Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Movement: Mother In Law Camp

Let me begin with a disclaimer. Between any mother and her daughter-in-law there exists a resident tension. It is the tug between past and future, a constant redefining of roles, responsibilities and prominence. I love, respect and appreciate my mother-in-law more than most.

Now, on to Mother-In-Law camp.

I have discovered a new law of the Universe. As unchanging as gravity, as permanent as the day is to the night: No two mothers can peacefully coexist and be in charge, in the same vicinity, at the same time over the same children. If the law is broken, the explosions will be cataclysmic. How do I know? Read on.

In the course of The Movement, I and the children spent two weeks at NaNa's house. She and my father-in-law invited the 'zoo' to join them as we transitioned to the next stop in The Movement. A near five year old, 11 month old and 30'ish year old (and all the accompanying stuff) moved in to the custom built home for what promised to be a fun, family summer vacation in the 'Burbs.

Now, NaNa is the poster child for grandmothers the world over. If there is a sweet treat to be consumed or a cartoon to be giggled at, NaNa is the first to make it happen. No child should want for anything. Ever. No baby should cry. Ever. And 'No' isn't a part of her vocabulary.

So instead of controlling the erratic, loud and obnoxious behaviors and demands of her grandchildren, she decided to control the next closest person. Me.


It wasn't pretty. At some points, I preempted her comments by filling in the blanks myself. "I know my hair is boring, however, this is how I am wearing it today. I know you hate this shirt, however, I'm wearing it. Don't criticize, plenty of people wear black. And I like this purse even if you think an old Bubba would carry it. I know I am over weight, however....I know...." However, I didn't know how tough it would be to have two queen bees from two separate Mothering planets attempt to co-exist. It wasn't pretty, it was nearly Medea in the 'Burbs.

In the midst of the passive aggressive war going on inside the perfectly decorated home, something remarkable was happening. My urbanite little boy charmed his way into the training wheel circuit of the neighborhood. To say my boy has concrete and traffic in his blood is an understatement. He actually, for the longest time, thought any house with a yard was a farm. He wouldn't get out of our car in the dark woods for fear of bears and beavers biting him. He would ask for sanitizer after playing outside. This was soon and quickly to change.

I answered the door one evening (a rum and coke in my hand, to soothe the latest battle wounds in the 'Mommy Wars') and before me stood two tweens. They were simply standing there, smiling with their braces and fiddling with their sparkly barrettes. I asked if they were there for the Queen Bee. They said, "No. Can Ian come out to play?" Two girls. Stopping by to ask if my boy can come out. He's five.

Nearly every night my little fella would be racing and chasing. He was sought out and was asked over for play dates. He learned what it was like to play with other Daddies and Mommies. He learned, for the first time, what it was like to live in a community of families. He learned dynamics and how we were different or the same as other families. While NaNa and I were having our own little internal family drama, he was having a family revelation.

At NaNa camp, my sons developed whines at a pitch only discernible to canines. They learned arms raised and pouty lips gained them a hug and a gummy dinosaur. Sleep became secondary to cuddling for hours on the couch. And there is nothing better than a bike race in the setting sun around the cul-de-sac.

At Mother In Law camp I learned I am overweight, have boring hair, can't dress and don't keep my children fed or clean enough. I also learned the fierce love of a Mother for her son doesn't change after marriage and children. It only deepens. It deepens enough to keep everyone else as the interlopers. Guests at this buffet of family love.

Had I still been in the throes of PPD, I wouldn't be blogging right now. I would be in the hospital or jail. However, I am not still in the throes of PPD. I am in the midst of my healing, my overcoming, my freedom. Surviving MIL camp helped me to see how far I have come and how far I have yet to go.

The best thing about Mother In Law Camp was her Pomegranate martinis, carefully measured and shaken into a Starbucks mug. To make amends for my role in the battles, I'm sending her a real martini set.

She was tough. I was probably just as tough. Well, maybe not just as tough.

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