Thursday, July 10, 2008

this is where I stomp my foot and protest that it wasn't meant to be this way!

I'm having some minor. ish. family drama on the home front at the moment. My family, my folks and seven of eight siblings (one is on a mission), is preparing to travel for my mother's family reunion (gramma and six kids, grandkids and greats). I would like to go.

Since my family is supposedly so very close knit, we've sorta opted to caravan down together to cut back on the cars (and gas money) going down. I was privately informed today that my brother and his wife of five years do not want to ride in any car with kids- apparently because at EVERY family gathering, the grandkids are pawned off onto him and his wife and they end up babysitting. (keep in mind that five of nine grandkids recently moved out of state in the last year. This brother and SIL see my 4 kids... maybe five times over the last year, even though they live only 20 minutes away).

Back to the story. I figured out a way to 'fish' the information out of him directly. I HAD TO!! I felt that I wanted... Needed... to know if I was the reason that they did not want to ride with kids... (Translation: find out if they are mad at me). Anyway, I got him by phone on my first try and after he admitted to not wanting to ride with kids, I directly asked him if I was the problem.

Evidently, I am the problem and I am shocked. Stunned. They are ticked off at me. For one thing, I HATE it when people don't like me, or are mad at me. Yah. Can't stand it. So this is the short version of what I learned.

1. Every time there is a family gathering, the kids flock to SIL (after all, she is very sweet and a favorite auntie!!) and she ends up being the ONLY ONE to give the kids any attention (THEIR WORDS). While the parents do... nothing. (I am assuming that *we* parents ignore the kids and let her tend to them? I don't know. I didn't ask for clarification at this point.)

2. SIL is P!SSED OFF at my DH because... (drum roll) several weeks ago, the family went to a luau and my DH asked her to take my six month old baby and give him his bottle. He took off to find me (I was serving food and doing clean up duty the entire night) and didn't return for a while. THEN, my brother gave the baby back to him, which DH in turn gave the baby to my younger 22 year old brother. (This made her even madder.)

3. SIL is mad at him because all night long at the luau, he "didn't take care of the kids" and didn't stop our two year old from running all over the place.

So that basically sums it up. I was speechless, so the only thing I could think to say to him was that I wasn't mad, but that he should have brought this to my attention immediately instead of waiting so long, and especially for waiting RIGHT BEFORE THE FAMILY REUNION to make an issue of this.

What I failed to tell him about the night in question (Luau on a Saturday night) was that:
A) DH had a horrible schedule in court all week long, came home from work two nights that week and played mom/dad while I left to sew costumes, string leis, food prep, etc. Then on Saturday (the day of the luau), I spent the entire day setting up and whatnot... he stayed home with the kids and by the evening when the party started, he was exhausted because he had had absolutely no down time and since I wasn't around, the kids were extra cranky. He probably needed a little break.

B) I talked my dh into going with my family. He was concerned about going with our 4 kids (while I was working the event) and I assured him my family would be there and willing to help him out.

C) When he LEFT the baby with SIL, he checked in with me and was keeping track of our special needs child who has a tendency to get disoriented when in a new environment and especially with lots of people.

D) We paid $40 for my brother and SILs tickets to the event. (Actually, the original plan was for them to buy them, but they never paid me for them... wasn't an issue at all until this came up).

So. That about covers everything. I'm at a complete loss. We have always been somewhat close and I'm just sick that this is happening. We're supposed to be a forever family, but I'm not feeling the love. I had this ideal that we would always help each other out in any circumstance...To make matters worse, this is not the first time (maybe the 3rd or 4th time in the last month) that this brother/wife duo have been offended or had ruffled feathers.

In order to keep the peace, I think I'm going to have to tell my kids to leave SIL alone at the reunion. Plus, I feel that I can't ask them for help at the reunion (dh can't go due to work)... and, if I ask my other bros for help, I run the risk of ticking them off even more...

Seriously. I need to know if I'm being unreasonable and expecting too much. Am I being completely obtuse and insensitive? What am I missing? Honest opinions, please!!


Nichole said...

can't sleep. so I came here. what's that about walking a mile in someone else's shoes?

no. I don't think you expect too much when you expect family to help. And if certain family members have issues or perceived offenses against them, they should do the ADULT thing and approach you one on one and talk about it like civilized people, rather than hold grudges or gang up and attack.

All I can say is - I have major family drama right now too, so I can certainly sympathize. . . it's to the point where all I can do is pray about it because I've talked it to death with everyone and am exhausted from it.

I'm so sorry you're going into this event feeling worried and anxious because someone can't take a moment to consider things from another perspective for two seconds.

