Tuesday, January 31, 2012

No Good Approach

I'm not going to apologize this time.  I'm not going to call myself ungrateful.  I know how lucky I am that she helps me.  I know I would be more broke than I already am, be more anxious, be sleeping less, and have more to do at home if she wasn't helping me.  I am not sorry this time.  I am grateful.  I am also frustrated.

This morning I got into another disagreement with my mother.  I knew it would happen.  I wanted to talk about something she was doing that I didn't like.  I debated bringing it up but it's been happening for awhile.  I ignored it at first thinking it would pass.  It didn't and it bugs me.  Sometimes things bug people for no good reason.  I realize that.  And the longer I waited to say something, the more it would bug me. I debated as I was getting ready for work listening to her interact with the babies (and use this phrase) the best approach to use to bring it up.  Clearly I picked the wrong one. I asked her to not say -wait, I didn't even ask; I approached it as I was wondering if- something she was saying to the twins was confusing.

Me:  "So I was thinking about something.... "
Her:  "Uh oh (funny). What?"
Me:  "Do you think when you say 'Whatever you do, don't smile!' to the boys, it is confusing?  We are saying "don't" but laughing and encouraging them to smile."
Her:  "No!  The Dynamo knows exactly what I mean!"
Me:  "Really?  You think he gets that you are trying to get him to keep a straight face?  We use the word don't when we don't want them to do something.  Now it's being used and when they do the opposite, we laugh." 
Her (defensively):  "Fine.  I won't say it anymore."
Me:  "You don't have to get defensive."
Her:  "Yes, I do.  They're not stupid!"  (Can I just add that I LOVE when she makes remarks like this.)

I left for work and she was clearly mad at me.

This is about more than what she was doing.  This is also about how she and I communicate with each other.  If we can't communicate, it's going to put a big(ger) strain on our relationship.  As the twins get older, there are going to be more things I want done (or not done) a specific way.  I will be wrong sometimes.  I will be irrational and naive and over-protective and paranoid and silly sometimes.  If we can't communicate, it won't matter if she's right or her ideas are better than mine.  Anytime I try to discuss something I don't agree with her about, and I try to be aware of my approach, she turns defensive.  She dismisses me, agrees to do it my way, and makes off-handed comments like, "They're not stupid": meaning my 17 month-olds know she's joking, or "Well, I don't like to see him upset!": implying that I do when I choose not to give in when one of them is not getting his way and is throwing a fit. 

What do I do?

I've tried a mature, calm, sit-down, face-to-face approach.  Again, she gets defensive and dismissive. I've tried email.  Sometimes I get a better response but typically she misses things in email so I don't think she reads them thoroughly.  I don't believe email is the best form of communication but I think it does work in some situations.

Last Tuesday night the Dynamo was tired and hungry.  I had just put him and Sweet Potato in their booster seats at the table for dinner and the Dynamo wanted out.  Grandma went to take him out and I told her not to.  I would never get him back in the chair and it was dinner time and he was hungry and tired.   So she stood there about five feet from him with disapproval written all over her face -facing him no less and making him more upset.  Then she said, "Well I don't like to see him upset!"  I told her if she didn't want to hear him cry, then she should go. (It was time for her to go anyway.)  He quieted down about five minutes after she was gone and let me feed him his dinner.  She didn't talk to me the next day.

I think if she watched the kids less, it might help.

I have plans to change the child care routine but I don't know when and what those plans are yet.  I've always said I wanted the twins to attend a structured daycare/classroom type environment part-time in toddlerhood for the experience.  Before Sweet Potato's allergy diagnoses, I think I would have been considering it sooner than I am now.  With the extra layer of complexity his food allergies bring, I'm not in as much of a hurry to do this but I still want to eventually. 

There are some other reasons I'd like her to watch them less too.  Occasionally, on the weekends, I'll ask her to sit with them for an hour while I get my hair cut or run another errand.  On Monday before the sitter came over (I work a later shift), she stayed with the Dynamo while Sweet Potato and I went to Toddler Gym.  I'd like to keep doing things like that and alternating one-on-one time with the babies.  It's easier for me to ask her to cover these types of things when she hasn't already been watching them for a long work day.  She would never say no - even when she's tired.  In fact, one day she showed up at my house before I went to work looking exhausted.  I offered to happily stay home from work (more baby time for Mommy!) and long story short, she got ticked and thought that I didn't think she could handle them.  Or some such crap.  She made some hurtful comments and I did email her when I got to work and told her I was hurt by them.  She didn't respond.

My sitter is awesome.  It's a completely different dynamic when she watches the twins from when Grandma is there.  Which I would expect a little bit anyway from a grandma.  The sitter would pick up another day or half-day  day each week if I needed it.  I would love to have her there more and Grandma there less.  My checkbook would not like this.  I pay my mom a flat rate per week and the sitter is hourly.  While I could adjust my mother's cost down (awkward) to help compensate, it will still cost me more to have the sitter there.  I am still strongly considering this even though the thought of bringing it up to her scares the hell out of me.

At the end of the day, I'm the mother and what I say goes.  I know that and she knows that.  But I need her.  And the twins need her.  Last weekend we were busy and she didn't come over at all.  The twins and I had a great weekend and I didn't feel any tension.  I want more of that.  Less Grandma time might be the answer but I have no idea how to get there.  What would you do if you were me?


  1. I think that you are going to have to let some things go. You say you are wanting the boys to go to a structured daycare...the teachers there will have more than your two to watch. They can't do things "your way". They will have a set way they do it.

  2. I really don't have any experienced advice. I just want to say that I can appreciate where you are coming from. I remember my sister going through this with my mom (and her kids are now 15 & 13). I don't worry as much about this for myself as my mom and I do have good communication AND they are not local. Wish I had an answer for you... but I agree that you are the mom, and your mom has to appreciate that you want to raise your boys your way - and they need consistency which means she needs to follow through with your requests. Good luck!!

  3. Well, you are asking for advice, so I am going to offer some, even though I hope that it won't be taken the wrong way. Here goes . . . if I were your mom, I would be offended too. That phrase is something people say to kids a lot. My family says it when the kids are pouting to make them happy again: DON'T SMILE! DON'T DO IT! OH NO, YOU SMILED! and it makes them laugh. The thing is, they are smart, and our language is complex, and things like this is how they learn things like sarcasm, and tone and context. These things are huge for language development. Also, it is just plain silly, and silly is important too. So I don't know if there is just some pent up frustration going on between you and your mom and your feelings are more about other things, but I would not have brought this up to her. Here is how I look at it when family members do things in a way I wouldn't do them: unless it is detrimental to their safety or hurting them, I usually let it go. It is a privilege to have people that love your children like you do in their lives. It is also how they learn that everyone is different, and love comes in different forms. It sounds like your mom takes great care of those babies and loves them unconditionally, you should just let her do that. Her way, not your way. Because the time for your way is when you are with the babies. And while I see the merits of a structured daycare, I think that saving money and having the boys get amazing one on one care beats structure any day. There is so much time for structure! You know? Grandma won't be around forever, they will remember her silly games and her love with fondness. That is my two cents, I hope you take it in the spirit it was given: from someone who digs you, and has been there. xoxo

  4. I can really understand where you're coming from. While my mom lives many hours away, we tend to have similar interactions. A casually asked question or phrased request can cause lots of hurt feelings. Even though she's a great help with the boys, I can just imagine how exhausting it can be, and frustrating when your attempts at avoiding offending are unsuccessful.

    I wish I had something more helpful to share than understanding! Though if you figure out the key to communicating with your mom, I hope you let me know what it is!


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