Monday, April 23, 2012

A child's intuition

It's hard to even celebrate her departure because he is all sad about her leaving.  For reasons that escape me (sort of), he really likes having her around and had a great time while she was here.  Which meant that I was a total powder keg because I couldn't even really talk about how miserable I was.  Let's just say I've got a lot of pent up tension.  I see some hard workouts in my future.

But I was able to do a silent, mini-happy dance last night as I was lying in bed with Zeke, chatting with him to help him calm down and go to sleep.  We were talking about the fact that my dad is coming to visit this weekend, and Zeke is so excited to see him.

"How many sleeps til Papa comes?"

"If you don't count tonight, four.  So we need to hurry up and get to sleep so that when we wake up, we'll only have four sleeps left."

"I can't wait.  It's going to be awesome."

"You know, Ma is leaving tomorrow."

"I know."

"Does that makes you sad?"


"How come?"

"I don't like her."

"You don't??  Why not?  She loves you and is very nice to you."*

"She always says stupid stuff to me."

Ahhhh... my son.

* Regardless of my personal feelings, I'm not so much of an asshole that I'll turn my kids against their grandmother.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Rant, and Why

She's leaving in three days, so I really should be very Zen about the whole thing at this point.  But I'm finding myself increasingly agitated these days about MIL.

I started noticing that though my children liked having her around at first, lately they've been avoiding her.  I think it's because she projects no strength or authority or anything that would make people want to listen to her.  One of them will ask for a cup of milk, and instead of just getting it for them (if she's up - I certainly don't expect her to wait on them), she'll ask in a simpering voice, "would you like Ma to get it for you?"  And something in them bristles, and they'll say, "no, I want Mama to get it." 

It's annoying, and something that, if they said it to me, I'd say, "here's your cup of milk.  You can drink it or not, but you don't get to choose who pours it." 

But she just says, "oh, all right," and doesn't push the issue and allows herself to look like a doormat.

And they tend to ignore her when she's talking, because she's always fucking talking.  About nothing.  Just a silly, running commentary that most of the time requires no response, so they just tune it out.

I know I should be furious at their rudeness toward a grandparent, and I do say things like, "Ma asked you a question, you need to answer her."  But inside, I get it and it fuels my own ire.

Because that weakness, that lack of gumption, that unwillingness to ever make waves, that utter uselessness as a person, was what resulted in my husband being horribly beaten and abused as a young child by her monster of an alcoholic husband (his stepfather), and she didn't do a fucking thing about it.  Didn't stop it.  Didn't leave.  Didn't get the kids out of the house to go live with someone else. 

Didn't call the cops or kill the motherfucker, which what I would have done.  Particularly since having children of my own, I can say with complete confidence that if anyone I was with abused either of my kids, that person would be either in jail or dead. 

But MIL just let it go on for YEARS.  It only ended when J's older brother got big enough to stand up for himself and put the asshole's head through a wall.  But J was younger, and smaller, and totally terrified of getting in trouble if he said or did anything.

This has had, predictably, permanent effects on him, and on our marriage.  I am now attempting to pick up the pieces that she let fall, because she didn't do the one thing that is every mother's primary responsibility towards her children -- protect them until they are able to protect themselves.

And for that, I hate her.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

High Hopes

I was having a sleepless night recently and finally got so bored that I picked up my iPad and went online.  There was an email from - I set up an account with them when I was pregnant with Zeke to track my progress, and used them again with Josie, and so now they still send me emails about developmental milestones and things like that.  This email was promoting their child height predictor, a tool that takes your toddler's height and weight at a certain age and tells you the height your child will likely reach by age 18, factoring in the height of the parents as well.

Josie has been on a massive year-long growth spurt.  We record the kids' heights on a door frame in our bedroom from time to time, and for whatever reason, got into the habit of doing it at least every Christmas Eve.  When we measured Josie this past December, we discovered that she had grown a full 6 inches in a year.  She hasn't gained much weight - she might be 26 pounds soaking wet - but she just keeps getting longer and longer.  When I put her stats into the height predictor, it told me that there was a 90% likelihood that she would be 5'7", or within an inch of that either way.

I have been both happy for her (having been 5'2" since I was about 11 1/2, I would love to have at least a few extra inches) but also baffled about where this apparent tallness is coming from.  I am short, my mother is short, and J's mother is short, so I couldn't figure out.

