A Sunny Visit (#309)

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.

My husband Andy is a fantastic cook.  He makes delicious meals, which is no easy task with picky eaters like his spouse and spawn.

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.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

22 thoughts on “A Sunny Visit (#309)”

    1. No one knows how to react. Not even me. We just pretended it never happened.

      But for so long I felt both compelled to please and also bullied by my in-laws that I guess it was worth a spanking to insist on my right to stay home and vacuum.

  1. Oh yeah…hamburger helper!!

    I think you won, and the smack was her bitter acknowledgement. Too bad she was not softened by your sweet speech.

  2. My husband’s family wants to eat out for every occasion or visit. Is it a Chinese thing? My Father-in-law was proud to know all the best restaurants in cities around the world.

    Now that I live alone, I jump at the chance to eat out. Every so often is enough, though. When we were waiting for a house in Vanuatu, we spent more than a month in a hotel with no cooking facilities. Port Vila, Vanuatu has some good restaurants, but not very many. Long before we moved into our house, we were sick of eating out.

    1. It is very much a Chinese thing, since it’s all about gaining face with everyone you know. If you can tell people you paid for expensive meals and know all the best restaurants, you gain face. It is very amusing watching adults fighting over who gets to pay the bill in Taiwan.

  3. Best line: “Is that like dad’s moco loco?” I’m realizing now just how lucky Baby D is. I loved going out to eat growing up…probably because my dad can’t cook much more than what he can throw on the grill. Even then, it’s usually my mom doing most of the work!

  4. Sure, it was the right attitude for you to feel victorious after non-stop dining out. She is abit strange or needs company to be at dinner…kinda old school.

    Good that Andy likes prepping food for anyone at home. I hope she doesn’t spank you playfully again. I would suggest stepping aside if she tries it and make a joke, to disarm her. It’s a lousy cultural habit for some people.
    And hopefully your hubby is around. He needs to speak to his mother.

    1. It is a lousy habit. Lashing out physically is merely teaches the next generation to hit also. I was spanked and hit as a child and I’m trying very hard to have corporal punishment/ abuse end with me, rather than passing it onto my son.

      Andy will never speak to his mother. The filial obedience is way too ingrained, alas. He actually found it pretty funny, but that might be because I wasn’t seriously upset. It’s now just another story, along with the delightful time I menaced his father with a screwdriver.

      But fear not. My relationship with my MIL has shifted considerably. Hopefully I’ll get to that post soon.

      And thanks for reading!

  5. I can totally understand you and Baby D. Eating outside for several days in a row is exhausting! Way more than cooking!

    I had to look up what loco moco is. I had never heard about it. It means crazy snot in Spanish, in case you didn’t know

    1. It’s a cute story, probably technically with Portuguese/ Hawaiian Pidgin than Spanish in its linguistic roots. Lot of Portuguese immigrants to Hawaii–the McDonald’s there serve Portuguese sausage and rice. Andy was shocked when he came to Los Angeles and there was no rice, Portuguese sausage or fruit punch at McDonald’s!

      1. Very interesting, hahaha. Cholesterol Hall of Fame, definitely.
        In China, there’s spicy chicken at KFC, and also rice dishes. I’m not sure about McD. KFC is way more popular here for some reason.

  6. Wow Autumn, what a story! I can’t believe she smacked you on the butt, lol! As someone who comes from a crazy Asian family, however, I can totally see it happening. You are an awesome DIL to take it with such grace and make a funny story out of it haha.

    Sunny likes to eat out a lot! Is that her thing? My husband’s parents hate eating out and think any food outside of their homemade Chinese cuisine is poison that will melt your insides out.

    1. Thanks! Sometimes I feel like a total pushover, but you make it sound much nicer.

      I think one of the commenters above put it best, that sometimes it’s about face, and showing you can afford to eat out. Or maybe she wanted to give her son a break from cooking? But it was a lot. Back when we did go out, we generally went for sushi or a type of cuisine Andy doesn’t make. He’s such a good cook that many restaurants suffer by comparison (and his meals are way cheaper).

If you liked this, let the white girl know!