August 4, 2009

Minus 1.5 Days

Here's what happened with the two-week mother-in-law visit situation. I said to Paul that he needed to help me with this: that I needed him either to tell me the right words to say, since she's not my mother and I don't know how to talk to her, and he does know how to talk to her, and whenever I try to do it I screw it up, so he needed to tell me what to say; OR ELSE, he needed to tell me that it was pointless and hopeless and there was nothing to say and we just needed to let her come as long as she wanted to, and I assured him that this too would be immensely helpful because then I could stop agitating about it.

I also told him I needed an answer that evening. This was at about 4:00 in the afternoon. He made no reply. Hours passed.

At about 8:00 in the evening, he blind-cc'd me on an email to his mom, in which he said 2 weeks seemed kind of long because he wouldn't be able to take many days off of work and K [that's me] was 100% occupied during the day keeping Henry from flinging himself down the stairs into the power tools, but that if she (MIL) instead came for a week that went over a weekend, he could take almost her whole visit off, and they could go to Fun Place She Loves #1 and Fun Place She Loves #2 and also take the twins to Fun Place They Love.

It was masterful. It came across as affectionate and enthusiastic and full of plans for increasing the fun of her visit. He even made it sound as if I'd mentioned the dates to him with enthusiasm, and ONLY HE thought it was too long.

We awaited her reply. It was not long in coming. She was pissed and agitated. She didn't use any contractions: it was all "I do not" and "it will not" and "I am not". She had three main points:

1. Thirteen days was NOT two weeks, because ONE of those days she would be leaving EARLY IN THE MORNING.

2. She is an easy houseguest and did not expect any entertaining and would just blend into our usual routine.

3. She GUESSES that with HERCULEAN EFFORT she could remove 1.5 days from her visit, but it will throw everything else into chaos and will be very difficult and inconvenient for everyone else she has already arranged to grace with her presence on this trip. And will we please let her know RIGHT NOW if these revised dates are acceptable to us, because otherwise she will have to start ALL OVER with EVERYONE and it will be a HUGE MESS and everyone will be VERY INCONVENIENCED.


I was so so glad I hadn't dealt with her. Imagine how much worse it would have been if she'd been talking to ME instead of to her son who is the most perfect creature ever created.

Paul said to me, "So...do we accept the counteroffer?" and I said, "Yes. And I think now we know for sure that there is no sense trying to make her shorten her visits. We will switch from Altering Reality Mode to Coping Mode." And Paul said, "Yes."


I have also gone into Incredulity Mode in re her email. Yes, it is PERFECTLY EASY to blend in someone who won't eat salt or pepper or spicy things but is very critical of women (only women) who cook bland, boring food. It is PERFECTLY EASY to blend in someone who says she needs to eat "plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables" but then eats ALMOST NONE of the vegetables provided and makes "jokes" about how I spend more on produce than anyone she's ever known, EVEN AFTER being reminded that PAUL does the grocery shopping. It is PERFECTLY EASY to blend in someone who doesn't like any kind of child behavior that isn't sitting straight upright in a chair chatting politely with Grandma. It is PERFECTLY EASY to continue my usual routine while being FOLLOWED and OBSERVED and TALKED AT and CORRECTED. It is PERFECTLY EASY to blend in someone who doesn't want to do anything we suggest we do, even if we have already arranged it. It is PERFECTLY EASY to blend in someone who tells many, many stories about times when the hospitality she was offered was not up to par.

Well. Anyway. As Paul said, removing a day and a half increases everyone's life expectancy at least slightly, and he has also approved any plan I come up with to "suddenly need to visit a friend in crisis" or "lick someone with a disease that would lead to my short-term hospitalization."

I'll also be investing in a very nice brandy, which I hate the taste of but it makes me feel jovial and lovey instead of tipsy and dizzy, and also I like the way it's used medicinally (frostbite, shock, malnutrition, injury, surgery) in old novels. I feel like I'm "taking my medicine" rather than "taking another step on the road to potential lushitude." And Kelly, SPILL on the topic of herbs that lessen the effects of two weeks (minus 1.5 days AND 1 day of Leaving Early) of steady drinking.

80 comments:

Gina said...