Stella said...

I'm sorry that you have to deal with this.

I don't think you're being unreasonable. I come from a large family. At every family gathering I hope that people will help out with my kids, especially when my husband isn't there.

It sounds like your SIL and brother just don't want to help out and that would make me upset, too. Actually it would upset me more that they did not speak with me about it first.

I'm sorry you have to deal with this! Family should be there for one another whenever it's needed, not only on their terms!

heather said...

If you guys are checking in and also paying attention to the kids when you can while juggling other things, family SHOULD be helpful out of an unconditional love for you and your kids.
My husband and I wouldn't mind being with all the kids at all (including our own), as long as the parents didn't totally dissapear for the entire day.
Family is designed to naturally and selflessly help each other.
It sounds like these two don't have kids?, and that may be your answer. (They just don't fully understand the relief it is to have a little help, and don't understand why you can't constantly hang with all four of your kids.) If they're offended by that, it's totally their issue.
Just my two cents.

Sarah Blue said...

You asked for honest opinions, goes.

From your side of the sounds like you're assuming that your family will help, not asking beforehand. That might be part of the problem. I know my SILs used to sit on the couch & visit at family gatherings while their kids ran free. My DH & I, who were childless, were left to watch the kids. It was awful. I felt that the parents should watch their own kids or at least have the decency to ASK us to watch them, not just assume we would do it. It really drove me nuts for many years. So, I feel for you...but have been in your SIL's position and it is not fun. She is the newbie to your family and probably feels that instead of being able to get to know her new family and enjoy the activities that she was invited to--she's just being used for babysitting. It is an awful feeling to feel used and taken advantage of.

Talk to her. Let her know that you value her as a SIL. Tell her that your family usually just jumps in to help, without being asked. Let her know that you weren't trying to take advantage of her and explain to her how your life is taking care of four kids-two of whom need extra care (infant & special-needs). Make sure that you talk to HER, not your brother or other family members. Go directly to her. I think if you talk to her, you can get things worked out. And if after you've explained things she's still huffy then
1)She may just need time to get over her hurt feelings and will soon be your best friend, or
2)She's just someone who's easily offended but at least now you can feel good that YOU tried to work things out and can rest easy knowing that YOU are NOT the problem.

You asked for honest opinions so I hope this helps. GOOD LUCK!

the MomBabe said...

I think this happens is every family. Someone always has to be mad, or annoyed or something.

I know everyone's supposed to love everyone else all the time and such, but let's get real. You love your family, but sometimes you want to slap them.

I think you should ignore it. Who cares. Go to the family reunion and ask your other brothers for help. Leave the SIL out of it.

AND, do you think maybe your brother was saying that she was annoyed when he was? I know lots of men (my own hubby included) that just say I have a problem (when I don't) because it's easier for them to pass the buck then say that they actually are the ones that have a problem with a situation.

Anyways. Mostly I think you shouldn't sweat it. Someone always has to be the martyr and the victim. That's just the way family's are.

hayngrl101 said...

Wow, Sarah Blue. Thank you for your perspective. Its hard for me sometimes to step back and imagine why my SIL would take offense. So some of it is starting to make sense. Interestingly, I DID ask my fam for help in advance, they said no problem...
I'm thinking that you're probably spot on with everything, especially given your own experience within your family.
Oddly, she and my brother both grew up in large families where there is that expectation to pitch in wherever you're needed. Also, she is not a newly wed. They've been married for about 5-6 years now.
I think that my orginial gripe when this all came to a head was that I wasn't told about 'the problem' in the first place and so its been festering for I don't know how long. Secondly, I'm hugely irritated by the situation because my dh has been inactive for a number of years, has little contact with his own fam, and even less with mine for this very reason (contention over petty issues). Anyway, whatever, that's my problem to figure out.
After mulling it over, I think that I am just going to move forward and mind my p's and q's where my kids are concerned... I'm thinking I better not address it directly with her because it might stir the pot further.

hayngrl101 said...

MOMBABE!! Ha ha ha. I'm so laughing right now. You're right. I see it in my dh's fam because they are older and more established... I'm starting to see my family fall into some definite roles (martyr, etc.) now that we are getting older.

Yah, when I talked to the bro, I could tell that he agreed with his wife that my 2 yr old should have been contained more...

I'm sure that some day soon, they will have their own 2 yr old and figure it out for themselves...

Kimberly said...

I'm not going to read the other comments yet, just going to give my knee jerk reaction to this.

People are selfish. It's human nature..."the natural man" and all that. Seeing things from someone else's point of view is something we have to work at, and it looks like your family kind of forgot to work at that in this instance.

