Believe it or not, DD's first birthday proved to be more of an issue with EFIL and L than with NMIL. NMIL had some tricks up her sleeve as well, but in the scheme of things, I took up more of an issue with the behaviors of DH's father and step-mother than anyone else.
But We Go Every Year:
Three months before DD's birthday in November, while we were visiting with EFIL and L, I made a point of telling them when her birthday party would be. Three entire months in advance. Three. I stood there and watched L write "DD's birthday party" on that otherwise blank date on her calendar. You see, any time we have made plans with them, it has always had to be months in advance. There is no such thing as having people just "stop over" because their jam-packed schedules don't allow for it. They are the kind of people who are perpetually late, because they don't allow for unforeseen events that may throw off their plans. For instance, during one particular visit, L had offered to help me cook for dinner. She said she'd show up at 5:30 and prepare the meal with me. She didn't show up until 7:00. I made dinner anyway, which I had planned on doing, because I was expecting her to be late. She came, packed with excuses about why she was late. Apparently, her washing machine exploded and she was trying to clean up the mess before she came over. The problem, for me, isn't that her washing machine exploded. The problem is that they are always late, they always have excuses (and only some of them are valid), and they don't allow that their plans might be disrupted and they might need EXTRA time to deal with the disruptions.
It was always the same story when we went to their house for dinner as well, which is not at all conducive to the schedule of a napping infant. There was only one occasion where they hosted dinner earlier, for our sake, and they complained about how difficult it was to get dinner on the table so early, as though we were just such a big inconvenience to them.
Thus, my reasoning for telling them three months in advance about DD's birthday party. I was making sure that they would absolutely be able to come, save for some major catastrophe, of course. Then, I sent out the invitations, by snail mail, four weeks in advance, to give all of our guests enough time to RSVP. So, imagine how silly I felt when it turned out my assumption that they would WANT to come to their first grandchild's first birthday party turned out to be wrong. Imagine my surprise when EFIL called DH a couple of days after I sent out the invitation and said, "Yeah, so we made plans that day, DH."
DH asked, "What plans? It's DD's first birthday party."
EFIL said, "Well, you see, we're going to a concert. We already bought the tickets."
DH replied, "Dad, that's the date of DD's birthday party. I mean, when did you buy the tickets? These invitations went out a whole month in advance."
To that, EFIL said, "I bought them a while ago. Why aren't you having her party on her actual birthday?"
DH said, "Because we're not, Dad." He got a little flustered and tried to explain the reasons why we decided on that date for her birthday party. And of course, they were all very valid reasons, but it is my feeling that EFIL wasn't asking because he genuinely cared about those reasons. He was just being selfish, as was very evident in what he said next.
"Well, can't you change the date of the party?" He asked.
"No, Dad!" DH said, exasperated.
"But her party is on a Saturday. We bought extra tickets! Why don't you just go to the show with us and have the party the next day, on Sunday? We thought you might want to come to the show with us. We do it every year, DH. We don't want to miss it."
DH said, "Dad, you're not going to make me feel guilty about this. I don't feel guilty."
EFIL said, "I guess I'll have to call you back later."
Shortly thereafter, L called me. She said, "Hi Jonsi! Good, you're just the person I wanted to talk to. So, funny story, EFIL bought tickets to go see a concert because he didn't know that DD's birthday party was coming up."
She tried to continue. I attempted to cut her off (unfortunately, there is no other way to get a word in with this woman, than to do that). I said, "L, here's the thing. I watched you write it down in your schedule book several months ago. I made a point of telling you months in advance when her party was going to be, to avoid this exact scenario."
She said, "But EFIL didn't know. And we even bought extra tickets because we figured you would want to go. We do this every year."
I replied, "Why would we want to go to a concert on the day of our daughter's first birthday party?"
She said, "What if you change the date of the party? Can't you change the date? We would do that for you!"
At this point in the conversation, I knew she was trying to manipulate me and my thoughts were getting fuzzy. I was thinking the following thoughts, all at once: What the hell kind of a selfish woman is this? There is no excuse good enough for missing her granddaughter's first birthday. Change the date. Fuck that! Change the date. How selfish. Yeah sure, I'll change the date and expect the rest of our guests to clear a different day on their schedules and then tell them it's your fault. Change the date. All for some people who don't think DD's birthday is important enough to remember in the first place. Yeah, I'll show you change the date. Oh and you would do it for us, would you? You, who have never made it easy for us to visit, or changed your plans for us?
I chose not to say those things because I sensed it would go nowhere and just veered the conversation back on course. I said, "I think it is unfortunate, L, that you would rather go to some concert than attend your first grandchild's first birthday party. It's sad to me that you think a concert is more important than DD. Concerts are a dime-a-dozen. First birthday parties are not. You said you go to this concert every year. How many first birthdays will she have?"