She sounds like such a delight. Every time you have a MIL visit, I am reminded of how mucky I am to have the World's Best In-Laws.

Whimsy said...

This MIL person makes ME feel queasy and agitated and worried. I SIMPLY CANNOT UNDERSTAND HOW SHE GAVE BIRTH TO YOUR HUSBAND. AND HE SURVIVED.

I'm going to uncap myself and just say: kudos, and also good luck. She is just a piece of work, no?

Hillary said...

Seriously, your MIL is MY MIL. I feel for you. Mine tends to visit at Christmas time and spiked eggnog is my brandy.

I also make arrangements with my mother, sister and good friends to call every day or two while the MIL is visiting. I leave the room to talk to them, thus giving myself time away from the MIL and time to vent about her. And then they know their favorite daughter/sister/friend hasn't gone to jail for battery of her MIL.

Beth Fish said...

We have a guest room, and could easily accommodate at least three of your children, provided they do not mind sleeping on the floor. If you bring the older kids, they will need their own toys since we only have little kid toys. It may be easier to just bring the youngest three and it will be the greatest party anyone has ever attended and when they sleep we will all drink heavily. Also, I will tell you how much I spend a month on produce and then you will be prepared should that come up again.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

It sounds to me like she's teaching you a great lesson on how not to be a grandparent... which is sad for her and wonderful for your kids and grandchildren.

If you've spent every other visit catering to her whims, why wouldn't she want to come for 2weeks -- if not longer? Maybe you and hubby should really let her blend in, or complain until she's blue in the face. I'd cook normal meals, do what you usually do and let her complain. At the end, forward her the e-mail exchange you've just had -- and save a copy for the next time she propose a visit.

As another coping technique... after the first food complaint have your hubby ask her for a shopping list, because you want her to be comfortable and that must include the ability to cook her own meals if the family meal isn't satisfactory.

Sometimes older folks complain because they get treated like children -- and often that's true and not deserved -- but, it seems your MIL is acting like a spoiled child -- so think about how you'd handle a visiting child who was spoiled rotten and adapt your technique...

-R- said...

You and Paul handled that really well. It sucks that the MIL is looking for reasons to be displeased and doesn't consider other people, but you can't really control that, and I think you have a good attitude about this- realizing she's just going to be the way she is and you can't change that.

andreaunplugged said...

Please start an emergency vacation fund starting now. You could even put a paypal link off to the side where sympathetic readers can contribute. Instead of birthday gifts, spread the word that cash and visa gift cards will work. Save everything up, then when the MIL calls up for a visit, you can instantly plan for a vacation "you've had planned forever!"

Celeste said...

She sounds very difficult, however your husband sounds wonderful.

I wonder if she would like to cook for you some night...since she knows how foods should taste. Otherwise I'd covertly add salt and sneak in some white pepper, which doesn't show like the black pepper does.

Regarding the following around/talking/correcting...she sounds lonely. I know she expresses it terribly. I wonder if there is any way to just come out and say, "I'd rather you didn't tell me I'm doing it wrong."

I'm sorry you had to do the counteroffer on vacation length. I too would be dismayed to have anybody stay for so long, regularly. Thank goodness your husband takes your side.

DIL said...

You make my stories look like fairy tales.

Anonymous said...

Going semi-anonymous here to say that--although it kills the hostess in me--the less I cater to my in-laws when they visit, the better things are. I am happier because I am not turning myself inside out to please them, and they seem to be more respectful of me and my life, ie. "Oh, so you don't just sit home with the kids all day!" Also, they stay at a hotel, which is a total Sanity Saver.


I wish I'd figured that out years ago.

Sarah

C @ Kid Things said...

Oh my, that sounds like 2 weeks of pure bliss. I can't imagine not looking forward to her visit.

With that said, Good Luck. You might need it.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Philosophy Factory -- plow on ahead, ignore her as much as possible, abandon all hope of getting her to see reality, and remember: More than a week and this isn't a guest, it's a lodger. You don't have to cater to lodgers.
Key phrases:
"Huh."
"You think so?"
"Yes, you've mentioned that."
"That's how it is here."
"That's how we like it."

Slim

Shelley Malone said...

I shall send chocolate.

Kristi said...

WOW.

Cookie said...

