Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How big a debt is owed exactly?

Once upon a time I was a full time working Mommy. When I was was working, my work week was 80 hours plus, and I spent 12 hours a week commuting. My schedule did not allow for much more than meeting my children's basic needs. When I was working, in order to help us and the children my parents invited them to stay over school breaks. I missed my children when they were gone, but it was hard to argue the logic of keeping them home so that they could spend only a precious few hours with me when my parents are at home and they have a great pool which my kids love. Then two years ago, things changed. Our circumstances changed and I was able to work only part time, and eventually leave entirely.

Now, Mom is back on the job. Me being able to stay at home with the children has given me the ability to focus on things that I previously had little control over. For example nutrition. What I bought for our house was always pretty healthy, but not my aunt who was our childcare provider or my parents who spent a lot of time with the children. We never presumed to tell anyone who was kind enough to love and care for our children what to feed them based on our personal convictions. Now it is a different story. When the kids go to visit friends or family they know that they are allowed to eat anything they want, but not to bring it home, because I won't allow it in the house. My aunt tends to think this is pretty harsh and often helps the children to smuggle in contraband junk.

My parents are a different story. They live out of town, so when the children visit, they often go for two or three weeks. While I don't try to micromanage what they feed the kids, I do ask that they please limit the amount of food and drinks containing HFCS and artificial colors. My parents ignore this request completely.

Then there is the subject of games and game time. At my Mom and Dad's house there is unlimited game time. Hours on end that they allow the children to sit in front of the computer or Xbox. They also allow them to play games like World of Warcraft. I was so much opposed to this one, that I talked to parents about it. My father promised to monitor my son very carefully while he was playing and not to send the game home. Instead he sent him home a computer with the game already installed and instructed my son not to share his password with anyone including me.

I have realized that I can talk to my family until I'm blue in the face, but that they don't feel like they need to listen to me. Often my mother tells me, "we were good enough to have the kids all the time before...what suddenly now you care?" Ouch. Yes, now I care. When my children were younger they were easier to transition from 'on vacation' attitudes to 'home again' but now that they are getting older what is allowed at Grandma's house is a constant bone of contention once they get back home. In short, we are seeing behavior problems and attitude problems that seem to stem from what I think is overindulgence when they are away.

My family reminds me that they feel like I owe them liberties when it comes to my children for all of their help in the past. They tell me when I disagree with choices they make on behalf of my children that grandparents have rights too.

I worked very hard for many years to make sure that my children had health insurance, clothes on their backs, and food to eat. We survived those years and are rewarded by having reached a point in our lives that I am able to stay home and devote myself to learning about my children and trying different things to see what makes them flourish, and not having a little storm cloud labeled EBITA floating over my head. I think it is my right as a mother to do what I think is the best thing for my children, even if in the past I didn't have an opinion about something and now I do. I don't think that my family has the right to penalize me for having had to work, nor do I believe that I owe them the right to walk all over me as a mom because they have helped and loved my kids. I am forever indebted to my family for all of the things they have done, but it isn't a debt that I am willing to repay to the detriment of my children.

This subject comes up because last night when I looked in my son's book bag, I found his DS game thing. He isn't allowed to take his game to school, I don't know what parent in their right mind would allow such a thing. He informed me that I couldn't punish him for taking it because I hadn't given it to him, it was a gift from Grandpa. I very quickly explained that it doesn't matter if Grandpa buys him something, if he buys it for himself, etc., he is my child. He will live by my rules. Period. My parents called to talk to the children and my son brought up being in trouble because he had taken the thing to school. My father actually told my son that if it wasn't against school rules that I was wrong to not allow him to take it. WTF?????!!!!!!!

Then my mom called back to ask about Spring Break. I told her that I wasn't sure if I wanted my son to go or not. My mother told me that if I couldn't give her a sound reason for not wanting BB (the only one invited) to go that I was infringing upon her rights by denying her the opportunity to see her grandchildren. My parents are getting older. I realize that it is hard for them to take all of the children, but, I do ask them to be fair. If they invite BB, then the next time they should invite JB, and so on and so forth. They however tell me that they are closest to BB, and that as the oldest he has a right to have time away from his siblings to relax. They genuinely don't seem to care that they are hurting the other children's feelings. This includes but isn't limited to getting BB a DS for his birthday and having sent NOTHING at all for the rest of my children for their birthdays. I do understand that money is tight for them. I appreciate that they wanted to give my son such a special gift. I am disappointed that they can't see or don't care how hurt my other children are that they didn't get a present but BB got a really expensive gift.

I am not sure right now how I want to proceed with my parents. I am just really frustrated.


  1. Wow. I am not sure how I would proceed either. I have had to fight some battles with Grandparents in regards to food issues, but nothing like this. We don't do HFCS or dyes either.
    I can't blame you for questioning whether or not BB should go see his grandparents. If he is going to come back home with an attitude I think I would pass.
    Good Luck!

  2. WOW.

    I don't even know what to say. You stated your case very clearly in your post, though. You are entitled to change your mind about what is and isn't allowed, and YOU are the parent. If your parents had custody, they could make the rules. But you take care of the children on a daily basis, so obviously you should get to set the limits.

  3. I wrote this mostly to get it out of my head. I need to be able to walk away from this for awhile, maybe in a couple of weeks I'll be able to look at it with a fresh perspective and it will be easier for me to decide what to do. If I keep stewing over it, then everything just becomes more confusing and jumbled.