This post is brought to you by long, uncomfortable silences and guilt trips.
About a month ago, my wife and I decided that it would be a nice gesture to make a day-trip to visit my mom (who lives three hours away) sometime before Vegas makes his arrival this June. We originally thought maybe Mother’s Day would be appropriate, but after making a long car ride two weekends ago (swelling and fidgety grumples, check!), decided that we would try to push it up to the closest available Saturday. Not wanting to entertain people before payday (May 1), my mom pushed us back to this coming Saturday. I informed her then about my traveling/sitting discomforts and frequent weekend afternoon naps. All seemed good and well until my phone conversation with her on Friday turned into my listening to her full day’s worth of plans – “We’ll first have breakfast at the Cracker Barrell” and ending with “And then we’ll go to church from 6pm-7pm, and maybe grab dinner somewhere before you head back.”
Not wanting to immediately sadden her with our ACTUAL plans (which include being there promptly from 11am-3pm, at the most), I told her that we’d consider all of her planned options and I’d talk to her on Monday. Today. I thought maybe catching her in the morning might have been a good time to clarify Saturday’s agenda, but perhaps no time would have made either of us prepared for her crying “Well, if you’re only going to stay for four hours, maybe we’ll do this another time” tantrum. I listed the various reasons for the time constraint, including but not limited to, my not tolerating long periods of sitting (“But can’t you stay over?”), our dog who can only reasonably go from 8am-6pm all alone without someone calling the SPCA (“Can’t you bring him?”), my general traveling weariness (“You can nap while you’re here!”), and so on. I fought off with explanations of not sleeping well in my Very.Nice.Bed as opposed to her futon mattress, no one to watch the dog, not wanting the dog to spend six hours in a car, not wanting to drive myself, not wanting her to come pick me up (that was an actual suggestion), and overall, explaining that I thought four hours was really enough time to visit.
Now “visit” might be a southern term. It means to sit around and talk, with no distractions such as the TV or a meal. In the past ten years of my life, I have yet to keep a conversation with my mother down to under 45 minutes. If so, it’s only because I’ve stated at the very beginning of answering the phone, “Mom, I only have a minute to talk – what’s up?” Those conversations take 15 minutes. “Visiting” is basically one very long phone conversation. This is also the woman who talks the entire limit of both my work phone voicemail and my cell phone voicemail until it cuts her off, and peppers in things like “Well, I called your work/cell, and you didn’t answer. So maybe you’re not at work/home today.” I digress.
So I stuck to my guns and made her tough out the rest of the conversation until she sounded, at least, like she was might be somewhat OK with an 11am-3pm visit time. “Well, just come to my place then we you get to town. We won’t go to the Cracker Barrell,” she says. Which, I think, is my punishment for being short-visiting ungrateful visitors. God forbid we can visit AND eat a full meal. “I’ll put out some snacks.” Which means that I will NOT under any circumstances receive any actual nourishment during that visiting time, and I will be limited to grapes, Ritz crackers, and Sierra Mist. Why on earth would we waste time eating at a restaurant when we could be visiting.
My wife has assured me that we will smuggle in some of our own snacks for me to eat quietly in the bathroom. It has come down to exactly that, friends – planning to eat a granola bar while hiding in the bathroom, and thinking about where to put the wrapper.
If she calls back this week (most likely in the next 24-48 hours), she will either A) insist that we don’t come down at all (in which we’ll insist that indeed we won’t) or B) tell me that she’s sorry for acting out and not being understanding (total long shot, but worth noting). As much as I understand how much she misses seeing me, I’ve spent the last ten years trying not to spend longer than 48 hours with my mom. Some of that came during the six years in which, whenever I would visit, she would nap during 90% of the visit because she was high on Vicodin and muscle relaxers. So now here in swollen and cranky-land, it’s not real surprising to assume that I haven’t had a change of heart in the amount of time I want to spend sitting around having the worlds’ longest phone conversation in person.
Maybe I’ll understand this more when I’m a parent. My boss (who has a similar mother) and I were talking the other day about how her mom figuratively squashes things from loving them so so hard. That, at 37 years old, when her mother visits, she wants to drive her to work, remind her to take an umbrella, and scold her for leaving the house with her hair wet. I definitely feel squashed, and would like, for once, to have the ability to make plans on my terms, and to have them respected and understood, instead of hijacked. I also understand, by talking to various older co-workers, that this sometimes doesn’t improve with age. I can only hope to better understand when Vegas is 18 and refuses to talk to me on the phone for longer than 5 minutes. I suppose we’ll see.
In other, less dramatic news, breastfeeding class tonight! Should be enlightening!