Thursday, March 31, 2011

The MIL Saga: Part 3 – The Tension Mounts and then Explodes

See Part 1 and Part 2 of the saga that never ends…

I left this story off after last Christmas, when Adriana was 2 ½ months old. The next part of the drama involves a series of visits with lots of “comments”. In January, Justin and I went to his cousin’s wedding. MIL repeatedly drilled us on who was watching Adriana that night and who would watch her when I went back to work, and seemed put out that the other grandparents got to solo babysit before she did. She also asked a million questions about the breastfeeding, and how long until I’d be done.

I could tell that she really wanted to babysit, so we made arrangements for her to take a day off work and watch Adriana at our house one Friday. She showed up with her sister, stating that she was nervous about watching her alone. Everything seemed to go fine, but she mentioned that she wanted to watch her at their house next time, and still wanted Adriana to spend the night “without mama and dada, so we can have FUN.” (Note: this comment was often repeated during visits – always said to Adriana, not to us).

Other than that, we didn’t see MIL too many times. I know we invited MIL and SFIL over for dinner once, and she came by herself once or twice. She never invited us to her place, and we never offered to go. Justin and I had always told all of the grandparents that, with me being at work full time (and trying to finish my master’s degree on top of that), we like to just relax on the weekends. If anyone wanted to come visit, we would absolutely love to have them, but we would mostly be homebodies. I probably actually over-communicated that point, since I wanted everyone to feel like they are always welcome to see her.

That being said, I started to feel bad that we never went out to see MIL and SFIL. I would tell Justin that we really should go out to visit, since they hardly ever saw Adriana. His response was always “If she wants to see us, she will call. I never just go out and visit her, she knows that.”

Sure enough, we got a call from her late summer. I did the usual ridiculous amount of cleaning and preparation for the visit, and made sure that we had fresh bagels, coffee, and fruit salad out. We had a really nice visit, with the only weirdness in the morning being that MIL brought clothes that had been sitting at her house for months (and therefore reeked of cigarette smoke). At this point, Adriana was in size 9 months, and these were all 0-3 or 3-6. There was no way she was going to fit. MIL said something to the effect of “I guess I should have brought these over when I got them as a gift, I thought we would see her more.” Sigh.

So anyway, we were all having a good time, sitting on the back porch and playing cards while Adriana napped, tired from her morning of playing with grandma. Then MIL cleared her throat. “I wanted to come here today so I could talk to you guys. Can we go inside?” My stomach dropped because I HATE HATE HATE conflict of any sort, and I especially hate conflict that comes without any warning whatsoever.

So she pulls out this letter, and instantly starts crying, which made me tear up because I HATE when people cry, and I totally knew what was coming, and I knew she blamed me. It started off something like “I just don’t see where SFIL and I fit into Adriana’s life,” and went on to basically air her grievances. She had a BULLETED LIST of different “comments” that had been made that made her think she will never get to “have the baby alone”, and that “everything has to be on [Justin and my] terms”. At one point, I told her that I had been trying to get Justin to come over and visit, because I knew we didn’t see them often enough. She interrupted me and said “That’s not the point.”

It became increasingly clear throughout the conversation that she had NO INTEREST in seeing the three of us as a family. She wanted to have Adriana out to her house, without us, to have a “special grandma moment.” Part of the requirement of this “special grandma moment” was that Adriana had to spend the night. She admitted that she had found out that Justin’s cousin now babysat Adriana one day a week, and she was tired of “always being the last choice for babysitting.” She also said that she knew that I was done breastfeeding, and that she was forced to lie to her coworkers because they knew that she was going to be allowed to have Adriana spend the night once it was over.

We tried to explain that 1) We almost never get babysitters. We need them so we can go to work, but other than that, like to spend our weekends with Adriana. If we were to arrange for Adriana to spend the night, that’s time we don’t get to spend with her; 2) MIL works, so it’s not like she could replace my parents or Justin’s cousin as the daytime babysitter; and 3) Her house still isn’t safe for Adriana.