MIL's suck. I'm sorry she is coming to stay and be a pain for so long. If it's any consolation, at least at the end of her stay she will leave and go somewhere else. My husband is contemplating having his mother move in with us and well, I... I don't know quite how to respond to that. My house will no longer be mine, it will be hers. My children, who adore her to begin with will belong to her completely.

I heartily approve of the brandy. Also a good rum - a pineapple rum with pineapple juice is delicious. The cooking thing is a problem, and my suggestion is if she complains, ask her to cook. She is family. She should not be expected to be treated like a Queen.

Thia said...

Nothing like a small glass of something to get you by! I say that you just buy what you buy, do what you do, cook how you cook. Since she complains no matter what you do, why make extra work for yourself.
She sounds like a woman who would find something wrong even with the clearance section of Target...and what would Mr. Pickles say?

Natalie said...

Oh man, Paul deserves husband of the year for the email. Too bad it had ZERO effect.

Break out the brandy, who knows, maybe it will give you the liquid courage to put her in her place.

Farrell said...

Wow. Your MIL sure is something.
Sheesh.
Paul, though? He gets props! I'd line up that "friend in crisis" ASAP if I were you. :)

Note to self: Purchase Brandy.

Lawyerish said...

I don't know that there is enough liquor in the world to get me through two weeks with someone like that as a houseguest. I commend you on your fortitude, because I am certain that if it were me, I'd be planning to pack my things and steal away in the dead of night before her arrival.

Objectively speaking, though, aren't family dynamics fascinating? I mean, I wonder what makes someone want to be a guest for that long when all they're going to do is complain and criticize the whole time, and they don't appear to derive any enjoyment from it. What makes someone like that tick?

Jess said...

This post makes me like Paul a lot. Go him! Too bad his mother is so frustrating.

We haven't hosted my in-laws in our house yet. The last two times they visited we lived in a tiny apartment and they stayed in a hotel. NOW we have a big house, and OH, will they be staying in it. Apparently they're planning to come for a visit next summer for THREE WEEKS? Kill me now.

Shelly Overlook said...

You can come visit me!

Can you start doubling up on your meds now?

Kate said...

"As Paul said, removing a day and a half increases everyone's life expectancy at least slightly"

Hehehehe. You two are funny.

I'm really sorry. As the lucky recipient of a hyper-critical mother-in-law myself (our "relationship" makes me feel like SUCH a cliche), I wish you the best of luck! Make sure it's good brandy, that's all I can say.

gretchen said...

Please know that EVERYONE in the entire blogging community feels your pain! Not that that really helps when she's following you around making "suggestions" but...

Next week, my son and I will be staying with my MIL for two weeks. Kind of a reverse form of hell. Wish us luck.

BTW, I suggest investing in a nice flask you can carry with you in your purse.

Eleanor Q. said...

Kudos to Paul for just stepping up and sending the email.

Kudos to you for not walking out and hiding at Beth's for the whole visit.

I find that after a MIL visit like you describe my throat hurts from choking back all the comments I wanted to say but couldn't.

Nervous said...

Yes - good response on Paul's part, but somewhat infuriating that she surely already was set on her planned 2 weeks (or as damn close as possible) before she even "asked" and wouldn't REALLY accept any counter-offer from the beginning without a whole lotta fuss and guilt-tripping. Grrargh! I agree with the previous comments that she's like a spoiled child - it's interesting how people can start reverting back to that behavior more and more as they get older (seeing some of it in my own family). I know you'll get through it - you always do - but it still sucks. *Sigh*

Erin said...

It sounds like you & Paul handled this with absolute grace & class. And she? IS A NIGHTMARE. I don't know how you deal with that.

But 1.5 days will feel positively LOVELY when you are at day 7 of 2-week-minus-1.5-day visit.

Safire said...

My in laws came and stayed with us in my 1300 square foot house to help with my newborn twins last summer. Not only did they sleep in until 10am EVERY DAY, they did not cook or really do much beyond take long naps in the afternoon and hold babies. However, every time my hubby suggests they come and stay with us again, the politely decline and go to Hawaii instead. It was horrible to have them for so long, but seems to have cured their desire to hang with us for now. Score!

