After my father-in-law died, my Chinese-American mother-in-law hunkered down at home for more than a year. Her children flew to Hawaii to visit her. Sunny, who had once longed to travel, only left the house for shopping and walks.
Until my brother-in-law needed help with childcare. Sunny decided to bookend her months at Denny’s house in Northern California with visits to our house in Southern California (and a side trip to Vegas with her sister, of course).
Having had my fill of in-law visits, I went to New York City during the first four days of Sunny’s visit. Don’t be thinking it was filled with shows or shopping, though! I cooked, cleaned, and helped my sister adjust to having a newborn.
When I got home, practically the first thing my son did was complain about eating out.
Now, maybe you think it’s normal for husband and son to eat out when the wife is gone. If so, 1) check yourself on the gender stereotyping and 2) you must be new here.
No, the dining out was his mom’s choice. Now that Sunny had finally made the leap and left her house, she wanted to go to ALL the restaurants. Luckily, Los Angeles had all the restaurants. They went to the Cheesecake Factory, Din Tai Fun, Monterrey Park for Dim Sum (twice), Rockin’ Brews, Roy’s, Olive Garden, and several local places.
Sunny insisted that we go out for my birthday when I got back. It sounded like a lovely gesture…until I had to convince/ bribe Baby D to go out to dinner AGAIN.
After a non-stained shirt was found and copious screen time was promised, Baby D came out from under the bed. He spent most of the time at the French restaurant glowering or having to be pulled back into an upright position.
“I don’t see WHY we always have to go out for dinner all the time now,” he groused.
“Dude. You know what I would have given to go to all these restaurants when I was your age?! I thought McDonald’s was a huge treat!”
“McDonald’s is terrible!”
“You only think that because you’ve never had Hamburger Helper.”
“Is that like Dad’s moco loco?”
“Ha ha no. I fed mine to the dog under the table until Granddad caught me.”
I thought that Baby’s D’s black mood not only spoiled dinner, but had quashed the idea of dining out entirely.
Sunny thought differently. At 11 AM the next day, she asked, “Where should we go for lunch?”
“Ahhhhhh, why don’t you and Andy go? I have some work to do. Baby D and I will just have sandwiches.”
That worked for lunch. For dinner, we took Sunny out for sushi while Baby D had soccer practice, then grabbed an In-n-Out burger for the boy to eat on the way home (notice it was NOT McDonald’s).
Andy made his mother avocado toast and tea every morning, but Sunny always pushed to go out to for lunch or dinner. Within days, I was Team Dalton: I never wanted to see another restaurant again. I sent Andy and Sunny out alone as often as I could. By the end of her visit, Sunny was growing suspicious—or offended.
“You’re not coming?!” she exclaimed, pausing in the doorway. Andy was already in the car.
“No, no, we have plenty of leftovers. With you and Andy out of the house, it’s a good time to vacuum.”
Sunny grabbed me by the arm. “But you should come!”
“Sunny, some day, when—or if—Dalton ever gets married and I go to visit him, I hope his spouse is kind enough to encourage Dalton to take his mother out for dinner so I can spend some time alone with my son.”
I thought my little speech was both thoughtful and sweet. It emphasized our shared experience as mothers of boys—boys who often grow closer to their wives and estranged from their mothers. It acknowledged and encouraged her bond with Andy, while showing deference to their prior connection.
Sunny’s didn’t care for my speech. Her fingers tightened on my arm as she asked, “You’re really not coming?”
Sunny smacked me on the butt.
Then she stalked out the door.
I suppose I should have been offended. Or upset that I’d technically been assaulted. Or at least humiliated that I—a grown ass woman!— had been spanked by my own mother-in-law.
I felt victorious.
And victoriously, I vacuumed.