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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Another Bad Idea Masquerading as a Good One

I wrote a post in December 2007 about how while it might seem like a great idea to have both your relatives and your in-law extended family in town for Christmas, in actuality it's a bit more trouble than it's worth, due to the fact that there's limited time and everyone wants a piece of you. I think I can safely say that we have discovered another one of these bad ideas masquerading as a good one.

And BTW, we have been away for the past week, which is why this blog has been sadly neglected. If I were a good blogger, I would've queued up some scheduled posts so you would have no idea we were not here. Being away (I will not really call it "vacation.") for the past week leads right into this bad idea:

I took the entire Thanksgiving week off and we visited both of Pearl's great-grandmothers. One of them is getting much more feeble than she used to be (who can blame a near 90 year old woman for that?) and the other had not yet met Pearl. The initial thought was that in taking the whole week off, the 1000 mile round trip would be a bit more relaxing than the driving-every-other-day-marathon-vacation-which-is-actually-not-much-of-a-vacation Thanksgiving trips that Harmony's parents usually take.

One of the things we learned on this trip was that grandmothers will not listen when you say "you really don't need to do much work for us, we'll handle things while we're there." Maybe it's best not to ever visit them, so they won't tire themselves out preparing food for us ;)

Right, so now I explain why it's a bad idea to take an extended Thanksgiving break. Grandmothers, stuck in the ways of being woefully good hostesses, will stock up on all sorts of bad snacks and dessert foods. They will insist that you get a good dessert after each lunch and dinner. The longer you are there, the more desserts you will consume. This is why I am 4 pounds heavier than I ought to be :p

Another thing that made the trip a bit difficult for us was because one of the grandmothers almost constantly second guessing and/or worrying about our parenting style and decisions. (This particular grandmother's favorite hobby must be worrying.) Don't tell her that we co-sleep EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, and no, aside from the first day or two at the hospital, she has NEVER SLEPT IN A CRIB/BASSINET before. Statistics and facts do not matter to this grandmother when she makes up her mind about something. Other things that she expressed worry about: speaking Korean to Pearl, not enough solids, not sleeping in a crib, sleeping in a crib (we do have drop-side that my parents got from a neighbor, but we have never used it aside from a place-to-put-stuff), a midwife birth, home birth, holding the baby too much, etc. etc. etc ad infinitum/nauseum. Although there were a couple of instances where I could've stated that we are going to homeschool, I chose to bite my tongue for the moment. There is a 99.9% probability that she will be against that. There will not be much debate there, if it ever comes up. Out of all the "alternative" paths we are taking, homeschooling is one for which we feel most strongly.

So you can imagine that constantly having to keep my guard up on what we say (in order to keep grandmother blissfully unaware) or constantly feeling like we need to defend our parenting leads to one VERY mentally tiring visit. For the most part, we enjoyed the time we spent there, but going from worrying-as-a-favorite-activity grandmother to the more it's-your-parental-decision grandmother was like a gigantic breath of fresh air after spending too much time in an enclosed small room full of sweaty people who have just had a big meal of spicy chili with lots of beans.

So to grandparents and other family members who might read this: we know you probably would not parent exactly the way you do and even might not really like some of the things we are doing, but we are so so so so so so so so so so so so soooo grateful that you let us be the parents and do not constantly second guess us by expressing worry and whatnot.

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12 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Harmony

    I love my grandmother very much, but you are right. Poor Grandmother.

  • Laura

    I really feel for homeschooling moms and dads whose parents or in-laws don't want the kids to be homeschooled. Harmony and I (and our respective husbands) are so lucky that we have such supportive parents and in-laws!

    Of course Grandmother means well, but I hear you. It's just tough not being on the same page, and having so many of the issues you disagree on coming up so often while you're there.

  • alice

    My experience with my own Korean parents is that they calmed down a lot after realizing that my kids were happy and healthy and thriving. I'm sure your Korean set of grandparents will feel the same after awhile.

    Alice

  • JunkMale

    Alice,

    Oh, the Korean set of grandparents (or great grandpa, not sure exactly who you were referring to) is completely fine with the most important aspect, that is, homeschooling. They are well aware of the deficiencies of American schools. I don't know exactly what they think about other things (although I do know that my mom wants the baby to sleep in a crib, but she's not as insistent as this grandma), but I think in general, they won't be a mentally stressing as unspecified grandma.

    The only grandparent that I have left is my mom's dad, but he's in Korea and not quite up to date on the inner workings of our parenting.

  • Marianne

    What a great post. It takes a lot of bravery and self-assurance as a parent to be open about your parenting philosophies when you know they're going to create controversy. I haven't quite gotten to that level of bravery yet.

