Friday, January 8, 2010

Grandma and Tractor Visit for 6 Weeks!

When faced with the prospect of my parents visiting for 6 weeks I had a mixture of emotions. Mostly I was very excited about having them closer than a plane trip to spend time with them, have my children be able to develop a stronger connection to their grandparents and well, let's be honest, I was jumping out of my chair excited at the idea of free babysitting and assistance for any moments I just felt I didn't want to be the full time caregiver of two little boys. This excitement was amplified by the beauty of their stay being only about 10 days at my house and then the rest of the time staying at a rental house about 20 minutes away. A perfect blend of close but not too close.

Now let's be clear, I love my parents. I think they are wonderful. But like all people, including myself, there are things about them that are more challenging to be around for an extended period of time. See, my parents could easily have Saturday Night Live characters based on them. They are hilarious, though not always trying to be, and not always laughable to me in the moments I find myself the direction for their idiosyncrasies. My Mom in particular has a slew of things that are just, well....crazy. These things are so amusing from a distance but drive me bonkers at times when she and I are trying to spend large amounts of time together. I had a lot of reasons to feel a healthy amount of fear along with all that excitement about their new proximity to me.

They arrived a few days prior to Christmas and now we have been together for a month. All the joys are definitely present with their proximity. I can run to Starbucks or the grocery store without any company, I can cook or not cook at my leisure knowing that someone will always help get food and I have adults to share any moment with rather than just two children that really don't seem to care much about my thoughts and perspective on the world. (Totally my kids' loss I know, and something I am sure they will realize any day now.) I love watching my Dad allow his grand kids to explore the world in a way that Alex and I would not, like taking Aiden to Baskin Robbins and actually walking with him through the drive through line after finishing their ice cream so that he could talk through the speaker and try to figure out the intercom system, much to the annoyance of the teen working at Baskin Robbins. I see my Mom reading way more books than I would to my very story oriented children and play imagination games with them that I only have the patience for in very, very small doses. ( I really only like to play imagination games that allow me to carry about my business while periodically commenting that I am scared of the rockets or I am swimming through the ocean away from the sharks.) It is great to have them, no question.

But, you had to know a but was coming, they are still my parents. Along with these wonderful things, I am also forced to listen to an onslaught of ideas, tips and trips down memory lane about how it was when I was little from my Mom. These are usually accompanied by a tone of wonderment and confusion (read judgement) at something my kids or I am doing because she never experienced that with Kyle or me. (There is always an implication from my Mom that if she has not heard of it or done it, it is very difficult to believe in it. Like roseola, strong-willed tantrums, or crying it out.) I receive her daily weather reports about all regions of the country (including a use of meteorological terms that make me seriously wonder if she studied weather in college or if she might have a crush on a weatherman in Indy) and a constant update on gas prices from any and all gas stations she has passed during any outing around town...along with a brief lecture on how every penny counts and how she doesn't want to just throw her money away even if I think it is stupid. (For the record, I have never used the word,"stupid" to describe this obsession with gas prices, but I have frequently voiced that driving around town to search for a price lower by a few pennies might not be the most effective cost saving measure.) We have had to rearrange plans due to rain, which would ruin her hair. Oh boy, her hair, it is washed and set weekly and is the source of much of my mother's energy. Rain, wind or any amount or perspiration can be the source of countless hours of complaints or questions about how her hair looks now. She actually carries a duffle bag with her to my house every time so that she doesn't have to leave her jewelry and other "valuables" at the rental for fear of someone stealing them. The fear of someone stealing from her is a constant source of all sorts of strange behavior from my Mother, anything missing from a ring to a lint roller could have been stolen by someone that walked into her house (usually when my Dad was around but left the doors open) and took only that object and left without notice. Do not discuss nutrition with her, you have no credit. She took a class on the chemistry of food in 1967 and is basically THE expert on what you should eat, how much and which foods will actually work against one another in your body...and NO, there is not any new research that could be correct on "different" types of diets that are good for you....unless mentioned on ABC's Good Morning America which is 90% of the time spot on for advice. I could go on and on and on. She is funny.

My Dad also brings his own set of interesting and at times very frustrating attributes. My fridge has a constant stock of cans of Natural Light which can make loading or unloading the fridge inconvenient. He offers help to do small things around the house, but hanging a picture can take hours or even days. He is a perfectionist to a fault. He will make a mock up of any items to be hung or moved out of cardboard and then attempt to place that in the suggested location. Several measurements, smoke breaks, and questions will ensue before any hole is drilled or hammered into a wall. His cigarette smoking has now taught my children to take any small object, such as a chip, and pretend to smoke like Tractor. This is also made more disturbing by the fact that they often smell of stale cigarette smoke due to their prolonged playtime with my father. Aiden has started to say "damage" when frustrated, which is what he believes my father is saying when he says "dammit." It doesn't really make sense but I don't know how to correct him without a discussion of the word my Dad is actually using and I really don't want him saying that at Baptist preschool. (I have some serious deprogramming to do.) He is unable to hear the TV unless it is loud enough for me to hear while trying to nap in my bedroom. He is incapable of answering a question directly either due to my lack of clarity in the manner in which I asked it (I find it difficult to be as specific as my father demands at all times) or he doesn't feel 100% sure about his answer because he does not believe in making any assumptions or guesses....which is an interesting polar opposite to my Mom's ability to answer any and all questions regardless of her knowledge about the subject or certainty of her perspective on the issue. He takes 20 minutes to express a complete thought because he must pause for a while in between words to think and/or smoke. He also refuses to let any fault in grammatical sentence structure pass, regardless of the emotional state of the person speaking....there is no excuse for poor grammar, it is important to use "me" every time it is the object of a preposition, even if you are crying.

All in all though, things are good. I am happy they are here and I feel lucky that they are so willing and able to be this present in my and my childrens' lives. I feel that someday I will most likely be as annoying to my children as my parents are to me so this is a wonderful exercise in my patience. I am happy that my Mom and I especially have been getting along better than normal, primarily because I am choosing to view her craziness as just a part of her that gives me plenty to things to write about and giggle about after I speak to her, maybe I should contact Lorne Michaels about that SNL character sketch?


Jessica Honegger said...

Is it that generation? My mom hides her jewlery all over the house in the most random of places and often she can't remember where she "hid". She even has a safe in her house but she doesn't use it! Instead, you may find my grandma's diamond ring stuffed in my old teddy bear. Glad you have had fun with her!

Joan Kallen said...

Love it, Leslie! I can completely relate to a mom not believing anything unless she has done it or heard of it with her kids. Love the stories about Keith. Reminds me of the time we had to build some kind of a bridge for school and your dad was our engineer (do you remember that?? I don't know what grade it was.). Tell them hi for me. To answer your question before, we don't know what we are having...I like you were, am making peace with becoming the only source of estrogen in the house!

Kyle Kenney said...

I think your parents sound cool. You should give them a break. I bet you weren't so much fun to raise - being so fragile and scary. Who said you couldn't turn the tap on? I did. And now, let's hear from Timmy Smith on "Tracers"!