Tuesday, July 6, 2010

One week in

You guys aren't sick of hearing about the in-laws yet, right? OK, good, because I have more to say.

We are 1/3 of the way through the trip. They have been here a whole week. So far things are going pretty well. They are quite self-sufficient, as it turns out. They are addicted to Whole Foods and go there almost every single day at least once. We are quite surprised that they like such a pricey store, but maybe the exchange rate makes it feel more affordable?

They also can entertain themselves doing very little for long stretches of time. Yesterday they went to the mall to take advantage of the holiday sales. They left at 11 a.m. and came home at 7 p.m. They were at the mall that entire time except the last half hour when they were at Whole Foods. I don't know exactly what they were doing at the mall, as the only store they actually purchased anything at was Macy's, but they apparently had a great time during the eight hours they spent there, so we're not complaining.

(Though, as an aside, it's a little weird to me that they complained when they scheduled their visit that we couldn't take vacation time off work for the three weeks they were here, and then on the days we actually don't have to work, they head out for all-day activities by themselves. But hey, whatever works.)

On Friday night we took them to a Rockies game, per their request. We thought they would be bored since they don't understand baseball and it's a long, slow game if you don't know what's going on, but they enjoyed themselves, and the ballpark food, and the fireworks after the game. On Saturday it was a trip to Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak. They were afraid of Pikes Peak, having apparently read in some guide book that the drive up can be dangerous (which... well, the road lacks guardrails and is scary, but as long as you're careful and keep your eyes on the road, I don't think it's actually dangerous). But we talked them into going and they LOVED it, and are still raving about it days later.

Then on Sunday they spent the whole day downtown by themselves. Not quite sure what they did, but they came home in time for dinner and we grilled out with them. We were going to go see the fireworks, but then it poured with rain for hours on end, so we skipped it. We were OK with that, since we saw the fireworks at the Rockies game on Friday. And then yesterday, as I said, they spent the whole day at the mall.

Ooh, but we did spend all of Sunday night playing Rock Band Beatles, which turned out to be surprisingly awesome. We only have three instruments (drums, guitar, and microphone), so I sang, Torsten and his dad traded off the drums and guitar, and Torsten's mom danced. She is an awesome dancer, actually. It was a surprisingly fun bonding experience. I guess the Beatles are universal.

Of course, the negative stuff is all there too. The problem is that most of the negative comments aren't so much funny-terrible (a la Swistle's dearly departed MIL), they're just regular-terrible. They lose no opportunity to make unproductive negative comments such as telling Torsten that he was insane to quit his job to start a company, the company is way too high-risk and nobody will ever pay him for these services, and so on. Which: OK, we get it, that's how they feel, but at this point what is he supposed to do? Shout "You're right!" and go beg for his old job back? It's obviously too late for that, the deed is done, and ignoring the fact that he's a million times happier doing this than he was in his old job, and things are going great with the company, it just seems like the time has passed to make negative comments about the decision, you know?

And then also there was a fight over tips. We went for dinner at a brewery. The bill came to about $60. His parents generously offered to pay. Then they sat at the table debating whether they should leave $1.50 or $2 as the tip. This despite the fact that Torsten has told them a million times that 15% is a MINIMUM tip in this country, and if the service was good (which it was), it should really be more like 20%. And they do so much research before coming here, they MUST have read this in guide books as well. But they just refuse to believe it. Finally Torsten said that if they weren't going to tip an appropriate amount, he would just pay for dinner, at which point they caved in and tipped something more reasonable, but were very angry about it and grumped about it for the rest of the night.

It just gets... tiring. It's just hard to hear constant harping about how every single decision Torsten makes, or that we make together, is wrong and bad and is going to end poorly. When we try to tell them about things and make them feel included, we are met with resistance, or dead silence, or complete disinterest, or comments about how much better things would be if we were in Germany. They say very clearly that they don't want to hear about it, because things happening in our life are all because we live in the US and not in Germany, and that's not their problem, and we can expect no support from them. This no matter what kind of story we're telling, whether we're talking about something good or bad, and of course totally ignoring the fact that we aren't asking for any kind of support other than basic parental moral support.

