Saturday, November 11, 2006

No Balls

Posted by Mamacita.

If you'd like to use this space to tell stories/secrets/confessions of your dangerous maternal mind, anonymously or otherwise, send me an e-mail and you too can enjoy the refuge of the Basement.


I'm embarrassed about what I'm going to tell you today. I don't feel good about it and I want to change. I'm hoping that writing about it will help. So bear with me through the background.

We have some neighbors who have become good friends since my pregnancy and the birth of Garcon. She is a respiratory therapist in the neonatal infant care unit (NICU) at a local hospital, and he's a former nurse. In the very very beginning, roughly weeks 1-6, we struggled with Garcon crying uncontrollably during the witching hour. She gave me some suggestions from her experience in working with many, many infants that really made a difference for him in the 5-9pm period. For that, I'm grateful. Now, we see them about once a week and occasionally, they'll babysit for Garcon- or supervise their 12 year old daughter babysitting for him. They genuinely enjoy him and are nice people.

The trouble is this: Because we relied and appreciated their advice in the beginning, they have begun to take small liberties that make me uncomfortable.

Case 1: Once, when Garcon was very young, less than two months, we were chatting with them in the driveway. Neighborman offered to hold Garcon, and before I knew what was happening, had dug out some eye schmutz that had accumulated in the corner of Garcon's eye and on his lashes. He handed him back and said, look - I was able to get that goop off his eye.

HUH!? Wait - you touched my baby's eye? Without clean hands? After working in the yard for a couple of hours? EXCUSE ME? I should tell you, dear reader, that when I need to clean Garcon's eye, I wet a cotton ball with warm water and rub gently. He had a clogged tear duct in the beginning, and would get the schmutz pretty offten, and so I was used to cleaning his eye in a very clean manner.

I was a bit ticked that he'd even think to do that. I didn't say anything at the time, and as I thought about it later, began to be really pissed off.

Case 2: Another time, when Garcon was about four months (and I was still home part time), DH came home and told me he'd backed the car into a post. Well, at the time, we had one nice car and one older, reliable but less snazzy, slightly dinged-up car. He'd backed the nice car into a post. Damaging the bumper. Of the first new car I'd ever owned. I was ticked! And a little post-partum, I confess. I really got mad at him about that - and also vented that Garcon had been a challenge all day. Well, DH went outside and looked at the car, and probably looked stressed. Neighborwoman yelled hello across the street, he said hello back. She decided he looked worked up, and volunteered to come over and help me with Garcon. I was still sitting in the house, ticked about the car when she walked in the house. Now, I was ticked at DH that he went for reinforcements on Garcon - when I was really mad about the car, not baby. But we have her in the house, and now look! Neighborman came over to see his little buddy - and all I want to do is be left alone with my DH and son. Then, they offer to take him away to give us time! I continued to protest, saying everything was fine. They asked about feeding, they asked about sleeping. It took several more protests than necessary for them to actually get the hint and leave. I didn't want to say in front of them and DH, that I was pissed at DH about the car. Shouldn't be necessary to get them to leave.

It was here that I began to have the sense that they felt they knew more about this than we do. Despite our lack of experience, we definitely know what's best for our family and our Garcon. More time passed and I forgot about my annoyance.

Case 3: Then, last week, we asked them to watch Garcon while we went to an event in the city. We provided plenty of formula and Stage 1 food, and everything seemed to be fine. When I picked him up, Neighborwoman mentioned that she'd given him Multi-Grain Cheerios and he liked them. WHAT? You gave my son new food without asking me? There's several things wrong with this. We're only on Stage One foods, Multi-Grain Cheerios have a ton of sugar and tons of additives/preservatives beyond what's he's been exposed to, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY: we have a gluten intolerance on my side of the family (My dad) and are NOT GOING TO INTRODUCE GLUTEN FOR ANOTHER 5 MONTHS, when Garcon is one. I confess I was shocked. Am I so naive that I assume other people won't feed him things without asking me? That they assume they know more than me and feed him whatever they want? I'm sure that when her kids were in the high chair, she'd throw a handful of Cheerios on the tray while getting the rest of the food ready. I know I'll do that, eventually (hopefully). For a second, I thought maybe I was being silly - but then I clammed up and muttered something about having to go, and NEVER ACTUALLY ADDRESSED IT WITH HER. I'm using a lot of caps, because aside from being annoyed with her, I'm more mad at myself.

