October 19, 2011

Grammy vs. Mommy

So I may have mentioned a recent vacation where I left my children in the care of my husband’s amazing and capable parents.  I say this with complete confidence because they have watched my children for long periods before, and I am always sure Troy’s parents, especially Grammy, will never yell, will always love them more than anything, play with them, listen, wipe their tears, put on band-aids, answer tough questions and generally make sure my house is in good order…  and I feel like this is one of those things on my “I’m the luckiest girl in the world” list–a nice mother-in-law who will watch my children for weeks on end and tell me how much she loved it.  The worst thing she said when I called from outside the country this last time—after I asked if she was doing okay was,

“Well, I’m no more tired than you are when you do all this.”

Wow, if angels were transformed into people, she might be a body they would choose to inhabit.  I thanked her profusely and knew my babies would be alright, no matter what. 

As always, I came home…  and my 4 year old looked so different to me.  I stared at him, trying to figure out why he looked so different.  My husband was saying things like, “Wow, you’ve grown.”  (cute, but they don’t grow that much in 10 days, right?)  He also couldn’t pinpoint why our kids looked SO different than a week and a half ago.

I asked if my 4 year old had had a haircut.  Maybe he’d gotten highlights?  Is that age appropriate?  Dunno, but it looks great either way!  And then it hit me…  not right away.  I was tired, mind you, after spending a night on a plane, but two days, maybe three later…  after I’d caught up on emails and the pile of school work….  It hit me.  Holy mother of Pete!  She had combed their hair!  She had not just combed their hair like I do…  once a week or with my fingers as they jump from the shower.  She had combed his hair with the goal of making it look like one of those catalog pictures.  She hadn’t stopped combing just because my son was uncomfortable or wiggling or yelling or teasing me.  She hadn’t skipped the whole damn process because she needed to buy an extra 30 seconds on the back end of a morning “getting ready” session.  She was angelic and persistent.  And the house…

Well, when my husband and I dropped from the sky with our back packs and dirty clothes and fifty bags of this and that… the house was spotless…  not just clean.  The floors had no toys.  And no one was unhappy or bored.  They were running about the house.  She had made them the food I had recommended and the boys were told to put their shoes in the laundry room when they took them off.  What?!  They listened to her, without whining.  My four year old had slept with the small lamp on in his room–instead of the phosphorescent light show that I engage in every evening–in order for him not to sense a shadow anywhere—including that little place under his bed where monsters fold up very tiny—and hide. 

I have to admit.  It was tough to see.  It’s not that I think I’m a bad mom.  I’m not.  I’ve thought that before, mind you.  But I’m in a good space.  I am a good mom, a really loving mom.  And I thought I was getting more organized as the kids grew.  I was trying to evolve into a more peaceful, organized person.  And I heard her tell my boys, “You need to respect your mother.  Her job is not to clean up after you.  You put your shoes away.”  I was floored, floored, speechless and inspired, of course.




Two days after she left, after cleaning up each meal immediately, and making my boys respect me—after combing every hair in this house besides my husband’s for a finished look instead of merely performing the act, with the idea they would build on the skill one day when they give a shit—I realized I had been out-mommed.  It was over.  I took a dive, threw the fight and knew that my husband had a hell of a mom.  She had skills honed over the years that one day I will parade in front of my daughter-in-laws.  And for today, I am certain my boys’ teachers are commenting, “Looks like mom and dad are home”  as they can’t help but notice the hair out of place, the uniforms wrinkly and perhaps some food from breakfast still on the collar.  They would be blind not to see how my house has slowly but surely become cluttered again.  My kids are whining again, and the light show is back in my 4 year old’s bed chamber.  But I wouldn’t change a thing.  Love you Grammy.  Thank you for showing us there is always a class above yours, no matter where you’re standing.  You are definitely first class.