Family Drama

There is so much to say but I’m too hurt to say it. The last few days have left me depleted, exhausted, over wrought. I just don’t have much left in me.

The morning after I wrote Thursday’s post, my IL’s sat Mi.Vida down and expressed their intense concern over the methods I was using to discipline my daughter. They believed I was “withholding” food in at attempt to force her to say “please” (I have NEVER not given my child food to make her say anything) and that “time outs” in her crib were not only developmentally inappropriate but detrimental.

The whole thing tore me apart. I was deeply, deeply hurt. Wounded. This weekend, which was supposed to be really wonderful, and which I had been looking forward to very much, was pretty much ruined.

Mi.Vida went over on Saturday morning and spent three hours speaking to his parents. Saturday afternoon he relayed to me what was said. I had a very difficult time listening. On Sunday morning Mi.Vida and I spent an hour at couples counseling going over the whole thing a second time. I would love to write something coherent and meaningful about what was said but I just don’t have it in me. I’m too exhausted, both emotionally and physically, to recount everything, but I will say this:

– Mi.Vida did an impressive job standing up to his parents and defending me as a mother. And even though at first my hurt made it difficult for me to listen, I am forever grateful for all he did this weekend.

– Even though my in-law’s concerns came from a place of love for Isa, it was inappropriate for them to share those concerns, especially in the way they did.

– This was especially hard for me because not only was someone attacking the way I parent, but they were attacking the aspect of mothering in which I feel most capable. Also, the people attacking me were people I care about and am grateful for. Because of my in-laws’ willingness and ability to watch Isa I can go to yoga when Mi.Vida is away, we can go to couples counseling twice a month, we can enjoy the occasional date night, and we can get big projects done. Also, my FILs willingness to watch Isa four mornings a week this year has allowed me to work part time, a long-time dream of mine. These are not things I take for granted.

– Of course, their excessive presence in our, and Isa’s, lives, make situations like these incredibly difficult and probably do a lot to cause them.

– We have two options as we proceed. (1) Require that Mi.Vida’s parents’ address both of us with their future concerns so we can respond to them as a united front. (2) Listen to, and ignore, their future concerns in whatever way they choose to share them with us (this is possible because, currently, I’m not worried about whether or not they do these things in their own home, if Isa were older it would be different).

– Mi.Vida needs to be more involved with parenting decisions like these. In the past he has relied on me to figure these things out and when issues arise with his parents he feels ill equipped to suppor/defend me. He also feels he’s taken too passive a role in this aspect of parenting and wants to read more books and be better educated to both form and express his own opinions on issues like boundary setting and enforcing.

– When both Mi.Vida and I are feeling hurt and confused we may not have the emotional fortitude to support each other in the ways we want and that is okay, as long as we both understand what is going on. I wanted to be there more for Mi.Vida this weekend but I just couldn’t. He felt similarly. By Sunday night we both were able to come together and give each other the support we needed but Friday and Saturday we were totally incapable of that.

– My in-laws didn’t ruin this weekend for me. They did something and I reacted to what they did. I take full responsibility for the way I reacted and the fact that I felt my weekend was ruined. I do not blame them for my response to what they said, even if I believe what they said was inappropriate. I am responsible for my own feelings.

– Sometimes shit sucks and there is nothing to do but move through it. That was hard for me this weekend.

14 responses

  1. ouch.

    I read your post about in laws. It is really hard. I think some times it is difficult for parents to acknowledge that their are different ways of bringing up children that don’t necessarily correlate to the way they would. However they should always respect your decisions and as long as your child is healthy, happy and content in my mind shouldn’t interfere.

    It is great that your husband supported you as it is very easy to regressive to a passive role with our parents and revert to child / parent at the most basic level.

    I wonder why the “withholding food” seems to be a cause for concern? I know that for me personally as a child growing up that I would be reprimanded and not be allowed to have something if I had been naughty.

    My SIL also does time out with my niece and she is 2 in May. Again, this is a new form of parenting that older parents may struggle with. It might seem extreme but I see it work and I see the boundaries be re-established as to what she can and can’t do.

    Deep breath, wind down and have a glass of wine and actually look forward to Monday so you can put it behind you 🙂

  2. So sorry it was such an awful weekend, I would definitely have a hard time with that as well! You came to some excellent conclusions though & sound very prepared if something similar happens in the future. And it really is awesome how Mi Vida stood up for you!

  3. Oh, Esperanza, I am so sorry you are dealing with this. Time out is not detrimental, nor is putting a child in a crib/removing them from the situation. Nor is expecting a child to say please at two before receiving something, food, or gifts, or toys. That is helping to teach manners. You know this, but I wanted to reaffirm that. I think it is awesome that Mi.Vida. interceded. It puts you in an awkward position to have to fend off their criticisms. I think it is a really good strategy to ask them to talk to both of you in the future. My husband is not so good at interceding with my mother in law, and it is upsetting. But mostly, I just want to say that I am always impressed with how you deal with your daughter and with your daily life challenges. I think you are an incredible mother, making decisions with discipline in the early years is really hard. Every child is different and responds to different things. You know Isa so well, appreciate her being, and work with who she is and how she learns. It is a subtlety they seem to be ignoring. You are an amazing mother. Sending love and grounding. xo

  4. Hey, congrats to both you and Mi.Vida for being able to get through this together. I think it is particularly hard when it’s the guy’s family who is watching the child, because women are so sensitive to claims about their mothering. I have seen a marriage break up over this – the husband’s mom ran a family daycare that their son attended, and the wife felt constantly attacked and like her husband was always siding with his parents (and he was). She started reacting by moving to the opposite extreme, doing whatever they didn’t want… needless to say, when the guy’s brother had a baby, he did not send her to the mom’s daycare. So I’m really glad you guys are talking about this and supporting each other.

