Emma rolls her eyes and slides down in her chair, arms folded across her chest. She sighs deeply and is silent for about ten seconds. It rarely takes longer than that for her to decide it's pointless to play the blame-the-parents game with me, so she gives it up. Temporarily.
I must confess that there are times when I'm tempted to sound off. But I know it's bad karma to encourage any line of conversation that might be perceived as parent-bashing. This self-imposed boundary generally keeps me out of trouble, except when it doesn't—because in addition to monitoring my written exchanges with Emma, John and Rosie debrief her after we spend time together. And given that my granddaughter has a flair for the dramatic, the fallout from those postprandial inquisitions sometimes yields e-blasts from John.
"What were you thinking when you told Emma this war is immoral?" (That's not what I said.)
"Em tells me you let her be a potty-mouth, which she mistakenly believes is cool." (Semi-guilty.)
"Did you really tell Em that talk radio is geared to monkey-minds?" (Um, I did.)
I feel so weighted down by the accumulation of John's accusations that I rarely rise to his bait anymore. I would like to ask him how we got to this place where he seems to reflexively assume malicious intent on my part. But that's bound to lead us to the ultra-dangerous topic of his wife. So I do not venture there.
Emma is curious, opinionated, funny, and mercurial, and I love hearing her process life out loud. She claims I'm the only one who listens to her. Big Red Flag. It implies that her parents do not listen. Worse, it's an indictment of Rosie's mother, Faye.
Grandma Faye is a gentle woman, beloved by Rosie's family. I like Faye. She's been present in the lives of our shared grandchildren from the start. I've admired and sometimes envied her. But even though I lost points with Rosie for being less attentive than Faye to the girls when they were younger, I doubt I could have won Rosie over even if I'd been granny-on-the-spot. For one thing, I'm the mother-inlaw, not the mother. But the even greater problem is that I'm me—which is to say, I'm not a bit like Faye.
Sometimes I'm slow to grasp the obvious. I didn't realize until the contest was well under way that Faye and I had been pitted against each other. That came into focus when John told me not long ago that his daughters adore me and would rather spend time with me than anyone else. Well, I thought, that's really something. Given my comparatively recent involvement with them, I'd have predicted Faye as the odds-on favorite. Hell, I'd have voted for her. But my pleasure in the girls' devotion didn't last long.
"Mother," John continued, "you have a huge responsibility. You're obliged to be a role model for the girls. They think that everything you say is gospel. So here's the deal. You need to keep your political opinions, your religious opinions, all your opinions, to yourself. And you need to act your age." Whoa! Blindsided. John is essentially a kind, considerate person. I thought he'd be pleased that his children are so fond of his mother. But no. My son was channeling Rosie.