1.4 children

There is a place in my heart where all the good emotions and bad emotions go, perhaps you feel it too. When I am affected by a positive emotion towards something or someone, I literally feel the warmth of it in my heart. Unfortunately it works both ways and negative feelings creep into my heart like ink in water. I felt that this evening. On two occasions I had visited my sister in law, niece and nephew and thoroughly enjoyed their company. I took pleasure in admiring what a pretty and spirited little girl my niece is and enjoyed cuddles with my baby nephew. Rather than being the eldest sibling tyrant sucking parental attention away from my husband and his other sister to keep it all for herself, she transformed in my eyes to become a Mum like all of us, enjoying children but on occasions struggling with motherhood too.

All this positivity was lost in one interaction with my mother-in-law. As she mentioned my nephew and how he had enjoyed dancing to tunes on grandpa’s computer within seconds of seeing my son who she hadn’t seen for a while, I felt the black ink of jealousy and negativity creep into the place where warm positive feelings had been stored. I try desperately hard not to feel this way but I can’t help it. The fact cannot be changed that lack of phone calls, invites and time spent with us builds resentment when we are aware that my sister in law and her family are invited round frequently. It is the thorn in my side. My husband is resigned to it because he grew up with. He was packed off to boarding school while his sisters were at day school and enjoyed returning home every evening (well the eldest sister enjoyed it) the other didn’t speak to her parents for 10 years – maybe in her childish way she was trying to communicate to her parents that she felt out in the cold. I couldn’t help put two and two together when my mother in law was flicking through an old family photo album and felt compelled to explain why one summer she went away on a beach break with just the eldest sibling ‘I had a bit of a wobble, so (middle daughter) stayed with a friend’. That’s just not right. They have been living under the shadow of the eldest sibling, my sister in law, ever since. So my best way of overcoming negative feelings is not to care in the first place. It is horrid to be defensive but all I can do is pity her for missing out on the rest of her wonderful family.

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Teaching Grandma to suck eggs

Feelings can’t be ignored. No matter how socially unacceptable/ acceptable your feelings are. Sometimes you can’t put bad feeling down to particular reason. You just feel like the situation sucks.

This is a situation common in families when resentment builds over a particular issue that is not discussed. In my case today, it was the fight for more attention from my in-laws towards my youngest child. It dawned on me that he is in his second year yet he has barely spent one hour of one-to-one time with them since he was born. This is exacerbated by his cousins who were born before and after him. Their mother, my sister-in-law, is not finding motherhood easy and employs a nanny four days a week to care for her oldest. Her youngest has unfortunately developed a sight condition and is receiving counselling to enhance his development. She is concerned that there may be further underlying issues. 

For her everything is bleak and the mere mention of the word visual impairment is enough to send her into tears. 

When we arrive at my in-laws for Easter, my sister-in-law is in the middle of feeding her children and complains that there is too much noise so her children can’t focus on eating. I promptly remove myself and my children to the other room so as not to disturb them.

I prefer my children to eat with the adults so did not bring special food for them in anticipation of a roast dinner with the relatives a little later. This turned out to be a lot later and when they finally got their food, my sister-in-law’s children were having their nap and she started to complain of the noise levels in the dining room as “their is a hole in the wall downstairs and when you are in the top bedroom where they are sleeping they can hear us”. So we are all trying to keep the noise down and I am trying to placate my youngest who is starving after waiting so long for his food (of course his cousins have already eaten so that’s fine he can wait). Then it is time for him to have a nap so my husband retrieves the buggy from the car as all the cots are taken up by the cousins. He thankfully falls asleep in the hallway and doesn’t stir despite the ‘noise’.

Once they are all up from the their nap the Easter egg hunt ensues and my eldest daughter goes with her younger cousin to hunt for eggs while we lag behind with my boy who hasn’t quite mastered walking yet. At no point is he involved in the egg hunt, all the focus being on my sister-in-law’s daughter and he is lucky to come away from it with one egg. I feel left out in the cold.

They then prepare supper for my sister-in-law’s children but it is too early for my children to eat as they had their lunch so late. My sister-in-law questions the content of the food supplied to her daughter arguing “but I’m not sure she has enough carbohydrate on her plate?”. “I’m sure she’ll be fine” says my mother-in-law. They then wheel out the cake which I have to offer to my son although he hasn’t had his dinner yet, thus spoiling his appetite for  later. In summary I felt the day totally disregarded the needs of my children, when they like to eat, sleep etc in favour of keeping my sister-in-law’s children in their strict routine thus keeping my sister-in-law happy.

I took the dogs for a walk with my boy towards the end of the day to get out of the house and away from all the unnecessary fussing. My husband was aware I wasn’t happy and argued that his sister has always been like this and his parents have always pandered to her whims. They have grown to tolerate this so I should accept it too. What makes it worse for me is that my eldest daughter received a lot more attention from my in-laws and that my youngest is not getting the same. He is only young once and they are missing out.

My husband argued that I should be more proactive about inviting them to see him, which had not occurred to me as they do not seek occasions to see my son separate to the occasional family gathering (which is dominated by my sister-in-law and her children). I feel rubbish for feeling like this, particularly as it feels like jealousy. Yet you can’t help what you feel and sometimes you have to put all of that to one side and recognise the issue for what it actually is – my son needs to see more of his grandparents. I can’t change the way my sister in law behaves or the way my in-laws react to her demands but what I can do is help  make my son more visible to them.

So if you are feeling irrational on a problem, particularly an emotive one related to family, I have concluded that it is helpful to strip away all the layers of ‘I don’t like this’ and ‘I don’t like that’ to highlight the heart of the issue and how best to solve it. I hope this advice has helped others to resolve any issues over this family intensive bank holiday weekend!

I am blogging every day to help raise money for Unicef so they are able to protect vulnerable children worldwide. I am aiming to raise £1 for every blog post. If you feel able to donate please visit my page on the Unicef website.

Thanks for reading.