In Defense of Inlaws (No, that's not a typo)

Where Nate's family stayed. But wait...what's that name again?

Heh. Heh heh heh.

Inlaws get a bad rap. A mere mention of spending my vacation with them—okay, twenty (20) of them—garnered quite the assortment of “poor baby” comments on this very blog.

Well don't be projecting your own inlaw baggage on me! (Said while raising right hand and snapping fingers from side to side like the lame white woman that I am.) While there was indeed a modicum of family politics involving new wives versus ex-wives and some really nasty leftovers that we were "supposed" to eat instead of the freshly grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, overall I would deem the week a huge success. The only person who might disagree is the guy I called Jason all week, when in actuality there was no such person with that name.

When I first met Nate's family in Utah four years ago, he told me they were anxious; they thought they were meeting Carrie Bradshaw. I'm guessing he oversold me just a bit, and so they were expecting some sophisticated, big-city, overeducated glamour girl as opposed to the goofball who chews with her mouth open and does a victory dance around the kitchen table when she rolls a Yahtzee.

He may have undersold them just a bit to me as well: Army brats? Check. Low-paying waitressing careers? Check. Teen pregnancy? Check. It starts to form a certain picture in one's head. Particularly one (me) who was never exposed to people all too different from one's (my) own relatively privileged background.

And yet, they're each bright, conscientious, funny and gracious. I've never felt uncomfortable around Nate's mother and three sisters, even for a minute.

My relationship with Nate's family has evolved in perhaps a different way than most. I think in most cases it all starts with a wedding--one big weekend to cement the joining together of two clans. Instafamily! Just add a big poofy white dress and stir. Having yet to participate in such a ceremony, I've had to rely on a more organic pace at which to get to know my partner's family. We've tried to make the time, if only once a year, to get to know one another. To circle each other, do the proverbial sniffing of the butts and say, yeah, I think this just might turn out to be a good thing we've got going here. As it turns out, we do.

(Well at least I think so. For all I know they’re all lying around on the couch right now discussing that bitch who ate the last King Kone out of the freezer.)

This week however I fell more deeply in love with them as I watched the way they cared for one another's children. There was always an uncle, a cousin, a grandma to wipe popsicle stains off cheeks or rub suntan lotion onto pale little arms. Uncle Chris could administer bubble baths. Grandma could feed them dinner. Aunt Jessie could sing the kids to sleep. There wasn’t a moment’s of hesitation to tell Nate and me, “leave the baby. You two go to the beach.” Or "here, pass her to me. You finish your breakfast." Nate’s siblings each took care of my daughter as if she were their own and not just because she's the cutest, happiest, most delightful baby on the history of this planet or any other. A bystander might not have even known whether Gwen belonged to Lexi or to Emily, or whose son Brodie was. It didn't matter. It only mattered that the children knew that they were safe and loved in any arms that reached for them.

I don't yet have enough distance from the week to be able to fully articulate just how magical the experience were. But I can say with confidence that it was the best of what family can and should be.

Now none of this is any different from how my own family behaves with my daughter. (So hold your horses there, Aunt Fredda! You took excellent care of Thalia back in LA and I'll fight to the death anyone who says differently.) But for some reason, I just didn't expect quite so much devotion from a family not my own. For the first time, I felt less like "Nate's girlfriend" and more like a fourth sister.

This is indeed my family, too.

On a separate note: I've received a gently scolding email from a lovely friend in the Carolinas regarding my previous posts. I can only assure you I'm an equal opportunity offender. I'll just as soon make fun of the synthetic boobage of LA, the frightening driving habits of my New Jersey neighbors, and the lovely smell of urine boiling on the subway platforms in my own beloved hometown during the summer months. Please take no offense, North Carolinans. I got no beef with your lovely state per se, since...


Did someone say beef?

Behold, the smallest burger $2.79 can buy.
Courtesy Granny's Real Country Cooking, Kure Beach, North Carolina.


Blogger Karen said...

Lovely. I have no real in-laws, and so wish that I could identify.

AND, for the record, I have had a pressing need to tell you (I'm not sure why...) that I actually love margarine.

6/9/06, 12:34 AM  
Blogger Cristina said...

I am so happy for you that you love Nate's family.

I wish I could say the same for my in-laws. If there was one thing I wish for it's that I got along better with my in-laws. But I don't think that will ever happen.

6/9/06, 2:07 AM  
Blogger carrie said...

What a beautiful post.

You are VERY lucky.

"Seymour Johnson" hee hee.

6/9/06, 3:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there beef hiding under that cheese?

6/9/06, 7:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So who the heck is Jason? Man. I HATE cliffhangers.

6/9/06, 7:11 AM  
Blogger PetiteMommy said...

Your in-laws sound just like my in-laws and I am so thankful for them. We all went to a beach in SC together a few weeks ago and we had a wonderful trip. I couldn't ask for a better MIL. I'm glad you are just as lucky.

