Once we were married, though, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. Jay was upset when we didn’t have a child—specifically, the Number One Son of the Number One Son—right away. When the in-laws came to visit, they hit me with criticism for my cooking, my cats, my teapot, our dogs, and even our local Costco.
This negativity wouldn’t have bothered me as much if Jay and Sunny criticized their son-in-law or their other daughter-in-law. But Sunny fawned over her son-in-law. And her other daughter-in-law? Denny’s Wife escaped the trials and tribulations I endured—including the Daughter-in-Law Tea Ceremony.
While favorite DIL status seemed an impossibility, I hoped that, once the Number One Son was on the way, I might at least achieve Level “Leave Her Alone.”
I did not. My weight was too much (while pregnant, no less). I had the audacity to protest being locked out of my bathrooms (also while pregnant). I sent their son and grandson to visit and stayed home rather than subject myself to more criticism. My son threw the occasional temper tantrum and went to bed “too early.” I insisted on staying home sometimes instead of going out to eat constantly. My super active son played sports instead of attending Chinese school on Saturdays. And of course, while writing took a backseat to parenting, I made no money.
When Sunny visited us before heading to Northern California, I heard all about the other daughter-in-law. Denny’s Wife was skinny. Denny’s Wife was making sure her kids spoke Mandarin as well as English. Denny’s Wife got a promotion at Google and was making even more money. Denny’s Wife came with parents who were very involved and helped take care of the kids.
But since Denny’s Wife’s parents were going to Taiwan for months, Denny’s Wife needed Sunny to take care of their kids while she and Denny were working.
After two weeks at Denny’s house, Sunny called Andy. She reported that everything was fine, she was just tired.
She called again the next Sunday: “Denny’s son is pretty good. But he’s mostly in Kindergarten. Denny’s daughter is not so good at listening.”
Sunday #3: “Denny’s Wife always brings home dinner from Google. It’s free, but it’s not very good.”
Sunday #4: “Denny’s daughter is still not listening. I tell her no, but she takes candy anyway.”
Sunday #4: “Ai-ya! Denny’s daughter has tantrums every day. When Denny’s Wife comes home, the daughter says I am mean to her!”
Sunday #5: “Denny’s Wife is so mad. I don’t know why, and then Denny comes and reminds me that I am not supposed to talk to the kids in Cantonese. Or English. Only in Mandarin. But I get tired and I forget.”
Sunday #6: “Dinner is still Google food. Always Google food. Every night. I say I will take them to dinner, but Denny’s Wife never wants to go.”
Sunday #7: “Denny’s daughter told me to cut my head off!”
Sunday #8: “Denny’s daughter is the devil.”
Sunday #9: “Denny’s daughter is still the devil.”
Sunday #10: “My flight back home isn’t for another week, but Denny’s Wife’s parents are back. They say they don’t need my help. I am just in the way.”
After Andy relayed that last bit, I lost my shit. Sunny wasn’t the easiest MIL, but I’d been incensed on her behalf since Week #5—how dare Denny’s Wife get pissy because Sunny, who was offering free help, didn’t always speak Mandarin (Sunny’s third and least familiar language). Childcare can be demanding AF. If someone is volunteering, you thank them, you don’t bitch and quibble about which language they are speaking.
And then Denny’s wife had the unmitigated gall to make the woman who saved her butt AND saved them thousands of dollars feel unwelcome?!
“That’s it!” I yelled at Andy. “That is absolutely it. You book your mom on a flight tonight!”
“Back to Hawaii? It’ll cost a fortune, honey—”
“Not to Hawaii! To here!”
“You’re…you’re asking my mom to spend an extra week with us?”
“Damn right I am! We will feed her something besides Google food! We will go to dim sum if she wants!”
“Yay!” cheered Baby D. “She will give me more hundred dollar bills!”
Life with Denny’s family must have been worse than Sunny said. She hopped on that plane without once saying her ticket was unnecessary or expensive.
Sunny hugged Andy tightly at the airport. She even hugged me. She held Baby D’s hand in the backseat the whole way home.
Baby D, wise beyond his years (or with his eyes on the hundred dollar prize), didn’t complain.
Before bed that night, Sunny said, “Thank you letting Andy bring me.”
I didn’t tell her it was my idea. Maybe it was. Maybe Andy only let me think that.
It was enough to know she knew I wasn’t the worst daughter-in-law after all.