I do agree with everyone else, cook normal, be normal, and just let her "blend" as she wants. Also, that flask could be fun to shop for and use!

Jan said...

Have you tried the trick of agreeing with the MIL? When she says something disagreeable ("you spend more on produce than anyone I know"), simply agree ("that's probably true"). This is the Miss Manners way of dealing with unpleasant people.

If that doesn't shut her up or change her tone, nothing will, and you should then follow the advice above to not cater to her for the rest of her visit.

Tess said...

HORRORS.

As long as you are at the liquor store, you could always pick up some Baileys too. Looks and smells (and TASTES!) like coffee creamer. You know, depending on how early in the day you need to start.

Christina said...

The reply back sounds like ME trying to deal with MY MOM. She refuses to accept any day with a plan or travel involved as part of the trip. So a 1 week trip, minus 2 travel days and some events all of a sudden is a 3 day visit. It makes me want to bang my head against the wall b/c her visits are longer than I anticipate and my visits home are cast aside as only a few days.

Kelsey said...

I'm sure I could brew a crisis, but I guess you didn't mean you'd have to flee to help a friend in OHIO?

Still, Ohio is here with open arms if you need us!

Mom et al said...

Wow. Just, wow. My suggestion definitely wouldn't have worked. I'm blown away. I've always known I was lucky because I have a MIL that I actually love to be with and is so helpful and involved but not overly involved. I couldn't have asked for a better situation, and now am thanking my lucky stars.

Also, I hope to gosh golly she isn't i-net savvy enough to find your blog? I shudder to think of the horror show that would be!

pseudostoops said...

Go Paul, indeed. Also, it's liberating (though frustrating) to finally conclude that someone else's bad behavior isn't going to change so you might as well just cope.

I have some EXCELLENT care package material that I shall start stockpiling now. I will wait to buy the chocolate stuff, so it is fresher.

Jeninacide said...

Wow- I cannot believe the email didn't work. I hate it when I put a lot of time and effort into dealing with a situation all charmingly and politely and even (fake) enthusiastically and people come back with like, a rude one liner. It happens to me all the time at work (thank gob not with my in-laws).

Oatstraw tea. It is an anti-anxiety remedy (I am going to school for holistic health right now so I am not just pulling this out of my you-know-what). You can get oatstraw in bulk at any place that sells herbs in bulk... (we have lots of those place in Portland, not sure about where you are). Anyway- I add peppermint to it because it is very medicinal as well and makes it taste better.

So- 2 tsp oatstraw and 2 tsp peppermint- BOIL them in 2 cups of water for 15 minutes then strain and drink. Works as well as Xanex but doesn't make you feel all effed up.

Also, Brandy does actually have medicinal qualities. Just drink peppermint tea as well to help flush your body and keep you from being hungover!

GOOD LUCK!

Courtney in FL said...

Your MIL sounds like my mother. Don't get me wrong I love my mother but she does not approve of my house cleaning, cooking or parenting of my little one. Why she continues to visit I'm not really sure.
Anyway, this is about you and having to deal with your MIL, I say next time she threatens a visit you and the kids come to my house. I live next door to Mickey and have plenty of room for a few blow up mattresses (you would have a bed). We would have a blast, I promise!

Good luck!

JEN said...

I love your blog. My MIL was okay until I had a child and then she turned into a bossy, critical, horrible person. Nothing I ever did after that was good enough.

Yep, I save valium for the times I need to be near her.

Be glad you don't live in a culture where she would LIVE with you.

Kristi said...

Oh my god - I continue to be amazed by that woman! Reading this actually makes me thankful for my MIL who is so screwed up that she isn't even in our lives!

You're gonna need that brandy! I need some just reading this post!

Beth (A Mom's Life) said...

Clearly she sees you as "the other woman"...you know - the one that stole her perfect,smart,handsome boy. Nothing you do will ever be good enough. So,once you accept that and buy large quantities of your "medicine" perhaps it won't be too hellish. Just make sure Paul is there as much as possible!

And if nothing else, it will make for good blog fodder. We are all here for you!

Mama (Stacy) said...

After reading that I want a drink... I will cry a little bit for you every day of this visit.

I still suggest getting yourself out of the house as much as humanly possible.

Kathy said...

I completely agree with Jan and Tess!

