The other day I was pulling into my driveway, and I hit the house.  I hit the house with our car.  Again.

What?  That’s never happened to you?

Don’t worry.  I’m okay, and the kids weren’t in the car to scream their bloody murder at my back.  I know that’s your concern right now, our safety.  You’re surely not wondering how one hits their house with their car.  Twice.  I don’t know what to tell you.  We’ve lived here for five and a half years. Turning into a parking space is hard.  It was just a little scrape.  GET OFF MY BACK!

After I, you know, hit the house, backed off the house, and then properly parked, I reached for the handle to commence my walk of shame, but Josh was already in the driveway — laughing at me.

Now I know some husbands wouldn’t be too keen on their wives peeling up a small portion of the corner siding of the house (twice), but Josh, well, Josh is accustomed to this sort of wifely behavior.  His mom is also known for her mad driving skills.  In fact, the first time I hit our house, Josh shook it off.  “My mom used to do that all the time,” he told me.  To this day, my mother-in-law’s chosen merging technique is to close her eyes and hope for the best.  No joke.

When I first met my future MIL, I was surprised by her candor — her frank nature.  So much so that, in the beginning, I was a even little intimidated by her because I was never sure what she’d say next, but it was probably going to be the truth, according to her.

Sometime in the first six months of our relationship, Josh’s parents went out of town for a couple of days, so naturally, we took up residence at their place that weekend.  When I next saw his mom about a week later at an in-home birthday party or somesuch, she entered the kitchen with MY BRA in her hand.

“I found this.  I figured it had to be yours.”

“Uh, yeah, thanks…” I muttered at the floor while shoving my bra into my coat pocket.

WHERE DID SHE FIND THAT?  Gah.  At 22, it was one of the more embarrassing moments of my life.  (By now, that would barely register.)  I mean, I had cleaned up my things before departing.  She could have only found it, like, on the ceiling fan or shoved under the mattress or in a kitchen cabinet or something.  And why didn’t she just give it to Josh or shove it in my purse?  Why were we having this “conversation?”

But that’s not how she rolls. Nope.  I was once a party to Josh’s sister trying on some hand-me-down jeans that ended up with my mother-in-law suggesting to her (beautiful and slim) daughter that she lose some weight.  We were all, “Oh, those look nice.  Yeah, maybe untuck the shirt.  Oh yeah, lookin’ good.”  And my mother-in-law was all, “[Daughter], those are just a little too tight, and I can really see your belly in those.  You’ve really been gaining some weight.  I think these would have fit you better a couple of years ago.  They don’t look very good on you.”

Whoa.

On the other hand, two weeks ago, she called me at 10pm in a half-panic, just to check on me and, more probably, Penny.

“Hello?” I answered.

“Heather?  Oh, good. You guys made it home.  I just saw on the news that there was a shooting at Chuck-E-Cheese’s, and I got so worried and my heart started beating really fast and everything.”

“Yeah!  I saw that too.  Isn’t that crazy?  We were at the other one, though, the one in Fairview Heights.”

“Well, good. I didn’t know which one you guys were going to, and I got so scared.  I just wanted to make sure you all were alright.”

“Oh yeah, we’re good.  Penny had fun.”

“Okay.  Well, I never want anything bad to happen to you guys, you know?  I’ll talk to you later.  I love you.”

“Love you too.  Good night.”

Yes, really — a shooting at Chuck E Cheese’s.  I don’t know if it was a skee ball game gone bad or the woman was driven mad by “the band,” but that happened, and we were, like, kind of, sort of, but not really at all, almost involved.

But that night, after getting off the phone with Nana, as we call her around here, I started thinking about how much our relationship has changed over the last eleven years, but in all that time, Nana hasn’t really changed.  I have.

Over the years, she has remained a constant in our lives, and when we had children, she really kicked it up a notch.  This woman is a career grandma, and that’s no exaggeration.  With eleven grandchildren (and two greats), she’s literally doing something with one or multiple kids almost every day.  My girls are the youngest, and she was disappointed that I wasn’t going to / now can’t have just one more kid.  She wanted an even dozen.  You know, because when bragging — grandma to grandma, kid for kid — an even dozen really packs a punch.

When Penny was born, Nancy seemed to stake a claim on her without my consent, (I’m her mother, afterall!  And at that sweet time, I had no idea what being a mother meant except I GET TO CALL THE SHOTS NOW!) and sometimes, it frustrated me.  Why are you planning her first birthday party?  I’m the mother here.  Why do you feel so free to just feed her whatever you want?  Ice cream isn’t good for her.  There was also lots of unsolicited advice and always, always wanting to know Penny’s “numbers” from her doctor’s visits.  I felt a little crowded sometimes.

