Friday, June 9, 2006

Really Mystified

Maybe I should have titled this "Really Fracking Pissed Off!" However, in addition to being so angry at my father-in-law and step-monster-in-law that I might seriously never speak to them again, I am oddly confused by their behavior.

They complain that we never come visit them. They also never visit us. If they do, it's for dinner and not an overnight visit. Stepmonster once complained that our guest room bed was very uncomfortable. This is not a woman who has a lot of tact. She once told my husband when she learned the kind of music he was into that he would fit right in with the boys in the kitchen. A very subtle, old-school racist way of saying, "You're into that black music."

Anyway, I schedule a visit because I am eager for my son to have meaningful relationships with all of his relatives because I have such a small family. My mom is dead and when I grew up, I only had one grandparent. I was extremely close to her and knew she loved me deeply. I want my son to be loved that way by his grandparents.

After jumping through hoops to find a time that worked, we settled on June 9 and 10. Brendan was already scheduled to be in summer camp at his school and I had already paid $90 for him to be there for five days. Step-mother insisted this was the only time until August they could see him, so I agreed. Brendan seemed eager to go and I overheard him telling his friends he was going there. Very sweet, I thought.

Brendan has not been to their home since Christmas. The last time we were there, he got into trouble with her for sitting on a particular chair. Neither he nor his parents had been told this chair was off limits. He was quietly sitting on it watching a Barney video. Because he didn't jump off the chair when he was told to do so, evil stepgrandmonster turns the video off with no warning. He was not even three years old at the time. He freaked out. Naturally.

So, we get there yesterday afternoon. Brendan is shy and takes a while to warm up. Once he does, he talks a mile a minute, laughs at funny things you do, and is a joy to be around. But you have to ease into things with him. Especially if he hasn't seen you in seven or eight months. Because she is a grandparent, Steppy thinks this doesn't apply to her and forges onward trying to talk him into running joyfully into her arms. Grandpa knows to hold back and let the child come to him. Finally, she backs off and retreats to the kitchen like a hurt dog. Slowly, Brendan warms up to them both and things go relatively smoothly for a few hours.

Then, my child unwittingly carries a drink into their living room. We have never been told we can't do this. I remember him being allowed to have a sippy cup in the room previously, but apparently they're implementing new rules. Which is fine. Their home, their rules. We should respect them and their rules. However, rather than stating the rule and inviting Brendan to carry his drink into the kitchen, old Steppy snatches the drink from his hand and tells him "No drinks in the living room!" As if, of course, he has heard this rule a hundred times before. Embarrassed, Brendan throws himself to the ground and hides his face. He's not crying or having a tantrum at this point, but I can tell he's a) confused, because at home we allow drinks anywhere in the house, and b) doesn't like having a virtual stranger tell him what to do in such a forceful manner. This is totally unacceptable behavior as far as my stepmother-in-law is concerned and she proceeds to tell me and Brendan as much. When he then starts crying and comes to me, I try to gently explain why we have to follow the rules in other peoples' homes and that they will often have rules that differ from ours, etc. She keeps trying to talk over me, upsetting him even more. I remove him from the situation and even put him in time out to try to calm things down.

I will leave out many of the details. It suffices to say that Brendan became very uncomfortable around his grandparents after this. We both had fitful nights sleeping together in the world's most uncomfortable guest room (stuffy, hard-as-rocks bed and pillows! and a bed too high off the ground to be safe for kids). This morning there were a couple more small instances where Brendan disobeyed them or got upset when they tried to hold him. Steppy tried to force him to sit in her lap and read to him while I went to the bathroom. When I came out, I saw my child straining to get away, crying, and pleading for me to help him.

When I tried to talk to him and calm him down and explain to him why he couldn't do certain things or that his grandparents just wanted to spend time with him, I was accused of coddling him and consoling him too much. They advocated spanking and books by James Dobson, he of Spongebob is gay fame. I got two lectures about my poor parenting skills and the lack of discipline in my home and ultimately, stepmonster-in-law told me that she was so uncomfortable in her own home and that having us visit was such an unpleasant experience for her that she couldn't take another night of it.

In essence, she and my father-in-law threw their 14 weeks' pregnant daughter-in-law who has done nothing but try to build a relationship with them and their sweet, but strong-willed three-year old grandson out of their house.

I know that I sound full of vitriol right now. I am. But until today, I have done nothing but try to make them like me and love my son and husband. I have always been the one to reach out. Despite the fact that they left our wedding early because we didn't take a picture of Scott with the two of them before we took a picture of Scott with his two brothers who were both in the wedding. Despite the fact that they did not come to Brendan's baptism because they are uncomfortable being around Scott's mom. Despite the fact that Scott's stepmom converted his dad from being a lifelong, practicing Catholic to being Methodist and now is trying to convert the rest of the family because she doesn't believe Catholicism is a valid religion. (No offense intended to other Methodists). Despite the fact that they have made little or no effort to see him or have him in their lives.