  • alice

    My parents and my in laws (mother in law) are Korean...they had lots of advice since our son was the first baby in the family after 27 years. There was advice on:

    -what classical music to play
    -how to lay the baby down to sleep to achieve a perfectly round head
    -how to hold the baby
    -what solids we should feed him
    -how long I should breast feed
    -sugar intake
    -ideal room temperature for a baby

    My sons ended up going to Montessori, then to public magnet school...my parents anxiety and my MIL's anxiety have waned as they have realized that my sons are happy. You will find this entertaining...My parents were very driven by education. But as grandparents, they think I'm too hard on our kids!

    They have all worked really hard to develop relationships with my kids which I find endearing. My mom read up on planets, Transformers and trains; so that she could have good conversations with them about their interests.

    Seems like Pearl is surrounded by much love. That is awesome.

    Alice

  • Ginny

    Good post. Keep praying for Grandma.

    :-D

    By the way, we all have someone like that. ;-)

  • Smockity Frocks

    I usually try to smile politely and nod and act vaguely interested. Then I go on and stubbornly do what my husband and I think is best.

  • Julie

    I was going to say at this point just smile and nod. LOL Thats what I do with my granny and MIL.

  • JunkMale

    Alice,
    We can definitely relate to a couple of your bullet points. Although they weren't really picky on what kind of classical music, they definitely did want us to play it for her, which we did/do.

    The perfectly round head!! Forget SIDS risks, that baby needs to have a round head, so put her on her tummy to sleep! Boy oh boy, we sure did/do hear a lot about that.

    Ah yes, the ideal room temperature. Which means it needs to be waaaaarrrm in the room/house. I'm sure your children's grandparents were always hammering you on how the baby needed to be warm, the baby needs to wear socks all the time, the baby needs to wear mittens all the time, the baby needs to wear a hat, etc. etc. etc.

    Well, so far, that sort of advice has not been as mentally tiresome as what we experienced at granny's, for whatever reason.

  • Alan

    Set your minds at ease about that worrying grandmother. She's not singling you out. She worries about everyone in the family. That's how she shows love. It comes from a kind heart. It's sometimes difficult for those on the receiving end. But we still need to honor our parents, and grandparents.

  • Headmistress, zookeeper

    First let me say I totally understand what you just experienced, and then let me be obnoxious.

    With our first baby we lived about three hours from my husband's family. He was raised by grandma and great grandma, and he did not stand up to them well (I think you may remember that we talked about this once before a long time ago in private correspondence, Harmony?).

    I was subjected to a constant barage of advice I did not want, found ridiculous (feed the five month old breastfed baby FRIED CHICKEN, I kid you not, as well as gravy), and challenges to my parenting.

    Minutes after cooing and gooing over the fat, healthy baby, I was told I was starving the baby to death (she weighed nearly 25 pounds at five months) because she didn't eat anything but breastmilk. I was going to roll over on her. I was going to give her pneumonia because I didn't dress her in three layers (in southern California. In the summer. In a heat wave.)
    I didn't keep her clean enough (daily baths dried out her skin so I stopped them).

    And on. And on. With our second the grandmother came to visit and continued the same thing- only in this case the second was extremely ill and the grandmother insisted it was all my fault because of the exclusive nursing (baby had andiagnosed UTI, as it turned out, but the grandmother always insisted it was my breastfeeding that had nearly killed her).

    Baby developed a milk allergy, and this was also supposedly due to my breastfeeding, and when she learned we bought clothes at thrift shops she privately took my husband aside and gave him money to dress the children decent (she'd not noticed they weren't decent before).

    It was deeply stressful and upsetting and tear inducing. It made me feel so bad, and I finally insisted I wasn't going to go back there again. He could visit his family without me and take those children old enough to be without their mother.

    Those 'babies' are 24 and 26 years old now, and you know what? I SO regret that I didn't handle that better. I never did really learn to just let it glide over me- she was still saying things that hurt and stung me when my 11 year old was an infant. She died about four years ago and it is too late, now.

    I so regret that I did not learn to smile, say "Thanks so much for your advice," and then ask her questions that would make her feel good about her own parenting and place in my life- even if I was never going to take her advice. I wish with all my heart I had learned to say evenly and with a straight face and a kind tone, "I will have to think about feeding the newborn chicken. What else did you feed your babies? Did you make their clothes or buy them? What was the hardest part for you about being a mother?" I wish I had been strong and confident enough in myself to say those things (without ever meaning to give the newborns fried chicken). It would have meant a lot to her, and it would have been good for our relationship- and for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well.

    That's what I would counsel - say kindly, "thank-you for your advice. I'll have to give that some thought..." and then ask her a question in an attempt to change the subject and give her something to feel good about.

    I wish I had done that.