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Good Things Come From Freaking Out on Your Mother-In-Law

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When my mother-in-law visited us a couple of years ago, she stayed for four months.  I know, that thought would send most of us right to the liquor store to stock up on martini mix and Peppermint Schnapps.

But I like my MIL.  She was born in Texas and, although she left when she was 14, she still has an accent and speaks with those weird sayings like, “fixin’ to.”  She’s quirky and weird, and not very sophisticated, but likes to laugh her ass off at weird crap on TV, like the really boring teenage game shows on MTV.  And she loves to piss away hours playing virtual slot machines on the computer.

Connor was 3 1/2 when she was here, which is the time when he was exceptionally hyper and very challenging.  We already knew he had ADHD, but she would tell us all the time that “there’s nuthin’ wrong with that boy, he’s just all boy, that’s all.”  This was not helpful in any way because it made me feel like I was so bad at this parenting thing that I was struggling to handle a typical “all boy” child.  But like lots of her weird quirks, I ignored her.

Then one day Connor was really challenging and difficult, and she said “you just need to get a switch off’n the tree and give his bootie a good swat, then he’ll learn how to behave.”

That would be when I lost my shit and started screaming at her and told her she didn’t know shit if she thought beating my child would somehow magically make his disability go away.  And apparently MIL’s can drive you right into a state of hysteria when you are already on the edge because of your kid, because I also told her she was in MY house, and she had some nerve being in my house and criticizing my parenting skills because I don’t spank my child, and that she should be praising me for raising her grandchild without those outdated methods of beating someone into submission.

It’s probably not a good idea to freak out on your husband’s mother, but when you are dealing with something so much larger than yourself, and you are pre-diagnosis, and you have people that are just full of bad, bullshit advice, then sometimes you just Lose. Your. Shit.  And so I did.

Anyway, we ended up making up later and smoothing things over, but she conspicuously hasn’t been to visit since then.

So the other day, for some reason, I was thinking about my MIL and her last visit.  And I started thinking about how I wouldn’t put up with her bad advice and hurtful comments because I knew in my gut that they were wrong.  Yet we all see a myriad of doctors and therapists for our kids, and I know that sometimes what they’re telling us feels uncomfortable or wrong in our gut, and we do it anyway, because we can’t exactly just scream “BULLSHIT” right into their face.  And we do it because they are the “experts” and we’re supposed to listen to them because, if we were so damn smart, we’d be the experts and be making all that money.

When we discussed this issue of Connor wanting to sleep in our bed with his doctor, he advised that we set up a reinforcement schedule to reduce the frequency.  All that is just fancy talk for promising him prizes for staying in bed.  In a way this felt wrong to me, because he seems genuinely in need of comforting and security, and that is what parents are supposed to provide.

But we followed the doctor’s advice, because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

In my last post I described the struggle of getting Connor to stay in his own bed.  You read that, right?

Well, I was telling someone I work with about the bedtime struggle, and he said his son climbed into their bed at night until the 3rd grade.  His son is “typical.”  His son is 11 now, and the other night during the storm he even came to their room.  They kept a sleeping bag in their room and, once their son was too big to accommodate in their bed, he could choose to sleep in the bag on the floor.

“It’s just a phase, don’t be so hard on him.”

And that felt right.  In my gut.

As of last night, there’s a new Buzz Lightyear sleeping bag on my bedroom floor.  I don’t know what time Connor climbed into it last night because, for a change, I didn’t get woken up.  What I know is that we all woke up happy this morning, which is really all that matters.

From now on, I’m going to have to start living more by my gut than by my head.  If I won’t even let a family member give me advice that doesn’t feel right, then why should I let anyone else?

Now that's a face you can trust.


About Flannery

Kid, husband, dogs, my mother, full-time job, maximum stress, minimal relaxation...sooner or later I had to vent. AND we moved from California to Texas. I could start a whole other blog about that.