Also. I'm very willing to invent a crisis that requires your assistance. And I live in Alaska! So, just with travel time, you'd be gone for like a week "helping" me.

As much as I can't stand my MIL, you're helping me to appreciate her. A bit. But it's something!

And Paul? ROCKS!

d e v a n said...

Sheesh. At least we know that Paul is awesome, although it's unclear how he became that way.

Stock up on brandy and forget that this trip is even in existence until at least the first week in October. No use worrying about it right now! (says the person who would be in a fit of panic at this very moment.)

Buster said...

And I thought my MIL was evil. Thank you for showing me how worse it could be. I am actually now grateful for my MIL.

I don't know where you get the idea that drinking during a MIL visit is a step towards being a lush. It is NOT. Drinking while MIL visits is SURVIVAL, and therefore exempt from any definitions of lushitude.

Rah said...

That was a genius email, even if it didn't work. Props to your husband.

As to his mother, I really like the idea (above) of agreeing with her. "Yes, I'm happy to spend on produce because nothing is too good for my family."

Good luck on the visit. You might want to get that brandy started in an i.v. drip just before she arrives. :-)

Anonymous said...

Can you treat her like a child? Seriously, use the same tone and words that you would use for a rude child. I've never tried it on my MIL, but I have used that technique for really bad co-workers.

"I'm sorry that you don't like the meal, but I only prepare one meal for the family, you can eat it or go to bed."

"I'm sorry, but I don't listen to rude demands. I'll listen when you can speak to me politely."

"That's too bad that you don't like our wonderful plans for the day. You are welcome to stay home while we enjoy our plans."

And lastly "Even if you do not agree with our child rearing methods, I'm sure you can understand that Paul and I are the parents, and we will make the decisions."

All hail the brandy. Hope it helps shorten the visit!

the new girl said...

Oh, yeah.

She sounds like A BREEZE. Almost INVISIBLE.

Good lord.

HollyLynne said...

Any houseguest, even the really practically invisible kind, is bound to stress you out and make you work harder at home than you otherwise would have. We can all cope for up to a week I think, but two weeks is just plain too much. It would be too much even if your MIL were the picture of peaceful, easy wonderfulness.

That bites and I'm sorry.

Susan said...

This makes me feel faint. I feel like I need a shot of brandy just reading about it!

Dr. Maureen said...

You are a superhero for putting up with this for one day, never mind 11.5. My biggest in-law problem? Sometimes, they are too helpful. (I know it this sounds like it can't be a problem, but it can. Not as big of one as yours, obviously, but trust me, it can be a problem.)

At any rate, I am blessed with wonderful in-laws and I'm sorry you have to deal with that. But I think I'm on board with philosophy factory and say you should just go about your business as usual, or at least as you would if you DID have an "easy" houseguest, because catering to her doesn't make her happy anyway, so why bother?

That said, I know you'll still cater to her. I would too.

Erica said...

You have carte blanch to come and visit me at any time. There will be brandy and perfectly easy blending here at Casa Dressed Up.

squandra said...

OMG. I somehow forgot, even though of course I know THAT your mother-in-law is awful, the precise WHYS and HOWS of her awfulness. And so, once again, I sit SHOCKED.

She is so awful. So, so awful.

Brenna said...

I think you should take her at face value; don't change ANYTHING. Do what you'd normally do, go where you'd normally go, eat what you'd normally eat. If she doesn't want to go somewhere, leave her at home. If she complains about the state of the house, exclaim your profuse thanks for her offer of help and hand her a can of Pledge. If she doesn't like what's planned for dinner, tell her you'd love the night off of cooking and that you're looking forward to eating whatever she makes. Hear every criticism as gushing praise, and every complaint as an offer of help.

Even if it doesn't change her behaviour, it'll drive her nuts and amuse you to no end.

And the lesson to be learned here is: never again be available for more than a week at a time. Next time she asks if you have plans for a certain month, say, "Yes, but only the first and third week. We'd love for you to visit the second or fourth week!"

Good luck!

Elizabeth said...

