Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Regrets? I Have a (Very) Few

My last post has mistakenly prompted some people who don't know me well to think that I was some kind of super-daughter-in-law. Nothing could be further from the truth. J. was a wonderful mother-in-law, but our relationship probably was no different from that of most women who (legally) love the same man. Most of the time we thoroughly respected, and enjoyed each other with genuine affection, but there were times when we drove each other freakin' crazy.

Each and every time we ate at the same table, for example, she would say "Now, don't eat fast, because I'm a slow eater," which simultaneously made me feel like a six-year-old and a pig at a trough. Also, the stuffed animals were far less charming in person than they sound when I write about them. I know my insistence on letting the Boys go barefoot until they were old enough to walk was a constant irritation to her sense of propriety, and my terrible housekeeping had to be dreadfully distressing.

I really only regret one interaction deeply, though, and this interaction came when Husband and I had only been married a few months.

His mother was very much an everything-in-its-place person and I was whatever is the diametric opposite of this. My philosophy had stemmed from my mother's attitude of housekeeping--"messy enough to look lived in, not so messy it looks died in." I was working full-time and had my usual complement of church and community activities so I didn't spend a lot of time on the finer details of housekeeping.

Still, I had tried to make sure the house was spotless when Husband's parents came to visit, and felt good about the little two-bedroom place we lived in when they arrived a few months after we got married. But then I came home from work and found J. in front of the stove. She'd pulled out all the drip pans and had them soaking in the sink, and was attacking the knobs with a toothbrush and cleanser.

I. Came. Unglued.

I didn't say anything to J., but I yanked Husband into our bedroom. I was so insulted my ears were ringing. "I may not be a good housekeeper, but I do not need to have that thrown in my face," I hissed at him. "Go out there and tell her to stop that RIGHT NOW." Then, as I frequently did in those days, I burst into tears.

Poor Husband, caught between two women who could make him miserable, had to go to his mother and ask her to put down the toothbrush and walk away from the stove. She did, of course, and was mortified that she had hurt my feelings.

"I know how busy MomQueenBee is, and this was something I could do to help her out," she told him.

To this day I am ashamed of my newlywed self, and wish I could take back that tantrum. I'm on the other side of the equation now and I appreciate what a fine line she walked between appropriate involvement and appropriate distance. I'm trying to suss out that line, and it's not as obvious as I thought it was back in those days.

Now, of course, I would have handed her more cleanser and encouraged her to move on to the refrigerator after she finished with the stove. It wasn't a competition and I wasted a lot of potentially-clean appliances with my over-sensitivity.

I don't regret much about our relationship but those drip pans? Not my finest moment.


  1. I had several similar interactions with my mother-in-law (now my late mother-in-law, but when I put that adjective there the first time it sounded as if these interactions happened after she died rather than before), where I cringe now at the way I handled it. Urg.

  2. The lesson I am learning: I've heard so many people jokingly, or not-so-jokingly, wish they had a remote control for life. Some want to rewind and go back to enjoy precious moments, some want to rewind and go back for a do-over. Some want to fast-forward through the not-so-pleasant parts. IF I were going to wish to be able to use ANY button on a remote control in life, it would be the PAUSE button. Pause before I open my mouth and say something I regret. Pause to enjoy the moment I am in. Pause to enjoy the precious times with the people in our lives NOW. And pause rather than worry; to be still, and know that He is God.