In order to cast my new mother-in-law in the proper light, I can't help but compare her with her predecessor. And on this matter, there is no reason to beat around the bush: My first mother-in-law was not exactly an awe-inspiring example of a human being. She may one day stumble upon this post and be aghast at my outing her in this fashion, but that's tough titties. The bitter truth is that she was (and may very well still be) an ugly person with ugly motivations, so really, my new mother-in-law had nowhere to go but up. (Insert mother-in-law joke of your choice here.)
So far, so good--Mother-in-Law No. 2 (Ramona, for the curious among you) is passing with flying colors. And the reason I bring this up is to underscore just how freeing a good mother-in-law can be. Don't get me wrong--I've only known Ramona for 2 years, so there's plenty of time for one (or both) of us to screw things up. But I already feel closer and more connected to her than I ever did to my previous MiL. Then again, I could say the same thing about me and Dick Cheney.
Seriously--Ramona and I can talk, for hours, about just about anything. We don't always agree, but we always come to some sort of understanding. She's a fun-loving person who's willing to explore any topic, no matter how inappropriate, and even though she clearly is becoming aware of my shortcomings (e.g., my blabbermouth), she's able to see that the good way outweighs the bad, and that her daughter has found a man who will love her and treat her with the respect and tenderness she deserves.
Meanwhile, I'm able to see past her shortcomings (and let's face it--people get to a certain age and they wear their shortcomings on their sleeves) and appreciate that my MiL is a happy and willing grandparent who, despite already having had the opportunity to dote on 4 other grandchildren, is ready to pour her energy into helping us in any way she can (and, of course, get more access to her grandson in the process).
Case in point: We just returned form a quick weekend sojourn to Modesto, to visit Ramona and give her some quality time with little Max on her turf. During our stay, I barely had to do any of the usual dirty work, because Ramona was right there, helping Sarah with anything that required an extra set of hands. (Well, except the middle-of-the-night feedings--no point letting things get that Freudian.) Then, this morning, before we left, she offered to watch the baby and feed him while Sarah and I went out to breakfast together, unencumbered.
Not that any MiL in the world wouldn't want to have alone time with her little baby grandson. Well, actually, I take that back--my previous MiL most certainly was not interested in such trivialities. In fact, she barely forged a connection with the one grandchild I gave her, Jackson, and today she has zero presence in our lives (for reasons not worth going into here, but suffice it to say it would raise the hair on your neck). In other words, I do not take such grandparently assistance as Ramona offers for granted, and never will. But as a soon-to-be-44-year-old second time father, I'll be damned if I won't gladly accept any opportunity to be excused from the relentlessness of baby duty.
Which is why, when she suggested Sarah bring the baby and stay with her for a few days for more bonding, I didn't hesitate to support the idea. In the past, I might have balked at such a suggestion, threatened by paranoid thoughts of my MiL trying to muscle in on my territory. Thankfully, I've traded in my youthful stupidity for a more seasoned state of acceptance. Gimme those three days of down time for golf and sports on TV and quality time with Jackson (hard to come by these days), not to mention a few nights of sprawling in our bed all by myself, and when Sarah and Max return, my super-dad batteries will have been recharged.
Mom, if you read this, don't be threatened. We love you, too.