Dear Jo: The Return of the MIL

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June 30, 3 years A.B. (after-baby)

Carol Ann invited herself to dinner last night. She called Paul in the afternoon and said that Ron was on a fishing trip and she didn’t want to eat alone. Funny she didn’t call you. Paul explained that it wouldn’t be any sort of extravagant meal, especially with such last-minute notice. “I’m sure it won’t be,” was probably her response.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” was your response.

“I know it’s not ideal. But Dad is out of town and she’s feeling lonely. Don’t feel you have to make anything extra. What were you planning for dinner?”

Dear Jo: The Return of the MIL

“Planning? I’ve had an infant attached to my boob nearly all day. Whenever I try to put her down, she cries.”

“Is she not feeling well?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is she going through a growth spurt?”

“I don’t know. She hasn’t told me. She only tells me what I’m doing wrong. I only got a few hours of sleep last night. I haven’t gotten a nap today because of Lyla and the house is an absolute mess. Now is not the time for your mom to come over.”

“I’m sure she’ll understand.”

And for the first time all day, you laughed. You laughed hard.

“Listen, just see if you can get a nap with Lyla this afternoon. I will help straighten up the house when I get home. And, I can grab some dinner if you don’t feel like making anything.”

“Yeah. I’m sure Carol Ann would love that.”

“Just get some rest. I love you.”

“Yeah. Love you, too,” you muttered before hanging up.

By the time Carol Ann knocked on the door, you had gotten a short nap and a tall cup of coffee. Paul and Emerson had cleaned up most of the house, at least the more visible areas, and Lyla had finally stopped nursing.

“What’s that smell?” she said as she walked into the house.

“Hey, Mom,” Paul said before kissing her on the cheek. “It’s baked chicken, sweet potatoes and mac and cheese.”

“Ah, how…simple,” she said. She then marched her way into the kitchen with two hands full of bags. “I thought you might need some help, so I brought a few things.”

She placed her shopping bags on the counter and began to rifle through them.

“Let’s see now, I’m going to need a cutting board and good knife to cut up the the lettuce and salad toppings. Do you have a jar I can use to mix the dressing?” You looked to Paul for help. He simply shrugged. “And here are my homemade mashed potatoes you love so well,” she said, looking at her son. “These need to warm in the oven until dinner is ready. I also whipped up some rolls this afternoon. Those will need to warm just before we are ready to sit down to eat. And what else do I have here….”

Her dinner contributions soon covered every bit of open counter space. Your were relegated to one burner on the stove that held the macaroni. You stood stirring the noodles, unsure of what your place was in your own kitchen.

“Hmm. You really could use an island in this kitchen. I don’t know how you manage to cook in here with so little usable space. But I guess that explains why you still use the boxed mac and cheese.”

“You know,” Paul said as he placed one hand on your lower back and the other hand on the wooden spoon in the macaroni pot. “I’ll take this over. Why don’t you go set the table?”

“Oh, yes. And, please, let’s use the fine china tonight,” Carol Ann said.

“Mom, we don’t have fine china, remember? We never registered for it.”

“Oh, that’s right. I told you I thought it would come in handy some day, but you all decided to be…simpler…and just use everyday dishes.”

Paul looked at you and urgently mouthed, “GO!”

You listened. You took a stack of your quaint, everyday dishes and walked into the dining room.

By the time dinner was served, Lyla was ready to nurse and you were ready to call it a night. You excused yourself from the table to breastfeed Lyla. You could’ve stayed there. You might’ve stayed there had your dinner guest been someone else, but instead you removed yourself for a few minutes of solitude.

“So she’s still not on a schedule?” you heard her ask as you walked away.

“Mom, we’ve told you, we are feeding her on demand.”

“I can see that,” she muttered into her homemade mashed potatoes.

Unfortunately Lyla wanted only a small snack, so just a few minutes after leaving, you were on your way back to the table. That’s when you heard it.

“Emerson. Emerson. Grandma asked you a question,” she said as her volume continued to rise. “Do you want some of Grandma’s mashed potatoes?”

“Mom,” Paul said. “Just give him a minute…besides he doesn’t like mashed potatoes.”

“Doesn’t like mashed potatoes? What kid doesn’t like mashed potatoes. But why isn’t he answering?”

“What, Grandma?” Emerson finally joined the conversation.

“Grandma was just asking if  you want some mashed potatoes.”

“No, thank you,” he said as he took a scoop of mac and cheese.

Carol Ann looked at Paul. “What was that?”

“Well, he’s been having moments of spacing out,” Paul tried to say discreetly.

“Spacing out?!” Carol Ann chose not to use discretion. “What are you talking about?!”

“Listen. We can talk about this after dinner.”

“What does the doctor say about this?!”

“We haven’t taken him in quite yet.”

“I’m sorry? My grandson is spacing out and you haven’t bothered taking him in yet?”

You should’ve turned around and gone back to the nursery, but instead you took your seat at the table.

“Lyla has an appointment next week. Jo is going to talk to the doctor about it then.”

“So you don’t think this is a big enough deal to make an appointment?”

“It’s not that,” Paul tried to explain. “Let’s just eat our dinner. We can discuss more later.”

The rest of dinner took place in unusual silence. You missed out on the after-dinner discussion as well when you volunteered to put the kids to bed. You fell asleep beside Emerson and woke to hear Paul locking the door behind Carol Ann.

You found him in the kitchen, cleaning the remainder of your simple dishes. As he saw you walk into the kitchen, he dried his hands and extended his arms. You fell into him and held on.

“We really do need to take him to the doctor,” he said.

“I know,” was all you could say before the tears started.

Dear Jo: A {fictional} Diary of a Modern Mom

“Dear Jo: A Diary of a Modern Mom” is a serial fiction story written by Meagan Church. Stay tuned for the next diary entry of one mom’s attempt to chronicle what she has been told are the days she shouldn’t forget…spit-up, tantrums, milestones and all. Visit the Dear Jo page to catch up on the already-published entries. And, be sure to subscribe today, so you don’t miss a single installment:


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{Photo credit: ©Vladyslav Bashutskyy –}

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