Daily Archives: October 1, 2009

on grandparents and boundaries

Life with a newborn contains so many unforseen challenges, and while the lack of sleep and the lack of control over one’s life can certainly be hard, I’m finding the familial relationships a bit harder. I’m speaking primarily of the Grandparents Genius.

My wife lost her parents in 2000, so Baby Genius has one set of grandparents–my mom and step-father–and a spare grandfather–my dad.

I refer to my dad as a spare because while he’s overjoyed to be a grandfather and while he loves BG, he’s also a big giant flake, and I don’t trust him to play an active role in BG’s life. I have learned over the past thirty-four  years that he isn’t reliable and that one ought not trust one’s feelings to him. Already he has flaked on BG. He came to see him in the hospital, and then, when I mentioned he was welcome to come see him a couple of weeks later, he agreed that he would. He was excited to do so. Then he called in the middle of the day on the day he was to come telling me he had been up all night cleaning up after a sick dog, and he couldn’t come. It was a lame excuse (and I’ve since learned it was a lie), but it’s honestly no surprise. I heard excuses like that throughout my entire childhood and into my adulthood. It’s why I spent two years not communicating with my father. So J and I agreed that when BG was born, we wouldn’t ever tell him when his grandfather was coming to visit. We’d just let it be a surprise because we don’t want him getting his hopes dashed when his grandfather decides to put himself before everyone else in his life once again. I’m at peace with this, but it saddens me that we have to do this and that my father can’t pull himself together well enough to be present.

My mom and step-dad are sort of at the opposite end of the spectrum. My mom has made the three-hour trip to see Baby Genius five times since his arrival. She would come every week if she could. They adore him, and she can’t go longer than a week and a half without seeing him. This is lovely. It’s one of the things I looked forward to when we moved a little closer to their part of the state. Sometimes it feels like little much, but there are few things that make her happier than her grandchildren, so we indulge them (still, I haven’t seen my mom this much since I moved out of the house to go to college). I anticipate BG will have many fulfilling and wonderful years with his grandparents, and J and I are so grateful for this. However, we’re starting to realize we are going to need to establish some boundaries here as well.

We just learned that my grandmother has congestive heart failure. She’s 88 and is otherwise in very good health. The worst part of this is that no one knows how long she has. She could have weeks left or years, and while I’d place my money on years, we still want to make sure she gets to meet BG, and we want her to meet him soon. J and I decided we could take a road trip in a couple of weeks for this purpose. We’ll stay at my parents’ house, and this way BG can meet his great-grandma. We had also hoped that my step-dad’s parents might make their way to my parents’ house to meet BG. It would be a simple trip and wouldn’t involve too much activity on our parts.

Previously, when we’ve gone to stay at my parents’ house, my mom has been controlling. She’s always telling us in her passive aggressive ways what we ought to do and when, whom we ought to see, and so on. When it has been just the two of us, it has been a strain, and it has led to stress, but we’ve dealt with it (primarily through lots of drinking).  And now we have an infant, and she’s trying to do the same, and neither of us can drink it away. I adore my mom, but she’s making things hard.

Because my parents have a previous engagement on Sunday, they won’t be around, so my mother came up with a whole slough of plans for us on Sunday to drive to each of the great-grandparents’ homes (an hour and a half round-trip) to take BG on visits, after which we would stop in to see my sister, and who knows what else. This would be on top of the three hours we have to drive back to our home that day. BG doesn’t do well when he has to get in and out of the car. He doesn’t deal well yet with too much stimulus, and honestly, all of this sounds like a bit too much for one day. His little nervous system is so easily overloaded, and then we have to recover for a day or two because he is so out of sorts. It’s already making me incredibly nervous to drive on Bay Area freeways with our son in the car, but now the thought of this, of my mom continuing to plan our every move when we are in her general vicinity, is making me rethink the trip entirely. It’s 11:00 in the morning, and I already want a drink.

We’re going to have to find our own way to do this. Setting boundaries with my mom is tricky; she’s very sensitive and gets her feelings hurt easily. We don’t want to hurt her feelings, but we do want some autonomy and some control over what we do with our son. We want him to meet his family, but we’ve got to do it a little more on our terms. I just never expected this. I always read about other people’s boundary issues with their parents when it came to their kids, and I thought, Not us.

Yeah, right.

14 Comments

Filed under Baby Genius, family