My mother and husband have a love-hate relationship. I think it is because they both have such an opinion about the different things that go on with the kids, the house, money, me -- pretty much everything that makes up life. So when real feelings slip out, it makes for an even more awkward divide.
The wedge is not intentional. My mom thinks she is being helpful when every now and again she forwards an email that tells me exactly what is in a chicken nugget or how to never drink the water from a plastic water bottle that is left in a car for days. She’ll call me to remind me to make sure the girls have their sweaters because the afternoon is going to be cold or to be careful driving because the roads are slippery.
Things like this really drive Adam crazy. He will question why she's getting involved and he’ll make some snide remark about her staying out of our business. I, on the other hand, will either take her advice, store it in the back of my mind or I might disregard it altogether but I'm polite and thankful. I know she acts like this not because it has anything to do with undermining us, but everything to do with being a loving and concerned mom. Maybe as a mom, I just have more tolerance for it.
There are times though when Adam seems to soften. When the kids are sick or the dog swallowed a nail or we need to put new plants in the front of the house –Adam will call my mom to ask her opinion when he is unsure of his own and he trusts my mom’s advice in certain areas. They will then chat and laugh while they are on the phone. Of course this feeling will remain only until the next time my mom does something grandma-y or motherly that is unsolicited and it will totally annoy my husband again. And then he's back to falling into a mood whenever the phone rings and her number shows up on the caller ID. He doesn't answer it at which point, I will normally pick-up.
Except this one recent time when Ella answered the phone. It just so happened that the call came in while Adam was still mad at my mother for something (which I truly can't even remember what it was - there are just so many instances where I don’t even totally know what sets him off).
When Ella heard my mom’s voice on the other end of the line, she smiled. But within seconds her smile faded. She leaned into the phone receiver as if preparing to say something big and said gently that she had very bad news for her Gram. As it was recounted to me, my mom immediately thought that something happened at school or that Ella was worried about something at home. My mom encouraged her to share the details. Ella, without a clue around the comment, blurted out that the bad news was that Adam hates her.
Being a little dry, level-headed and a realist about her relationship with Adam, my mom just started laughing. Where I would have gotten overly emotional, she had the opposite reaction. Adam overheard Ella say this and started flipping out. Even with her carefree disregard for the comment, my mom felt bad that Adam was now screaming in the background at Ella and me, professing that he never said that. He went from a wild man in the background of the call to the main voice on the line after he grabbed the phone and tried to convince my mom that he didn’t know what would make Ella think such a thing. At this point, while still chuckling, my mom swiftly said that kids only repeat what they hear. I am not sure if her laughing over the situation made Adam feel better or worse.
But I will say that I am certain Adam will now never forget the cardinal rule of using initials, nicknames or code words around the kids when we need to talk about people. I would say we would promise to never gossip but it’s in my nature and yea, stopping that would never happen. So let’s just be smart and spare feelings. Not everyone wants to – or needs to know – the absolute truth.