Dear Mouthy Housewives,
Am I crazy or is this inappropriate behavior? We visit my mother-in-law at an ocean-side community where she spends her summers. We have 3 kids, ages 9, 7, and 3. Her camper is not in any way child proofed. She feels the children should just not touch things. This is a woman who once set her table with beautiful china for a special occasion and put a china place setting where my then-2-year old was sitting.
The kids (being kids) are curious about everything in her camper. But all they hear is “Don’t touch. Don’t put your feet on the couch. Don’t play with that.” Since we’ve had kids old enough to walk, visits have been uncomfortable as we have such extreme differences in parenting. Luckily, my husband and I are on the same page. And we have great kids (polite and well-behaved) who on occasion, make noise and touch things.
Most visits end up with me walking the kids in the yard while she asks my husband to fix her computer. Last night after supper she pulled out her last will and testament and asked my husband to read it over carefully in case he had questions. Read it over carefully? In a small enclosed space with 3 kids, 2 cats and a dog? Huh? Is there not a better, more appropriate time for such a thing? If my husband says anything, her standard response is, “I’m sorry I’m so awful and that your childhood was so terrible.”
During the school year she is 4 hours away and we do not visit, but now she is spending summers less than 45 minutes from our house and expects us to visit often. I know she is a lonely old lady who loves her grandchildren, but what can we do to make visits easier and less stressful for everyone?
I’d Rather Take My Kids to a China Shop Than My Mother-in-Law’s
Dear I’d Rather Take My Kids to a China Shop,
I was thinking about your problem while my 2-year-old twins sipped apple juice from their Tiffany English fine bone china flora teacups. And frankly, the situation sounds miserable.
Relationships with in-laws can get complicated. You mention that you and your husband are on the same page but isn’t it time for him to stand up to his mother? I understand she’s old and means well but what exactly does she expect your kids to do at her house? Play mah jongg?! (Although I think that’s what Marinka’s kids do.)
I’ve noticed that as people get older, they sort of forget what children are like. Who can blame them? They are probably blocking out some traumatic event like the time their toddler pooped in her pants during the middle of dinner at a restaurant and they had no spare clothes. (This may or may not have happened to me in the past week.)
But your husband needs to refresh your mother-in-law’s memory because children – even well behaved ones – need some leeway. He should say to him mom, “We love you and we enjoy seeing you but it’s unrealistic to expect young kids to sit in your camper and not touch anything. So until they are a little older, why don’t we meet at a playground or at the beach so they can run around while we visit together.” Or maybe you can take her out to dinner when you visit. Anything to avoid that camper!
If she’s not able to get around, then bring a bag of stuff for the kids to do (drawing, board games, books, etc) and then grab ice cream for them afterwards for suffering through another visit to grandma’s where the only thing they are apparently allowed to do is look at her adoringly.
Remember – you are not required to visit her constantly and if she has any documents for your husband to look over, he should take them home and do it there.
Good luck and remember the summer usually flies by!