We’re going to Houston again this year for Christmas, YAY! Even though we already went last year, the Husband graciously conceded to go again as otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to go till at least next October, what with the house reno, and the move, and honestly, who wants to be in Houston in August, plus I’d really like to have the kids experience at least one real, honest to goodness, Halloween in the US before they start big kid school in 2014, (and that’s all of next year summed up in a short paragraph), all to say that I get to go home for Christmas! (and did I mention, YAY!!).
Anyway, I’m having a bit of a mental quandary this week… Talking to my mom the other day, she mentioned that she’d like us to have some rules for our stay, that she’d like the kids to eat with the adults at lunch, but not at dinner because she wants to be able to spend some uninterrupted, quality, time with me and would like to be able to have adult conversation at dinner. And, of course, I said that was fine and we’d work it out since we’re her guests and all and it isn’t a completely unreasonable request. But I won’t deny that it got me thinking… Well, first of all, if last year was any indication the kids won’t be eating with her at lunch either since they have lunch at noon and that’s pretty much right after breakfast for her, and if their not eating dinner with her either then she won’t be seeing an awful lot of them during our stay.
But this is nothing new, I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that my mother loved my brother and I a great deal, but I also am very clear on the fact that she was never particularly interested in us. She cared that we were healthy, and well fed, and doing well in school, and generally happy, but she was never one of those mothers who was really interested in what we were doing (unless it was something we weren’t supposed to be doing), she never asked what we were reading or thinking or doing if we weren’t in trouble and weren’t bothering her directly. She is pretty self-absorbed, she always has been and I don’t think we suffered particularly from it growing up.
But it bothers me a great deal in regards to my children. There are times that she will talk to me for half an hour about some completely mundane thing going on in her life before she finally asks about the kids, and it’s a completely perfunctory question, I could answer “fine” or go into minute detail about all the wonderful new things that they are doing and it is exactly the same to her. It doesn’t help that on the other side of the family they’ve got a fantastic grandmother. My mother in law, with whom I fight regularly because I don’t want her to give them candy, or some other completely ridiculous thing about which I need to assert my dominance, comes to see the kids once or twice a month and she plays with them. For hours. She came to stay at my house when I left for a weekend to be with my mother before her wedding, she came again for a week when I had to go to Brazil to see my grandma. She takes over responsibility, despite the fact that she knows I’m going to find something wrong with her actions, because I’m a gigantic pain in the ass sometimes, and also a control freak, and yet she watches my children, she entertains them, she scolds them, and cuddles them, and takes really great care of them so that I can go do my thing. She is genuinely interested in them. The first thing she asks whenever she calls me is how they are, and what they’re doing, and then she proceeds to the rest of the conversation. My mother and my mother in law are at exactly the opposite ends of the grandmother spectrum, and it kind of pisses me off, because I would like my mother to be the really great grandmother. Or better yet, I wish my kids had two really great grandmothers.
I’m constantly making excuses up for my mother, she lives far away and hasn’t seen them as much, she’s young to be a grandmother, she’s got a new husband and she’s just not that into kids. These are all valid points. But they’re not a good enough explanation. Not that I think there’s more to it than that, but in my mind it is simply not good enough. Because, frankly, my kids are freakin’ adorable. She should want to spend time with them, she should be interested in them, she shouldn’t care that they take over our meal times because she can spend quality time with me in other moments of the day, She should want to spend as much time as possible with them because she only sees them two or three times a year. But she doesn’t. She’s just not interested, and I simply don’t understand it. I accept it, I’m not angry, I know what she’s like, but I am disappointed. My mother talks about her cats the way she should talk about her grandkids.
I know she loves them, when we went for Christmas last year, she made the house perfect for them, she made us perfectly comfortable, she was welcoming, and she put up two Christmas trees, a beautiful magical one to look at, and a smaller one for the kids to play with, with ornaments they could touch and rearrange and eat… that was pretty nice, and thoughtful of her. She cooks for them, and she does really cool stuff like she got the Boy a gigantic Lightning McQueen bed and this year she’s looking for a cool bed for the girl, but she’s not all that interested in them. I realize I can’t expect her to be perfect, and I grew up with her so I know her attitude isn’t going to do any lasting damage, but I wish she was interested in them anyway, I wish she was a more involved grandmother.
My kids love her, and they’re happy to see her, but they also don’t mind too much if they don’t see her. But they get super excited when my mother in law comes over, they ask about her when she hasn’t been back for a while and they are genuinely upset when she leaves. I guess I’m a little jealous maybe, I know this isn’t a contest but we’re losing dammit!
Also, I’m nervous about our visit, which, thankfully, will be short compared to last year (two weeks rather than almost two months), but last year I had the nanny with me and despite that my mom felt like the kids were invasive, I cannot even begin to imagine what it’s going to be like with no help. I don’t know… I’m sure it’ll work out fine and we’ll figure it out, but I can’t shake this feeling that still, she should be more interested in them. I realize that it’s a bit arrogant of me, and presumptuous, and maybe also a little bit sad, because the truth probably is, that while I feel bad for my kids, I also feel bad for me because despite my age and the distance it still hurts a little bit that she’s still not all that interested in what amounts to really the coolest thing I’ve ever done.