A Christmas Quandary

So I check my emails this afternoon, and to my surprise saw one from my wonderful ex-mother-in-law.

I wrote at length about her before...and shared her kick ass lentil recipe, here.

I love her. Always have, always will. When I see an email from her, my heart jumps a bit. Sad, right? But it's good to hear from her now and then.

Anyways. She was writing to me to ask about Christmas. This year, the kids are with me on Christmas Eve, with Big Daddy on Christmas Day. Last year was my first Christmas Eve without my kids, EVER. It was tough. But I survived.

This year, I was planning on making one of our old school Christmas Eve dinners, just for the five of us (Party of Five, anyone? Dear God how I loved that show). No biggie, just some ham and some pierogies and good cheer. The usual stuff. The important part about Christmas Eve, really, is Christmas morning. Going to bed, knowing that in the wee hours of the morning we'll all stumble out to see what Santa has left under the tree. Those comfortable, relaxed a.m. hours when we're all in our pajamas, being a family. Christmas morning.

My mother in law wrote a lovely email. Telling me that although she and former father in law don't see the kids as much as they'd like, they love seeing how my babies are growing up. She described the light in their eyes, their maturity, their intelligence....words that make a mommy's heart darn near burst with pride.

And then the point of the email: She and FFIL (former father in-law) are hosting a brunch/lunch thing on Christmas Eve. From 11:00 a.m. until about 3:00 p.m. They'd love for the kids to attend. Without me, of course. She said that FFIL could come retrieve them and then drop them off.

I felt a pang. The origins of that pang? I dunno. Part of it was sadness, to be sure. I remember so many holidays spent at my in-laws. I remember being pregnant with my first baby and sitting on their living room couch, talking about hospitals and deliveries and baby toys. I remember lugging infant car-seats through their front door, whichever new baby I had all bundled up, ready to be cuddled and held and photographed by the eagerly awaiting in-laws. I remember later holidays, when things had started going downhill between Big Daddy and I. My mother-in-law and I would sit in the kitchen, drinking wine and trying to figure out exactly what was wrong with my husband.

I miss those holidays. I miss my in-laws.

The pang also felt quite a bit like anger. Anger over the cowardice of my former husband. Making her write the email? Grow a set, you baby. Ask me yourself. I thought of him telling her that it was "Jenny's day" and how it would be better if she asked me. Not the first time he's done it, and certainly not the last. But still, so typically juvenile and weak.

And jealousy. There was some jealousy in that pang. I thought of Secretary in my place, gabbing with my sister-in-laws, helping my mother-in-law dish up the brunch and clean up afterwards. I wondered if my mother in-law would agree with the general consensus that Secretary is essentially ME, minus 10 or so years and about 45 I.Q. points. Based on a few of our conversations, I'd say she agrees. But still, it's not my ass sitting on their lovely chairs, supping with them and laughing and feeling the love of extended family. It's the flat ass of a classless, J.C. Penney* clad homewrecker, reaping the benefits of my many years of daughter-in-law-ness. I feel like a pitcher who threw a near-perfect game being pulled out at the last minute so a newbie from the farm team can have a chance. I am Bull Durham, dammit.

I read the email, felt the pangs and then went to church. We watched "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown" and while my group of girls tittered and squirmed next to me I thought about it.

The rational part of me knows that the right thing to do in this situation is to reply: "Of course." 11 to 3? That actually makes my day kind of easy. Farm the angels off with them, get stuff ready for our Christmas Eve. The kids get some awesome food and get to spend time with people who love them. It's really win-win.


The bitchy, irrational part of me wanted to take a different path. Bitchy Jenny wants to sit down and type this:

Dear Former Mother in Law,

Good to hear from you! So happy that you and FFIL can see how beautifully my children are growing up. I am so proud of them. I think it's especially wonderful to see how well they're turning out, when you consider the fact that Big Daddy provides little emotional support and absolutely zero financial support.

I would love for the kids to spend some time with you on Christmas Eve. Nothing would make me happier. Nothing, except maybe some child support from Big Daddy. I've tried asking him in every way possible to cooperate. I've suggested payment plans, told him that I'd accept random here-and-there-payments. He refuses to cooperate.

