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Posts Tagged ‘mother in law’

I always had the age 35 in mind as the age of a real grownup. A 35-year-old is someone who is in charge. The person caring for her children and her parents. The responsible person with savings, investments, and enough cash on hand to fix the rear wiper motor on her car. A person with important places to be, important things to do, and appropriate clothes for any occasion that might arise. Now I’m about to turn 35. How did this happen? And why do I feel like an impostor?

I remember when my own mother was 35. She was mom to three kids ages 5 (me), 7 and 10. She ran her household like she was born doing it. She managed her kids, bills, nightly dinners, etc like it was nothing. She was a real grownup. So here I am, my mother’s age. (Sort of.) At what point will I feel like a real grownup and not like a kid myself?

I still feel like a person trying to figure it all out. The only way that I know I’m no longer in my early 20’s, and therefore excusably clueless, is that I don’t get carded. I never get carded. Once upon a time I thought that would be a great thing. Turns out, not so much.

My kids are not yet 4 and not yet 2. I’m still new at this whole kids-thing and still dealing with baby problems, naps and diapers. I’m not a seasoned mom carting my kids and their friends around like my mother did so skillfully. (Remember riding in the way back?)

I can’t believe I’m about to turn 35. When I was a kid, if you asked me what “middle-aged” meant I might have said 35. My next big birthday will be my 40th? I can’t even type that with a straight face. I’m nowhere near 40! Right?

Aren’t I supposed to have it all figured out by now? I have 2 1/2 weeks before my birthday. I better get cracking!

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I’ve written before about L’s funny conversations with Nana. The combination of his toddler-speak and her accent makes for a total communication breakdown that neither of them seems to mind or notice. As I’m often the only person in the room who understands both of them, I am witness to so many strange conversations, and I marvel that they seem to get by without full-time translators.

According to L’s pronunciation, many words begin with the letter B. He’s not excited, he’s becited. When he wants to interrupt, he says “bescuse me.” He bemembers things rather than remembers. He loves to eat bessert and his favorite vegetable is bematoes.

It’s been a little while since Nana left, but I guess she was on L’s mind. Out of nowhere L said this to me in the car, and it made me laugh out loud:

“Some people, like you and me, say bemato. But did you know that other people say tom-aaah-to?” The latter said with exaggerated fake English-ish accent, and perfect enunciated T’s.

Maybe you had to be there…

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I’ve been living under a microscope. Or at least that’s what it feels like. For a short-term house guest, it’s possible to present a version of your self, home and family that is close to the real deal, but a little nicer. But for a long-term house guest, namely a 3-week mother-in-law visit, the pretense falters after a few days and suddenly the real thing is exposed to an outsider.

For a few days, all of L’s snacks were carrots, apples, clementines and the like. But by day 3 or 4, both of us were tired of this and the goldfish, pretzels, and crackers came back out. For a few days L’s mischief and misbehavior were met with reasonable, measured responses. I was able to pretend that he learned “dammit” somewhere else. S’s wriggling and whining on the changing table was met with gentle encouragement to stay still. But this couldn’t last, and soon enough my crazy was showing.

Knowing that all of this was observed by my mother-in-law, has kept me keenly aware of all of my family’s faults, all of our weaknesses, all of our weirdness, our dirt (real, physical dirt), our bad sides that we generally reserve only for each other. The stuff you imagine doesn’t go on in your friends’ houses, even though they assure you it does. And because of my relationship to her, being  her son’s wife, I feel that all of these imperfections fall squarely on my shoulders and are seen as a reflection of my own shortcomings.

I am likely judging myself and all of us much more harshly than my mother-in-law is, but I can’t help but feel that she is grateful that her flight is in two days. That soon she will be able to take her leave of our loud, disagreeable household and go home to her peaceful life. I feel guilty that I couldn’t hold it together better. That I couldn’t, for just 3 weeks, create a nice environment for her so she could leave missing us and looking forward to her next visit.

