Monday, December 2, 2013

Family Matters... When Money Shouldn't Matter...

“...the love, respect, and confidence of my children was the sweetest reward I could receive for my efforts to be the woman I would have them copy.”
~ Louisa May Alcott

Yesterday, one of my sister-friends sent me a message, asking me for my thoughts and perspective on something that had just happened within her family over Thanksgiving weekend…
Her husband’s family has a vacation home where the entire family got together. This particular gathering included her husband’s oldest brother, the brother’s girlfriend, and her two children. They had all come together to spend the holiday.
Over the weekend, she noticed that her 2 year old daughter was not comfortable around one of her brother-in-law’s girlfriend's son. It was confirmed when he tried to pick her up and she screeched and yelled as if she was afraid. At that point, and subsequently in a few more occasions over the weekend, my sister-friend told him not to pick her daughter up and not to play with her because she was "too little."
In addition to her natural motherly instinct, telling her that something wasn’t right, (upon departure) other members of the family voiced that they felt as if the boy was bullying/antagonizing her little girl.
She decided to reach out to the matriarch of the family, her M-I-L, to get some insight on how she should approach the situation with the boy’s mother. The feedback she received left her very upset; sad but mostly disappointed…
Her MIL said “maybe you need to really sit down and re-evaluate your feelings.” She proceeded to say over text that she also heard her grand-daughter cry but was told it was because she had slammed her finger in the door...
It is an unfortunate fact that her M-I-L favours her oldest son over the other siblings for the sole reason that he is financially secure. Her reaction, instead of coming from a position of “let’s try to keep peace for peace’s sake,” validated the extent of her favouritism regardless of who is/what is the collateral damage. She would rather not upset her eldest son’s girlfriend (which would obviously upset him), instead of trying to be fair and objective in the situation. I mean, God forbid he hears that he is anything but a perfect man, with a perfect girlfriend who has perfect kids….

So what are my thoughts?
So many things come to mind… So many red flags go up, so many “no-no’s” present themselves, so many of nature’s rules were broken… cardinal rules…

One thing I have learned during 14 years of being a parent is that from the time our children acquire the capacity to learn new things; they instinctively and simultaneously learn independence.  And with age, they learn how to voice their concerns… when they deem it worth sharing. However; this doesn’t give us a free-pass on awareness, especially dealing with little ones. We have to be observant, readily looking for clues and interpreting those clues, so we can catch any red flags…
As parents we must remember the Number One Cardinal Rule of Being a Kid is that they will come to us only for advice in the most dire of circumstances (definition of “dire circumstances”: things like epidemics, fires, and frogs raining down from the heavens!!!) This rule, of course, becomes harder for them to obey as they become adolescents, and feel as though they can fix or deal with “it” on their own. For our babies which can’t express themselves we need to read their cry for help through their behaviour, reactions and actions as they rely on their display of emotions to tell the tale of what brings them pleasure or what bring them fear… so as parents we need to have our own Number One Cardinal Rule, and that is, if a child comes to us with something viewed as a problem either by voicing it or by displaying a behaviour that grants concern, we need to pay strong attention because it means something… It means that there is a problem. We have to learn to read the signs of their behaviours… Bullying (or tormenting in any way) the weak is also a cry for help and shouldn’t be ignored by sweeping the behaviour under the rug…

“As a mom, I know deep within my core that there isn’t a situation on this earth that would make me decide to put my kids in danger. Neither would I hesitate to protect them first and foremost before myself or anyone else… The ONE thing I pray to be spared of is to be put in a situation where I would have to choose between saving one of my children over the other… That’s the one thing that I couldn’t stomach, couldn’t decide… I couldn’t live with!”

This is a statement I made back in June of 2012, in my post Parents Choice-less Choice. This situation reminded of how true and relevant this statement was. However; it’s apparently not a universal sentiment, as some people can easily make a choice based on a false sense of security, compromising the very core principle, the very cardinal rule of being a parent to more than 1 child…

It is too easy to lose sight of what really matters in life; the relationships, goals and passions that really deserve our time and most precious resource of all… our energy. We at times forget that all the decisions we make work together to determine who we are. All our decisions reflect our view of life, our view of ourselves, and our view of the future.
When we decide to have more than one child, the number 1 rule (which truly shouldn’t be a rule but an innate behaviour/attitude) is that all of our children have equal parts of your heart and should be given an equal display of that love. And with that, righteousness should always prevail over any other factors that might come into play…

For me, as a mother, my nurturing and protective instinct is always on the forefront when my children are in play. In my personal life, I see that instinct being developed in a higher degree from my mother/M-I-L as it relates to their grandkids… Hell, even when they don’t deserve protection they are being protected by their “gladiator” grandma!
So for me, when I read my sister-friend’s dilemma, just like her, I was sadden by the fact that her M-I-L didn’t get, and appreciate the fundamental guidelines of her role as a grandma’ but even deeper… her role as a mother.
To feel connection with one child over another is at times normal, especially in specific circumstances or events, depending on how everyone reacts. However, to make it a well-known fact of where you preference lies, based on selfish, skewed reasons like “a sense of security,” “who is more accomplished,” or “who can provide more for me,” make all “acts of love” or lack thereof, seem questionable.

There are undeniable risks and dangers in blinding ourselves and seeing only what we believe or what is convenient for us and our comfort level. As a parent, it requires discipline and self-control to treat our children equally. There will be hard decisions. There will be pain. There will be suffering. But in the long run, you will be rewarded for following your heart and giving more weight to what is right or wrong, versus what would benefit you. Earthly riches are temporary; they do not last and are ultimately unsatisfying. So this is my take/my advice to you…

“You were the gladiator mom. You were aware and present, which enabled you to read the cues and protect your babygirl. Have a small convo with your brother-in-law’s girlfriend as maybe she is blind-sighted by her love. She could also just be oblivious to the red flags raised by her son’s behaviour and ultimately it will be her choice on how she chooses to handle the information.
As far as your M-I-L, I come from the school of, “don’t leave anything unsaid if it comes from a place of love”. You need to let her know that every day she is given opportunities to show unconditional love and compassion, with “small acts of love”. And as a grandma, those opportunities are expectations that shouldn’t be wavered. If we aren’t careful, we may fail to see those opportunities because we’re too busy, too stressed, and too caught up in what’s happening in our own lives. And it’s certainly not worth damaging the innate trust that she will always be the gladiator to her grandkids… no matter what. Open your eyes to the needs of others, have the courage to do what needs to be done, and be concerned about investing in the condition of her soul for eternity, instead of being concerned of not offending her “financially secure” older son…”

Love, peace and compassion should be the driving force when dealing with our children…


1 comment:

  1. Rose -
    I found myself getting angry while reading about the incident. I won't judge the MIL actions, but she is leaving an imprint that may be hard to get rid of.
    Our children and grandchildren can sense a loving spirit. They learn who is safe. I have an illness that required treatment. I got cranky at times. My daughter comforted me with the knowledge that my imprint was one of love and that is what always came through.
    Hopefully this grandma will see what a great opportunity she has to share in the love of all of her children.
    Things and money are so trivial.
    Thank you!
    Karen Hoyt


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