6/9/06, 7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are truly blessed. In-Laws get a bad rap. I am so glad that you all had such a great bonding week.

And I loved the "butt sniffing" bit~

6/9/06, 8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a lovely family that you have there.

Are you back home now? Today's our last full day at the beach -- time to start shaking the sand out of everything and pack the car.

6/9/06, 8:47 AM  
Blogger DaniGirl said...

I have to admit, I am seriously covetous of your in-laws and the whole extended family thing. That sounds like such fun, and such a great clan for Thalia to grow up in.

6/9/06, 8:52 AM  
Blogger Arwen said...

My in-laws (who own a condo at Carolina Beach) are psychos. My MIL is certifiable. She wore white to my wedding. I can tell stories that will make you laugh and cry at the same time. I am so happy you have a great relationship with your in laws. I was worried when you said you were going to that area with your in-laws because I project... a lot... but kept my silence and I am glad I did. Good family vacations are the best.

6/9/06, 9:09 AM  
Blogger macboudica said...

I couldn't have asked for better in-laws than I have either. I am glad yours are good people.

6/9/06, 9:09 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

If I ever divorce Terrance, I keep his parents. It's already been decided - by his mother and I.

Coming froma family which does not do well in the same state ( mine), it is marv to watch his family LIKE each other. And stunning.

Is that a sweet burger?

6/9/06, 9:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG! Did you even taste anything besides the bun ? LOL

6/9/06, 9:21 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...


I'm glad you had a good time. I feel like that with my in laws too. It's a nice feeling. =)

6/9/06, 9:29 AM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

I am extremely jealous of your relationship with your in-laws. Consider yourself one of the luckiest women on the earth.

Seymour Johnson. snicker

6/9/06, 9:32 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Your relationship with your in-laws is wonderful. Yeay YOU!

Your daughter is so very lucky to be surrounded by such warmth and love from both sides of the family.

6/9/06, 9:57 AM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

My inlaws are so wonderful it frightens me ... I also think it frightens my mother, who is afraid they're going to steal me away from her.

It's nice to love the people you get by default. Bravo.

6/9/06, 10:08 AM  
Blogger gingajoy said...

you lucky. it sounds like you had a great time, and i totally agree--attitudes can be really transformed when you watch someone else love your kids.

i love this post--definitely something to develop (like you have the time). there are stories to be told here, and more characters we want to know about:)

6/9/06, 10:12 AM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

Seymour Johnsons....okay, THAT'S funny. The doc who performed my husband's vasectomy??? Dr. Johnson. I thought it was appropriate.

6/9/06, 10:32 AM  
Blogger Miguelita said...

My inlaws are all nuts, but great blog-fodder.

But my own family is very much like your in-laws when we are together, where all babies become community property, all laps are open, and the adults take a "love all- serve all - protect all" approach to all 10 children. Its a wonderful thing.

6/9/06, 10:34 AM  
Blogger Sandra said...

Here here. I loved this post. I too find myself having to explain why I love my inlaws. They too are polar opposite from the family I grew up with but they are wonderful, funny, open and loving. I spend 1 week with them a year and feel lucky. Plus they live in Mexico so what's not to love about that :)

6/9/06, 10:49 AM  
Blogger Kristi said...

Seyless Johnson (beef).

6/9/06, 10:56 AM  
Blogger Binky said...

I'm familiar with the phenomenon Toyfoto alluded to (if I interpreted her comment correctly)--a little jealousy on the part of my mother toward my mother-in-law. It's a real pain in the ass now that there's a baby in the picture and my mother feels irrationally slighted every time the baby goes to visit her other set of grandparents. I guess you alluded to the same thing in assuaging Aunt Fredda :) It's hard to merge two distinct families, even when both sides are perfectly wonderful.

6/9/06, 11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of my military service time and exposure and I never realized the hilarity of "Seymour Johnson AFB". For shame.

What a great family. You are truly fortunate.

6/9/06, 11:54 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ummm, yea, I have been to Seymour Johnson. Actually I think I commented on your NC post with a note about that FABULOUS (read sarcasm!) base.

Glad you are bonding well with the in-laws!

6/9/06, 12:04 PM  
Blogger the mystic said...

You are very blessed! And the "Sweet & Low" next to the (lack of) burger is hilarious.

6/9/06, 12:08 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

Seymour Johnson! Bwwaaahhhhahahahahah! Wow. That alone just made my day. I have to laugh again. Hahahahahahaha!

You're one lucky woman. While my in-laws are a tight knit family and good to each other for the most part, sometimes I tire of their bickering and pettiness. They're good people, but they're human, too. And I have my flaws, ahem ~ insecurity ~ cough, so I try not to be bothered too much by theirs. We all have'em. But sometimes, they can be snarky, which doesn't go well with my insecurity, and I feel like a wild animal backed into a corner. Luckily the hubs is good at talking me down. But they are good people, and I wouldn't trade 'em.