Where are my stones? Where is my god-given mother-will-kill-for-young instinct? And why the hell can't I speak up the minute these things happen? I'm pissed at myself. I've stood up to other people on lots of other things related to Garcon, but just haven't got it together about these two people. Is it because on some subconscious level I think of them as authority figures? Is it because they're friends and I don't want to damage it? Is it because I am too nice and want to be liked? Ok, I get that from my mother. In the last case, I have a very good, very legitimate reason to not introduce foods, and I didn't say anything. I'm obviously making the situation worse for myself for not being more assertive each time. Next time something happens, as I'm sure it will, I need to respond appropriately and assertively, but do so in a way that does not reflect my latent anger about the first three cases. Help.


Anonymous said...

Bless your heart, hun, but I'd say that you may be suffering from new mom nerves.

The baby is not a fragile vase. He is a human, a tough, resilient little human who, most likely, will survive and thrive and eat pounds of dirt and bang his head and get up to run around again like a little maniac.

Deep breaths. Everything will be ok. If you insist on freaking out over minor stuff like this, you may never, ever have any friends or sitters.

Anonymous said...

I cannot agree with 7:17 comment. Please don't be hard on yourself at not reacting on the spot - that family is out of line and you are not over-reacting. How you reacted happens to many of us, and the fact that something as important as first foods for baby was unexpectedly hijacked by a NON-PARENT is something that would have taken many by surprise. Being rendered speechless is understandable. No one except family (and even that is debatable) should mess with food introduction. Serious harm can happen and what would they have done in that case. I'm sure your baby is fine but that's not the point. There are boundaries for child care and this one was crossed. What's next, are they going to discipline him in the way they see fit?

Gina said...

Even though I agree with the very first comment, the point of this post is about confrontation, not the actual offenses committed. (All new moms have specific sensitivities concerning their children.)

I understand your reluctance in having the dreaded conversation. I recently wrote my son's caregiver a letter because of many small things that were bugging me about his care. Granted, I pay her weekly for the care she renders, but she is my friend too.

She took it well and has since corrected the problems I had addressed. She was very understanding that I am a first time mom (12 months new) and my worries MAY have been dumb to her, but she understood my point of view. I hope the same for you. A few drafts of a letter may help your frustration, whether or not you deliver it. Good luck... these things are so tough.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the first poster, but not entirely. It is important to lighten up a bit, and yes, babies are very resilient. I do agree about the food issues, though.

I am very particular about the foods my son is allowed to eat, and when someone tries to give him food without my permission, I get my back up. I actually got upset with my great aunt when she offered my son a french fry (he doesn't eat them) in front of me without my permisson.

People do mean well, though, and the fact that you have friends that want to help is really wonderful...not everyone has that!

Anonymous said...

I think it's a little long to be holding on to resentment about the first two issues, and I agree with the first poster that kids are more resilient than that.

That being said, I do think that the food issue does matter more, due to all the food allergies and sensitivities around, of which your family has one. I think confronting your neighbor about that one IS important so that it doesn't happen again. But it doesn't have to be a Big Deal Scary Confrontation. The next time you're around them and you're feeding Garcon, or they offer to watch him, or whatever, tell them about the food allergy in your family and that that's why you want to be REALLY CAREFUL about what you feed him. And that you were unhappy that they gave him the cheerios without permission because of the gluten allergy and wanted to let them know about it so that nothing like that would happen again. You know they weren't being malicious - just misguided, so address it that way. They should see your point, realize how important it is to you, and not do it again (hopefully! *grin)

Lisa b said...

My friend's child has a dairy allergy, was fed chocolate by someone and ended up in the hospital. I don't think you are overreacting to your son being fed food you had not planned to feed him. Plus those multi grain cheerios have TONS of sugar.
I think it is easy for people whose children have no allergies or no family history or even those who prefer not to worry to tell us worriers to lighten up.
I hope you can find a way to bring up your concerns in a non-confrontational way but I don't think you should feel badly about any of this. If anything you should be more convinced that you know what is best for your child.

Anonymous said...

I think you are over-reacting. It seems like these are seasoned, older parents who are laid back and relaxed. Their style of parenting does not mesh with yours at all. And while you say you trust them, you most clearly my dear, do not! No, your baby's eye should not have been touched with a dirty hand. No, they should not have given him Multi-grain Cheerios. I would say that it is now inconsiderate of you to expect that they will do as you wish and I think you need to find new babysitters for your son. If you are not comfortable laying down the law, then you (in my opinion) cannot assume anything. You do not want them to assume - yet you do so. If they are simply parents (which is an oxymoron) and not professionals used to dealing with multiple children and other parents wishes, allergies, religions, rule, etc. on a daily basis, then they are treating Garcon like a member of their family. That's all they know.

