Sunday, October 11, 2009

Keeper of the Peace

In observing the parentals over the weekend, I have discovered a few things. The first, my step-mother is as dumb as I made her out to be. The second, Husband and Wife don't communicate well. The third, my father is as nosy as a starving anteater, and the final factoid I learned about my family is that my step-mother has become a brilliant keeper of the peace.

For the sake of sanity, I'm going to stick with the keeper of the peace bit. My step-mother has a six-year-old girl who we will call Sister, for the sake of anonymity and simplicity, and a seven-year-old that we will call Brother for the same reasons. Sister woke up on the wrong side of the generic hotel queen-sized bed this morning, and has had a horrible attitude all morning. She didn't want to eat someplace with the word "onion" in the name, she didn't think they had coloring, she was making all kinds of a fuss, and not cooperating, and when I couldn't hear what she was whining about (me), the step-mother looks at me and says "she's having a 'moment'". This is no excuse. The phrase is "terrible two's", not "terrible two through six's". Whatever. She's in a bad mood. But it took several hours before they even began to discipline her for her behavior.

The example that I'm thinking of though, is a moment that occurred between my father and her. My father, to contrast him to everyone else in this world, is one of those people who are set off on a dime. Guess he passed that onto me. But when we forgot Brother's pillow in the hotel room, the step-mother mentioned it, and he threw the bag down like he was mad. He also asked her earlier this morning why she didn't pack Brother's earplugs, like she was the one responsible for all the packing. This is a completely unfair assumption. Last I checked, everyone was supposed to be responsible for their own items. This doesn't work for Brother and Sister because they are too young to remember everything, but when that kind of thing occurs, generally it helps if your spouse packs one kid's things, and you pack the other kid's things. He just got so worked up, like it was all Step-mother's fault, and she just responded really glibly, like she's used to dealing with shit like this now. Even though she is kind of stupid, I still feel bad for her.

Anyway, we were sitting in this restaurant, and Father hands her the glass that a milkshake for Brother and Sister came in, with only a little left in the bottom. Without thinking, Step-mother hands Sister the glass, and Father says "What are you doing?" with the underlying question of Are you thinking? It made me feel stupid for her, but instead of reacting the way I would have, she sputters for a minute, and then says "What would you like me to do?" I can just hear the eggshells, typical of an abusive relationship, cracking as she walks around him on them. Five or six minutes later, Father is back to talking about the restaurant manager with the white spot of paint on the back of his head (if that's even what it was), and Step-mother is telling me a stupid little anecdote about a woman she works with who was really rude on a test which she somehow meant to relate to Father talking about everything and everyone because he's "a curious person". I swear the man keeps tabs on the whole town so he can gossip with his family and friends about everyone else in his spare time. He's on the damn phone enough. I hate to admit this, but I kind of admire her for deflecting as well as she does. Although, I guess you're trained to be a keeper of the peace the longer you stay in a position like that, and she's had almost ten years' experience.