About 3…remember when I told you about how MIL tore out the floor in between Thanksgiving and Christmas? SHE NEVER REPLACED IT. They still had plywood down, and, for all we knew, the nails and staples and crap sticking out of it.

So anyway, lots of tears were shed by MIL and I, and we all hugged it out. I genuinely felt BAD for her, and SUPER GUILTY. I said that we would absolutely arrange a “spend the night” situation after Adriana’s birthday, as long as the floors were done and the dogs were locked up. Then she left.

Afterwards, I gradually went from being really upset and guilty and sad to really pissed off. Who was she to go for months and months without contacting us, and then come over and lay all of that on us like it’s completely our fault and not at all hers? Not only do I BEND OVER BACKWARDS to accommodate visitors, but I had also spent months telling Justin to call her or to set up a visit. Why did I feel like she was only mad at me and not at all mad at her son? What the fuck did she want to do alone with Adriana that she couldn’t do when Justin and I were there? And WHO ELSE’S TERMS would care of OUR CHILD be on? At this point, I started to think that perhaps she is a little cuckoo for cocoa puffs, and was more interested in creating a “special grandma moment” than actually BEING A GRANDMA.

More to come in Part 4…


Brenna said...

She's your kids, of course it's going to be on your terms. Ridiculous.

We need some sort of bad MIL club where we can go to commiserate about this stuff. Mine is EXACTLY the same, with the lack of effort and passive aggressive comments.

Back when people still had answering machines, mine would call and leave pitiful messages, supposedly addressing our infant daughter, but with barbs clearly intended for us. Which was absolutely pointless because my response to guilt-trips is never the intended guilt, but anger at the completely transparent attempt at manipulation.

AJ said...

My 26 month old has never spent the night with anyone, and my MIL lives just 30 minutes away. Heck my DD was nearly 3 before she was left overnight with anyone and that was because I had to make an emergency trip to STL and it wasn't going to work to take her along.

d e v a n said...

Pissed is exactly the way I would expect any parent to feel in that situation. I certainly would!
My oldest is 6, then almost 4, almost 3 and my youngest is almost 16 mo and guess what? Not ONE of them has ever spent the night with someone else. And I don't feel the least bit guilty about it.

Swistle said...

It is starting to creep me out that she is so insistent on an OVERNIGHT, ALONE. It's like she has some sort of fixation on that. And, I mean, do people routinely DO that? Leave their small babies at other people's houses overnight? It's not like she's complaining that you won't let her watch the baby for an hour while you get your haircut: she's asking for something UNUSUAL, and then she's acting as if by saying no to it you're cutting her out of your lives, when clearly that's not the case. It all seems so WEIRD. Like, it starts to make me feel creeped and suspicious, like there MUST be an unsettling explanation for this. What it specifically reminds me of is when I took my baby twins to the doctor, and we could only see one of the doctors we don't usually see because the others were on vacation, and while one twin was getting a shot, the doctor took the other twin "out, so he won't be upset"---but when the nurse opened the door after the shot (with me feeling funny about this idea already), the doctor was nowhere in sight: she'd walked down a long hallway and around a corner with MY BABY, and she was gone for SEVERAL MINUTES. I still feel REALLY UNEASY about that, and it's been nearly six years.

lawyerish said...

I am with Swistle. Reading this is giving me the creeps in a big way. She seems so unhealthily fixated on the ALONE OVERNIGHT, and it is just WEIRD WEIRD WEIRD. I mean, our daughter is one and no one -- NO ONE -- has suggested that they would like an overnight visit with her, nor have any family or friends even insistently volunteered to babysit, you know?

Seriously. I am really unsettled about this, and I'm so sorry you had to deal with it because, hello, UNCOMFORTABLE. (And that's even before we get to the unsafe dogs and the plywood floors and the EXPOSED OUTLETS, OMFG.)