I'd suggest validating their feelings. Agree...yes, you were leaning on the family, expecting help with the kids....

BECAUSE...of everything you had on the go. And because families do stuff like that for each other. Gently point out that large family events just wouldn't be doable for you guys without family support, especially when you're doing so much of the prep work and the during-the-party work. And that you'd be sad if events like that weren't possible because the family isn't cool with helping you out.

Just gently point out your side. No need to be mad at them back, they're just confused and looking at things from the wrong perspective.

Although in your shoes I'd so be stomping mad!

Celia Fae said...

I had to wait and comment. I still fear retaliation from the seven of eight in my fam.

Choose a good LDS therapist and pay them a little visit. It helped me after my last nightmare reunion.

Sarah Blue said...

I was reading your reply comment to MomBabe and started laughing like crazy! Your brother thinks a TWO-year old can be Contained???? Is he serious? Apparantely he hasn't done a stint in nursery yet. Two-year olds are, by nature, bundles of energy. Actually, form about age 1 to 15. And then they only chill out because they don't want to be called "spaz" by their cool high school friends. ;)

Good luck with the SIL. Sounds like you'll need it.

Sarah said...

Why is it I see my family floating before my face...? I was laughing as I read your post, because I can see me in your situation so easily.

The biggest thing to me is that you weren't told about the issue. I'd tell your brother and SIL that you'd love to address their issues right away. I'd be clear on that issue, so they know the communication lines are open. Then I'd move on about this particular issue... they'll forget it in no time, and you won't have it on your shoulders anymore.

Anonymous said...

Hi, anonymous lurker here....I just want to say I think it is so refreshing to hear someone talk plainly about this kind of stuff instead of trying to be all polite and politically correct about it.

I relate 100%. This happens to me, with my inlaws ALL THE TIME! I even have a special needs child too. And doesn't it sometimes seem that other people think that if you're a special-needs Mom, that you're supposed to be some kind of SUPER WOMAN? I hate that. I'm retarded at being a regular Mom, and as hard as I try, I hate for other people to point it out (behind my back). and many times it is those who are young and naive and still in that stage of life where they're keeping lists of "when I have kids I'll never(fill in the blank)".... it doesn't help.

THANKS for the post. misery loves company and you just made me feel a lot better.

Sue said...

They don't have kids, do they?

Ha, ha, ha - their turn will come.

Anonymous said...

Hi, blog stocker here and just wanted to add my OPINION. I am the first DIL to a family who they feel it's ok to do both....first, who let their kiddos run wild at family gatherings while i took care of them and my own as well, second, they like to talk bad about things i do wrong, in their eyes, behind my back, and hold a forever grudge and never talk about it with me. I'm one who likes to lay things out on the table, deal with it, and then MOVE ON! Some people have a real problem with that but it's something i do and can't stand to deal with issues any other way, i hate things being unsolved. So....i feel i have both perspectives. I think it would be a good idea to talk openly and honestly with your brother and SIL by first telling them you love them very much and thank them for all the help they do give you guys, i have found this works best with many prayers and maybe a priesthood blessing. The one main thing i suggest about this conversation is to go into it with an open mind yourself and not with the expectations for them to see totally or even partially how you are feeling (this will only set you up to be let down). I also suggest seeking repentance and forgiveness compeltely for your own thoughts and feelings towards them. After giving them confidence in you of your love and true gratitude towards them ask them how they feel and just listen and then have compassion! Third, then explain to them how you are feeling, truly, make sure you are open and honest about this to get it off your can do this with out the contentious feelings being there if you go into it with the RIGHT intentions. Just remember that you can't control others reality, only yours and you have to set bounderies for them and yourself and realize that if they don't truly forgive you then it's about them, not you, you've done your best and their the ones with the issues. But i have to stress that you really need to HEAR them and understand them with out expecting them to do the same in return! There's always two versions of a story, it doesn't make either one right or wrong just different perspectives! Good Luck! I feel for you but i do think it's best to openly discuss THEN let go!

Many Prayers!

Anonymous said...

Hi, just an anonymous lurker here, but I have to add my 2 cents. Yes, you have unrealistic expectations, but not of having your family help out. What I gathered from your post is that you took a special needs child, a 2 year-old and a baby, along with another child, to a function with a stressed out husband where you would be 100% unavailable.

It is unrealistic to think that would go well, no matter how much help you had. I too have a special needs little boy who can get extremely overwhelmed at large gatherings and at unfamiliar experiences. While I continue to expose him to them, either myself or my husband plans on being completely available to help him through.