But then I look at her, and take in her feistiness and determination, and I realize who she takes after.  I may have another Ruth on my hands.

Which is great, especially for her.  Ruth could be difficult, but she was also a force to be reckoned with, and her intelligence, determination and unwavering high standards led her to much success in life.  And Ruth was beautiful and elegant (and stood about 5'8").  So Josie could do a lot worse.

But of course, it's a little early to be counting chickens. 

When I was a baby, my pediatrician, Dr. Irv (he was a close friend of my grandparents, so I knew him as "Dr. Irv" rather than by his last name) looked at my hands, which are big for someone my size, and predicted that I would be 5'7".

Yeah... not so much.

Thursday, April 05, 2012


I'm having my daily morning snuggle with Josie.  She's drinking some milk and is leaning into me while we watch Yo Gabba Gabba.  I've got my arm around her, holding her close. 

She looks at my shirt, which is black with white elongated dots:

She takes a long, beautiful finger (she totally has my Grandma Ruth's elegant hands) and traces the dots.

"What are those, Mama?"

"They're dots."

"No, they're not."

"They're not?"

"No.  They not dots."

"What are they?"

She thinks for a moment.

"They carrots."*

"Hmm.  I see."

She nods, and then turns back to her milk cup and her show.

Okay, then.

*Pronounced "cawwots" for full cuteness effect.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Minutiae, and a realization

A number of people have asked me, "so how's it going with MIL?"  They always ask the question as if they're bracing themselves for something in response, like an explosion or a temper tantrum.

But, I vowed not to be an asshole.  A vow I'm (mostly) sticking to.  And in all honesty, things are fine.

All I can really say is that she is as she ever was.  Somebody I have difficulty understanding on just about every level - why she acts the way she does, why she says the things she does, why she talks about the things she does - but somebody who is essentially harmless.

The hardest part is dealing with the incessant questions about things that it would not occur to me to care about -- like where everyone has their morning tea.  Or detailed descriptions of what she had for morning tea, or what the children had when they stayed with her for a couple of hours while I was out running errands.

My mom was traveling in the Caribbean for work, and called me from the Miami airport when she was back in the country.  We talked about her trip, its successes and difficulties, politics, what workout programs we were doing, funny stories about the kids, the usual.

When I got off the phone, MIL said, "how's your mum?"

"Oh, she's good.  Stuck in the Miami airport for a couple of extra hours because they missed an earlier connecting flight, but her trip went well.  She's fine."

"Stuck in the airport?  Is she going to have her tea in the airport?"

"Uhhhh... I assume that if she's hungry, she'll find something to eat.  We didn't discuss it."

Because who gives a shit???

I finally had to tell MIL  that I don't care what anybody eats.  I said it nicely and in relation to a funny story (because I have vowed not to be an asshole), but I had to say something before my head exploded.

I know that some people do.  I dated a guy about 15 years ago who was always obsessing over what he was going to order at a restaurant that he wouldn't be going to for days.  His family was like this, too.  Every Sunday we all met for brunch at this diner in Atlanta, and every Saturday they would have extensive questions and discussions about what they were going to have.  At a diner.  Where they all ordered the same thing every time, anyway -- some form of eggs, toast, orange juice and coffee. 

But I really don't give a shit.  I'm not a big foodie.  I like cooking, but I'm not particularly interested in eating, and I don't think about food when I'm not hungry.  My children are fed at school, and the school is certified and properly licensed, and I generally peruse the menu schedule that is sent out every month, but beyond that, I don't really care.  They eat at school, they appear energetic and nobody shows signs of malnourishment, they're growing properly, so I assume everything is fine.  One less thing, you know?

I was complaining to my friend Andrea about the level of discourse in my house and how precipitously it has dropped since MIL arrived.  Much discussion about morning tea and the weather and all that, and not much else.  Quite honestly, I would rather not talk than talk about that stuff. 

She very gently pointed out that the household I grew up in was not normal in that regard.  "You are now discovering what it's like for the rest of us," she said.  "Not everyone grew up with witty, well-read diplomats for parents, with the discussion swirling around about foreign policy and cultural stuff."

"Hmmm, I guess I never thought of it that way," I said.

"Yeah.  You should hear the conversations I have with my dad.  This is what it's like for most people.  You just have no idea.  You were spoiled."

One more thing to blame on my parents?