06 March 2009


My in-laws—all of them—get here today for a weekend visit.

When John was alive, he and I rarely argued. Oh, sure, we'd snip at each other at the end of a bad day, and I know I had personal habits that annoyed him just as he had his that annoyed me. But down-and-dirty, knock-'em-out fights? Pretty much never. It took until my kids were toddlers for me to find my yelling voice (as has been well documented here), and John was not one to raise his voice, either. Certainly we were far too civilized to hit or throw. So even on the rare occasions that we truly argued, it was a restrained affair, more along the silent treatment and sulking lines than anything.

Nothing could cause us to give each other the cold shoulder like the impending arrival of John's parents. The week before their arrival, I would inevitably be in a state of constant bitchiness. My relationship with my parents-in-law has always been so volatile, so charged, that the idea of their arrival would send me into a tailspin of latent stress. It was a pattern known as Low Expectations Yields High Results: I would decide ahead of time that their visit would be awful, pure torture, offensive and untenable, then be surprised each and every time that it was never, ever as bad as I thought it would be. The fact that the visits were ultimately relatively enjoyable is the good news. The bad news is that, despite numerous lessons from history, I could not stop expecting the worst and behaving like a brat because of the angst created by that expectation. 

And now? The cycle continues. I'd pushed the in-laws' visit to the back of my mind for a while. I've had so many other things on my plate between work and the move and all that it was easy to forget the visit was happening. But it's been on my mind this week, although I thought I was feeling pretty calm. But this morning, all of the worries that I had not even recognized were there turned me into a venom-spewing Medusa in the car on the way to daycare.


I felt horrible after I dropped the kids off. It was Riley who bore the brunt of my irritation, ostensibly because he wasn't listening to me, which is true. But my reaction was way off the mark and was just a way for me to release this in-law related frustration. I recognized it as that in the moment, but still wasn't able to rein myself in. All I can do now is try to do better next time.

We do have a nice weekend planned. Tonight we'll all meet up for dinner. Tomorrow, I'm taking the kids to the hotel where everyone is staying to swim in the indoor heated pool in the morning, then in the afternoon, it should be nice enough to go to the park. Saturday night, after the kids are in bed, I'll sneak out for some down time with my sister-in-law. Sunday, those who want to will go to church and those who would rather relax in a Harvard Square coffee shop can do that. It makes my in-laws so happy to the see the kids, and vice versa. We'll have fun, if I can just let myself believe it to be so.


J. said...

I too have a similar relationship with my in-laws. The only one I truly got along with was my mother-in-law and sadly she passed away from cancer 3 years before my DD was born. I do the same thing you do; if I bitch and whine and expect the worst I usually have a good time. But expect to have a good time because I had one last time? I'm always let down. My in-laws are like that. My father-in-law especially who only seems to take an interest in his granddaughter to look good for his new wife. My SIL is a volatile person who finds something to bitch about at every opportunity. My brother in law is okay aside from being really judgmental. Sorry about the ramble. Just thought you'd like to know you're not alone. I find that lots of wine makes the visits much easier ;)

barbara said...

Don't be too hard on yourself for yelling at Riley. I remember one day, dissolving in tears and telling my Mom I was a bad mother because I yelled at my toddler-preschool aged children. I said, "You never yelled at me". She looked at me in utter amazement and said, "I yelled all the time, don't you remember that"? I didn't. Fast forward about 22 years and my daughter and I are having the same discussion with me in the Mom role this time. She says "You never yelled at me". I say, "I yelled all the time,don't you remember?" She didn't. My point is, we all yell some, and feel badly about it. But Riley probably won't remember, he'll remember what a good Mom you are to him. I hope the visit goes well and you end up having a good time.

not undecided said...

Delurking because I'm the EXACT same way with my in-laws when I know they're coming. Especially Mike's brother. He does so much bitching and complaining about everyone else and their house and their accommodations, etc. I just CANNOT believe that he doesn't talk trash about us the same way. As hard as I try to not care that he judges me, it burns my ass.

I hope it's a very VERY good weekend for you!

Keen said...

I know that feeling, and I hate being caught in that cycle. Hope you all have a fun weekend--so cool you get to see your sister-in-law, too!

Giovanna Diaries said...

Hope you have a great visit and weekend. Just remember....Monday is only 3 days away.

NGS said...

I am lack that with my own family. I instantly dissolve into a sulky sixteen year old when a visit is impending. It's never as bad as I think it will be, but it takes all my emotional "maturity" (or lack thereof) to tell myself that.

Good luck and have fun!

Amelie said...

Good luck! My relationship with the in-laws-to-be isn't relaxed either, though, as in your case, most of the time things are not as bad as I fear...

