Early yesterday afternoon, the in-laws concluded their visit. As they closed the front door to our house and headed out to their car, Hubby and I both literally keeled over in moaning, ugly exhaustion. They. are. exhausting.
You see, both my mother-in-law (“MIL”) and my father-in-law (“FIL”) are recently-retired teachers. They love to talk. They love to have a captive audience. And I don’t mean captive, like, captivated. I mean captive like, unable to escape.
Though they love to talk, neither of them can stand to listen to the other. They save all this pent-up frustration at not being listened to for months at a time, and then they verbally explode all over the place whenever they visit other people. So I spent four days being verbally exploded upon. As an introvert who can barely stand to hear her own husband talk for more than 2 minutes at a time (love you Hubby), this was excruciating.
Now, it may be true that I am a horrible hag who thinks people shouldn’t be allowed to talk for more than two minutes at a time. But to be fair to me, the in-laws’ talking is a particular brand of awful.
First, they insist on having a conversation at the worst times. Like, at the same time that someone else is talking. Or, when I am trying to soothe a baby that is fucking losing it. Or, when I am literally in the middle of running out of the room to go tend to something burning on the stove. Zero self awareness.
Second, they talk about the most inane things. The. most. inane. things. FIL walked me through his weekly schedule, one hour at a time. (He’s retired. He plays a lot of pickle ball. He does half of his grocery shopping at Harris Teeter. The other half at Whole Foods. Sometimes he goes to Walmart for the sales. A few weeks ago they over-charged him for potatoes and he had to talk to the manager to get his 50 cents back). MIL turned a 30-second anecdote about how she has to buy different shoe sizes for each foot into a 10-minute story. She gave us a lecture on the Roman calendar. She told the life stories of multiple people who I have never met, have no relation or connection to, and couldn’t give any shits about.
It was more than just the talking that irritated me, though. MIL spent probably about 60% of the what-should-be-waking-hours of their visit in our guest room, sleeping. And like, it’s kind of nice to have a break from her, but good god woman, you sleep more than my 1-year-old does. Like, a lot more. Get your life together.
As for meals, well, per usual, they took zero responsibility for their own sustenance. In every instance, they just waited to be fed. Now, I get that when someone visits you, you should generally expect to do most of the food provision. But it is a little exhausting to be 100% responsible, especially when you have two young needy kids. The in-laws treated us like short-order cooks. They didn’t lift a finger to help with the preparation of a single meal or snack. They didn’t offer to pick up groceries when we needed something. They never said Thank You. And, when my split pea soup turned out to be an unfortunate dud and Hubby rushed out for some emergency Panera Bread one night, the in-laws did not offer to pay for their share of the meal. Can I take one moment to vent about the fact that any time Hubby or I have ever had to order-in when these people are visiting us, they have not ONCE — not one single time — asked how much they owe for their share? Not once, in the entire eleven years I’ve known them. They must think that because they are our guests, if we’re not preparing a meal for them, we are on the hook for paying for delivery. What the fuck is that?
And then, of course, the Christmas gifts. Let me just say, at the outset, that we sent all four of the kids’ grandparents an Amazon wish list with ideas for presents that the kids might like or need. I think it was a well thought-out list, with a variety of possible presents (clothes, toys, academic stuff) at a variety of price points ($5-$100). We prefaced the list with a nice note saying that the best gift for our kids was love, but that we hoped this list would be helpful if any of the grandparents felt compelled to give something. I didn’t think it was horribly offensive, and both of my parents shopped from the list and sent nice useful gifts to my kids. But, when the in-laws got here for their visit, they smugly told me they never even looked at the list. And mocked me for sending it. Like, I truly don’t understand the animosity that they displayed. What could possibly be so repulsive about the concept of giving gifts that the recipient actually wants?
As for the actual gifts that the in-laws gave, well, it started out kind of okay. When they first got here, FIL handed Hubby a check for a respectable amount of money, and insinuated that this was Hubby’s and my Christmas present. We really couldn’t complain. I’m not one to turn my nose up at monetary holiday gifts if the dynamic is appropriate, so I thought maybe Hubby and I had survived the gauntlet.
Then MIL insisted on giving the kids “Advent gifts” that they could open during the visit. She reiterated over and over again that these were just Advent gifts, and not their Christmas presents. Of course the Advent gifts were not good–because they never are–but they were not absolutely terrible either. K-Man got some puzzles that MIL made by hand. Terrible, glued-together, toxic, cardboard messes that we will be throwing away in a month or so, but K-Man had fun with them for a few minutes. Ell-Bell got this doll that is not-so-slightly creepy looking.
MIL explained that she received the doll years ago from a friend who had hand-made it, well before MIL knew she would have a granddaughter. (In other words, Ell-Bell got an old toy that MIL found lying around her house).
After the Advent gifts, Hubby and I were generally confused about whether that was all the kids were going to get. But on the last day of the visit, MIL announced that she had left a box of Christmas presents for all of us in my room by the bed. (WTF, don’t go in my room, weirdo). I felt a little relieved, because even though the monetary gift for Hubby and I was quite welcome, I was kind of underwhelmed with the in-laws’ efforts at gifts for my kids.
So after they left, and after Hubby and I spent a few hours recovering in front of the TV, curiosity got the best of me. I grabbed the box of presents from upstairs and started to pick through it on the couch. A present for me, which, upon gentle manual inspection, was clearly another homemade puzzle. Another present for me, which, as MIL wrote on the gift tag, I “may end up selling on eBay.” Huh? Something for Hubby, a floppy-book-feeling thing. Probably an old work book of his from grade school days, as his mother loves to wrap those up and pass them off as gifts. I sorted through a few more presents, and a sickening realization began to wash over me. There were no presents in there for the kids. Was there a gift for the cats? You bet! But nope, not a single other gift for our beautiful, sweet, innocent children.
And so, in 2017, the MIL Christmas Troll struck again. I can’t even really articulate why I am so disappointed. I guess I’m irritated that she went to so much effort to clarify that the Advent gifts were not Christmas presents, as if she was hyping some actual Christmas presents? As if she was trying to say, “don’t worry, this isn’t all we’re giving them!” Except it was all they were giving them? I guess I’m embarrassed that my son saw this juicy box of Christmas presents from grandma and grandpa, and not a single one is for him? I guess I’m feeling kind of protective over my children and their future disappointment when they realize that grandma and grandpa suck all the fun and joy out of Christmas because they can’t be bothered to swallow their pride and buy a fucking $5 sticker pad from an Amazon wish list?
Will this be the year that I finally learn to expect only the absolute most disappointing outcome from these people when it comes to gifts? I bet you one homemade puzzle that I’m writing this same shit all over again next Christmas.
Until next time,