So, that’s where I am. Stuck with an unpleasant mixture of disappointment, frustration, guilt and some relief that it will all be over soon, (this last feeling brings on more guilt, so it really provides very little relief). She’s planning another visit for October and I’m calculating the ages my kids will be then and thinking that it will likely be another rough one. L will be 3.5, which from what I’ve heard makes 3 look like a day at the spa. S will, (unimaginably!) be a toddler of 15 months, instead of a sweet baby. Ugh, this will not be good.

So, Nana, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you had to witness the real deal in my house. I’m sorry that I’m not a calm, serene person who takes it all in stride. I’m sorry that L is a maniac. I’m sorry that my cupboards and fridge aren’t filled with only the most wholesome ingredients for the most wholesome home cooked meals. I’m sorry that you teach me how to bake every time you come and I stubbornly just don’t learn. (Truth – I have no interest and feign incompetence; she must think I’m a dolt.) Hopefully you are as generous as possible and don’t judge us all as monsters, and don’t mourn for your son’s poor choice of wife!

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She’s seen it all now. All my effort to pretend I had a nice family for nothing. Nana witnessed me drag a screaming L to the car this morning, pin him in his carseat and forcibly strap him down as he thrashed, cried, shrieked, kicked, hit and tried to bite me. She then saw me turn to my husband, her son, and yell at him about something or other. Then, after storming back inside to retrieve my crying baby in her carseat, I proceeded to yell at both T and Nana about how helpful they were being standing there watching all of this.

As I drove away, after my initial mean thoughts about how useless they were and how I had to do everything, I thought about what Nana must be thinking. How much I’ve changed since she first met me 10 years ago as a carefree, adventuring young 20-something traveling with my boyfriend, who I obviously adored, and did not berate or yell at. What changed me into this control-freak-bitch?

I think life would be so much easier if I could just clone myself a few times over. That way, all the errands would be run right, the dishwasher would be loaded correctly, the laundry folded, the kids put to bed in a timely, orderly fashion etc. Everything would be done right. Instead, I have to deal with these other people helping me, and doing things all wrong.

When it’s just T, things generally run pretty smoothly. I don’t really mind when I find another pair of PJs under the PJs I just took off the baby. I think it’s weird, but I don’t care. (This happened 2 days ago. After all this time having kids, WTF is he thinking? Wasn’t it hard to squeeze already footed-feet into the second pair of footie PJs?) We have a system for dividing the labor so we don’t really step on eachother’s toes too much. I load the dishwasher; he unloads. I do all the laundry, but he carries the heavy basket upstairs. He changes all lightbulbs; I clean the bathrooms. All in all, things work and we live in peace.

Adding another adult in the house has me beside myself. I don’t have as much control over everything as I like. This lack of control makes me feel uncomfortable. I know that having everything done my way is not a life or death situation. I even know that other people *could* do things better than I do them. (Nevermind, I don’t believe that for a second.) Why do I need everything done my way so badly? Why can’t I just relinquish some of this control?

I know it would make me happier if I just didn’t care. I’d be happier if I didn’t care that L wasn’t dressed before coming downstairs this morning, making getting him dressed a 1/2 hour ordeal involving tears and yelling and even a time out, rather than a 3 minute nothing if done first thing in his room. And why does it bother me so much that Nana wants to handwash everything instead of just putting it all in the dishwasher? She’s the one slaving over the sink, why does it drive me crazy? I’ll tell you why: because I am a control-freak-bitch.

I am sure I’m not the only one. Motherhood changes some of us into these people we sometimes don’t like. It’s insult added to injury. Not only do we not look like our younger selves, but our personalities are worse as well. It’s another one of those terrible stereotypes about women and wives. It’s the harpy wife who gives chores, nags, and isn’t pleased by the job done. I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want poor T to have to live with that person! But, am I turning into her? What kind of message does that send my kids about what a woman’s job is, and a man’s worth?

Isn’t it typical that even when I’m trying so hard to make everything go right for my kids, I’m still unhappy that I’m not doing a good enough job, because just by virtue of trying I’m teaching my kids something bad? Ugh, can’t it ever just be easy? Forget saving for college, I need to save up for my kids’ therapy.

