Writing about my in-laws made me start thinking about what kind of in-law I might be. The inescapable conclusion is that I suck at it. I really do.
I have 2 sisters-in-law & I was difficult for both of them. It's expected really. My older brothers were more like father figures than siblings. So it was natural for me to treat their girlfriends/wives like evil stepmothers.
The age difference might have been part of it. My brothers are 10 & 6 years older than me respectively. But I think the real explanation is the way we were raised.
My father's work always made him a frequent traveler so he was absent a lot when we were growing up. And my mother had a very high pressure job as an emergency room doctor. She worked long hours & would come home physically & emotionally drained. We would be trying to take care of her & help her to relax. So from a very early age you thought a million times before causing her more stress by getting in trouble. We always knew that our parents worked very hard to provide us with a good life so there was this emphasis on trying to be good & not adding to their problems etc...I mean my brothers always had this attitude. They were always very protective of our parents, especially of my Mom. And this was the environment I found myself in.
As a result we always had a running joke that my parents & my brothers were like the legislative & executive branches of government. My parents defined policies in broad terms & my brothers would oversee the day-to-day details of adhering to these policies.
I think my brothers were the oldest teenage boys I've ever seen. Because my father was so busy they were the ones who had to take care of my parents' investments & business interests – most of which were in Morocco. It's really impressive to think that at age 16 or 17 my brothers would spend their summer holidays overseeing the building of our house in Morocco, dealing with builders, contractors etc…..buying & selling farmland, renting out properties etc…..It was quite normal to see them talking about laws & bureaucracy & real estate prices when they were still in high school.
Within the home, they were the ones who helped me with my school work. If I failed to do well they would guilt-trip me saying do you know how much your parents are paying to send you to this school & how disappointed they would be etc……My brothers were the ones who knew who my friends were. It was their job to worry if I was hanging out with the wrong people. They knew all my hang-outs. And they were so strict that looking back I find it amazing that two boys their age would find the time & patience to monitor younger siblings the way they did with me & my younger brother & sister.
Once when I was about 14 I wanted to go away on holiday with a friend & her family. When I told my father he called my brother into the room & told him your sister wants to go away with her friend what do you know about this girl & her family? And my brother said he didn't like the girl or her family. So my father said no. That simple. Of course this sort of thing used to make me FURIOUS growing up, that my brothers had so much power over me, that sometimes they would actually get in trouble if I got in trouble for not watching me better!
As a result my teenage rebellion was directed more at my brothers than my parents. They were the ones I had to struggle to get my independence from. But they were also the people I could count on & talk to. And they were the ones I went to with most of my problems. I loved them both to death even while I complained about how over-protective & dominating they were. I was not used to their having other priorities or not having time for me.
So you can imagine what it was like when they started dating. My favorite past-time since I was 11 or 12 was to scare away any girl who dated either one of my brothers. And I got pretty good at it.
To be contd.
My oldest brother M was the one who got most of the attention - mainly because there were more women around him. He was such a womanizer. So I took great advantage of that fact. I would answer one of his gf's on the phone & pretend to be confused & call her by another girl's name. She would tell me no am not X am Y. So I'd say oh sorry you're not the lady who was here yesterday? And she would get instantly suspicious & say who was there yesterday? It still amazes me how catty & competitive girls get. And I knew my brother hated these things. If two girls started fighting over him he'd just dump both of them. Cattiness really turned him off.
The funny thing was that he never suspected me of having ulterior motives or doing it on purpose. Both times it happened I pretended innocence & he assumed it was an honest mistake. Yes I did it twice.
And the more he liked a girl the more I hated her. I remember once he was dating this Belgian girl. She lived with her mother & a younger sister & she had him running errands for her & her family all the time. It used to drive me crazy. Once he was out with her & I was with my friends & I made my friend call him & tell him that am really sick so he'd have to come pick me up. That time I got caught though. My brother is a doctor. Faking illness with him was not really my brightest idea ever. He took me home & we went into my room, took my temperature, opened my shirt & was examining me & asked me a few questions then said that I had all the symptoms of a virus called Spoilt Brat Syndrome. I got grounded for 2 weeks over that incident. Yes my brothers could ground me. He said that if I was going to interfere with other people's social life then I needed to know what it feels like. My parents agreed with him. Mama said that illness is not a joke & I shouldn't go around faking it & worrying people.
Of course it just made me hate his girlfriend more. To my pre-teen mind he grounded me because of her because he cared about her more than me. And I wasn't going to take that lying down. I was so rude to her. I made fun of her English, of her clothes. I would tell her she was using him, that she didn't love him. I would throw tantrums everytime I saw her. Am sure they didn't eventually break up because of me but I probably didn't help either. After they broke up I started to feel bad though because it was clear that he had a bit of a broken heart. I think he really liked her.
When my oldest brother did get married it was an Algerian girl he met in France. I didn't know anything about her until he called to tell us he was getting married. I met my sister-in-law for the first time a few days before the wedding & I gave her the usual reception. I was very upset at the time because we wanted my brother to come back to UAE to work after he finished his studies in France. But after he married her he decided to stay in France because she didn't want to live in UAE. I felt she stole him from us. Of course my feelings changed later. I grew up. But things are still a bit strained with her because I don't think she ever forgave me the treatment she got from me in the beginning. And again distance makes it harder to work on these things. I mean she didn't come for my wedding even though I begged her to. My brother came with my baby niece but she stayed behind.
That is not to say that I left my other brother alone. It was just that he was a very private person so it was harder for me to find out when there was someone in his life. My second sister-in-law was too sweet not to like. Unlike my first sister-in-law she was living here & she just wouldn't stop trying with me. In the end I gave in. And I loved my brother's children too much to be mean to their mother. It was actually very hard when they moved away last September. I missed them all a lot. I still do.