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Mother in Law and Toddler's Boundaries - Am I Overreacting?

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

This past weekend, DH and I took DS to visit his grandparents (DH's mom and dad). They aren't mean or nasty. But, we just have a lot of difficulty connecting with them. They're very different than we are (polar opposite lifestyle and political views). And there's been some hurt in the past over them not seeming to care very much about our lives and our son, in contrast to DH's siblings, who get free babysitting and visits constantly even though they live much further away.

 

DS has only seen this set of gparents a handful of times. The last was his bday party in May, when he spent most of his time at our outdoor picnic with DH and I, or my friends who are his local babysitters and aunties. He is basically at an age where, unless he's seeing you every week or every two weeks, you're a stranger. 

 

My MIL makes no effort to visit us or get more involved in DS's life except to complain that we don't drive to visit them often enough. But when we DO see them, she comes on so strong with DS and just freaks him the hell out. We drove up to their house after a 2.5 hour drive on Saturday, and she comes out to the car, flings open DS's door, removes him from his carseat and starts kissing him all over his face. And of course, what did he do? He FREAKED. OUT. He got wide eyed and then let out his "alarm!" scream, which translates to "OMG I need a parent RIGHT NOW." I got out of the car and ran over to the side to take him, but my MIL kept patting him and bouncing him (not helping!) and saying "it's just grandma! it's allright. mom's right there." He practically fell out of her arms trying to lunge over to me, and she took a step BACK and just kept violently bouncing him and telling him he would calm down in a minute. It was absolutely killing me. 

 

I said, "I think he needs to just have some time to warm up. Let me take him." And she said "Oh he just needs a second. They all do this. They cry but then they stop, it's just a show, he's fine."

 

It was no show. He cries sometimes when I leave him at daycare, and that's more of a "can't you stay and play?" kind of cry. This was his alarm, baby deer in the woods cry. But she wouldn't let him go until my husband came over and said "Mom, give him to Ann."

 

She kept doing this all weekend. She would come over and get very close to his face and he would turn away, and she would just step over to that side of him and put her face right back in his. She did this at mealtimes when he was confined in a feeding chair and he started crying and wouldn't finish eating.

 

I know that he needs time to warm up to her, but she needs to be gentle with her approach, right? When my Dad visits, he approaches DS like a frightened wolf or something. He says hi and sits far away at first, then approaches slowly over time, and offers cheerios until DS will take one from his hand. It's just so much more peaceful.

 

I said something to MIL about how she needs to give DS just a little space to orient himself and I got the standard "I raised three kids of my own so I think I know what I'm doing" remark and she kept insisting "I'm not a STRANGER! I'm his GRANDMOTHER." Yeah, but see, he doesn't know that. She also suggests that I'm over protective and too soft on him. That he doesn't have to complex emotional life I say he has.

 

Ugh. Did I overreact? Is she right, do I just need to back off here? I felt like DS was looking to me to protect him when he was crying, so that's what I was trying to do. I know she's not a threat, but he perceived her as one...

post #2 of 3

We have the same kind of thing. My MIL is lovely but very different from us. She LOVES DD, but doesn't see her that often, and the way she interacts with her is so different than what we do. Also doesn't help that she is 20 times louder than us, has a deep smoker's voice, HUGE hair, and a lot of very dramatic makeup. I don't really know how to paint a picture of her but I can see why DD thinks she's scary. She's pretty much been scared to death of her right from the beginning. I always hold onto DD tightly or have her in a the ergo, but somehow MIL always manages to swoop in and get ahold of her. DD screams and cries, and I have to pry her away from MIL. MIL gets right up in her face and YELLS things like " WHY DON"T YOU LIKE ME!??? I LOVE YOU!!!  STOP BEING SUCH A BABY!!!!", which makes DD hate MIL even more. MIL thinks it our fault for our crazy AP ways, and is sooo sad that DD is scared of her while DD loves my mom so much. MIL often makes comments, says it is our fault for holding DD all the time, spoiling her, bla bla. We try to teach her better ways to interact, but she just doesn't understand how to interact with DD appropriately. 

 

Anyway, what I have decided is 1) I just have to not worry about hurting MIL's feelings. My # job is to keep DD feeling safe, so she stays in the ergo most of the time we visit. We stay at a friends house that is near MIL's (they are 4 hours away from us so we can't just go for the day), so we have a safe place to go at the end of the day, or just whenever DD has had enough (there are other safety reasons we can't stay with MIL, too). We try to do things outside so that DD can still have fun and not be in a small enclosed space with MIL. 

and 2) I have to realize that MIL really does love DD, she just doesn't understand how to interact with her. There is no reason for me to get upset or to have hard feelings about it, it just is how it is, and DD is going to be fine. I try to find the humor in MIL, and in a few years DD will to. 

post #3 of 3
Similar issues with my mother-in-law. At least your husband backed you up. Mine would snap pictures of my son at arrival, completely ignore him during the visit, then demand a hug and kiss at departure. No deal. Then she was mad at me for not making him do it. Her son (my brother-in-law) would try to explain it, but she'd just argue "I'm his *grandmother*". Nothing could really be done, and now that he's a teenager, we just don't visit anymore because he's not close to her.
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