Melissa said...

Long time lurker. First time commenter...

I, too, have been known to yell at my daughter and then beat myself up endlessly for it. You're anxious. You've got a lot on your plate. You're human.

I've always found that talking to my daughter after the fact helps us both make sense of the situation. It's extremely healthy for children to see adults experience the range of human emotions. And, when we provide context, we teach them a lesson.

If you have the time just say that mommy was worried, angry, whatever and is sorry she yelled. Yelling isn't right but sometimes mommies make mistakes.

Then, stop beating yourself up.

Melissa in Grafton said...


With the clues you've given, I have a feeling they're staying at The Charles... am I right???

If they are... well, a slice of heaven.

A nice meal at Henrietta's Table should take the edge off things, as will a soak in the hot tub next to the pool. Divine!


Snickollet said...

Melissa in Grafton--

Alas, no, no the Charles. That is a great hotel, though! They are staying someplace less swanky, I'm afraid, but swanky enough to have a pool and hot tub :).


Pam said...

Don't be too hard on yourself. ALL of us take out our frustrations on the ones we are closetest to. I do understand though. My 3 year old bit me Wednesday and I was really stern with him, which I know was the right thing, but seeing that little wounded face looking at me. UGH!!! I feel horrible.

I also think it's great you take the time to let the IL's see the twins, even though it's stressful for you. It's not coming out the way I want it to, but I think you understand.

Have a good weekend and I am sure the twins will enjoy some extra spoiling!


Anonymous said...

If it makes you feel any better, I went to therapy because of my in-laws. I deal with them a bit better but I still anticipate the worst and hate the visits (BTW, they are from Italy so when they visit it is for weeks on end...like 4-8...ugh!)


Anonymous said...

I'm posting this one anonymously in case my husband is lurking.

Snick, when my mother-in-law comes to visit, I feel positively HOMICIDAL. Years ago, she was a distant, detached, hands-off mother to her large brood (of which my husband was one), and I just don't have any respect for her or her parenting style. Now the old bag is in her 80s, and she displays the same attitude toward her own grandchildren. Every time I look at her, those aloof eyes and that face now aged by decades of chain-smoking, I want to leap across the table and strangle her.

I start having these fantasies shortly after she arrives, and they don't stop until she leaves. So trust me, you are definitely not alone in disliking your in-laws!

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Don't feel bad. First of all, you have two two-year-olds, which is almost an impossible situation. We all yell like crazy people at little kids, there is just no other way to deal with them sometimes (you are an excellent mom, btw, i'm talking about occasional snaps or periods of bitchiness).

Second, you are a widow with your late in-laws -- remember there's no longer any buffer. Gavin's mother nearly drove me nuts after he died. My shrink told me: you know what? she wishes it was YOU who died. And you really wonder why it wasn't her. So it's no wonder that there is conflict. It was almost always covert -- we'd always had a good relationship until after he died -- and it was complicated, b/c I was her only living "family."

She died nearly two years after he did. Aand you know what? I know providing her with time with Short Stack was one of the best things I ever did.


Fairlington Blade said...

Hey Snick,

Send them to Tealuxe or Burdick's! Still regretting the fact that I didn't bring everyone back some uber rich hot chocolate on my visit to Harvard Square.



Cynthia said...

I do the same thing when preparing to see my in-laws. I get myself all worked up and bitchy and then...usually it's over before I know it and everything was just fine. Enjoy your weekend!

Rev Dr Mom said...

I hope you have a wonderful weekend--and if you weather was like mine, you had a great day to be at the park!

Cynthia said...

The visit is almost over and I hope it went well.

Tam said...

As the previous poster said...it's almose over :) Visits with famiy are always stressful~ even in the best of families. I bet M & R love visiting with the grandparents so concentrate on that ~ the good karma you're creating by nuturing their relationship with John's family. You're a wonderful Mom to encourage this connection & years down the road they'll appreciate it!

Anonymous said...

Hope it went well!


Sandi said...

My in-laws have no interest in my children and rarely ever visit. When they do it's very short and there is practically no interaction.

Anonymous said...

I'm a regular poster but am posting anonymously because, well, you know.

My MIL is one of the kindest, nicest people I know. She also drives me crazy, because she is in your face, nosy, overbearing, controlling and overprotective. We had dinner with them this weekend and I tried to behave, but she was being an extra-big PITA. So I blew up at my husband on the ride home. His response: "I know my mom's a pain, but what do you want me to do about it?" And he's right. But sometimes it just feels good to vent.

Hope everything went OK. Glad to see I'm not the only one with in-law issues.