It sounds to me like you were over-extended and over-committed and need to rethink that more then anything. Expecting family to help out is very reasonable, but creating a situation where meltdowns are bound to happen and then being unavailable, is never a good idea.

I have been on the SIL end, where being around my unsupervised nieces and nephews made me physically ill. The noise was overwhelming and I was constantly stressed that one of them was going to die or at least need to be rushed to the hospital.

Now that I have 2 kids I am oblivious to crying babies and whining children and know that kids are resiliant and much tougher then they look. However, it took having my own 2 to learn this. Now it is my little ones' constant noise that drives my siblings crazy.

Maybe its time to rethink what are the right situations for you to ask for help, and when it is appropriate to put your kids needs first. No one minds holding a baby and giving it a bottle, but seeing needy unattended children can be stressful. Know when to say no to volunteering or helping, no matter how good the cause.

Sister Anon said...

Whew! I read this and also saw my family floating before my eyes as another poster said. We have this problem with my sister and her hubby who have been married for about 5 years and don't have kids either. It came out in frustration that they feel like they can't have any fun at any events because they 'always end up watching all the grandkids and entertaining them'. As the oldest sister and mom of four of these kids I was upset for several reasons-

1. I don't feel like I ever expect them to watch my kids, but at the same time they jump in and immediately start inventing games and doing entertaining- OF COURSE the kids want to play with them.

2. They don't have kids, they don't know that kids can entertain themselves- especially in large family gatherings where they have a dozen cousins to play with- they don't NEED to be entertained.

3. If you don't want to watch the kids- then don't. It's not your responsibility. It may not look like I'm paying attention to my kid to you because I'm talking to another adult and my kid is running/dancing etc in the middle of the room, but most likely if it's my 2 year old I've not taken my eye off her, but I'm letting her gain some independence. If it's my 3 year old then I'm watching, but not as close- because I know her and know she'll stay in sight of me. If it's my 6 year old then I trust that she knows the rules and we're in a contained room with family and friends (or whatever) and I've assessed the risks (is there a pool? If so all ages get watched like a hawk).

The thing is that I do this every day. I don't only take my kids out of the house and into public when we do family things. I'm pretty darn good at this mom thing by now and I don't NEED your help to feed/dress/find shoes for my kid. I do this all day long every day. If you want to help I'm not going to tell you to stop (although generally you're not helping as much as you think you are- we have a rhythm and a routine) but don't complain about helping when it seems to me that you're jumping in and doing it of your own free will.

Sigh, obviously I've got lots of hard feelings and opinions on this subject and having been the mom in the situation I feel for you. It makes it hard to go to family stuff and have a good time when I feel like I'm being judged on and resented for not being a good enough parent according to my childless siblings.

PokeyAnn said...

Wow, pushed buttons anyone? j/k I've been on both sides and have had a rocky relationship with my in laws and not too close relationship with my own family, so ya, been there a time or twenty. My two cents is advice from my g-ma in law; family is family and there isn't anything that would make me not want them in my life, I would never disown any of my children or anyone else in my family. And while this situation isn't any where near that stage, it kinda starts here. I know because I've watched it happen. On my side, things have all slipped away, but on my in-laws side, we are all still together...because family is family. Even though you couldn't find more sticks of dynamite that rub each other the wrong way if you tried, than the mix that is my in-laws. But in the end we are family and we love each other, no matter what. So pray about it and follow your gut, families are hard to deal with sometimes or most of the times, but it's important to remember these aren't strangers these are your peeps!

Jami said...

Not reading the comments, so that I am not unduly influenced.

This problem has happened in my family as well. I have no problem with my kids running around and visiting with the family. (Um, that's why we're there.) But apparently some people think that I should follow all six of them simultaneously what? Make them sit still? Administer tranquillizers? Have them present their recent paper on Anna Karenina? Perform a musical number a la Von Trapp? Oh for heaven's sake, they're kids. They run around; they babble. They need to get over it or not invite kids.

Eventually your brother and SIL will probably have kids and they'll get it. (Although probably not until the second child actually) In the meantime, try to be patient, loving and open with them in the same way you would hope they will be with you and your children.

Anonymous said...

Totally commenting too late, but oh well. I know you 've already been to the reunion and things seemed to blow over, but after reading the comments I thought I would add one more perspective. They have been married for 5 years and don't have kids...are they having issues getting pregnant? A lot of people pointed out in the comments that we should "walk in someone's shoes" before we judge, which is a good idea for both sides.

Maybe I am projecting, but my DH and I are going through infertility problems right now and sometimes it is hard to be around my sisters and their kids (even though I love them dearly). Just another thought to add to the pile.