Agreeing to Disagree

My daughter is almost two years old. She is learning more and more words every day. She already says well over a hundred words (in Spanish and English – much more in English) and strings them together to make sentences. She can count, in two languages. She can sing (the first four letters) of the alphabet. She is smart. She is capable. She gets what is going on. And I have to admit, I’m loving it.

Some moms like the baby phase. Some moms LOVE it. They revel in the smallness, in the all-consuming nature of it. They feel empowered by how much their newborns need them and how they are able to provide. For me? Not so much. I’ll admit I found the first six months kind of… boring. The older Isa gets, the more I enjoy motherhood. I love her independence. I revel in the thirty minutes she can play and read by herself. I sink my teeth into the opportunities to teach her. I wait eagerly for the chance to give her consequences.

Yes, at the tender age of 21 months, I am already issuing consequences to my toddler.

You see, this is the part of motherhood I’m good at. I’m good at the consequences part. I’m good at setting boundaries and enforcing them. I’m good at making my expectations clear and helping my daughter meet them. I believe my daughter is already capable of learning what is expected of her and doing it. And I’m treating her accordingly.

The thing is, not everyone agrees with the way I enforce consequences with my daughter. Most of the time it doesn’t matter, because I don’t really care much what others think of my choices. She is my daughter and I’m doing what I believe is right in raising her. Of course, when the people who don’t agree with me are my in-laws, it gets more complicated. Especially since my in-laws are our primary care providers.

It’s not even that I want my in-laws to do things the ways I do. Usually I tell them what I’m doing with Isa so they can create consistency if they want to, but I never overtly ask them to do anything. And that’s probably a good thing, because chances are they would refuse.

Recently I told my in-laws that I was putting Isa in her crib for a minute when she hit or scratched me. I don’t really consider this a “time out” but more of a chance for her to regain her composure when she’s really upset while letting her know that hitting will not be tolerated. At first she would get very upset when I put her in the crib but after about a week, she would regain control almost immediately and be ready to play happily by the time I returned to get her. Also, she hasn’t hit me in a week.

I mentioned this at lunch with my in-laws and I was promptly informed that they would NOT be doing anything of the sort when she was at their house. Not only was it developmentally inappropriate (ie she wouldn’t understand what was happening) but they don’t believe in time-outs and refuse to administer them. I told them they should do whatever felt comfortable and left it at that.

Today my father-in-law mentioned that he was trying to teach Isa to say “thank you”. I’ve been focusing on requiring her to say “please” before I give her things. It’s a part of our daily exercise in patience (many times a day I just don’t let her have something right away, usually I have her go distract herself with something else and then bring it when she has forgotten about it). In just a few short weeks she has started using “pease” instead of grunting for what she wants. It’s a welcome change.

Anyway, I was going to start requesting she say “thank you” when I felt “please” was adequately acquired, but I certainly didn’t mind my FIL trying to teach her “thank you”. I mentioned that I was focusing on “please” first and he made it clear that he would not be focusing on “please” he didn’t care about whether she said “please” and he certainly wouldn’t with hold things to force her to say it. He would casually focus on “thank you” and that was it.

Now obviously this is not all that important and I truly don’t care whether he reinforces the work I’ve done on asking Isa to say “please” when she wants something. But I have to admit, his total disregard of my mothering choices is hard to handle. Really hard. And I’ve felt pretty shitty ever since our exchange.

It makes me realize that my parenting decisions really are an extension of who I am, and if someone disregards them or implies they are so worthless as to not be worth considering, I take it personally. Very much so. When my FIL fails to even consider my reasoning for doing something when it comes to my daughter I feel like my own values are disregarded as well. It’s complicated and difficult to explain. The only thing I’m sure of is how much it sucks.

Do you ever have to defend your parenting decisions? When you do, does it feel like you are defending who you are? What do you do or say when people close to you disagree with your choices?