Warning: Contains Profanity, Redemptive Message and Crayon Crumbs

This is what cussing looks like. Apparently.

This is what cussing looks like. Apparently.

It’s late afternoon and I am helping my daughter with her homework. It’s an exercise in following directions, an area in which neither of us excels.

So, I read the directions silently and then aloud. She has a piece of paper with the outline of a house drawn on it. She is to draw a clock and a picture inside the house and a drum and a shovel outside the house. Okay. I’m wondering what is inside that drum that needs burying.

As she reaches for a crayon, my mother-in-law yells, “Banos! Banos!”

“Now?” Because this never happens at a convenient time.

“Banos! Now! Idiota!” Idiota is the Spanish word of the day. It means exactly what you think it means. Charming, huh? Yesterday, it was “bruja.”

So, I tell my daughter to hold off on doing her homework. I will return shortly and we can continue then. Of course, I know she isn’t going to stop because, as I just said, she doesn’t follow instructions well.

I wheel my mother-in-law into the bathroom and get her situated on the toilet. She grabs my hand. “Don’t leave me!” As if I can leave? She has me with her Super-Granny-Grip. It’s a secret super power that lots of old ladies have.

I tell her I will hold her hand for just a little while, but I will need to check on the children in a few minutes.

We hear a crash—not like furniture being toppled, but something with many pieces spilling onto the floor. Then, we hear my son screaming. SCREAMING—like he is being chased by a knife-wielding maniac!

“Mom, I have got to go check on him,” I say.

“No! No! Idiota! ” And now she is making her angry face—her lips are pursed and she is frowning. She has pulled her eyebrows together so tightly they resemble the McDonald’s arch only they are charcoal gray, not bright yellow.

Okay, who would hear a crash and a child crying and think that the mother of that child should continue holding her hand instead of going to the child? And before you defend this behavior, you should know that no, my mother-in-law was not in danger of falling off the toilet AND that she was demanding and very self-absorbed BEFORE she fell. This is not a new behavior. Calling me “Idiota” is fairly new, but who knows? Maybe she has been calling me that in her head for years.

So, I run into the kitchen where I find all the crayons on the floor and both of my children picking them up. Upon seeing me, they both start talking over each other in a rush to tell their side of the crayon spilling story–as if I have asked who is at fault.

Since my son is no longer screaming, I take it  that he is not hurt and there is no knife-wielding maniac. I calmly tell them, “I don’t know what happened here, but I am proud of you both because I see you are both cleaning up the mess together. Thank you. I have to back to Grandma. Please behave.” And considering that I am being verbally abused as I wipe their grandmother’s ass, I’m amazed that I am this calm and that I’m doing this without the help of Prozac, wine, or any other mommy-mood-leveler. Hooray for me.

I return to the bathroom. My mother-in-law’s right where I left her.  She makes her angry face and shakes the back of her hand at me. “You! You! Idiota!”

She tells me she is ready to get up. I lift her, wipe her, discover that she is not ready to leave the toilet, and sit her back down. We repeat that exercise about 40 times over the next twenty minutes. Yeah, I know that everyone poops, but this is %&$#-ing time consuming. I still need to help my daughter with her homework and cook supper. My husband is working late and I don’t expect to see him before 10 pm. It’s my show all night long. Lucky me.

Finally, yes, finally, we are done in the bathroom and we return to the kitchen where I discover that my children have helped themselves to apple juice—and someone has spilled apple juice all over the table, the floor, the crayon crumbs on the floor and the homework. @#$%!

Yeah, now the teacher is going to wonder what in the hell goes on in our house that a Kindergartener can’t complete a worksheet without drenching it in juice. She’s going to lump my daughter in with all those kids who don’t get enough parental supervision—you know, the kid who hasn’t had a bath this week, the one who still hasn’t handed in the emergency contact form, the one who is always tardy, the one who can’t keep his eyes open after lunch. These #$&%-ing negligent parents! Oh, and if you are a teacher, please do not tell me that teachers never make these judgmental remarks about poor parenting! I worked at a school. I know teachers do this. Maybe YOU don’t, but you know at least one teacher who does.

