Note To My Mother-In-Law Outlining Protocall for Babysitting My Son for the First Time.
Dear Mom (do not, under any circumstances, tell my mother I addressed you that way),
We’re nervous. I have to be honest with you. My wife (your daughter) asked, “Honey, should we leave a note for her?” and to be the strong one, I told her to trust you. That, Jesus Christ, you are the boy’s grandmother, and so on. The truth, though, is that we’re unsure, which is why you are finding this note wrapped around the liverwurst I know you love so much. My wife knows nothing about this.
I hope you know that it would be best not to tell her about this note. You wouldn’t be protecting me, mind you, but the fragile confidence your daughter has developed thanks to my assurances and tender words regarding your competence as a grandmotherly person. Consider this our little secret.
About the boy: He’s still a little reluctant around strangers, and especially strange women. I know, I know, you’re not really a stranger. But the truth is that he hardly knows you, what with you living more than 250 miles from us and him beginning to enter that ants-in-the-pants stage whenever we take road trips. (You’re not still thinking about moving down here, are you?)
Oh, by the way, whatever you do, don’t flush the toilet.
As parents of the twenty-first century, we’re attempting to raise our son in a way far superior to the methods our parents employed. So it’s important you don’t raise your voice above a level we like to call “concerned.” To help you understand the distinguishing characteristics of our interpretations, I’ve converted the levels of reprimand to a context you will be most familiar with:
1. Hysterical: This approximates the incomprehensible screaming and hurtful words you levied upon my wife (your daughter) when, at the age of three, she attempted to console you during one of your bouts of depression after my father-in-law (your ex-husband) walked out on the two of you. If I’m remembering my wife’s tear-laden words correctly, you yelled, “Get the hell away from me,” and you slapped her. Under no circumstances may hysterical be employed around our son.
2. Irrational: You can think of this one as featuring a pointless rant and futile reasoning. Example: Last time we were up to see you, my wife walked from our bedroom (your guest room, the one with the major draft in the window that I hope by now you’ve sealed up because I honestly could not stand to spend another night in that frigid box) to the bathroom in nothing but her T-shirt and underwear. You told her she was not to walk around the house that way. Remember? She said, “Why? I’m just going in the use the bathroom,” and you said, “I don’t have to tell you why. It’s my house and you’ll do what I say.” May I remind you that my wife celebrated her twenty-eighth birthday earlier this year? Irrational can’t happen because we are making it a practice of always explaining our reasoning to our son. Sure, he’s only two, but the kid’s a genius. He understands everything we say.
3. Overreactive: You know this one well. Perhaps too well. Overractive recalls the moments from my wife’s (your daughter’s) youth when, while trying to satisfy her youthful curiosity about unknown objects around the home, she constantly heard you yell, “What are you doing?” You screamed the words at her like she was eating road kill off your kitchen floor. This concerns me. Our son (your grandson) enjoys roaming about the house discovering new things. Sometimes, he will put these new things in his mouth. Allow this to happen. We’ve childproofed our home, so there’s no need to overreact when our son roams a bit.
4. Concerned: This is the only disciplinary tone that is acceptable in our home. (Please remember, mom, that this is our home.) If you’re in a pinch and can only seem to summon one of the aforementioned disciplinary tones, just recall some of our conversations. I was excited about my idea of my wife (your daughter) spreading her fondness of baking to the rest of our little urban community. I wanted to sell her pecan tassies, raspberry torts, and peach scones out of the house. It might be difficult to recall that conversation since you call here just about every single fucking day. (Oh goodness, did I just write that?) Perhaps you’ll recall this golden response: “I see myself having concerns.” Then you went on to say, “I’m only thinking about what’s best for my daughter and grandson.” Your concern is heartfelt, obviously, even if it doesn’t include a concern for my well-being. (Remember that time I told you that I never, ever forget?)
One other thing: our son (your grandson) has developed a bit of lactose intolerance. The doctor says it’s normal and temporary, but that we should monitor it closely. Please avoid slicing bits of mozzarella for the boy while you’re cutting it up for yourself. Also, no milk. And (big favor here) when you change his diaper, if you would scoop some of his cute little poopies onto your fingers and feel the consistency, wash your hands thoroughly, then record your findings on the attached spreadsheet, it would be most appreciated. Throw away the little miniature golf scorecard pencil when you’ve finished. I left 100 of them in a box for you next to the toaster.
Our son’s bedtime is 8 PM. You should go to bed soon after that. Try to keep in mind how you get when you stay up all night playing solitaire on our computer.
Holy God, I sure hope you don’t flush the toilet.
Thanks for your help.
With much affection,
Your loving son-in-law (your daughter’s husband)
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