Monday, March 30, 2009


When I was a tiny girl, probably around five or six years old, my parents were concerned by my sad inability to walk across the room without falling. Their solution was to sign me up for gymnastics class--probably because of Mary Lou Retton. In a class with a dozen other tiny girls in black leotards and white slippers I learned important life skills. Seat drops, straddle rolls and how to cling desperately to a bar and beg to come down.

Not surprisingly, since I was so klutzy that these classes were necessary, I was not exactly a gifted gymnasts. I did somersaults in all sorts of directions, I tripped trying to learn to vault, and I fell eighty-four thousand times from the balance beam.

My biggest memory of those classes, other than a bizarre fantasy I had about Mary Lou magically appearing from a tiny door that no one used int he corner, was trying to just walk across the beam without bobbling.

Sometimes I feel like parenting a baby is like walking on a balance beam. Besides all of the obvious and incredibly hard ways--the work thing, the staying married to the father if it is possible thing, the having good hair but not looking too Mommy thing--there is the family thing. As in your family and his family and how do you get everyone to shut up.

I have a good relationship with my parents and so the needing them to shut up hasn't happened much. Other than a few highly stupid comments my dad made about Mo not needing a nap anymore (uh, I remember napping in kindergarten, girlfriend is a year old Pop) we have had no issues. But they are my folks, their weirdness makes sense to me.

But figuring out how to cope with my MIL, has been such a challenge. In almost every way I think she is near perfect. She loves my daughter, which is the biggest thing. She takes such amazing care of her. She is supportive of the way we are trying to bring her up. But things come up. And because she cares for her every day she feels like she gets a bigger vote. I guess she does get a bigger vote. There is a tug of war between her being a grandmother and caregiver and GAH. It is confusing. I have a hard time feeling like maybe I am too critical of her or don't want to do what she wants just because she wants me to do something. Would I feel differently if this stuff was coming from my mother? Probably. Because I have this layered relationship with my mother built on her being a great mother, a great friend to me now and an amazing grandmother. My MIL and I don't have that relationship even though she is a wonderful person and I love her. So, yes, even though I hate it, I do listen to my mother in a different way.

This all came to a head last week. As many people know, cough medicine manufacturers pulled infant medications a couple of years ago. I think this is stupid, as the reason was mainly that parents didn't follow directions. But it doesn't change that medications are not available for infants at this point. And my MIL and husband were pressuring me to give the baby children's medicine at a dosage she remembered giving him as a child. Setting aside my doubts about her being able to remember the correct dosage thirty years later (I can't remember six months ago so how can she be SURE), I don't know that the medications are even exactly the same. I would love to have a cough medicine for her but I wasn't going to take unnecessary risks.

And for the first time J was on the other side. He wanted to give her something and was using his mother as a deciding vote. Oh I resented it. If we are bringing mothers into it well mine should be coming too (hi she would agree with ME) but somehow his mom counts more? Should she?

Eventually, we found a compromise, these are genius and worked very well. But trying to sort it out was this arduous process, so loaded and messy. A million of these situations will happen in the next eighteen years and we will continue to figure them out.

But I still feel like I am six years old, up on a balance beam. But now I am carrying a baby, a MIL, a husband, my parents, a cat, a pug and a dachshund along with me. I just keep inching along trying not to fall.

And the cat is digging her claws into my neck.

1 comment:

Swistle said...

Ack yes.

And I'm not saying _I_ do this, since all the medications say not to give them to children under four (even BENADRYL, which COME ON), but, um, a FRIEND of mine does roughly half of the 4-year-old dose for 2-year-olds. So, like, if age 4-6 takes 1 teaspoon, age 2 at MY FRIEND'S house takes 1/2 teaspoon.