And I get it, I do. They wish we lived in Germany. They don't like that their son lives so far away. But he does live here, he owns a house here, he has a company here. He's been here for over five years. He is not going anywhere. At a certain point it would be nice if they could accept that fact, or at least try to keep their disapproval to themselves, or at least try to keep their nasty comments to themselves and display SOME sort of interest in what's going on in his life, instead of just stonewalling him because everything he tells them about his life is viewed in the framework of "life in the US instead of in Germany."

But of course, just when you start to get frustrated beyond words, they do something totally nice and unexpected, like bringing me a gorgeous bouquet of flowers for no reason. And then you feel guilty for being frustrated. Even though you can see that the negative comments are causing your husband to develop an ulcer.


  1. I don't know why I enjoy reading about this SO MUCH when it's SO AWFUL!

  2. Eeek! It sounds like things are going as well as can be expected, despite the irritating comments. I just - I get it, I do. It sucks.

    The tipping story - that is just crazy. That's a definite culture issue, for sure!

    Though I am giggling like crazy over the fact that they love Whole Foods so much!

  3. Oh, man, this is hitting home because we have some friends visiting from Germany RIGHT NOW (their 7 year old daughter slept over last night, in fact, and just came downstairs as I started to type this), and they too are so... BLUNT with their comments and opinions about our life. It's hard to swallow (re: our newly painted walls- "Oh, well, I would have gone with a nice WHITE. But you're not trying to sell your house anytime soon, so this green is something only you'll have to look at.) On the other hand, I don't think they mean any bad-will by it... I think they honestly believe that their way is the ONLY WAY (ie: ONLY white walls).

    Is this a stereotypical German trait? Bluntness? Intolerance for other's way of living? I've always sort of assumed it was just the cultural difference (when they lived here, the comments came even harder and faster!). In any case, it doesn't get under my skin anymore... it just cracks me up!

  4. what i don't get with them is how they are able to continuously ignore every. single. thing. that they've predicted will go wrong, and HEY GUESS WHAT it went great. like pike's peak. they didn't want to; they resisted; they caved and YOU WERE RIGHT. same with the flight. why can't they start learning from these experiences and maybe trust you guys a TEENSY TINY BIT that you're capable human beings who aren't going to ruin your lives (or theirs) at every turn??

  5. I saw an interesting episode of Dr Phil today that dealt with some of this subject matter. What he said made total sense to me and is quite easily applied to your in-laws.

    In relation to parenting adult children: That good parenting is letting yourself/your point of view be heard (and thus feeling you've given your best counil)...bad parenting is insisting with your point of view until you believe your child agrees.

    Now how to get them to understand that concept? Anyone got ideas?

    I have solved this problem with my (very strong minded/opinionated) dad by using the phrase, "You have some valid points there" while appearing thoughtful and thus he believes I've listened and am considering. Clearly you dont want to use this with comments about moving to Germany but perhaps it might work with some other ideas so I'm putting it out there.

    If it makes you feel better, my MIL and FIL just moved out after living with us for SEVEN YEARS so two weeks to go is totally do-able!

  6. Therapy :) Clearly there are some boundary/letting go issues and if it makes him so ill that he gets an ulcer, maybe there is a professional he can talk to that will help him deal with his non-approving parents an how he can deal with the non-approval without feeling that he will puke.
    Yeah, I have lived away from home for over 14 years and my mother still guilt trips me every year when I don't come home for Christmas or what not. Sucks. But they are a different generation and so on and so forth....they stayed in the same job and in the same town for 30-some years and it's apparently near impossible to wrap their minds around other things.
    I say focus on all the good things for now. You were dreading this visit so much and it seems so far it's been going great. They are not up your ass all day, you get alone time with your husband and dog, they seem independent enough to leave you guys alone during the day. Yay to the yay!

  7. I am impressed with your equanimity, and also falling over myself with relief that all of my in-laws live within a 60-mile radius so there is no question of overnight visiting.

    My MIL, in fact, is a little like this with the critiques (milder, fortunately)--however, I've noticed that the criticism seems to be simply her default First Response, and she often comes around later. I'm wondering if your in-laws are the same way? In which case you can sort of ignore their first response altogether, or gloss over it with an enigmatic smile, confident that once they actually get it, they'll be fine?

