Saturday, September 01, 2012

Ways I Am Not A Grown-Up, The Tenth In A Potentially Infinite Series

Back in June, Sleepy Joe tagged me in a bloggy game and in answer to one of her questions, I mentioned that I'd always kind of wished I was the type of person my mother-in-law seems to think I am. Her four-day visit this past week reminded me of just how true that is.

My mother-in-law is so unlike the stereotypical monster-in-law style mother-in-law that she barely merits the title. She was raised in a very small town in New Hampshire by parents who were old-fashioned even by the contemporary standards seventy years ago and she is very much a product of that time and place. She is so soft-spoken and unassuming and self-effacing that I become a better person in her presence: I don't swear or raise my voice, not even a little. I organize family outings and never leave behind essential items. I never go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink--shoot, I never even sit down on the couch after dinner with dirty dishes in the sink. I am patient and loving and treat her son with bemused kindness even when he's annoying the crap out of me.

I don't even say crap in her presence. True story: we were playing Upwords one night during her stay and Hubby played the word "dungs" and was casually mentioning that he didn't know how correct the word was, not knowing if "dung" would be appropriately pluralized with an "s." And I said, "I have no problem using it in an a sentence: 'Of all the animal dungs I've smelled, elephant's is the worst.'" At the word "dungs," my mother-in-law covered her mouth and her eyes got wide and she even giggled a little uncomfortably as though I had said something deliciously naughty. It was adorable.

While I have reason to believe that my mother-in-law's got a solid steel core, her outer appearance is of a delicate woman easily startled and shocked by the world around her. So, though I don't actively pretend to be someone I'm not when she's around, I do try to be the best possible version of myself.

And, you know, I really like that version of me and sometimes I wonder why I can't be that person all the time. Then, my mother-in-law comes for a visit and I remember.

Being the best possible version of myself takes an enormous amount of effort and energy. And so, she goes home, and after a day or two of struggling to maintain these self-improvements, I throw in the towel yet again.

11 comments:

  1. Can we swop mother in laws?? Mine always brings out the worst in me and I use up my energy trying not to say something I might regret. I struggle with the fact she shows little to no regard for her son and treats him like a vending machine!

    I am glad you find you find her visits more positive but maintaining that level of perfection is almost impossible, besides who cares if there are dirty dishes in the sink? At least they are not dotted around the house!

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    1. I like the way you think about dishes, Sleepy Joe!

      If it's any consolation regarding mothers-in-law, my relationship with my own mother was considerably thornier. She passed away in 1994 and I miss her daily, but...my blood pressure still goes up when I think of some of the "conversations" we had over the years.

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  2. HMMM - Interesting observations. You say she makes you want to be the best possible version of you but I wonder about that. I guess I wonder if having the dishes all done before moving on to what you need to do is necessarily the best thing. Or putting a lid on expression. Or perhaps even is being shocked by the world the best version?
    Frankly, I suspect that the best version of you is the real you - the one who might be tired or who feels too much or who is creative and uses cool duct tape to fix the toilet seat. The best version of you might be the one who is not wearing a like M-in-L mask. hmmmmm

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    1. Sometimes, Gracie, we are so much alike it's a little scary. ;)

      I was thinking almost exactly the same thing as I was writing this. I left it as it is because I think that certain aspects of my life would be better and, maybe even easier, if I were more on top of tasks and perhaps a little less impulsive about what comes out of my mouth. Alas, I'm doomed/blessed to be stuck being me because I'm too lazy for much in the way of self-tinkering. :)

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  3. She sounds wonderful. (:

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    1. She really is, Larissa. I lucked out in that department.

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  4. I love that you express such deep respect an admiration for your mother-in-law this way. This actually proves what a grown up you are. :-)

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    1. Thanks! She's really an amazing woman in too many ways to go into here. Just for one, she adopted my husband and his younger brother out of foster care when they were nearly five and two-and-a-half respectively. And I do feel blessed to have her in my life--and especially blessed that Hubby had her in his young life. It made all the difference for him, I think.

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  5. I'm a bit envious of your relationship with your Mother in law, and also happy for you:) I need more people in my life that inspire me to be the best person I can be. Thanks for sharing this story:) p.s. Is it weird that I REALLY want to see a picture of you? I FB stalked you to no avail:P

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    1. Hmmm, I don't think it's weird--isn't that what FB is for? There are a couple on there, mostly not tagged. I am EXTREMELY camera shy, though and my family mostly understands (without being told) NOT to post (or for the most part TAKE) pictures of me. I actually have a post in my drafts folder that touches on this topic. Maybe it's time to dust it off. In the meantime, I will be brave and message you the one not-entirely-appalling pic that IS on Facebook. :)

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    2. Hey, I want to see one of those photos too! I know exactly what you look like. In my head, anyway.

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