I've been away for a while. And by away, I don't mean on a sunny island. I mean away in the recesses of my mind, and in the depths of my apartment. I'm briefly coming up for air, but it may be some time before I'm around again on a regular basis.
RaggedyDad's mother is staying with us. For three weeks. She hasn't seen me or the kids in a year and a half. Last summer, I wasn't able to travel, so RaggedyDad went to visit his family alone for a week. She hadn't met baby Little Rag yet, and remembered big buster Andy as not much older than Little Rag is now.
What's been interesting is that people's reaction when I tell them about this visit are very much colored by where they are coming from. It ranges from "I can't believe that you are dealing with that!" to "Of course, where else would she stay? That's what families do."
I sense that my parents, in their own way, feel sorry for what they perceive as a significant imposition on us. While not tycoons themselves, they have the means not to have to stay in my brother's apartment in Jerusalem when visiting him, his wife, and their now 6 kids under 8 years old (Mazel tov!)
But all families differ. In MIL's case, we are the ones who undertake a great deal of help, though it doesn't really come easy to us. Admittedly, it was a bit of an adjustment for me, as I'm not accustomed this approach from growing up, and had the fortune of having parents who, if needed, could help their children. But I'd have been a fool to have let modest means stand in the way of marrying RaggedyDad.
The language and culture barrier are an issue with MIL, and without them, we'd likely get along even better than we already do. She's an intelligent, fun-loving, adventurous person. And helpful, and nice, and well-intentioned.
In that typical European way, though, she tends to be very direct and straightforward about a lot of things. Like asking me how many children I plan to have, and when exactly I plan on having the next one. Or letting me know that the sweater I'm wearing looks very nice, but would cease to, if I were to gain any weight. Or stating that people in the town where she lives are very adamant about order and cleanliness, and if they saw our place, it would not fit their standards.
Whew, I'm realizing that venting is GOOD!
The odd part is, those above statements sound a lot worse than they are intended. They are liberally sprinkled with self-deprecation and, though it doesn't always take the sting out, stated utterly non-judgmentally, but merely as facts. If you know any Europeans, that's just how they are. (Israelis do this too, though in somewhat of a different manner). They'll tell you that one of your kids is not as cute another one. They'll tell you that they don't care for the coffee you just served them. They tell it like it is, and then come back and say that we Americans are not known for our manners!
I'm coming to some understandings in the midst of all of this. No, this is not my favorite time, but it is very infrequent. Yes, sharing one small bathroom is a challenge, and someone will always be in it. Yes, I'm buying enough bread to feed the Russian army and then finding that amazingly, it is all gone 3 days later. I am talking loaves and loaves here. And meat. And cheese. And herring, which the kids have now learned to like to eat at breakfast time, but there are worse things.
Okay, venting is REALLY good.
The truth is that I have a whole lot to be extremely grateful to MIL for. Because not only did she raise the most kind, unassuming, helpful, and friendly husband I could have hoped for, she also made tremendous sacrifices for him and his sister.
She left the Soviet Union as a widow with two children under dangerous circumstances, and thereby left behind her extended family/entire support system, relative financial security, and the hopes of ever feeling comfortable anywhere else to a native-like degree. She endured tremendous hardship that could fill a book, and took it very much in stride. Although far-removed from religion, she was supportive and encouraging when my husband became interested in exploring his faith at age 15, and eventually moved to America, only to meet . . . me.
I'm taking things one day at a time, and having a few deep-breath moments. And all in all, I'm trying to see things from a perspective of appreciation, and inject a little bit of . . zen.