I could practically hear her puffing up like an angry bird, "The concert isn't more important!"
"Clearly," I said, "It is. Otherwise, you wouldn't be going. I know that DH is hurt because I heard him express his disappointment to EFIL. It's really too bad you are making that choice."
You know what though? At that point, I already decided that if I had to convince her to come, I didn't want them there anyway. I didn't want to try and force her to come to an event she didn't want to be at.
L finished the conversation on a rather ridiculous note. She said, "I didn't make that choice!" She was not implying, Dear Reader, that she hadn't yet made a decision, but that the decision they had made to go to some concert instead of DD's birthday party was out of their hands.
EFIL called back a week or so later, saying that they had changed their minds and decided to come to DD's party. He did not, however, give up on the attempted guilt-trips. At least twice that I can recall, EFIL said, "What am I going to do with all those tickets for the concert? They were expensive!" Then he tried to make it seem that his commentary was all a big joke by saying, "Ha! Hey, I have an idea. Why don't you buy the tickets from me?"
Those Big Flowers Can't Hide Your Puny Love:
NMIL's birthday party nonsense happened prior to the birthday party itself. From an outsiders perspective, I imagine that it would have appeared that she was behaving just fine. But that's only if you're taking her at face value.
She sent this ridiculous, over-the-top bouquet of flowers on DD's actual birthday.
What kind of an idiot sends a one-year-old flowers?
It was so painfully clear to me who those flowers were really for, and they sure as hell were not for DD. I would bet my last penny on the idea that those flowers were really an extravagant show for DH. NMIL was really just using a legitimate life moment (our daughter's birthday) to say this to her old favorite source of NS: See? You see how big my love is for you? It's as big as these flowers! It's sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo big!
I remember thinking, "NMIL. You're really just hiding your puny love behind these great big flowers. The flowers may be huge, but your love is still the same." Her show was so not impressive. No amount of pretty flowers was going to change the size of her love, or how we perceived it.
DH called to thank her for them. She called back and kept him on the phone for a while, talking about superficial nothingness, as per usual. She asked him what she could get for DD. He asked me. I said, "I'm sure whatever she picks out will be fine." I was thinking, "Figure it out yourself, NMIL. It's not my problem that you don't know anything about our DD or what she needs or wants." I'm pretty sure she knew that was the intended message.
She asked if she could bring something. DH asked me. I said, "No thank you, we're all set." I was thinking, "We don't need or want anything from you." We had already informed her of what we wanted and needed, and she had failed to comply, on any level.
The party itself was wonderful, as were all of the exciting events in my life so far with DH. No amount of petty bullshit from DH's FOO could change that. And it was petty: EFIL and L showed up an hour and a half late to DD's birthday party, once again loaded with excuses. "Oh, we had the time written down wrong!" and "Oh EFIL took too long to get ready." and "No! L took too long to get ready!" and "I forgot to pick up the blah-dee-blahs." and "We got stuck in traffic." and on and on. NMIL spent the entire time feigning interest, because she was really just ridiculously uncomfortable being there, surrounded by my FOO. When L asked me what DD had been for Halloween, NMIL fluttered over and said, "Oh here! I'll show you! There are some pictures in the kitchen!" She said it like she had been privy to that information all along.
She hadn't been. When she's had the nerve to request that I send her Halloween photos several weeks prior to the party, I ignored her.
Still, no one was rude to her. My dad and best friend even made pleasant chit-chat with her. If she was uncomfortable, it was her own actions and issues that lead her to feel that way. I have never spoken anything but the truth to my family about her and her behaviors. They knew well, the kind of person she is.
SIL came. I wasn't surprised. She had to. She was required to go, in order to act as her NM's human shield. She didn't want to be there and didn't partake in the festivities. She sat in some corner and never spoke a word to anyone. It was the first time she had even been to our house, despite multiple offers for her to visit. She was actually more interested in seeing our dog, than she was in seeing our daughter. Her presence was required because NMIL knew no one else from her camp would be there (except perhaps EFIL and L, who are, oddly enough one would think, technically in her camp). She came and acted as her NM's faithful human servant. Her role was the silent supporter.
L was more of a bold supporter. While snapping off photos of our daughter with NMIL, she said, "Oh. Don't worry, NMIL. I'll make sure you get these photos." Translation: I know what assholes your son and daughter-in-law are, and that they won't let you have or take pictures of DD. So I'll take it upon myself to send them to you."
I didn't say anything in the moment because it was one of those "One second too late" moments, where it didn't dawn on me until later that something needed to be said. But in hindsight, I wish I had said: "Can it you nit." Translation: Step off, you ridiculous and pompous jerk. Your holier-than-thou attitude is getting tiring. If NMIL wanted to take photos, she would have brought her damn camera. She didn't bring her damn camera because she knew my butt would have ended up in every frame. And that's her problem, not yours. So back the fuck off."