And of course, I now have one more mess to clean before I can start supper. Yeah, people poop, people spill and it all just a part of life, but in these moments, it doesn’t feel like a part of life. It feels like it IS my life–my whole life! And I’m certain I am the only person on the planet who experiences this kind of crap daily. Waaaaaa.

So, supper, baths, and bedtime are all going to happen a little later tonight. “My teacher says I should be in bed by seven,” my daughter reminds me. Oh, Sweetheart, your mama is doing damn good just to have supper on the table at by seven.

Frequently, I feel that my mother-in-law’s care interferes with my ability to parent my children as I would like. The stress of being pulled in yet another direction puts me in a bad mood and I’m that grouchy, bitchy, yelling mom that I swore I would never be. I resent that the most—that the circumstances have rendered me less than my best—for my children, for my husband, for myself.

As all this is happening, I am thinking about a conversation I had with one of my mother-in-law’s friends just the night before. My mother-in-law has only two friends who periodically call to check on her. She had hundreds of friends before she fell. Where the @&$% are all these people now? If I dwell on that, I will become very resentful on my mother-in-law’s behalf.

Anyway, this friend was going on and on about what a wonderful person I am because she can’t imagine caring for two children and someone in my mother-in-law’s condition. She has a pretty good idea of what it is like because in addition having raised her own children, she cared for an elderly relative many years ago. “You are an angel, my dear. An angel!” Of course, if you are reading this, you have to know I am not an angel. Angels don’t use profanity—or feel resentful.

Then, she told me that my mother-in-law would never do for others what I am doing for her. “She was never generous like that.” No, my mother-in-law loved giving people things—like inexpensive party favors. She was very generous in that way, but no, I can’t imagine her brushing someone else’s teeth or wiping someone else’s butt.

Well, that’s a part of my resentment, isn’t it? I know that my mother-in-law would never treat another person as well as I have treated her. She doesn’t deserve…stop-sign


Yes, I stopped myself mid-thought. Doesn’t deserve? Do I really want to be the kind of person who is only good to people who are deserving of my compassion? And really, aren’t all human beings worthy of mercy and kindness? Wow. Right there is the center of my own personal beliefs. If God loves everyone—and He does—then everyone is worthy of kindness and mercy and grace regardless of how they behave. All people behave badly. All people make poor decisions. And ultimately, it’s never about what someone else does. It’s about how I choose to respond and I choose love—even if it is hard as @#$%-ing hell.

So, I forgave her. And I forgave myself. I needed forgiveness because I was allowing anger, not love, to reign.

And that was just the first in a series of revelations. Grant you, none of my revelations are either earth-shattering or anything I haven’t considered in the past:

As for not being the best mother, I’m a good enough mother, and my children will be fine even if they don’t get my best all of the time. Most people turn out okay despite their parents, not because of their parents.

And am I really worried about what my daughter’s teacher will think if she turns in homework that has so obviously been bathed in apple juice? Ha!

First of all, we are lucky that it was juice, not beer that spilled all over the paper, crayons, table, and floor. Why is that lucky? Because I hate to see beer go to waste. Secondly, no, I don’t think my daughter’s teacher is the type of person to engage in the gossipy, judgey chatter of the faculty lounge because she doesn’t seem bitter or unhappy. Have you ever noticed that? The gossipy, judgmental people are almost always disgruntled.

So, there you go–a snapshot of my day or really just a few minutes of it. Try not to be envious.


7 thoughts on “Warning: Contains Profanity, Redemptive Message and Crayon Crumbs

  1. alygeorges

    You’re a great mom. The circumstances feel difficult, but you are a great mom. Once my grandmother came to visit; she was ill so she needed more than the usual attention, she was always grumpy…I could see her in your mother-in-law, so I have an idea of how torturous it could be taking care of an elderly person. The only reason you’re not giving your kids your undivided attention is because you have your mother-in-law to take care of. 🙂

  2. Noelle

    No HW for kindergarten here… you know it’s fine is she draws the drum inside and the clock outside, right? My 8 yr old gets very easily discouraged when he does “poorly” on an assignment. I have to constantly remind him that this is what learning is…Sometimes you have to make mistakes to learn from them. Sometimes you just need more practice to get it right. Maybe this can apply to other scenarios besides elementary school homework.

