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skills because I don’t spank my child, and that she should be praising me for raising her grandchild without those outdated methods of beating someone into submission.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?