I would love to be flexible, my lovely Former Mother In Law. I think my flexibility would improve, and improve quite a bit, if perhaps you could get FFIL to have a man-to-man with Big Daddy and tell him how important it is to be responsible. How important it is to provide support for the children you've made, even if you no longer lay next to their mother every night.

I know that Big Daddy has been working for FFIL for the past couple of years. I think that's wonderful. Big Daddy always spoke of someday working with FFIL.

It would be really unfortunate if Big Daddy's choices in life led to FFIL's business being put under a microscope by a forensic accountant. And let's not even get into how awkward it will be when Big Daddy's wages are garnished.

Do you see where I'm going with this? I hope so.

I love you, Former Mother in Law. You were once a single mom, yourself. I remember you telling me about your ex-husband and how awful he was. Never in a million years did I think I'd be in the same boat, but here I am. Toss me a life preserver, huh? Please?

I wish you the merriest of Christmases and a healthy, happy New Year.

Much love

Your former Daughter in Law

If you know me, you know which one I'll send.

I only want what is best for my kids. And at the end of the day, I know it's best for them to be with their grandparents, with their aunts and uncles and cousins. I wouldn't rob them of that.

But it would feel so damn good to send the bitchy one.

* I ♥ J.C. Penney, only referred to it here because a friend who happened to look evil in the eye (met Secretary) said she appeared to have shopped from a clearance rack of bad suits at Penney's. It stuck, sorry.


  1. I would probably send the nice one and then "accidentally" send the bitchy one too. lol

  2. I love you too Jenny. :)

  3. Hey Jenny, I am going to miss you tonight at the orchestra concert!

    Why don't you modify your nasty letter and say yes, in spite of the situation (list facts here) you are going to say yes because it is the "right" thing to do for the kids. It is win win for you - you asserted yourself and you acted like an adult. Use the time to get ready for the evening and have a Very Merry Christmas with your children.

    Hope to bump into soon!

  4. I don't think that's "bitchy Jenny" I think that's "honest Jenny". I would send it in two seconds. Why are we so inundated with messages that as women being honest is being "bitchy"? You aren't name calling. You aren't telling lies. It's very factual and to the point. Maybe if his parents did actually call him out on his BS it would shame him enough to pay up. God I can't wait until his wages are garnished. Jenny keep with it. My uncle never paid child support and my aunt went after him YEARS later and he finally got nailed. The state of MN will help you eventually. You can NOT give up. That's what he's waiting for you to do.

  5. OMG... can i send the bitchy one to my inlaws?!?!?!

    i would love to bitch over a bottle of wine with you!!

  6. Thanks friends. I may modify it a bit and just send it. I don't know how much, if any, of Big Daddy's nefarious deeds they are aware of. Might be good for them to know, eh?

    First anonymous, I'm sad we're not at the concert together! I always enjoyed our little commentaries. HAVE FUN.

    And Maggie? ANYTIME. For reals. I'd love it!

  7. I think you should send it. I would like to send something like it to my soon-to-be-ex-MIL. She and I have never been on the best of terms, so I am a little envious that you are still on ok terms w/ you FMIL.

  8. Wanna go with me to my women's support group? It meets on Fri a.m.s by Loring Park. I can only go when I'm not working and I'm not working that day. Or, do you want a visitor that day while you are working around the house?

    Hope you are good with me trying to interject myself into your world.

  9. I like poster #4. Thinking he/she's got a law degree.

  10. Gail I'd love some company that day. And girlfriend, I'll just be me and the kids, so "working" will be minimal. Keep interjecting yourself my friend!

    (((Shannon))) I miss her more than Big Daddy. She's awesome and always made me feel great. Your next MIL will be a keeper.

    Whitney, SHE will smile about that observation.

  11. Oh I understand your pain. I have just had Christmas with my lovely in laws, my ex and our 3 children, and it's heart breaking to think that this time next year I could very well be replaced with the woman he left me for (assuming she will leave her husband and uproot her 2 young kids).


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