6/9/06, 12:11 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Are there perfect photos awards to be given out in the blogosphere? 'Cuz if so, I'd like to nominate these. I did not think that anything, let alone twitter-inducing signage and burgers, could make me laugh today, in my state of utter whippedness.

But these did it. Thank you.

6/9/06, 12:18 PM  
Blogger Jaelithe said...

OMG that is the smallest burger I have ever seen that didn't cost 60 cents or less at White Castle.

(I know you don't know what White Castle is, people. It's probably better that way).

6/9/06, 12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad for all of you. I have a decent relationship with my MIL and her husband, but pretty bad with my FIL. It is the "worst" relationship in my life and I'm a bit ashamed of my part in it. My SIL is a hoot.

Good for you for enjoying everyone!

6/9/06, 2:08 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Is there a burger in there?

I think you are one lucky woman with such great in-laws. In my situation, they may help out, but later imply it's because I'm a bad mother. Yes, it happened in Italy on an in-law related trip. So, I say, count your lucky stars and kiss Nate!

6/9/06, 2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My in laws and I got along very well until my husband and I moved in with them...then it got too close for comfort. I am glad you got along so well with yours. I think that having a good relationship with your in laws is really important especially when you have kids.

6/9/06, 2:23 PM  
Blogger MamaChristy said...

never once have I thought of it as "butt-sniffing" but I friggin'' love it!

6/9/06, 2:28 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

My in-laws are my family too. I think it's great that they treated you so well. And it's awesome to think how wonderful it will be for Thalia to visit them growing up.

But please, leave my hometown alone. Oh wait, I make fun of LA too. Ok, carry on. ;)

6/9/06, 3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so happy that the week was a success. Families are amazing, aren't they? It's hard for me "to go home" but there is one big truth when at a family gathering. Everyone there loves you. Where, and when else, can you say that?

6/9/06, 4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I thought great in-laws were on the endangered species list (I still think they are).

And when I meet you, I'm still thinking your Carrie Bradshaw. Not sure what that makes me, but I'm sticking to it.

6/9/06, 4:28 PM  
Blogger Shalee said...

I find that it is amazing to have an extended family that you really enjoy. What a pain it would have been to marry Mr. Right, only to find out that he was the only redeeming member in the bunch!

I love my in-awes (calling them as such because I am in awe of their acceptance and love and they are in awe of me... constantly. They amazed that Mr. Right picked someone who is so outspoken, outgoing and out there! I so got the better end of the deal.)

6/9/06, 4:52 PM  
Blogger Stacy said...

So, I take it your in-laws read your blog? Kiss ass!

OK, OK, just kidding. If only we all could be so lucky...

6/9/06, 5:51 PM  
Blogger Debbie said...

mmmm. beef. *drooool*

(sorry - I can never resist an opportunity to Homer-size it.)

your new family sounds beautiful. how divine to have someone that you trust insist that you and your mate get some much-needed down/alone time.

and your daughter? is one lucky babe.

6/9/06, 6:49 PM  
Blogger Debbie said...

also, I see you as more of a Miranda than a Carrie B. (for the record, Miranda was my favorite. Carrie was too fluff. Miranda was the real deal; real problems, real complexities; real, real beautiful.)

god, I miss that show.

6/9/06, 6:50 PM  
Blogger OhTheJoys said...

LOL - Seymour Johnson! Yay! (Well, depends on Seymour's age, etc...)

6/9/06, 9:13 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

Please forgive me for this...


... I miss Clara Peller.

6/9/06, 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It wasn't until well after I had my daughter that I started to feel like Dave's family was my family. As Julia got older and I watched her relationship with each of my husband's family members grow, I really began to see his family in a whole new light. It was really cool, to watch Julia form relationships with them and to have my relationship with them change, for the better.

On a completely related note, I'm sure that burger came with a doggy bag, right?

6/9/06, 11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HAHAHA You had me at ...
(Said while raising right hand and snapping fingers from side to side like the lame white woman that I am.)

hehe anyway How very cool that the family was like that!!!

6/10/06, 2:25 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

That totally rocks.

I spent a week with my inlaws and they didn't bother to pick up my cute, adorable, baby one time. NOT ONCE.

Of course, I can't blog about that because while my mother-in-law has no use for actually touching the children, she does read my blog. Religiously.

6/10/06, 8:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So good to hear about the good in-laws. I'm sure there are bad ones out there, but I like mine, so I can totally relate to your post.

Thalia is one lucky girl!

6/11/06, 2:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I Know this comment is totally late in coming, but I just wanted to say that my in-laws SUCK. It's fine for me because i can stay away but the worst is having my children be connected to them in any way. They have an aunt that we stayed with for one week and didnt even bother to leave her room to even "see" her niece and nephew nevermind bothering to even play with them. Their grandfather is a baffoon, and uncle that barely even exists to them. The only in laws in the family that are decent are the ones who have little ones themselves. The rest have no idea what to do with them, are totally self absorbed and selfish. Yes I am bitter.

Thalia and Sage are so lucky.

11/19/07, 2:59 AM  

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