Family ties

I have spent a lot of time wondering how different my life as a parent might be if I were lucky enough to have family nearby.  Mostly, I fantasize selfishly about having a support network with years of training in our inner workings, messy bits included.  Of course, the family in my fantasies reflects my own idealized version of this institution rather than any of the actual people who share our names.

G is far more practical about these things.  He recognizes that family can be a colossal pain in the butt and believes generally that the very best help, while challenging to find, can be purchased.  He has a point.  But that doesn’t change one very important detail: you can’t pay somebody to love your child.

During those occasions that we do get to spend time with family, I’m reminded just how right we BOTH are.  My MIL has been here visiting for the past few weeks and life has been rather challenging – and wonderful.  g has soaked up the love and attention with delight.  I have been given not one but SEVERAL opportunities to make plans sans child and each time I have returned to a happy child – monumental.

I have also been trying and failing and trying and failing to be patient, to skip over all of the little and not so little moments that have made my hair stand on end.  But these moments are making me yearn mostly for opportunities to make plans sans MIL.   I’m afraid that some of them are destined to sit with me even after she has been safely returned to her home thousands of miles away – like her hasty decision to tell g that he will be a big brother.  I have spent months planning the when and how of this discussion and, despite my apprehensions, I somehow believed that it was mine to tell.

Bristle, bristle.

But perhaps the most difficult part of this particular relationship is the part that will never go away.  It’s the fact we share something, our two precious boys, even though they aren’t easily divided and it’s almost always my turn.  It’s not something to take lightly, especially because, if I’m lucky, I may one day BE her.


17 thoughts on “Family ties

    1. I think (want to think) that she believed that she was helping out. Once it was done, I didn’t know what to say. Perhaps I have waited too long but, of course, I have my own reasons for this. Details aside though, I think it comes down to respecting the decisions of the mother whether you agree with them or not. She doesn’t seem to subscribe to this idea, unfortunately.

  1. MSW

    Oh grrr… I would be annoyed about her sharing the baby news as well.
    We also live far from family. Not as far as you I don’t think, but my family is a couple of provinces away, and while my husband’s parents are only about a 4 hour drive, we only see his dad a few times a year, and we haven’t seen his mom in over 3 years (except for at a family funeral where there was still no actual contact). So we have no local family support system/child care. My parents occasionally make comments about moving closer. I don’t want them to. Life is good the way it currently is. Even if I do wish I could run some errands without a toddler in tow sometimes.

  2. Hi. I recently found your blog and just wanted to let you know I was here. (I read somewhere it’s the week for that, no?) We don’t have kids yet, but I already worry about the fact that our families live in two different countries. I want our kids to know their extended families, but with family, there’s always the possibility of people sticking their noses in where they don’t belong. I’m sorry your MIL took it upon herself to tell g about the baby. It wasn’t her place, but it sounds like you’ve kept your cool about it, at least in front of her. I’m not sure I could have done the same.

    1. Hi Daryl! Welcome!! I should probably admit that I omitted all the little “incidents” of the past few weeks that were mostly about me defending my ego. I do feel like the benefits of g having people in his life who believe that he can walk on water do mostly out way the negatives. But I still wish it were a little less complicated.

  3. Esperanza

    Oh the MIL in relationship. It seems that even when your MIL is a genuinely nice person there will still be friction. I really like my MIL; the only thing negative I had to say about her before Isa was born was that I didn’t really understand how she showed affection (or seemed not to show it). Ironically, that all changed when Isa was born and now she seems much warmer to me (she just adores Isa) but we also clash A LOT more than we used to. The reality is, you’re right, we do share two things, the most important things and it’s hard for both of us to respect each other’s rights and claims to those things. Especially hard for me.

    I wish family were easier, for all of us.

    PS, I think it’s totally NOT OKAY that your MIL shared that info with g. NOT OKAT AT ALL. I would be livid. I’m so sorry that happened. You have every right to bristle, and more, at that atrocity.

  4. I agree Esperanza. Even in the best case-scenarios, there is that underlying truth to the relationship that colors all the rest. Thanks for the words of support. I am trying to move past it but, above all else, I wanted to make sure the news was relayed with sensitivity and cheerfulness and it came out “you are going to have to start acting like the big boy now”, which is NOT how I want a 2 year-old to feel.