Nana

But I was misunderstanding her.  I mean, it wasn’t the hardest thing in the world to do — to misunderstand her.  For instance, that Christmas, three months after having my first child, she bought me a scale.  Yes, a scale.  From my mother-in-law.  I kind of thought it was against the law, or at least highly, very heavily frowned upon to buy someone an unsolicited scale.  At any rate, I opened it and looked up to see my brother-in-law’s incredulous face.  We both kind of nodded and smiled.

Message received.

When I asked her about it recently, though, she said she bought that scale with Penny in mind.  I had once told her we didn’t have a scale (because I don’t like ’em! and, really, scales weren’t much of a thing in my house growing up), and she explained that she wanted us to have one so we could track Penny’s weight gain.  The babe was a preemie, and these things were of importance.

I had misunderstood.  I thought she was trying to keep my thigh gap game in check.  (I will never, ever, ever have a thigh gap though, scales be damned, and I’m at peace with that.)

What I now understand is that she is always acting out of love.  And she was viewing and still does view my children as her own.  And you know what, they ARE hers.  Just as my daughters’ babies WILL BE MINE.  And now that I get it, I AM GAME.  Take them. Plan their parties — that’s a lot of work, yo.  Do what you like.  Feed them whatever.  I don’t care.  Momma needs a minute, and I know you love them.  They are yours.  Can they spend the night?

There’s something really great in her taking on my babies.  Besides me (and possibly my husband, I’m not sure.), she loves my children more than anyone else in this world — and her loves extends to me, their mother, her son’s wife.

Throughout this whole cancer fiasco (and really, in life), she has been our number one.  Whatever we needed.  After my surgery, when I couldn’t hold my eight month old or have my three year old jump all over me, Nana kept the girls for an entire week.  And they love it over there!  I literally don’t know what we would have done without her babysitting and her love and support then, throughout chemo, and last night when I wanted to go to bingo.

My point is that I misunderstood her.  It’s easy to do with people.  This experience really shed light on a lot of my relationships, and I realized something about my mother-in-law.  She’s actually one of my besties.  And I’m as shocked as the next girl.  Aren’t you supposed to hate your mother-in-law?  Also, my 22 year old self wouldn’t believe this recent revelation.

But it’s true.  Case in point: we talk on the phone a lot.  Like, twice a week.  And I hate the phone.  She knows more about my daily life and what I’ve got going on in my week than anyone, including Josh (because she pays more attention).  Sometimes, it gets gossipy, which is fun and what girlfriends do, and at least once a week, we “hang out.” (Okay, I’m usually dropping my kids off or picking them up, but I stay a while to catch up.)  Total bffs, right?

I had a moment, at 21, when I realized this about my own mother.  We were sitting in the living room, watching TV, and I remember it hitting me.  “She’s the best friend I’ll ever have.  No one will ever have my back like she does or love me more.”

I’m not saying that Nancy has replaced my mother.  There is no replacing your mother.  (And I just have to say that my mom was hilariously cool.)  I’m just saying that she has done a damn fine job of loving me like one.  And she’s not about to let her own daughter walk around in jeans that don’t fit her.  OUT OF LOVE.  I promise.

15 comments on “Driving is hard and so is my mother-in-law.”

  1. Haha, I am known to tell my daughters “just because they ZIP, doesn’t mean they fit” because I would never let them walk around with half an inch of crack hanging out. I love them too much!

  2. I truly loved reading this. I went to middle school with your husband and although your MIL probably does not remember me, I remember her fondly. She was always such a nice lady. I remember walking home from school with all the boys (or behind them really as they did not notice me much) and she would let me in the donut shop after hours for a soda. I would look forward to getting to see her on the weekends when my dad would go for his donut fix.

    I am one of the lucky ones also, I have an amazing relationship with my mother in law and I treasure it greatly. Thank you for sharing this story. I look forward to reading many more.

    • Thank you. She will love to hear this! I, too, frequented the donut shop before I knew I would marry in. 🙂

  3. What a beautiful tribute to your MIL. You are both so very blessed to have one another. She is one to be cherished for sure. I loved this! It made me get tears and brought many smiles. Heather, you are always in my prayers. I love you bunches!

  4. So nice! I never met my mother-in-law. And, my own mother was pretty much an absentee parent. So I’m used to doing it alone.

    Now that I am about to be a mother-in-law myself, I will have to learn how to manage boundaries and learn when to be there and when not to be.

    But I do know one thing – I’ll never buy my daughter-in-law a scale!

    • I think it’s probably much harder to mother-in-law (as a verb) a new daughter rather than a new son…and the same goes for grandmothering. I imagine that the maternal grandma has it a little easier. I don’t think I would have felt as “crowded” by my own mother at the time, so it’s not really fair. All I know is that once I caught on, I was game. Hopefully, your new daughter-in-law will learn to see all the love in your actions and words. But, yes, maybe don’t buy her a scale!

  5. I love your story. I was fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with my mother in law. Like yours she was very very outspoken but she was also was patient loving and incredibly creative and fun . She was my like my best friend when my boys were litkle

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