarked with a laugh how FUNNY it is that it takes SO LONG to just get ready to go anywhere! Or like when we came out of the store and she got into the car and sat there with her purse in her lap, tactfully not complaining about how long it was taking me to unload the shopping cart of the three children and all the purchases. Oh, she is such an excellent and helpful companion! How DO I manage without her?

38 comments:

Shannon said...

Do you get the comments about how you never visit? Or even better about how she would love to watch the children so you and Paul could go out for an evening but she never really offers to do so? Or is she super religious and you aren't religious in the least? I think your MIL is far worse than mine are (yes, two MILs) and the stories are oh so entertaining.

Jeninacide said...

Oh how your MIL reminds me of my grandmother. My grandmother is incredibly polite and proper but somehow always sneaks in little comments that IRRITATE THE HELL OUT OF ME (I think my mother has come to terms with them over the last 30 years). Her and my grandfather BOTH start clomping nervously around the kitchen come 4PM as it is TIME TO GET READ FOR DINNER! OMG! Again- drives me bonkers. My mother simply pities them.

Swistle said...

Shannon- HA HA HA! Yes, yes, and YES! Although she complains by proxy: it's her friends and coworkers and coparishioners who complain that we never visit.

Devan said...

I've never laughed so hard. Thank gawd you have a sense of humor!
Also, Paul? He totally gets it and that is completely awesome.

Shannon said...

You are an effing saint for not slitting her jugular with a kitchen knife! (Or would that contaminate the knife? Maybe you could buy a new one especially for that purpose for next visit?)

Jess said...

Oh I change my vote. Eat her. I found myself getting riled up just READING this. Good heavens. Honestly, I avoid confrontation like the plague but I think I'd probably snap and unload. You're much nicer than I.

Jenny said...

I love this post!

Just think of the rest of her visit as a fun game. Whenever she says something riDICKulous, you can make a mental note, smile devilishly to yourself, and think about the hilarious report you shall make later.

Type (little) a said...

Stop it. You are giving me flashbacks of my own overbearing, Marie Barone like MOther in law

Melinda said...

I swear it isn't schadenfreude that makes me love these posts so much. It is your amazing sense of humor about it all! You are ALMOST THERE. I can positively SEE Monday right around the corner.

Marie Green said...

Wow, that's a lot to digest. You went shopping with her? And you weren't tempted to loose her in one of the aisles "I'll just be over here getting diapers" and then make a run for it?

I do get a sick pleasure reading about your misadventures.... Is that wrong? Because it's SO. FUNNY.

Banana said...

Oh my. What a lovely little woman. I especially like the part where she doesn't help get the kids ready and doesn't help with the groceries. At least your children will have hilarious evil grandmother stories when they grow up.

Jenny H. said...

LIQUOR! And lot's of it.

I have NO idea how you manage to stay polite.

Really.

I love you.

mom of the year said...

OH. MY. GOD.

KatieBug said...

I SO feel ya! My mother in law is the EXCACT same way!! BUT she only lives 30 minutes away. I little bit after we first got married we built a house and she moved 1 street over and told my husband he should go to her house and have coffee every morning instead of coming home to me and our newborn. (He works nights) We could only take it for so long and after a few years we moved as far away as we could and my husband could still commute to work.

I hope Monday comes SOON!!

ktjrdn said...

My MIL folds our dirty laundry when she helps clean up the house! She is actually helping me though and not trying to make a statement and I like her, so I was able to tell her to quit it already. How can you tell that they are not dirty if they are not crumpled into a little pile? Why fold dirty lauundry?? WTF?

Mommy Daisy said...

Oh man. This is funny yet sad. It's like watching a car crash, though, I just can't look away. I want to laugh, and I want to cry for you. I wonder how your kids will feel about her as they get older. It will be interesting. At LEAST she's at a hotel. I can just imagine even more stories if she wasn't.

P.S. The fruit flies are horrible here too. I've given up trying to get rid of them. They'll go away when it's cold.

Semi Desperate's friend Jess said...