    I’m so glad you are blogging. I’m so glad your MIL has you and your children and husband have you. I’m so glad that you know God and the saving power of his grace through Jesus Christ. Without Him, it would be even harder to make it through each day! Keep at it my friend. You will reap a great reward for your efforts – after all, one day it will be your children (and/or their spouses) taking care of you and your husband in your old age and they will remember what a wonderful job you did with their grandmother, and treat you with the loving kindness that you *do* deserve.

    1. peanutbutteronrye Post author

      Thank you, Noelle. It’s great to hear from you. Oh, how I hope my children never, ever have to take care of me, but in the end, I think most people will get some version of this story. And yes, if it were not for Faith and an on-going conversation with the Living God, I could NOT do this. Amen.

  3. Gabi Harris

    Susan, you and I are casual friends if that. So forgive me if I overstep the bounds of casual friendship. BUT–you have every right to be angry and you should not forgive your MIL for her abuse–being called an idiota and a bruja is unforgivable. You should not internalize all this repressed rage, it will kill you from the inside. As an outsider reading your blog, I sense the despair, the love for your family, the disappointment and I worry about you. Yes, I said it. I worry about you. How does your husband react to this? You never mention his reaction to all this. Are you hiding it from him to make his life easier? She is, after all, his mother. Does she have Medicaid, Medicare, any ability to tap into social services? I cannot compare my situation with yours, but I have seen my parents and my stepfather through a lot of illness before they died. But never, even to the very end, has any of them been abusive. Difficult? Yes. Demanding? Somewhat. But never abusive. I know that in your husband’s culture (as in my Eastern European one) we take full responsibility for our elders. But this is not Ecuador or Romania. You probably think that just by posting on your blog you vent your anger and it’s as if nothing happened; start the next day from zero anger, ready for more abuse and ass wiping. But all this is cumulative. It adds up in the most subtle ways. Please feel free to get mad at me, I am used to it. My mother-in-law does it all the time, she is a nasty, crazy old bitch and even her sons don’t care. But I dutifully drive hundreds of miles to help out the brother who DOES care, because it’s the right thing to do. But I can walk away at any time, a luxury you don’t have. Anyway, I’ve said more than I planned to and I am not taking anything back. Sorry if I offended you, it came from the best intentions.

    1. peanutbutteronrye Post author

      Not offended! Thank you for reading my blog, Gabi.

      One of the things I have learned from my support group, and from my many, many, MANY conversations with folks from the Department of Aging and Disabilities is that someone in my mother-in-law’s position feels angry and frustrated when she is at her most lucid and the name-calling is more about the situation than the people. he was pissed at how dependent she is on me–not at me personally. You can’t take it personally. That’s harder for family than it is for a hired care-giver, but it’s also an opportunity for growth.

      I use this blog to practice writing techniques as much as I use it to convey what life is like in the middle of this sandwich generation thing. For me, yes, this episode was over–in every sense of the word–and I revisited it in present tense to give it that real-time, panicky quality so that the reader will feel my frustration in that moment. Based on some of the comments I’ve received, I’m pretty good at this. I really do come to a very serene place once an event’s over. A year ago? Ha! I was holding onto a lot of resentment. It kind of lingered over me for days on end. It wasn’t a depression as much as it was just raw anger, but even then, it was more about circumstances than

      As for my husband, he is probably the only person who can fully appreciate what it is like to deal with all the highs and lows that come with caring for his mother. She’s as unpleasant to him as she is to me, and when he is home, he takes care of her and I just step out of the way. He does things differently than I do, but we are very much in this together and we agree on the big things.

      As for getting her in a home and getting social security or Medicare to pay for it, it’s complicated and I won’t write about it in a public forum. I get that question a lot.

      And we will just have to agree to disagree on this one: Everyone deserves forgiveness.


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