I am filled with dread.
Next Monday is a public holiday in France, for Toussaint. This should be a Good Thing, as it is one of the only bank holidays which has fallen on a weekday in 2004 (we lose when they fall at weekends, which makes Christmas this year a very bad joke), giving us a longweekend. It is however a Bad Thing because I have consented under duress to spend these three precious days with the Evil In Laws.
In order to get to where they live in the Franche Comté region, we have to endure a two hour train journey. During which Tadpole will not want to remain seated, but instead will run continually up and down the carriage, falling over each time the train tilts and running the risk of having hot coffee poured over her head by a fellow passenger. It is not even worth packing a book or an MP3 player in these situations. At best, I will be made to read ‘Miffy’s bicycle’ over and over again. At worst, I’ll be doing laps of the train a few steps behind Tadpole. So that’s 5 hours of our precious weekend already spent in purgatory before we even arrive at our destination. This is because the In Laws do not like Paris, and so despite the fact that FIL is retired, MIL has twice as much holiday as I do and they own cars, we are expected to go to them, accompanied by car seat and pushchair and all the other paraphernalia which you have to cart around when you have a small child, like . We could conceivably hire a car, but this would mean driving for 4-5 hours. An even less attractive prospect.
The In Laws, misleadingly called belle mère and beau père in French, are nice enough people and we actually got along just fine in the beginning. Things turned sour immediately after the birth of Tadpole. Without dwelling too much on the details, let’s just say that I feel I have served my purpose in producing their grandchild (the Frog is an only child so Tadpole is the focus of all their attention) and I now seem to be very much in the way.
I will be expected to surrender Tadpole as soon as I walk through the door, so that MIL and FIL can play mummies and daddies. If Tadpole does come to give me a hug, god forbid, she will be prised from my arms immediately. MIL will sulk if we dare to take Tadpole out with us when we go shopping for her new coat, or when we pay a visit to some of the Frog’s childhood friends. If we do have plans, she is likely to foil them by taking the Tadpole out for a ‘short walk’, returning only at nightfall. The latest plan is to persuade the Frog and I to sleep in a room they want to refurbish in the garage/cellar, next to the cars and the boiler, so that Tadpole can sleep in the room next to their own and they can pretend we are not there at all.
So, I’ve made a decision. Next time we are blackmailed into visiting them, I shall let Mr Frog (who is, understandably, partially blind to all of the above) take Tadpole there without me. I think, on balance, I’d rather not see Tadpole at all, than spend the whole weekend inwardly raging. I will be able to shop, blog, read, eat curry and go out on the town. And maybe, just maybe, the In Laws will reflect a little on why I chose not to visit.