Oh my, you're a saint. There is no way I could bite my tongue through half of that nonsense. You definitely get the worst MIL award, by far!!

Misguided Mommy said...

ewww ewww eewwww this woman is pure evil.

Jess said...

I just read this entry and the last one out loud to Torsten. We are both prepared to testify on your behalf at the murder trial.

Farrell said...

Oh My god. That last point? About how helpful she is? Jeez, is she a MAN? (no offense men).
But I do have to say: it makes for good, good, funny reading:)

Shelly Overlook said...

There isn't much I can say other than I'm glad you can laugh about it before she takes you with her on the crazy train.

Kathi A said...

This woman leaves me speechless.

bubandpie said...

The pesticide thing is almost too good to be true, especially in light of your contamination issues - this woman is literally toxic.

Amy said...

Makes me glad I don't have a mother-in-law. She dumped my husband and his 6 siblings on his grandmother to raise (and grandmother did a fine job and is still living and completely functional at 102, but can't really do anything but talk to the babes). MIL, on the other hand, has seen the children twice in their lives and thought my daughter was my son the first time.

g~ said...

Hey, it might be hell for you but at least you have funny, interesting things to tell us about, right? Damn straight hubby should take more of the parental responsibility considering it's HIS MOTHER!

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Ice picks, a hatchet and a professional grade woodchipper.

Whaaat?

Total solution.

desperate housewife said...

Oh my gosh- the thing with the not helping get the kids ready or load the groceries in the cart? I WOULD NOT be able to restrain myself from making all kinds of sighs and moans and sounds of exhaustion and frustration the whole time, so as to wordlessly make my point that she was being a completely rude ASS not to help.

Jacquelyn said...

Paul sounds like a sweetheart. :)

mom huebert said...

AacK! I would be a total basket case. You are so right about changing the expectations. That's how I feel about family gatherings. I no longer hope for a meeting of the hearts. I just hope to make it through with a smile and as few emotional bruises as possible.

Nellyru said...

Maybe she left tissues in the pockets to see if you really washed the clothes? Because I would give folded-up dirty laundry back without washing it. Am lazy like that.
And I might also possibly start making some very insincerely apologetic comments about how haaaard it must be to go thru life so damn short, what with everything in the world designed for TALL people, and all.

JMC said...

I feel a little like I'm rubbernecking at the scene of an accident. One of those accidents that is so unbelievable that it leads to utter fascination. Right now I could catch all those fruit flies in my mouth that is hanging open in disbelief.

Stacie said...

It really amazes me that you have the self restraint (because I judge everyone by myself and I lack that kind of restraint) not to make little passive agressive comments all throughout her visit.

Do you play the anthropology game in which you imagine that you are an anthropologist visiting (or being visited by) some strange tribe. Your job is to interact in their strange festivals and rituals so you can go back and write scholary papers about them, but you must never lose your academic detachment and get emotionally involved in their lives. That game has saved many a visit to my husband's family.

the new girl said...

I can't WAIT to read your post tomorrow.

FREEDOM day or whatever you'll call it.

Hurry hurry.

melissa H said...

I am counting my blessings for fantabulous in laws. Only a few hours left for you... take care

MadMad said...

You're almost done! Hang in there!

mdvelazquez said...

Okay, I can see how it is relative. I would still be willing to brainstorm revenge tactics though.

She sounds like she helps you the way my mother helps my sister.

Sara said...

Ha, the baby needs changed! My brother lived near Pittsburgh for a while and that is how they talk there. We got hours of amusement from speaking like that.

samantha jo campen said...

I really want to support you in your pain, but after the last post, I am physically unable to read about all the trauma because I get so upset. I'm pregnant and can't take my Xanax! Which is what I truly need to read more about your MIL.

I'm glad there are some decent moments, if only about praising the muffins, but really, with all the other shit, to me that doesn't even out. ESPECIALLY with the crap she says about/to your kids. Unforgiveable.

So, now I must tame my anxiety with a nice cookie. Which I'm not complaining, but really, it's just not strong enough!

Hang in there you're almost done!