Take a deep breath. You have a few choices in my estimation. Lighten up. Lighten up and add "do not give him any food other than what I've provided" next time you leave him with them. Don't lighten up, lose friends, and babysitters.

Now, if they blatantly disregard expressed directions and wishes - well - that's another story. But it doesn't seem that way to me.

I hope that in your lifetime this is your biggest problem!!!

Anonymous said...

One interlude with a handful of Multigrain cheerios did not harm your child. Yes, it could have, but it didn't.


Anonymous said...

Food allergies and intolerances are important issues - I've made that clear to anyone who cares for our child, even though there aren't any known risks in our case. So, yes, you do need to speak up in this case. Don't feel guilty about feeling that you should have done that - you *should* do it, but it's understadndable that you felt awkward in the moment.

I agree with others that you should be trying to work with these people - they clearly mean well, they just don't know/can't recall how nerve-wracking life with a new baby can be. They expect you to be chill - it's up to you to let them know that you're not. And to remind yourself that it's totally okay to not be chill. I wasn't.

Heather said...

You mention that these people are your friends...really? The friends I have I can be totally honest with. You don't have to be mean when addressing your concerns, just honest.
If you have a problem with the way these people watch your child, then perhaps leaving baby with them is not the best option for you. Family? Other friends? Take baby with you? Take turns going out? If you include these people so closely in the day to day of baby, then they will only assume a part of it, the roles you allow them to have. If you sit and say nothing they will assume those roles they have taken, or seemingly, that you have given them.
While I do think you need to realx, dirt in the eye...a noodle up the are the parent to your child. You raise your child the way you and your DH want to. If you have a problem with something involving your child...GET A SPINE AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Anonymous said...

So, obviously you people have never heard of Celiac disease. Introducing wheat gluten can have disasterous effects and trigger an autoimmune response. She's right to be pissed on that. The first two issues sound petty.

Her Bad Mother said...

So, people, I gotta say - let's all remember, as Gina said, that every parent has some quirky sensitivity, which others might find petty. My own mother - bless her - made friends and family wear surgical gloves and medical masks when holding me as a newborn. She was paranoid that I would catch something and die - as her baby sister did, as a newborn.

So, regardless of whether we think that M's concerns here might be petty, let's respect them as concerns and keep our eyes on the issue: why can't she communicate with these people.

I agree with what someone said above - the neighbours seem to mean well, to be good people, so to my mind there is nothing to be mad about. But if she's to keep them as allies - and they sound like pretty valuable allies to me - she needs to be clear with them about her issues, and provide direction about how to handle care of her boy.

Gina said...

Thanks, Dear Hostess, for mentioning my comment. I do hope the author finds a smooth way to communicate her frustrations to her neighbors. No matter what the issue may be, or how small it seems to us, she loses sleep over it... and that is the issue.

Chicagoland Mamacita! said...

Sounds like we've got a lot of laid-back, veteran moms on the board. That can be a great long we don't pile on, hmmm? As for me, now I remember the price of free advice.

Thanks to those who saw the big picture, and to HBM for redirecting the conversation. I was beginning to lose faith in the Basement.

I know my paranoia about the food introduction is based on my Dad's experience over the last 20 yrs. It's a fucking nightmare, frankly, to order food in a restaurant when he can't eat wheat, rye, barley or oats, or any food made with even a smidge of those ingredients, or any food cooked on a grill where those ingredients have been. I'd just as soon control the way my son gets exposed to it, gradually, so as not to overload his system prematurely. (And thanks, Basement Reader, for the opportunity to educate on Celiac Disease. It's frequently misdiagnosed in kids as wasting syndrome or in adults as Crone's disease, IBS, stress, unexplained weight loss, any number of other GI issues.)

I recognize that because these people are allies, I don't want to burn the bridge. So I appreciate the direction to have a conversation but not a Big Scary Confrontation, as well as the comments from Gina and Lisa B.

Anonymous said...

I can relate to most o fthe other commets, no she shouldn't have given your son cheerios, or any other food without checking with you first, her Dh shouldn't have cleaned out teh baby's eye with dirty hands - but also I encvy you so very much, you have neighbours you can rely on, ready and willing to help you out - I would give my eye teeth for that. Speaking as someone who has no babysitters, I wish your neighbours would move next door to me.

