When my parents said they were flying in for a couple weeks this summer to visit the kids, I had no idea they meant the exact same week my in-laws were. I mean, I love my parents like life itself, but they really could have just picked another week. My parents, and my husband Eric’s parents, didn’t really get off to a good start with each other when we were dating. We were fresh out of high school, and my parents were fine with that, but Eric's weren’t. They said,
‘You’re too young and will be immature with your choices. You need to wait until you're older.’
Now I really don’t want you to think that I don’t love Eric’s parents, because I do. They’re very sweet people, but can just sometime’s get on your nerves if you know what I mean. Like last year at Christmas, they were staying with us and my mother-in-law started complaining about how I do everything wrong. I was washing the dishes the way I always do, and she said I put too much soap on them!
‘Honey you’re doing it all wrong. You’re only wasting money by using that much dish soap.’
I didn’t want to get frustrated at her, so tried to calmly reply that ‘It’s flu season, and I just wanted to be extra cautious that no one got sick.’
But of course she took that all wrong, and thought I was saying she and her husband were old and weak and would die if they got sick. So she went into this whole argument about how they were still ‘young at heart’ and didn’t need our help staying safe. Well, that’s the end of me washing dishes around her. I guess I just don’t like my mother-in-law. Her husband’s just fine, and he hasn’t done anything really irritating to me yet. So I guess it’s just me vs her. No I’m just joking, I’d never be mean. I think.
* * *
My wife’s parents are really nice.
...Okay, that was torcher. No, they aren’t. I really wish we could have that nice family where every holiday and family get-together goes perfect and smooth. You know those Christmas movies where everyone is happy when they're eating, because the food is perfect, the conversation is great, and then everyone cries a little bit when the grandparents leave because they’ll just miss them so much? Well, that’s the exact opposite of what happens at our family meals. Last Thanksgiving when my wife Lynn got schooled on dish washing, her dad and I were having our own little rumble in the living room. We were comparing our golfing bags to see who had the better one. He showed me all these pockets and special straps inside of his, and then literally started making fun of mine! I mean, he’s like what… 75? And still acts like an 8 year old! He started saying all these things like
‘Well, I guess your bag will be great for your son.’
and, ‘Did you get that at a Toys R Us Eric?’
Come on- really? And then when we were watching football, he started cussing at our home team because they were messing up. I mean it was only a game and I shouldn’t have let it bother me, but for some reason it just did. I have this pet peeve for people cussing at unnecessary times. I mean I get it if you kinda have to, but there’s just no need to swear at a football game on your TV screen. It’s not like the quarterback can hear you or anything.
When we all sat down for the Thanksgiving dinner, my mom suggested that we say grace- which in my opinion, she should have never mentioned. That’s another big difference between my wife’s family and mine. My family is religious, and has this big deal about praying before we eat... but my wife’s family doesn't. They just eat whenever. So when both families have a meal together, there’s always an argument about praying.
‘Who wants to pray?’ my mothers cheery voice rang out.
When nobody answered, the room started to feel a bit stuffy, and I swear I could hear crickets.
‘Uh, mom. Why don’t you just give us a quick prayer and we’ll eat.’ I tried to say so she’d hurry up and we could forget about this mess.
‘No dear, I pray all the time and would love to hear someone else do it.’
At first I was kind of annoyed at her, but then started to change my mind. Lynn’s parents always made fun of my family for being religious, and I hated that. So when this prayer opportunity arose, I took my chances at letting them know.
‘Actually... Amy!’ who was my wife’s mom ‘Why don’t you pray?’
She looked at me with the most disgusted face. I could tell she was holding back from swearing at me.
‘Actually Eric, I think I’ll pass this time.’
She stiffly smiled, and my wife gave me the evil eye. I could tell she wanted me to stop messing around. I quickly said grace and then met her in the kitchen.
“What are you doing Eric?? Are you trying to embarrass my mother by making her pray?”
“No, I was just being polite.”
“Yeah right, be polite to an old atheist woman who hates praying.”
“Look Lynn, I know your family doesn't pray and believe in God, but mine does alright?”
“Okay, okay fine. I get it. We just need to push our differences aside so we can have a nice meal together for once. But just please don’t do something like that again, it really just tenses things up.”
Almost as soon as she said ‘tenses up’ there was a loud beeping sound. The fire alarms were going off. I had completely forgotten about the turkey baking in the oven! The timer I set didn’t go off for some reason and smoke was pouring out of our oven. As I yanked the turkey out, Lynn opened the backdoor for me to set the pan on the patio.
My two kids were furiously waving pieces of cardboard by the fire alarms to try and get the smoke away from it so it’d stop beeping, but that only made it worse. My dad tried to make the kids stop and took them outside. My mother-in-law opened all of the windows in the house while my dad complained that we weren’t responsible enough to even watch food in the oven.
“Dad! Not now okay. We’re adults and can handle this”
* * *
Well, Eric said we could handle this, but I don’t know. After all of the smoke cleared out of the house, the fire alarm was still going. Apparently it got jammed, and now wouldn’t turn off even when we tried to manually. The constant beeping sound was dulling our ears and everyone just stood outside. On top of that, I left the mashed potatoes on the dining room table unattended, and the dog got up and ate them all when we were outside. I guess we’ll be taking a trip to the vet sooner or later. Our kids weren’t much of a help because they were only complaining about how they were hungry and their ears hurt. I decided we couldn’t stay in the house any longer, because we were all starting to go a bit crazy. So I suggested we call someone to come fix the fire alarm, and while they’re here we go eat take-out in the park. We could make it a picnic. Everyone agreed and piled into our minivan. Being in the same car with everyone, including your in-laws was a bad idea though. We all started arguing about where to get food, because my parents were vegetarian and my husband's weren’t. It was pretty hectic, so I won’t even bother to go through that whole conversation. After about 15 minutes of arguing over food, we finally decided to go to a dine-in restaurant instead of having take-out. I felt kinda bad for our waitress though, because we were all pretty mad at each other, and took it out on her.
My father-in-law was upset that his steak wasn’t slightly pink, and my mom wanted more croutons on her salad. My kids wanted a hamburger, but they only served fish on the kids menu. I think I was the only one who didn’t care what I got, because I just wanted everyone to shut-up. When we finally made it home, we were excited to see if the repair man had fixed the fire alarm. But unfortunately, you could still hear it beeping from a mile away. When we got inside, no one was even there fixing it! The house was exactly how we left it. It turned out, with all the chaos no one had actually called anyone. We just assumed someone would magically come to fix the fire alarm. I still have no idea how we managed to pull that one off.
Anyways, like I said… both of our in-laws are planning to come down this summer at the same time. I just really, really hope it doesn't turn out like it did last year... or I might just leave the kids with them and let them deal with the in-laws. That’s who they came for after all right?