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As a 3-year-old, L’s pronunciation is markedly better than it was just a few months ago. I’m surprised how sad I feel when each toddler-speak word is replaced by the real thing in his vocabulary. Recently, he learned to pronounce his own name properly. Although, this will make playground introductions a lot less frustrating for him, I’m so sad to lose his cute, completely incomprehensible and unique language.

Despite his improvements in this area, my little emerging elocutionist still cannot converse so well with Nana. Between L’s remaining mispronunciations and Nana’s accent and use of different words, like “tea” to mean “dinner,” they have some peculiar conversations. Nevertheless, they are like peas in a pod. My worries around their relationship were entirely unfounded; about 10 seconds after their reunion, they were fast friends. (It’s been a year since Nana’s last visit.) Whew!

Listening to L’s and Nana’s strange conversations has me thinking about L’s history with language. I expected his first word to be ‘mama.’ Doesn’t every first time mom? But instead, it was ‘milk.’ Well, he said “mah.” His second word was not mama either. It was ‘up.’ That’s when my husband decided to teach him the word ‘open.’ Why a baby needs the word ‘open’ as his third word is beyond me, but T was hell-bent to teach it. He would carry L around opening every door and cabinet repeating “oh-pen, oh-pen, oooh-pen….” Soon L actually got it! Unfortunately, this muti-syllabic leap ruined all other words for him. Milk went from “mah” to “mah-em,” up from “up” to “up-em.” Every word L learned from then on was broken down to its first sound and then finished with “em.” This made him impossible to understand.

He continued in this bizarre vein until one day, he picked up a brand new word. He said it with precision and used it appropriately. A dropped sippy cup, a frustrating puzzle piece or a bumped head was promptly met with my cherubic toddler exclaiming, “Shit!” This turned more than one head and I pathetically stammered something like “that’s right, L, you are sitting,” or “sit, please, Mommy. Ask nicely.” I can’t imagine I fooled anyone.

As I write this L and Nana are in the other room preparing dinner together, roast chicken and vegetables. Nana keeps using the word roast; L is wondering when they’re going to get to putting everything in rows. L asks to cut the “vebidles” and Nana replies that they’ve already added enough pepper. Both are happy.

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As I write this it’s 6:38AM. I’ve been awake for hours. Technically, if you’re never really asleep, then I don’t think you can measure how long you’ve been awake. Perhaps it’s more accurate to measure how long it’s been since I resigned myself to wakefulness. HOURS. Coffee isn’t ready yet. I’m in my PJs. I’m grumpy. People beware. Problem is, I have to be nice. I have to present my nice family. Nana arrived late last night for her 3 week visit. She hasn’t seen the kids yet. She was last here when I was 6 months pregnant. Everyone needs to get reacquainted, or acquainted for the first time.

We spent the night at my parents’ apartment after Nana’s arrival. My parents have an all-purpose children’s bedroom consisting of a crib, a Pack n’ Play, and two twin beds. (They have 5 grandchildren, so they are ever-prepared for overnight guests of small stature.) After over 24 hours of travel, it was only fair for Nana to get the guest room; so I bunked with the kids. S in the crib, L and me in the twin beds. I can tell you unequivocally that L and S are the world’s worst roommates. All night they take turns squeaking, snarfling, grunting, crying, farting, whining, coughing, sneezing and on one occasion screaming out “I can’t see anything!”There was also one episode where L was singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” while banging his head against his pillow.

By 5 this morning, both were in my twin bed with me. For some reason, even though L is normally hot, his feet are always like ice. S is no longer the snugly baby she once was. She’s now a wriggley thing who pinches and grabs at faces and pulls hair. These do not make good bed-mates.

So, here I am. Tired. Irritated. Knowing that my sleepless night is not going to be made up for in extra sleep anytime soon. And I have to go into the other room and play nice. I have to act as translator as I’m the only one bilingual in L’s toddler-speak and Nana’s accent. I have to balance S’s stranger anxiety with Nana’s feelings and excitement to meet her first granddaughter. Well, wish me luck. Coffee is ready.

Oh, and to top it off, it snowed last night. I know that has nothing to do with motherhood, but nevertheless, it deserves a hearty WTF?

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