Thursday, June 16, 2005
Fresh new mother-in-law rant
Argh, she really is a wonder.

My mother-in-law is the classic passive-aggressive. Never SAYS what she wants or doesn't want or whatever, and absolutely REFUSES to commit to a plan, ever, just in case she can find a better way to muck things up last-minute. (To be fair, I do have a fair amount of insight into the psychological underpinnings of this sort of behavior, but she's my mother-in-law, not my client, so I don't need to be all warm-and-fuzzy when I'm on the receiving end of her phenomenal stream of BS.) And - this may come as a shock - I tend to be very direct and outspoken, albeit tactfully, so she and I don't communicate very successfully.

By which I mean, I keep my sentences short and hard to misunderstand, and she has a string of voodoo dolls with my name on them.

Anyway, so, she has been telling all of her friends - or, more specifically, she told my husband that she tells her friends, so who knows what the truth is?? - that she comes to visit us at least once a month. This is a blatant lie. Because I would go insane. She comes out about once every three months - about every 6 months she gets an individual, all-by-herself weekend visit, and the other visits are for family events like birthdays or holidays. But she's been telling her friends she comes out once a month, so she decided recently that she needs to come out and visit. And, just to be fun and different and make my ears bleed, she announced her intention of coming out for TWO WEEKS in July.

Do you have any idea how flat my forehead would be, from the nightly head-pounding, if she were to visit for two weeks? Seriously. Flat, flat, flat.

On top of this, we're moving two hours farther away from her. You'd think this would be good for me, in the "MIL Visiting Less Often" Department, right? Wrong. Right now we're about 6 1/2 hours away, we will be over 8 - so now she's planning to fly instead. "It'll be so good for my frequent flyer account!" says the woman who flew to Holland and Italy last year. And her flying in means that we have to go get her - "we" being "my husband" because "I" would "leave her there to rot."

So she was in the midst of making some insanely complex plans involving her flying out to the nearest airport (an hour away), staying with us for a while, joining us on the 4-hour drive to Long Island for HER family reunion, and then having "someone" (see above) drop her off at an airport there to get home again. Enough logistics to give Patton a migraine.

And then things got complicated.

A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law's best friend's husband died very suddenly and unexpectedly. We all did the expected things - Carol (mother-in-law) immediately went to NJ for the funeral and such, we sent flowers and a card, and - silly me! - I sort of expected *my* life to go on as usual. I met said husband once at my wedding and once at a Christmas party, for a grand total of 20 minutes. So while I do have total sympathy for the loss, I'm not close enough for it to be appropriate for me to get any more involved. Or so I thought. Apparently I'm - yes, ME, the stay-home mom who COULD pack up and go anywhere if I wanted to - in trouble for not "letting" my family go down to the funeral. Wait, what? I'm sorry, what? I'm confused. You think that my husband should take at least two days off of work during finals (he's a HS teacher), pack up and drive 5 hours with a 5-year-old and a 10-month-old, to attend the wake and funeral of a bare acquaintance, so that YOU look better??

No. But, thanks for the offer.

Once she figured out that it really would look weird for us to be there, she switched tactics. In her nightly phone call updates - let me tell you, we were on the edge of our seats waiting for those puppies - she told us about how she made sure that OUR flowers got put at the front of the display and OUR card (which included a nice note that 5-year-old Emily wrote herself, on a separate sheet) went on their fridge, etc. Basically we got totally, embarrassingly overplayed for showing common decency. Lovely.

On top of this, she has the delight in stepping into center stage but not actually having a whole lot of emotional investment in the loss itself. See, my mother-in-law never actually LIKED her friend's husband, but her friend and she are "closer than sisters" (I'll save the sisters thing for another rant someday - remind me if you're ever bored!). So she felt that she was very much in the totally-crucial-Mighty-Mouse-save-the-day role for that family. She announced to one and all that she was going to be staying in the friend's house "for the duration, until she kicks me out, because she needs me so much."

Great. So now she gets to play the martyr and the passive-agressive mother-in-law all at the same time, what fun!

So, to skip to the end, after two weeks, apparently her friend decided that The Time Had Come. Carol called us from her own home last night, letting us know that she was no longer in NJ - "But I'm ready to fly back there on a moment's notice just as soon as I think I'm needed!" She still is planning to come visit us next month, but it looks like we MIGHT get lucky and have her visit curtailed to one week instead of two. Which is fabulous - I can maintain a good solid buzz for that week and survive it untraumatized. Well, no, not while I'm nursing... but I can dream.

And, wait, I'm sorry, did I say she "called us"? Because what I meant was, I had the audacity to answer the phone in my own house. Can you IMAGINE? I mean, seriously, was I raised by wolves? Every time I get her on the phone, our conversation goes exactly, EXACTLY, like this:
ME: Hello?
HER: Oh, hi, Kate, it's Carol.
ME: Uh huh. I mean, um, hi!
HER: How are the kids?
ME: They're great. Jacob just started crawling, and Emily is doing nuclear physics in her spare time.
HER: Huh. Uh huh. Can I talk to my son?
ME: No. It's two in the afternoon, he's at work.
HER: Oh. Well, sometime, maybe, you could let him know that his mother called and she would love to talk to her own son once in a while.
ME: Didn't you talk to him last night?
HER: Well, I guess. Not for very long. Can I talk to my granddaughter?
ME: No, she's down for a nap right now.
HER: Oh. She still takes naps?
ME: Sometimes. Only on days you call. Ha ha.
HER: Hmm. Well. That's funny. Hmm. How are the kids?
ME: Great. Jacob is speaking in complete sentences, in French, and Emily has her pilot's license.
HER: Huh. Uh huh. Well, I guess I'll go. If you get the chance, can you ask my son to call me?
ME: Happily.

Lovely, isn't it? She actually found a Christmas card for us that read "To My Son and His Wife." That's me, accessory extraordinaire!

This has gone on long enough. Just needed to vent. She'll probably be coming out before we get Internet connection at the new house, so it's possible that I may disappear and never be heard from again due to incarceration - watch the NH news!