There are few things that I claim to actually understand about men. Truth be told, the older I get the more I discover that I don’t understand anything about men. I don’t understand the obsession with any and all things related to a ball, the thrill of getting up at 3 am to freeze to death in a deer stand while you shoot at some poor defenseless animal or the motivation behind the always popular “I’ll call ya” when you know good and dang well you’ll never hear from the S.O.B. again. I’ve spent 26 years trying to understand men, from those early days on the playground to my current relationship. For the most part, I’ve just given up. I’ve decided that men are just too different, too complex of a creature to understand and I’m better off if I just make him a sandwich, turn on the game and let that be that. But there’s one mystery that I just can’t seem to let go of. I simply do not understand the relationship between a man and his mother. Men that are normally strong, formidable human beings are reduced to needy, eager to please little boys the second Mommy is on scene. It drives me crazy and I just don’t get it. And for reasons beyond my understanding, it seems to get worse the older men get. Lately it seems that if I want to have a relationship with a man, I have to have a relationship with his mommy as well.
The new guy I’m seeing is a handsome, successful, well traveled 38 year old man. He’s never been married and doesn’t have children. He does, however, have two cats and a Mommy. Even though I’m deathly allergic to cats, I’m still not sure which one is worse. Being long distance, the majority of our communication is over the phone. We’re both incredibly close to our families and logically, they come up in conversation. I just didn’t realize how much we would be talking about them. We did the basic family run down on our first phone call: how many siblings, parents married or divorced, nieces and nephews blah blah and everything seemed to be normal. What he failed to mention in that conversation however, was that even though he lives an hour away from his mother, he is still very much attached to her apron strings. On his first visit to Columbus he had been in my apartment approximately five minutes when his mother called to make sure he had arrived in one piece. Hmm…although it raised a red flag, I brushed it off and decided she was just a concerned mother. Two days and six phone calls later, I had decided something else. Then in her super matriarchal power, she managed to track down my phone number and give me a friendly little ring. The conversation was nothing short of awkward and I had the ever growing feeling that I was being interviewed for a job I wasn’t sure I wanted. At the end of our phone call I told her that it was wonderful speaking with her and I looked forward to meeting her soon. Her voice took on an icy tone as she responded with “Yes, well, we’ll just see about that. Best of luck on all your endeavors, dear.” Um. What? When I mentioned it to John, (Yes, this one actually has a name. Shocking, I know) he laughed and responded with “Oh, that’s just Mama! Isn’t she something else?!” Yes. Yes she certainly is.
The rocky relationship between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law is infamous. There is a power struggle as the mother copes with the fact that another woman is now taking care of her baby and she’s left with nothing to do but sit back and watch. The new bride bends over backwards, not trying to please her new husband, but her new mother-in-law. There is an estrogen war raging with the man caught in the middle and it almost always ends with disastrous results. At least that was my experience. I met my now former mother-in-law moments after her son had just informed her that he had gotten a 19 year old girl pregnant, a girl that up until that very moment, she didn’t even know existed. That poor woman and I spent the next three years getting over the shock of that first meeting. I think at one point in time she called me a “Black Widow” and I’m pretty sure I returned the compliment with something equally flattering. The marriage between her son and I obviously wasn’t a fairy tale but our unhappiness was fueled by the fact that he would run to his mother every time we had an argument and my increasing insecurity that I would never live up to the woman he so clearly idolized. But then we got divorced. And a funny thing happened. Suddenly, this woman that I felt had waged her own personal war against me, someone who meddled in my marriage and offered her opinion on everything from our parenting skills to our finances to the color of our bath mat simply backed off. The tone of her voice softened and the judgement was gone. We had been separated nearly six months when she called me one day, out of the blue, just to ask how I was doing. The heavens opened up and the trumpets sounded as I did a double take at the caller ID on my phone in a state of shock. She sounded so genuine, so sincere and I realized that while I was in the middle of one relationship falling apart, I was unexpectedly forming another one. Ironically enough, it took a divorce for her to realize just how much I loved her son and for me to realize that the woman that I saw as competition, my “enemy” if you will, had been my greatest ally all along.
God knew what He was doing when He gave me a little girl. Our house is full of ribbons and bows, Barbies and baby dolls and an entire room full of pink. I know Prinny will be married one day and have a family of her own but whether she’s 5 or 25, she’ll always be my little girl, end of story. I can’t help but wonder if I would feel the same if I had a little boy. Would I be more protective, or less? You look at that sweet little man sitting in the backyard playing with his trucks and a pile of dirt and you have this overwhelming feeling that you want to protect him from ever being hurt. At five years old, that means a boo boo on his knee, at 25, that means a broken heart. As a Mom, how far do you go to protect your baby? And how far is too far? Does that mean driving behind the school bus on his first day of school just to make sure he’s OK? Or calling his new girlfriend and scaring the beejeesus out of her until she decides that no man is worth a crazy mother-in-law? As mothers, it’s our job to raise our children to be strong, independent, happy, healthy, productive members of society. If we trust that they chose the right college, the right career, the right apartment, shouldn’t we also trust that they chose the right person to marry?
I’ve heard that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he treats his mother. If that’s the case, this new guy is a freaking saint. His mother is ballsy, pushy and borderline obnoxious. (Hmm…Pot? Kettle?) And in return, he is kind, patient and loving. While I was admittedly a bit turned off by the woman, I’m increasingly appreciative of her behavior. His response to her actions have only further proved to me that he’s an amazing man. While I doubt that was her intent, I’m grateful for it. She has raised an amazing son; whether it’s because of her or in spite of, I have yet to find out but I’m beginning to think it’s the former. I certainly don’t claim to understand men, their mothers or their relationships but I’ve got a feeling that this relationship is definitely worth sticking around to find out.0