Jo said...

I can totally see all sides of this. I think you definitely have wonderful neighbors with the best intentions and I don't think a big confrontation would do anyone any good. Politely informing them of your wishes while thanking them for all the help and support they offer would be the best way, in my opinion.

I guess I'm one of those veteran moms. But, I do remember being ever so careful with baby number one. I followed all the rules and made up my own outrageous ones. I remember my own parents gave my five-month-old first born cheesies without asking me...and I remember being PISSED! But, by the time I got to baby number three, lets just say I was significantly more relaxed....and, I was much, much more eager to accept all the help I could get:) At the same time, even us veteran moms have our own sensitivities, while I may feel like a pro at the whole infant thing...I've got some serious paranoia going on at the moment about the onset of puberty in my not-quite-yet 10 year old daughter. Um, she got her first bra last night...and the sales lady asked if she would like to try on a monster-padded sexy thing... Um, HELLLLOOOOOOOO!!!! SHE'S TEN!!!!

PS: Food allergies are a big deal. Introducing your baby to cheerios is a big, big deal and I would be SUPER pissed, too. But, maybe just keep in mind that until recent years, they weren't something you heard about often and it just might not have occurred to your friends the kind of big risk they were taking with your baby. Not that that's an excuse. Be honest, be specific, but since their intentions were good, be nice...and be thankful that you have neighbors and friends who care...that's my advice...for what it's worth. Good luck!

rachel said...

food allergies and sensitivites are a big deal, but in this case all you need to do is explain calmly and casually why you don't want him eating cheerios. it is the conflation of this case with the other 2 way harmless cases (the second doesn't actually have to do with protecting your child at all) that makes dealing with the cheerios seem like a cumulative Huge Deal; it isn't.

As to the question of why you are having a hard time dealing with this how you ideally want to (which i take to be both assertively and agressively given your invocation of the 'mother-will-kill-for-young-instinct'), is because on some level you realize instinctively that such a response is not merited, not particularly good etiquette, and misdirected. I think you might want to trust whatever is encouraging you to hold back and instead do some work on why you are conceiving of your son as so multiply vulnerable - it seems to me that your neighbors' unwillingness to share/validate this conception of him is what is really bothering you.

Anonymous said...

Women are socialized to, above all else, be nice. That's why we are always talking shit behind each other's backs but will almost never tell another woman, or anyone, how we really feel without a bunch of tap dancing, if at all.

Nonetheless, I don't blame you for being anoyed with these people. They are overstepping their boundaries and that's never good. I think a firm discussion with them about your preferences is in order.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I think I could have written this post almost word for word about a year ago. I was incredibly protective, and always open to advice but resentful of those who thought knowing something I didn't meant that they had some authority over ME as the MOM!

Now my baby is 18 months and it's only in retrospect that I can see how others might have thought I over reacted at times. But you what? I AM THE MOM. And so are you. You are fully justified feeling exactly the way you feel about protecting your son and wanting to do certain things at certain times. It is 100% your right to make these decisions and to have them respected and not feel like you have someone second guessing you.

And, honestly, I wouldn't have the guts to confront these people either. I would probably stop calling them, stop depending on them, and stop asking them any questions. Passive aggressive? Yes. (Sorry!) I would not do these things to try and make "hints" to them that I want a different relationship- I would do these things to change the relationship, on MY terms, effective immediately. If I don't like how they are running the show on their terms, I would just start running the show on MY terms. Say NO more often, and just start BEING the mom I want them to respect. They will either adjust or drop off the friends list. But either way I've found my own self respect and am back in charge of what I have a right to be in charge of: my child.

And remember, it gets SOOOOOOOO much easier as your child gets older. And when you have your second child, suddenly, I bet those balls will just appear.

Gillian said...

This comment gives you a free pass to tell me I am stupid, but it works for me. I have a hard time confronting people especially when my emotions are strong about a subject. I try to formulate what I want to communicate and then practice when I am alone. I try out different things to find what feels comfortable, has the tone I want to use and is clear. It may not come out exactly the same when I do say it, but I am relaxed and not defensive.

Anonymous said...

why don't you just stop leaving your kid with them, stop giving him to them to hold, and stop asking them for advice or favors? If you back off, they eventually will. if they're not sensible, perhaps you should be.