My mother in law is coming to stay for 13 days, but during that time I am going to Australia. Literally. Want to come?
Anyway.
My coping strategies for annoying people are two fold:
1. Every time she criticizes you, either laugh heartily or agree with her. "You are SO correct!" to "you spend more on produce than anyone I know" is rather disheartening, I think. I like to refer to this tactic as "bitchy friendly" especially if you do it with JUST the right inflection.
2. Every time she says or does something horrible, give yourself a penny. These pennies (or buttons or whatever you have a lot of) are tokens good to be redeemed for something for JUST YOU at the end of the week. Dollars at Target, chocolates, money toward a pedicure, minutes Paul spends with the kids while you sit in Starbucks with a book, shots of tequila, whatever. That way, the more she insults you, the more rewards you earn! It's practically a game!
Also, I feel bad for saying this, as the woman sounds wretched, but the MIL posts? Are wildly entertaining.
May the force be with you.

MzEll said...

Oh Mama... I'm so glad your hubby stepped in and wrote the email, and it's good to know what's happening this far ahead of time.

I can help with the sudden sickness if you're at all interested :).

Christy said...

Ooh, I like the bitchy-friendly suggestion. Enthusiastically acknowledge her comments while confidently stating the way things are done in your house. Like someone else said, say things like we DO spend a lot on produce, we LOVE fresh fruits and vegetables, you are more than welcome to cook a favorite dish if you'd like. I seriously have to tell my MIL (almost every time she is here) that we actually like fresh bananas not frozen and that I don't actually like to stock up and store my bread in the refrigerator. And, Paul sounds very nice.

Shelly said...

Is it wrong that I'm a little in love with Paul now? That email sounds masterful! And while I know that her visits have to be hell on earth, I do have to agree with everyone else that the posts about her are blog GOLD.

StephLove said...

So, let me guess. She doesn't read your blog. Sometimes I wish mine didn't, though she's 100 times easier than yours. It just causes me to self-censor sometimes.

My sympathies and good luck with the visit.

distracted by genius said...

I would just like to stay that I have now survived (barely!) both a 5 and a 7 week visit from my in-laws and I'm still married to their son. I consider it a testament to my own sainthood. You have my complete sympathy and if you come up with any new coping techniques or the magic words to say that can decrease the length of a visit please do share!

Anonymous said...

Remember the movie "Point of No Return"? There was a scene where the etiquette mentor was teaching Bridget Fonda's character coping skills for handling stressful situations. The phrase she was to employ was "I never did mind the little things." During your interminable, undoubtedly stressful, MIL visit that could be your mantra between sips of high grade brandy. Smile contentedly, exhale, mantra, sip, inhale, repeat.

susan said...

Hey, you know how she wears you down with stories about hosts who were just Not Up To Scratch??

You should totally reply with, "Oh my gosh, I know! That reminds me of this houseguest we once had! Oh my stars, she was SO difficult! She would complain about this and that and had these crazy food requests, and always stayed for so long! Ho ho ho! Don't you hate those sort of people? Ah, gee." Then sip thoughtfully from your drink and let Reality sink in.

Either she'll get the message (yay) or be too dim to see what's staring her in the face, which will at least be amusing for you, as you can RE-TELL and RE-TELL her the stories about herself, ad nauseum.

Heather said...

I may have suggested this at her last visit but maybe not. I have a phrase I use on all 'old people' and by that I mean 'anyone who has reached an age where they know best'. Mostly I use it on my dad and my Irish cleaning lady. When they make comments and suggestions about how I ought to do things, I say back to them: "You might be right..." If you do it in the right tone, it appears to them that you're considering their opinion/are willing to change it when in reality your head is filled immediately with thoughts like, "...but you arent" or "...you stupid old biddy" I swear it will save your sanity-try it!

The other thought I had was to suggest she bring 5 or 6 of her favourite dinner ideas/recipes. Perhaps you could suggest that it would be good for the kids to try out grandma's favourites. Meanwhile you get something new to cook that should satisfy her, she might even offer to cook it and there is always the very rare chance that you will actually LIKE IT and add it to your regular meal cycle.

Sam said...

I have finally gotten to a point in my life where I say, "Homie don't play that game." Or, in my language: FUCK THAT SHIT. I am so sorry that your husband doesn't tell his mother where to go and how to get there. I wish my husband would tell his dad the same. Also? I have herbs that could help this situation immensely.