    I think requesting that in the future, they address you both together is a good idea. And also that you accept some inconsistency in the rules at your house vs the rules at their house. Maybe pick a few things that are really important to you and let go of the rest. It’s not ideal, but as long as they’re watching her 5 days a week, I don’t see that you have much choice here. Isa will still learn what the rules are at your house. Is there any way you could have someone else watch her a couple times a week, though? I know it’s expensive and brings its own issues, but it would probably help ease the situation. Or, is there anything or anyone more neutral you could refer your in-laws to, like a parenting book or your pediatrician, to reassure them you’re not being harmful? Sigh.

    P.S. I looked up the book you recommended about marriage. My library didn’t have it, but I got another one by the same author. Thanks.

  5. Ooof, I’m a little worried about this myself, as my Mother-in-law watches my daughter for me once a week while I’m at work. It’s so difficult when we have different parenting styles, but for your in-laws to attack your parenting methods like that. Wow. 😦 It sounds like the counseling was a much needed session for you to work through those feelings. I would have flipped.

  6. When I first read your other post regarding the “please” and “thank you” debate and the consequence for a “time out” for hitting I was shocked at your FIL’s response. In my opinion, it is beyond disrespectful for your in-laws to just dismiss your parenting strategies. I totally get that grandparents will treat the child differently and may disagree with what you are doing and may not want to carry out those same practices at their house. However, to call a meeting with your partner and try to convince him that you are doing things “wrong” is just beyond me. You have every right to be upset and to feel attacked. How dare they? I’m so sorry that they feel the need to criticize you in this manner and sorrier that they are doing it behind your back. If they have issues then they need to act like adults. You are not doing anything wrong with Isa as far as I can tell. You said yourself that she has responded to the time in her crib. That’s AWESOME. I think it’s a great step in the right direction. To get rsults like that from a child so young is a real breakthrough. I think your in-laws are definitely in the wrong here. I’m glad your partner stood up for you but I get the feeling that he learned his avoidance of conflict from his parents. I can’t imagine the stress that this puts on you regarding your in-laws watching Isa as much as they do. I think you are handling it very well and hopefully the counseling can help even more. I’m just sorry that you are the one seeking the help in this situation. I apologize if I have over stepped any bounds but I hate that you are feeling so badly about yourself when you aren’t doing anything wrong. (((hugs)))

  7. I’ve been thinking a lot about you this weekend…just wanted you to know that. I have especially been considered how you feel that your parenting choices reflect your values as both a person and a mother, and I believe you have every right to feel deeply hurt. It must feel so awful to have what you truly believe, in your gut, to be not only questioned, but judged by people you care about. I am glad to see that after the initial visceral/emotional part of it, you seem to have had some productive discussions with B about it.

    I remember many months ago, while reading one of your posts about couples counseling, a letter that you had written to your ILs but did not intend to send. It really echoed a lot of what you have been feeling so intensely these last few days. I don’t know why I mention this now, other than it is perhaps worth thinking about again. Perhaps even writing a new letter and comparing them to really get a clearer idea of how you truly feel about the major themes/issues. And truly, thank you for sharing this with us as many of us surely struggle to navigate similar waters in our own lives.

  8. When I read your post the other day about saying please and enforcing time-outs, I was behind you with every word. For me, manners is the number one thing that I think is our responsibility to teach, and so few parents do so these days. I agreed completely with your actions and was so proud of you for acknowledging this as your most capable attribute as a mother. I’m impressed by you daily and by how you raise Isa. Even though I’ve never witnessed it, I know whole-heartedly you are an amazing mother.

    I agree it came out of love, but I also completely disagree with how they handled it. I’m so happy Mi. Vida stood up for you. I hope you’re feeling a little better today, I can imagine the drop-off wasn’t very comfortable. Sending you love…

  9. I have nothing more than what has already been so eloquently said, but just know I’m so sorry and praying things get better. Hugs 🙂

  10. Oh my heart is aching for you – what a difficult journey to go through. I have relied a lot on my ILs for child care too, when we lived in the same town as them, and I too felt the cost in terms of their increased “say” in our child-rearing practices. It’s hard. And cuts into the core of your being.

  11. It’s so hard when you rely on someone else for care, and they disagree with your parenting style. We are lucky this has never happened to us … but then again, there’s the down side of paying for care, too.

    One thing I think we are more aware of than our parents is that everyone has their own approaches to parenting, and that parenting–in most cases–comes from a place of love … so we are, perhaps, less judgmental than they are. And in-laws are sort of annoying in the sense that they get all of the “fun” parts of parenting, but never have to deal with the real consequences. If they did, I bet they’d think differently.

    I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with this situation, but glad that you and Mi.Vida are doing so together.

  12. I am so sorry that they did that to you but so glad that Mi.Vida defended you and you were able to address it together. When I read your previous post, I thought nothing was wrong with how you are handling consequences. My MIL has been watching D since he was 3 months old, and we’ve experienced some of the challenges with her that you have. Our issues have been around food, napping and old-fashioned attitudes. Of course, she thinks we are too lax on D, which is untrue but whatever. It’s gotten to the point that we are both relieved that he will be starting day care soon.

    Sending you hugs and I hope this week is better.

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