  5. Trinity

    NO. SHE. DIDN’T. I didn’t really absorb any of the rest of your post beyond that part because I was too busy trying to swallow a big ol’ lump in my throat. ACK. I’m sort of confused as to how she thought hijacking the telling was helpful. That is such a precious, priceless little milestone–and most especially for those of us who’ve lived in fear and anxiety over that milestone ever coming to be–and I feel like she just robbed you of something super significant. I am not being helpful about this, I fear, and am perhaps just stoking your anger. I’m just kind of flabbergasted. And pissed. 😦

  6. I, too, cannot believe she shared your news with g. It was YOURS to share! Gah.

    I’m in the midst of writing a post about how having family nearby is very difficult at the moment, but your post reminds me that if they weren’t nearby, perhaps I’d be wishing they were. Maybe the very best family to have are family members who are wealthy enough to be retired and are available to fly in for short periods of time to help out, be charming, and then leave quickly to go to their next adventure.

  7. Ugh. I’m so sorry … how could she? 😦

    Funny … my mom was here last night, and there are times when I’m glad she’s close by, but honestly, even having her an hour away doesn’t guarantee that she’s willing to be here to help out. Semi-local or local inlaws are, I suspect, both a blessing and a curse.

  8. Oooohhhh…. wow. Not just the telling, but the MANNER of the telling, just wow. I too would feel like she both stole and ruined something of yours that was very valuable.

    You bring so much wisdom and insight to this matter, though – understanding the stake that grandparents have in the relationship, and the richness of love that they can bring to your child, but at the same time the way the stake/claim of that love overlaps with your own, it’s messy. And understanding that as the generations pass you will “one day BE her.” That’s perspective.

    Those little things can still rankle though – I know! (My ILs were just here for a whole month!)

  9. Rachel @ Eggs In A Row

    OH MY GD. I can’t believe that. Seriously. That is why we never tell D’s mom anything we wouldn’t mind having on the 5 o’clock news. But, wow. Talk about no boundaries.

    That being said, I too wish I had family here. All of D’s family is in one place except for us…and my mom and sister are in the same city. We need to fix this.

  10. OOoooooooooo. I can’t BELIEVE she did such a thing. I was having some similar thoughts about my own mother in law when she was here at Christmas–now that I know a lot more about what it’s like to love a child, I can understand some of her behaviors a little better. And indeed, she seems to be exercising remarkable restraint. But I can’t really think of an excuse for doing what your MIL did, and it makes me shiver to think of what the other things that have been irking you might be.

    I guess the point of your post was NOT that your MIL is a monster, but it’s hard not to dwell on that.

    I’m glad she’s given you a chance to go out on your own a bit, and that g’s shown you he can flourish without you, even if only with a very specific substitute. And… I hope she goes away soon and does not come back for a long time.

  11. Lesley

    Oh no!!!! I’m so sorry that she stole that moment from you. It’s hard for me to not hate her for that. I live close to my family, and it’s nothing like your fantasy. It’s like: take all the things that make you bristle during a visit, and multiply the impact times 1,000,000, when it’s part of your day to day life with no end in sight. I’m not saying that there are no good parts of having family nearby. But having family VISIT OCCASIONALLY is the best solution by far! I am definitely learning from your awful experience here, and if we have another baby, I think I’ll just tell P first. I know my mom would probably do something similar. These grandmas, I swear. Such a sense of entitlement!

  12. I could say a lot on this subject (as you may well know!) Bottom line, as nice as it may be to have free babysitting & extra love from grandparents, depending on your family dynamic, the hidden costs can be too high. In a fantasy world, where grandmas respected all your wishes and rules, and helped out cheerfully when needed, sure, it’d be great. In reality….yeah. I’d rather shell out my hard-earned money to a stranger who will happily take orders and LEAVE when I am done with her services. As for that last part…about becoming a MIL yourself…I think about that sometime, but figure that my self-awareness will hopefully keep me from making most of the most egregious errors. I am learning A LOT about how NOT to behave as a MIL, and don’t think those lessons will be soon forgotten.

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