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Dear Jo: The Mother-in-Law

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May 10, 3 years A.B. (after-baby)

Dear Jo,

Today Carol Ann stopped by. I could leave this entry at just that and I’m sure you could fill in the blank as to what happened when your mother-in-law randomly knocked on your door. But, I’ll continue, just so you have the details.

Dear Jo: The Mother-in-Law

You had just finished nursing Lyla and she was nearly completely asleep when you heard the knock. It wasn’t a slight little tap. It was a full-out pounding. That of course set off Arnold who charged towards the door barking at full guard-dog volume. Of course Lyla began to cry and then Emerson started complaining because he couldn’t hear his show.

You knew who was at the door before you opened it. You knew her knock. You also knew how much she enjoyed just popping in even though both you and Paul had tried to ever-so-politely request that she call first.

“Well, sometimes I just get an urge or I find myself on your side of town and I don’t have a chance to call,” she had said.

So, you open the door as you bounce and shush a startled Lyla and try to get the guard dog to stand down. You open the door just a crack, so Arnold won’t charge out.

“Hi, Carol Ann,” you say between shushes. Before you can say anymore or begin to make room for her to enter, she steps forward and makes room for herself.

“I was in the neighborhood and wanted to see my grandchildren,” she said. Then, as if she had just noticed all the commotion from inside the house, she reached for Lyla and asked, “Why is she crying?”

“Well, she was nearly asleep, but the knocking,” you so badly wanted to say “YOUR knocking!” but you refrained, “woke her.”

“Oh, well, I’m sure Arnold’s barking didn’t help either.”

You wanted to explain that the (her) knocking was what had also set off the dog, but before you could respond, she continued. “You know, my boys slept through everything. I could vacuum, talk on the phone, put away dishes, you name it and they would just keep right on sleeping. In fact, one day there was a car accident out in front of our house,” and so began the story you had heard countless times before. “There were squealing tires and a loud crash. The police and fire departments showed up, right in our front yard. So much commotion and when I finally got back into the house after the mess was gone, they were still sound asleep. And you know, they slept through the night from the first day they came home. I guess we just did things…differently…than how you all do things nowadays.”

And there it was. Less than two minutes through the door and she had made you feel inferior to her natural giftedness of being a mother. Thankfully she turned her attention away from indirect insults and focused on Emerson.

“Hey, Emerson! Come give your Grandma a hug!”

Emerson had been so involved in his show that he had barely noticed his grandma had come in. Even still, he seemed to hesitate, wanting to finish his show before greeting his grandma.

“I’ve got something for you!” she coaxed, as if sensing his internal conundrum. She knew how to speak his love language of gifts.

Emerson stood up and ran towards his grandma. “What is it?”

“Candy!” she said as she held out a fistful of miniature candy bars. Given their orange and black wrappers with leaves and pumpkins, you assumed these were leftover from Halloween. Actually, they were probably from the after-Halloween sales when she found them for a good bargain. You calculated how many months ago that was and wondered if they had an expiration date.

“Can I have one?” Emerson asked, but before you could respond, Carol Ann answered for you.

“Sure! Take what you want!”

“Uh, just one for now, Buddy. We’ll put the rest in the kitchen.” You didn’t say you’d save them for later. You didn’t want to commit to actually consuming them at some point. He may only be three-years-old, but he still understands semantics, especially when it comes to candy.

Emerson reached out his hand to make his choice. Then he paused. You saw the look, that distant stare. You hoped Carol Ann wouldn’t notice.

“Go on, Emerson. Choose whichever you want,” she said to him.

You knew it would only last a few seconds before he would resume to normal, but those few seconds ticked on for minutes.

“Emerson, just pick a candy,” Carol Ann prompted again.

She looked at you and you merely shrugged your shoulders. You didn’t want to say more. You still didn’t know more. She said, “He’s just like his father. He moves at his own pace.”

Finally he returned and he made his choice. You wondered if that was all he was doing, moving at his own pace. But that blip seemed less like an intentionally slow pace and more like a forced pause.

“Which one do you think your sister would like?” Carol Ann whispered to Emerson.

Before you could respond and remind her that the baby hadn’t been introduced to solids yet, despite Carol Ann’s opinions and reminders that her boys started having cereal in their bottles and that’s why they slept so well, Emerson answered for you.

“She only eats from mom’s breasts,” he said matter of factly, as he unwrapped his candy bar and walked back towards the TV. You tried not to laugh as Carol Ann’s face turned red. You wondered if her boys ever knew the proper anatomical terms before being introduced to them in biology class.

As her color returned to normal, she handed Lyla back to you. “Well, Emerson, what do you say we play with some trains for a few minutes, while your mom puts Lyla down for a nap. Then you and I can clean up a bit since it looks like it has been a while.”

You wanted to be grateful for her help. Yes, it had been a while, but did she really have to point that out? Though you assumed her house never looked that way since the boys could sleep through dusting, dishes and even vacuuming.

Lyla went to sleep quickly, but after you transferred her into the bassinet, you decided to take a few minutes to rest before reentering the in-law zone. You needed to muster up more courage. You must’ve drifted off to sleep, but Carol Ann made sure it didn’t last long, as she vacuumed right outside your door. Maybe her boys slept through the vacuum, but one thing was sure: you, nor Lyla had that ability.

You tried to comfort her back to dreamland, but she was awake and not wanting to return. You finally gave in only to be met with Carol Ann just outside the door. Over the vacuum she mused, “Oh. Guess she wasn’t as tired as you thought.”

Then you wondered how much wine you could have without needing to pump and dump.

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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