12 responses »

  1. The gut is rarely wrong. We may not be experts on autism and ADHD, but we are experts on our own children.

    True story: When my sister was pregnant with her second, her MIL (also a Texan, I tell you whut) showed up on her doorstep and said she wasn’t leaving until that baby was born. My sister had her labor induced so her MIL would go the hell home.

  2. You Sister, are my hero. And, I love your guts. They are very wise.

  3. I’ve always found my gut to steer me in the right direction. Luckily my son with Asperger’s likes his bed but his NT younger brother has trouble staying in his room. Ever since we cleared a spot for him on our bedroom floor though life has been better for everyone. Getting sleep is better for everyone!

  4. i am ALL about the gut. good work, mama.

    BTW–although i struggles SUPER HARD to get rid of my midwestern twang when we moved out to Cali when i was 14, i have recenly embraced the colloquialisms of my childhood. I’m often fix’n to do sumpin.

  5. OK, I’m reading this as life gets easier when your kid is older than 3 1/2. If that’s not true, I don’t want to know, because I am so stinking exhausted I can hardly stand up after chasing around my 3 1/2 yo. all day. And I know what you mean about the advice to spank and be firmer and all that- it sucks, because you know we work harder than any other parents.

    I agree with the follow your gut theory- you are an expert on your child.

  6. So… did you call your MIL when you were thinking about her? I was waiting for a conclusion to that. 🙂

    By the way, I agree with your co-worker. The bed thing is just a phase. Both of my “normal” girls went through it to some degree. One more than the other. It got to the point that she too would just come in and lay on our floor without even waking us up. Like all phases, they pass. They lead the way into another phase. Which, at that time, may seem like even more of a struggle than the last one. It’s all part of this crazy parenting roller coaster. You are doing fine! Just keep holding on. Make sure to secure all loose items, and keep your hands inside the ride at all times. It’s fun, right?! HA HA ❤

    Oh, by the way… Yes, I did read your last post. 🙂

    you are so right
    Especially about the co-sleeping – a lot of the sleep training advice would not work for us – though I know it works for some kids .Why is wanting the security of being with your mother seen as being spoiled ?
    I totally agree with you

  8. Right on, Flannery! I wish more people would think like you do.

    The problem with the “experts” is that they only listen to other “experts” and not to the people they’re supposed to be helping. As you probably already know, much of the “professional wisdom” about autism is just wrong. Most of the professionals don’t listen to autistic people, and they don’t listen to people close to us.

    It’s the nature of the medical and psychological professions. They don’t listen to clients. They don’t ask us about our experiences. They don’t ask the people who know us about their experience of us. They design tests without our input, and then they talk to one another about the results. Apparently, that’s what it means to be an “expert.”

    Those of us actually living the life? What could we possible have to contribute? /sarcasm

    As for the family bed, I have a friend who adopted several special needs kids, and they slept in the bed with her and her husband until they were ready to sleep on their own. She said that when the social worker came to visit, she couldn’t believe the strides the kids had made, and she said that it was because of the physical contact with the parents. It was a comfort to the children and helped in their development.

    But it’s not just special needs kids. My NT daughter often wanted to sleep in our bed when she was young. She’s an only child and she was lonely sleeping alone. It was a phase, and it passed.

  9. Yup, I always follow my gut.

    My kids don’t climb in bed with me only because I don’t like to share it.

  10. Wow, It never occurred to me that You have to deal with trying to figure out what’s “normal” and what is not when it comes to things like wanting to sleep in your bed. Don’t be too hard on your self, please!

  11. I hear ya.

    We get it bad from my FIL.

    He calls my 14 yr old’s yes/no speech, “robotic.”

    Nice, huh?

  12. The best advice I ever got came from a nurse when my youngest was born.

    “Don’t start anything you aren’t willing to live with or break the habit of”. Having lived in autism-land on either end of the spectrum now for nearly 12yrs that is excellent advice. What is right in your house, isn’t right in my house. But autism and life in general is different in your house than it is in mine.

    I’d go with your gut.


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