Thursday, July 31, 2008

Kill 'em With Kindness

OK, I swear this is going to be my last in-law related post...this blog is not going to turn into a rant on my sister-in-law.

But just to close the loop on this whole "issue," after my last posts I did some soul-searching and decided I had two choices: 1) I could let this animosity continue to eat everyone alive or 2) I could suck it up and try to make the best of an annoying situation. Considering the fact that, whether I like it or not, SIL is family and she will always in our lives, I decided to take the high road. My mother always taught me that the best way to deal with difficult people is to "kill 'em with kindness." In other words, be the better person so they can never speak poorly about you (and won't know what to make of your unexpected kindness).

So as hard as it was for me, I decided to take the first step and extend an olive branch by seeing if SIL would like to get together for a playdate with the kids. I didn't tell DH I was doing it because I wasn't doing it to "prove" anything to him or make him feel like I was doing it for credit.

To make a long story short, SIL seemed interested, but in the end flip-flopped over several days and finally bailed-- not by telling me directly, though, but by sending her father (my FIL) with a message that she wouldn't be able to get together on the date we had finally settled upon after she had already changed her mind several times. And there's been no communication since (she wasn't at our standard Friday night dinner this past week). So I'm sort of in I take this as a hint that she doesn't even want to try to get along? Do I wait for her to come back and pick up the conversation to attempt to reschedule? Her big trip and our vacation is coming up so I'm just leaving it alone for now. When we all get back work will get busy for her and the kids will all be back in school (her kids are in school five days a week) so there's really no chance to get together. I guess maybe that's the way it'll end.

And now back to your regularly scheduled program...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Upshot

Thanks to everyone for your supportive words and suggestions. I was mulling over my options when DH tells me today that he spoke to his parents about it when he was at their house this morning. I was a little caught off guard because I was really leaning toward the "don't ask, don't tell" approach to keep the peace. So much for that idea.

Apparently MIL and FIL are very upset that SIL and I aren't BFF and take it personally. I don't know exactly what was said but I'm sure that they had some pretty stern words for me and I'm glad I wasn't there (although knowing them, they'd never tell me this to my face- well, maybe MIL would...) I feel pretty sad that they are upset about all of this and, I'm sure, blame me, but I hope that at least they recognize why I feel the way I do.

Also, DH (finally) confessed to being upset about this since Thursday. This is something he does all the time- stew about things and not tell me about it despite repeated "is everything OK" questions. I totally get why he's upset- he's stuck in the middle no matter what I do and he feels really torn. We had a pretty good talk- I asked him exactly what he needs me to do...but making it clear that I will not become best friends with her. I told him I have intentionally NOT bitched about her to him for a year now in order to keep him out of it, but he said that he doesn't want me holding back and would rather I tell him when things upset me instead of keeping it inside and having it eat me up. And I asked him to back me up when we're around her and she does something out of line (instead of leaving it to me to handle all by myself). So I think we're making some headway at least in terms of how it affects the two of us, and I'm going to try to make an effort to not be as hard on her as I usually am, because I'm sure by now I am looking for things to annoy me. Don't get me wrong- we're never going to be friends (because she's just not the type of person I would ever want for a friend) but I am going to try.

Oh, and the kicker? SIL is going to be away on her trip that weekend anyway. So as I suspected, all of this was for nothing and I could have looked like the better person by never saying anything in the first place, but I'm glad that DH and I got to hash it out and just hope that we can figure out a way to make everyone content from here on out. (Notice I said content, not happy, because MIL is never going to be happy unless SIL and I are BFF. Still not going to happen).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Another In-Law Related Dilemma

DH and I are going away for our first child-free vacation to celebrate our 10-year anniversary. We are going to the same very posh, exclusive resort on a small Carribbean Island that we went to for our honeymoon (when we could afford it a lot more than we can now, with three kids and after spending a crapload of our savings on IVF). Most of my friends are envious and keep saying, "Oh, my gosh- you must be so excited. Are you counting down the days?" Call me crazy, but I'm not. For a number of reasons.

First, I am scared out of my mind to leave our kids. I'm not so much worried about them-- Smiley will be staying with my in-laws, and MIL is a pediatrician. Can't get any safer than that. The twins will be staying with my parents and I know they will be fine. All of our parents are local and live within 7 miles of each other so this isn't a huge deal to split up the kids, and it just made more sense than to leave all three with one set. I am more worried about the fact that DH and I are going to be on an airplane together. As in if anything (G-d forbid) happens, it happens to both of us. I get sick even writing that.

