Apparantly my M-i-L is scared of me.
This was the bombshell Husband dropped on me today, casually, as if it were something I should know but no big deal really. He then amended his statement, to something more like; well, not scared of you exactly, but she worries about what you think.
Scared of me.
Is this a good or a bad thing, I wonder? I mean, I don't go through life with the aim of being the Dragon Lady. I like to imagine that I'm kind, approachable, and have an open face; hell, otherwise why is it always me who gets stopped and asked for directions by every tourist and crazy in town? I'm good with kids; I talk to rather than at them, my son's friends are happy to come over on playdates, and I appreciate children as individuals rather than an as encumbrances (unless, of course, I need the loo and they just won't let go of my leg to let me go to the bathroom, which happens more than I might like).
OK. Perhaps I can be a bit brusque at times. I don't always suffer fools gladly, and I'm self-aware enough to admit that in fact, if we're being completely honest, if you catch me at the wrong moment I occassionally resemble a cactus, but I usually soften up pretty quickly with the liberal application of wine. Or chocolate. Or wine and chocolate.
So, spikey, yes, I'll admit to that. But scary? I hope not.
The shocking thing though? If she chooses to think that about me, I can live with it.
To put this in context; I realised when I first met her that my mother-in-law is a warm, open, loving and wonderful mother to her children. Who wants to know EVERYTHING about them. The first things, great. I can only hope to be able to deliver the same benefits to my boys. That last, though, that is the sticking point. I come from a very private family where words were carefully considered, and where talking too much about your feelings was, for a long time, something that needed to be diluted with humour, just in case you hurt someone else. Or, preferably, something you didn't do at all. 'Just suck it up and get on with it' could have been our family motto.
There were reasons for this, (none of them sinister, all of them private), and the result is that for a long time, neither of my siblings or I took too well to sharing our deepest thoughts. We do it now, of course we do (hellooo! I'm blogging!), but on our terms, not someone elses'. So I have to admit that whilst I like and admire my mother in law, I always held my distance and kept my defences up.
And when the Boys arrived, I did nothing to change the status quo. If anything, I enforced my spikey persona still more when they were first born. I suppose that the reason behind this was that I worried she would try and take over. Her delight in her grandsons (her first) was total and I felt that lines had to be drawn so she knew that what Husband and I (oh, alright, I, if I'm honest) wanted in terms of how they were treated was not just some easily disregardable fancy but very important to us. And I suppose the feminist in me felt that all this adoration of the Boys simply because they were boys was a bit of a slight to the grand-daughters she already had.
But you know, looking back on it now, it seems petty, silly. There was never any question in my mind that she had anything but my sons' best interests at heart, it's just that her interpretation of what they were was slightly different to my own. You know; softer. Less Anxious New Mother. More laid-back, and seen it all before. More like that of... well, a Grandmother.
So nowadays, having had that realisation, I am much more laid-back. I don't over-react in the same way, at least I hope not, and we have reached an understanding that seems to work very well; she thinks I'm a bit overly strict but respects that, and I think she spoils them - a little - but generally let her get on with it.
But 'scary'? Well, if 'scary' means that when I'm not around she doesn't let the Boys watch television in the morning or give them that 3rd and 4th chocolate biscuit in a row when they look at her with those big beseeching eyes because she doesn't want to upset me, I guess I will just have to live with that.
How about you? How do you deal with your mother in law?