My wife advised me that I shouldn’t put this in print. “It’s too personal,” she said. “But,” I pleaded, “it’s part of who we are.” I’m guessing that we aren’t the only ones ever to tell this tale.
It was on the occasion of the birth of our third child that the visit brought panic to our home. We didn’t get many visits from our family back then. Our folks had to be willing to drive nearly 800 miles if they wanted to come see us. So, the visits were not so often.
But there was a new baby in the house. And both grandmas decided that they would come to help out. Two different flights. Two different trips to the local airport. Mama and Mom unpacked their suitcases and planned to stay for a while.
I mean no disrespect when I say this. And I only offer this advice to the young couples who don’t know any better. But. Never. Never. Never, ever have both your Mama and her Mama under the same roof at the same time when the purpose is to help out around the house with the new baby. In my experience, you might as well invite the Hatfields and McCoys over for supper just to make it interesting.
Let me be clear. I cannot imagine two sweeter ladies than our mothers. There were multiple times that we all visited together and all got along just fine. They wrote each other. They sat and talked like old friends. But somewhere along the way on this visit the wheels came off the bus.
I was off at work. Foolishly, I was thinking what a great week this was going to be. My two favorite Moms here to take care of business. I wouldn’t have to change any diapers. I wouldn’t have to clean the kitchen. Beth could relax. They would feed us and treat us like royalty. My clean underwear would probably get folded.
I was so wrong. Beth met me at the door after the second day.
“You’ve got to do something. This isn’t going to work.”
Honestly, to this day I have no clue what went sideways. I don’t know if there were hard feelings over who got to hold the baby more. Was something said about what the other one was cooking for supper? Did one of them tell the other one, “You’re not doing that right.” Was there a Johnson’s Baby Powder fight in the nursery? Powder floor to ceiling with an empty container slung off in the corner?
What I remember clearly is my Mama coming to me in tears.
“I’m calling your Dad to come get me. I’m obviously in the way. I’m going home.”
I was shocked. Dumfounded. In total disbelief. My mother was acting like a child and my wife was right. I had to do something.
“Mama. You’re not going home. Don’t be ridiculous.”
I had never told my Mama anything like that before. So direct. Some hideous spirit invaded my mind and THAT came out of my mouth. If I had said something like that to her growing up, I would have found myself crumpled up on the floor. I stood there frozen. Half anticipating that I would get a whooping.
I don’t remember the details of how we got through that week. Mama, I’m sure, called Dad. And knowing Dad, there probably wasn’t much discussion about coming to get her. Plane tickets aren’t cheap. She was going to have to work it out. We all worked it out.
Here’s the funny thing about family. You love each other to death. But you have to know where the boundaries are. Never forget that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. This applies to vacations together. Road trips longer than 2 hours. Confined spaces without air conditioning. And visits that require suit cases.
In the animal kingdom, the parents raise their young for a few weeks and then kick them out on their own. Sometimes they act like they’re not even related. The fact that we keep our young around for 18 plus years has a way of blurring the boundaries. It’s easy to be too involved and to try and do too much.
Love covers a multitude of sins. Right? I don’t think we ever talked about “the visit” ever again with either set of parents. Somehow we all knew that everything was okay. No apologies were expected. None were given that I can recall. None were needed. We loved each other.
In the years that followed, their visits became more and more brief. We lived a lot closer for one thing. The visits were more frequent. Mama and Dad would come by the house and stay maybe 30 minutes. Mom and Pop, maybe several hours, tops. Holidays were the exception. But one thing for sure was evident. No parent ever brought a suitcase with them ever again. And no babies were injured in this episode.