But this is it. The end for me. Frack them. I am not making the effort anymore. Not after they told me today that they don't feel like they can have a relationship with my son because he won't listen to them. He doesn't fracking know them. And whose fault is that? Can they not stop and see things from his perspective? Or even mine?

They told me I'm blind to how my child manipulates me. I coddle and spoil him. And that a parent's job is not to protect their child, but to give them structure and teach them how to handle difficult situations. They said you shouldn't have to explain to a child why they shouldn't do something, but rather just saying "No" should be enough. They told me that a child who isn't spanked is unable to show respect to anyone else and will be selfish.

I really am overwhelmed and dumbfounded by all of this. And my poor husband who wasn't even there...Bless him. He's beside himself with anger and I feel responsible. I wish I had never gone down there. I thought I was doing a good thing. Now we're both wide awake at 5:00 a.m. He because he's so angry. Me because Brendan is sick. He awoke at midnight with a cough and high fever. Then he started vomiting. I've changed his sheets three times. We ended up sleeping on the couch for a while until he insisted on going back to bed. I had to put a double bed sheet on his bed because I was out of clean sheets for his bed.

And I do blame them. My child rarely gets sick. He hasn't been sick for months. I think his little body just got so stressed out from all the tension and drama last night and today that whatever germ was there sprang to life.

Ugh! This kind of anger and upset cannot be good for my pregnancy. How could they do this?

Of course, they think they're "doing it for our own good."

The thing is, I know my child isn't perfect. There are no perfect kids. But he's certainly not as bad as they make him out to be. He's smart and funny and at home he listens pretty well. His preschool teachers tell me how good he is most days. Other parents compliment his behavior when we go to their homes. This was not normal for him, but they won't hear me out on it. They think I'm lying.

They want sheep. Mousy little piss ants who follow where they are lead, drink the Kool-Aid, and fit into their conformist little picture of how children should be. My son is not like that. His dad isn't like that and neither am I. They should know that.

Stepmonster's kids are. As whitebread as they come and I seriously doubt either of them has ever said "No" or had an original thought once in their lives. Perfectly nice. Perfectly likeable. But not fun or interesting or anyone you would want to get to know.

If you've made it this far, I congratulate you on your stamina. I had to get it all out because it was killing me. I am seriously having sharp pains that have me a little concerned. I needed to write about this because I still can't believe it happened. Of course now, in my sleep-deprived and worried state, it seems like a really bad dream.

I wish it were.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006


It seems 2006 will be a big year for us. Not only will we (hopefully) have a baby, but something even more exciting has just happened. At least it's more exciting right at this moment.

Scott has a new job. After almost nine years at the same company as a web applications developer, my darlin' is going to work at a new gig. He'll be a senior developer for a company that specializes in wireless apps. Pretty cool. He'll be their user interface specialist and he's pretty psyched about the job. Me, too. It's so up his alley.

The job does mean a small pay cut, but we'll have insurance with maternity coverage (we currently do not) and for the first time in nine years, Scott will get paid vacations. Yay! This year, because we won't be paying for the birth of our child out of pocket, we'll do alright. Hopefully, it will all work out. I think it will, if for no other reason than the fact my husband will be doing something he loves.

Brendan faced his own dramatic change this week. When he went to summer camp at his preschool, we were both a bit shocked that his class was in a different room with a different teacher, though she is one he knows. While I was perfectly okay with this change, my sweet boy sat on the floor and cried, begging for his old teacher. The new teacher, a darling English woman who was the assistant in his old class, just scooped him up and carried him in, where he sat and pouted until his buddy Matthew came over and talked him out of his funk. Today, he told me that he was going to go into the old teacher's class instead, but since I got to drop him off in the carpool line, I, thankfully, didn't have to deal with that meltdown. Of course, when I arrived to pick him up, Brendan was sitting on the floor of the director's office, playing. Turns out he did have a meltdown when they wanted to change his poopy diaper on the playground. Rather than upset the other kids, they separated him. Sadly, he's one of the only kids left in his class still in a diaper. I'm at my wit's end with potty-training. I've been trying off and on for a year and he's so stubborn, crying and fighting with me every time I try to get him to sit on the potty. So, starting Monday (after preschool camp and a trip to the grandparents this weekend), I am throwing away the diapers. I'm not going to give him a choice and I'm going to make him clean up his messes. Hopefully, he'll get sick of being wet and nasty pretty fast.

So, there's lots of drama going on around here. Hopefully, we will all come through it better people and a happier family.