Bring A. Torch said...

I propose a posse of angry women, bearing signs with witty slogans and armloads of not-green bell peppers. We could chant ferociously in your yard--"S-W-I-S-T-L-E! FISH AND HOUSEGUESTS GET SMELL-Y!"--and you could throw us hunks of fudge for sustenance.

Swistle said...

Sam- TELL ME MORE ABOUT THESE HERBS.

Helen said...

Wow, at least my MIL attempts to appear friendly. I like the bitchy-friendly tactic, but usually I blow up before I can put it into action. I've stormed out the night before Thanksgiving and screamed at her at Disneyland. Needless to say she treads a little more carefully around me now.

The rule at our house is that my husband has to be on vacation when his parents visit. It saves our marriage.

Jenny said...

I only know one herb that can help in this situation.

And I suggest you smoke a lot of it.

LOL!

Kim said...

I may have said this the last time she came for a visit and if so, forgive me. My coping skills for inlaw visits included the following:
- writing down whatever idiotic thing they say knowing I'll read it after they leave & laugh
- enjoying the regression of us feeling like rebellious teenagers & employing an "us against them" mentality
- moving my bedtime up by 2 hours & spending that time reading a good book
- a daily Xanax cocktail
- a sometimes twice-daily Xanax cocktail

Kim said...

Also, under the "I Wish You Could Say It But Know You Can't" file:

Her: You spend more money on produce than anyone I know!

You: (Laughing psychotically)Hahaha - if you think THAT'S a lot of money, you should see what I spend on alcohol!

Summer Nicklasson said...

Oh my goodness I don't know how you bite your tongue. I'm curious to hear how the actual visit goes. Go get yourself a big ol bottle of brandy and maybe some pain killers. If I were you I'd make sure my house was just as crazy as it always it, to provide education for said houseguests when they book their future flights. Good luck!

annie said...

milk thistle will protect your liver if you are really worried about the drinking.

other than that, I trillionth the general theme of just go on and do your life, your cookery, your childraising, your activity level, the way that works for you and your family. if she comments on it, thank her for her input and do not act on it.

it's a power thing. you are nice and thoughtful because that's how you are. she isn't because she isn't. and she's taking advantage of your essential decency of character and making your life hard for reasons of her own that don't really matter. there is no good reason for mistreating someone, particularly when you are their guest.

what matters is that you and Paul and the kids get out of her visit in the best possible shape, and that your kids get to see that neither you nor they have to be trounced by a mean old lady, however she may sugarcoat her viciousness and trade on familial relationship.

my greatgrandmother was VILE. she was nasty and derogatory and snide in that way that southern women of a certain generation and class were excellent at. and she deployed that honeyed dismissive belittlingness at my grandma (her daughter), my mom (her granddaughter) and us kids unceasingly. (strangely, my ravishingly handsome, charming and entirely incompetent dad was just fine with her).

when I was about 8, my mom got done with her and told her, at dinner, to go on ahead and finish the food that wasn't quite right, like she had all the other food she'd eaten that wasn't quite right, bless our hearts, in the last week. and that when she was finished, she could say good bye to her poor little grandchildren, uncivilized little savages that they were, bless their hearts, and go get in the car, because she was going to a hotel or the airport, her choice, but no longer was she welcome in my mother's house. my little sister broke down weeping at the table with relief.

dude. THIRTY FIVE years later, us kids, bless our hearts, still talk about that night. the night mom kicked Gladys out. how relieved we were. how scary it had been to see our competent, reliable, kind parents so overwhelmed by that mean bewigged old woman. the things we had all started doing to manage how scary it was to be around her, the way we had been hiding to make sure we were never alone with her because she was so vicious. my brother had been wedging himself between the mattress and the boxspring of the daybed in the playroom and breathing through straws.

anyway. it is unlikely that your mil is as horrid as my ggm was, but the point stands - she oughtn't to be horrid to y'all, and as she is, you need to do what you need to do to take care of yourself and your children. so do it, and don't feel bad about it.

Just Jiff said...

You know, I think you are being way too nice. I'd just say, "It's MY house and MY rules. Go stay at a hotel and be bitchy there."