Second, and this may be a totally unnecessary, irrational worry, but I worry that my MIL is going to let my SIL have "alone time" with Smiley while we're away. The thought only came to me after MIL suggested I leave Smiley with SIL while MIL and I take the twins to a doctor's appointment (another long story- MIL the pediatrician wants our twin daughter to see an orthopedic surgeon at her practice because she thinks she's walking funny...) As my previous posts indicate, I will be leaving my children in SIL's care WHEN HELL FREEZES OVER. And not even then. My major concern is SIL's temper-- she frequently loses it with her own children and has been known to scream at them to the point of making them cry, and even handling them roughly when she gets mad (although I would never say she's abusive). She can fly off the handle and be totally irrational. And while I know chances are she wouldn't do that to one of my kids (oh- wait- she already has...), I don't want to take that chance. SIL also has some larger emotional/psychological issues (that I won't get into) that make me not trust her judgment around my children.

So I can totally see MIL bringing Smiley over to SIL's house (she lives a mile away because she can't be without her Mommy) and leaving her there to "play with her cousins." MIL is constantly pushing for the kids to play together and has even gone so far as to do it behind my back (another long story) because she knows that other than Friday night dinners, I am not enthusiastic about everyone getting together. I can tell for a fact that she WILL have our neice and nephew over to play with Smiley at least once a day while we are gone. And I am having a hard time with that but as long as I know that MIL and/or is there supervising, I can live with it. But what I cannot live with is her leaving Smiley with SIL.

Now the question is how do I deal with this? I can't go away and worry the entire time that Smiley has been left with SIL. I don't know if I can leave without saying something to MIL, but how do I tell MIL that I don't trust her daughter with Smiley? Although MIL knows about SIL's issues, it's still her daughter and I think she would be highly offended if I said something. And DH isn't going to be of any help. Against my "speak no evil" rule, last night I brought up this concern- as diplomatically as possible- with him. His response was to ask me if his sister lost her temper with her kids when they were Smiley's age, implying that she only flies off the handle now that they're older. First of all, I do remember her losing her cool when they were younger and were crying inconsolably (she'd shove them off to her mother or husband and tell them to deal with them) or when they did something totally appropriate for a young toddler (her daughter ripped the page in a book by accident and she flipped out). Second, I don't care-- the fact that she flips out and loses her cool bothers me, period. It doesn't matter that she does it because her kids are older or not. He also asked me why I even think that MIL would leave Smiley with SIL. I understand- there's really no reason for her to do so- but I want to cover my basis just in case so that she can't play dumb and say "well I didn't think you'd mind" when we come back.

I asked my sister, who's opinion I really respect, what she'd do in my situation. She said that if I could live with the fact that Smiley might spend some alone time with SIL while we're on vacation, recognizing that in all likelihood nothing would happen or if it did (like SIL yelled or lost her cool), Smiley would never remember and it wouldn't affect her, then I shouldn't say anything. Take a "don't ask, don't tell" approach, recognizing that SIL isn't dangerous and I don't fear for Smiley's physical well being if she was with her. But she said if I was going to worry about it the entire time, I probably need to say something at the risk that it's going to piss MIL off.

So what do I do? Part of me thinks the "don't ask, don't tell" is probably a good approach because I know nothing bad is going to happen to Smiley and the chance is that MIL will be there the entire time anyway. Heck, for all I know, SIL may be out of town that week (she has a big work trip coming up but I haven't felt like asking her when it is). I don't want to make MIL upset. But the other part of me feels like I am the mother and I should be able to tell the person taking care of her that I don't want her left with anyone else while we're gone. And I REALLY don't want SIL spending time alone with her.

DH's lack of support in the matter isn't helping and I feel like it's creating tension between us again, like every time something comes up with his sister (that's why I have stopped saying anything about her to him). I really just don't know what to do.

And in the meantime, I'm still sick with worry about leaving at all. This wasn't my idea. DH is the one who really wanted to go back to where we went for our Honeymoon and bless his heart for being so romantic and splurging on this vacation. I can't crush his heart by saying I don't want to go (plus everything is now non-refundable) so we're going whether I like it or not, but that doesn't mean it's not keeping me awake every night.

I thought vacations were supposed to be relaxing!?!!