Friday, October 24, 2014

Cold Hands, Warm Thoughts

My mother-in-law is very possessive with my 8 month old son.  Our family gatherings are very frequent and he is the focus of everyone's attention, but she finds ways to get him alone.  She will use a diaper change to excuse him from the festivities and disappear into a back room, or she'll whisk him away down another path when we're on an outing.  I don't mind her having time with him one on one, but we want him to socialize with the group when appropriate.  And on occasion, she has fed him baby food so that she would not have to bring him to me when I was ready to breastfeed.

Well, we went to a restaurant last night with several members of our extended family and she tried several of her usual tactics, but my husband was diligent in keeping the baby accessible.  She ordered the smallest meal on the menu and finished it in record time so that she could be the first to attend to him while others ate.  As I finished my own meal, the baby got a bit restless and reached for me with eager eyes and a smile.  He was ready to nurse.  As I reached for him, her arms came toward mine.  At first, I thought she was spotting him so that he would not fall as he leaned into me, but actually, her hands grabbed mine and she snapped with intolerable venom, "Your hands are cold!"  The implication was that I shouldn't handle my child unless/until my hands were warm.  I flashed her a solid eye roll and my sister-in-law broke the tension with a shrill giggle.

I find myself feeling very threatened by my mother-in-law.  She feeds him so that he won't want mother's milk.  She prevents him from napping so she doesn't get bored while babysitting.  She positions him so that I'm not in his line of sight.  She incessantly requests to take him places--anywhere that I am not.  She is showing her disapproval of me as a parent in an unexpectedly daring way.  The only comment that has ever gotten back to me through the grapevine is that she feels the need to 'toughen him up because I'm raising a sissy.'  So, I don't think that she has any actual, legitimate, serious concerns with my parenting.  I think the issue is that I am his mother.  My position itself as mother seems to be the apple of discord between us.  I find my own jealousy growing, even as I revolt at her jealousy.

My sister-in-law often remarks that my mother-in-law "needs her grandson so much right now."  I think to myself how odd to put the needs of a grown woman on an 8 month old child's shoulders.  His needs are my focus, but they see things differently.  My husband supports me outwardly, but I feel that he is conflicted.  He wants to share his joy with others, whereas I tend to want it all for myself.  I share my son beyond my personal comfort level, and yet I'm known as a stingy mom.  How is it that I am being greedy and she is just being a grandma?

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