Thursday, July 12, 2007

An Open Letter to the Mother-in-Law

There's a thought.
Dear MIL:

Thank you for flying out here from New Hampshire to spend time with your grandson, who hasn't seen you since Christmas. And who probably won't see you again until next Christmas.

However, it would probably be nice for him if you actually stopped emailing your friends and acquaintances, watching YouTube videos, reading reviews on Amazon, catching up on the news on or wherever the hell, and PUT DOWN YOUR LAPTOP so you could ... you know ... spend some time with your grandson.

You've noticed him, haven't you? He's the one with the dark hair who keeps looking up at you, while you surf the web or, for a change of pace, read your paperback. He's the one that seems to have so much energy and always wants to do something or play with something. It would be great if you would spare some of your precious online time to do something. With him. Not your laptop computer. After all, if you wanted to spend time with your computer online, you could have just stayed the hell at home and saved the plane fare.

It's nice that you have online friends, okay? It's great. It's lovely. But you have a real grandson who really wants a relationship with you. And right now, you're being outdone by Chloe, and she's a cat.

Let me point out something. When Oliver's doing something, it's occasionally a good idea to look at him while he's doing it before you say something about it. There are several times this weekend when you have attempted to say something to Oliver - "What are you doing, sweet boy?" or "what's wrong" or "where are you going, Oliver?" when you never actually lifted your eyes from the computer to look at him. At least once, he had already left the room before you asked, in that distant disinterested way, what he was doing. He was leaving. He was going to go somewhere where people - his mother are father - cared what he was doing. He was leaving a room that was, for all intents and purposes, empty.

I have had all I can take of this crap. I took two days off work so I could spend time with you and I'm sorry I did it. I've had all I can take of watching you ignore your only grandson. I'm sick of seeing you come back from trips with the family, and bolt immediately into the guest bedroom - and close the door! - so you could go back online. I'm sick of watching you wander away rather than spend a minute talking to Oliver at the zoo, or the aquarium, or at the park. You act like he's a puppy. He's a human being, and by the way, he is developing memories at this age.

We've tried every way possible to get you to interact with him. We pulled a big sheet of paper over the coffee table so we could all color together. You drew a house with some trees and then went back to your paperback. The point, you nit, was not to draw something and then be done. The point was spending quality time with a two-year-old. I guess that's too much to ask from you.

And the topper - the absolute last straw - was tonight, when we got ready to read bedtime stories before he went to bed. You turned on your computer the minute dinner was over. You didn't put it down while he was running around you. You didn't put it down when he handed you his doll to play with - you just adjusted her clothing and handed the doll back to him, like you were rendering a service. You didn't put it down when Mrs. B announced that it was story time. You didn't put it down until AFTER we had selected storybooks and had sat on the couch next to you. And even then, you had to hang on to check that one last email and scroll down the page one last time before you put your laptop down. Without even closing it. I almost said something snide - gee, thanks for interrupting your busy schedule, grandma - but I bit my tongue, the way I have ever since you arrived. I've been biting my tongue hard enough to draw blood, to keep from snapping at you to pay a goddamn bit of attention to the person you flew 3000 miles to see. I'm not sure I can keep biting my tongue until you leave on Saturday.

I don't know what you think you're doing. I don't know why you bothered coming all the way out here if you didn't even care about seeing Oliver. You don't have to be super grandma with him. You don' have to dazzle him with your juggling skills or your witty repartee or your astonishing artistic talents. Just. Be. With. Him. Get down with him, help him put Legos in a little tower, draw on paper with him, throw a ball around with him. Do. Something.

Because otherwise, I'm about to pack your fucking bags for you.

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