Thankfully my parents and in-laws are nothing like her. I just don't think I'd let myself be talked to like that. MIL or not. And your husband sounds like a wonderful man who deserved better than her.

Ugh. I know I'm just reading one side of it and all that, but life is too short to spend miserable.

Whatever happens, I know you'll make the best of it. Good luck!

Jody said...

I was afraid that was going to happen. But kudos to Paul and to you for trying.

I would plan to be out and about the entire time. Today we are doing THIS. And tomorrow we are doing THAT. And the day after that, we are doing THIS OTHER THING.

But the fact is, if my MIL wrote to say this, I'd have written back to say, "I'm so sorry, only these seven days work, and if you can't change your travel plans, here are some ideas for local hotels." Because I am, apparently, a bitch, and there's just no way I'd have the tolerance you're going to be exercising.

Seriously. I have had troubles with grandparents at various points, but who thinks they can just invite themselves into someone else's house for ANY length of time, without that person's express invitation? It boggles the mind.

Jody said...

I mean, just to be clear, so that you and Paul can congratulate yourselves on your superior filial attitudes, I would have written back and said, "We're so sorry that you're going to have to change your plans; next time, you should confirm your dates with us first; and yes, only those seven days will work for us. We look forward to seeing you then."

The thing is, and I understand that it's much, MUCH easier to write this than to live it, but now you've got a visit where no one will be happy. She's going to be pissed off because you "shortened" her visit, and you're going to be in the brandy every day, because she does not listen to you or care about your life. Granted that would have happened even if she had come for the offered 7 days. But then, you could have both been happy, because she would feel dramatically and delightfully unappreciated, put-upon, and oppressed, and you would know that you stood up to her and arranged the visit that worked best for all seven of you.

Yeah. It really is much easier to write than to live. I know that.

I wonder why your MIL is such a piece of work.

Leah said...

This sentence: "I feel like I'm "taking my medicine" rather than "taking another step on the road to potential lushitude." makes me want to make out with you.

I am keeping all of my sweet wonderful MIL vibes aimed in your direction this October.

Kelly said...

1) yay paul. 2) I think I like my MIL who avoids us more after reading that 3)milk thistle: 2 caps 30 min before you take your "medicine" and 2 more after you've finished your "medicine" 4)a good, potent multi B vitamin. specifically B. C is good too. But you want some good B if you're going to be medicating yourself. lol 5)L-lysine 6)valerian: is the herbal equivalent, supposedly, of valium. valerian smells like teenage boys' stinky socks. I am serious. But it may relax or help you sleep if necessary. try it before she gets there to make sure you can tolerate it etc. , 7) SAM-e and St. Johns Wort. (both of these CAN interact with other, real medications so google "xherb interactions")

I think that's it. I got distracted reading Leah's comment and now I'm cracking up. LOL

Alias Mother said...

Oh heavens. Annie, ANNIE, that Great-grandma story is the best thing I have read in weeks. Good god. May we all have your mother's backbone when we need it.

Anonymous said...

OK - my MIL is your MIL!!! After 28 yrs of marriage, she still doesn't even call me by name. Nothing is ever good enough, nothing is appropriate, and she loves to say "you should...". Many yrs ago I decided life was too short to try to please her, and I simply treat her like a teacher I don't like but must show respect to simply because of her position. It helps tremendously that my husband knows and understands the weirdness that is his mother and supports me totally. When the kids get older, you'll have interesting conversations about how strange grandma is. I never said a word, just waited for my little angel to say something. They know -
Keep the brandy handy - it will probably be great in coffee. Do you think you could slip some to the MIL? It might relax the atmosphere a little!!

Chibi said...

This makes me glad that The Man-Thing doesn't have much of a relationship with his mother. I'm not even sure she's aware of my existence! (And I'm perfectly okay with this.)

Smiling Mama said...

GOOD LUCK! My MIL is great but my FIL is a complete pain. He routinely sends my husband to KFC about 15 minutes before dinner is ready because he is STARVING and can. not. wait. one. minute. It used to drive me crazy but I am (slowly) learning to let it go.

Kim said...

Best of luck to you. What a pain in the neck. The bright side is that hubby is on your side and you are not battling against him on this!

cassee01 said...

Just found your blog and this post had me LMAO - too funny.