  8. I love that you're able to show Torsten's parents YOUR Colorado and your new life. By the end of this trip, hopefully they will see what a good life you do have, despite living thousands of miles away from them.

    You know, I think it's not such a bad thing that Torsten's parents feel comfortable enough around both of you to express themselves. There is no talking behind backs or coddling because you're too young to understand. They say what they mean. And sure, it's sometimes (always?) brutal to listen to when you feel like they question every decision you make. But, maybe the sane option is to take everything they say in context ... i.e., if they still shower you in love in other ways despite expressing concern, then that's ok (even though you might approach it differently if you were in their shoes).

  9. Not sick of it at all! With Jason's parents arriving next month, I'm enjoying reading about your experiences - we don't have the language barrier, but it's still super challenging.

    How good that they are so independent! That is great; lets you guys go about some sense of normalcy during their stay as well.

    But it's a shame that you're getting the negatives as well. Not that it excuses anything, but maybe they're using this first real visit (since your wedding, right?) to kind of let off steam over things you guys are doing/have done over the months, since they're there in person? At the end of the day, they need to respect that a) cultures and customs are different and b) they need to buck up and support you guys!

  10. Definitely not sick of it. Definitely.

  11. Well... 2 more weeks, eh? I do not envy that a bit. A week is about 6 days too long with my own inlaws. hee
    It's nice that they are mostly entertaining themselves and doing some nice things. The bad stuff though? Sounds pretty... terrible.

  12. Oh and I forgot...
    Germans are notoriously negative. I have lived here long enough now to not be like that anymore, but my mom drives me CRAAAAZY with her negativity about things...I realize that my countrymen do like two things: Complain and think negatively....I am generalizing, I know that, but when I call my relatives out on it, they totally laugh and agree ;) So keep that in mind too.

  13. That's hard to be in that negativity day after day. At least you know when there will be an end. Not that this eases it at all but is Torsten used to this by now? Have they always been this way with him?

    At least there is Rock Band. Thank goodness for Rock Band!

  14. I am checking back in all the time for the "in law updates!" I know how hard it can be, and I have been lucky in the in law dept! Some people are just so darn set in their ways that they can't see that other ways can be good too. But the negativity must be quite wearing on a daily basis. Be glad they live in another country?

    My husband's parents keep commenting about the heat of our water. They think our water heater is set too high. But we like having plenty of hot water, don't have any kids to scald, and it is is in the mid-range. But yet, they keep hammering away about this one detail. Why??? Why must we do exactly as you do? We can't make our own choices?

    Also, the tipping thing is just cultural. Again a hard habit to break. I wouldn't fight them on it, it is silly to be mad about something like that even though it is so frustrating. Maybe what I do with my Grandmother would work. Let them pay for things and then slip a cash tip in/ on the table as you are leaving. Maybe even so they don't notice. Old dogs, new tricks and all...

  15. They probably don't realize they're being hurtful when they suggest your life would be SO. MUCH. BETTER. if you lived in Germany, but at the same time, they need to let their son live his own life. I'm sure it's hard being away from him, but I hope they realize that he's happy and is where he WANTS to be.

    It sounds like they're enjoying their time with you guys, though, and for that I'm glad! Hopefully these next 2 weeks will be full of fun and mall visits :-)

    I love the story of the Rock Band Beatles. You guys will probably remember that for years. Those are the best kind of memories to make.

  16. What is a relationship with the inlaws if it is not one fraught with guilt?

    Sounds like it is up and down but definitely some bright spots. I wonder if Rockband would improve my relationship with the inlaws?

  17. I could read a book about your interactions with these people!

  18. I know I've been absent for a WHILE around here, but a ridiculous number of MONTHS later I'm finally finding time to read blogs again...I have to comment here because it seems that we were visiting my inlaws the same time yours were visiting you. I'm pretty sure I heard at least once every day (if not more) about how nice it would be if we were NOT living in Canada and oh couldn't we just move 'home' to WA?
    And the inside of my mouth was, truly, bleeding in places from keeping my responses to myself. At least my sister-in-law's husband and I are in the same boat...only they live there and he only WISHES they could live someplace as far away as we do....
    I'm sure glad to read, though, that their visit has had some high points.