Thursday, May 25, 2006

The 11th Commandment

Jamila -23
1 child - girl (11 mo)

As a young single mother I have become accustomed to people, particularly older women, constantly trying to usurp my authority.

Case in point: I told a woman that I did not want my daughter drinking kool-aid. Why did this women insist that my daughter needed kool-aid and attempt to give it to her anyway - right in front of my face?

Another case in point: I told my aunt that I did not want her placing stickers into my daughters first year calender because it was something that I wanted to do myself. Why did this women put the stickers on the calender anyway?

Tonight I told my mother that I did not want my daughter doing something that my mother wanted her to do. So, while I am ironing my mothers jeans, why does she allow my daughter to do what I had told her several times I did not want my daughter doing. And then my mother laughs and says she let her do it because I've done things in the past that she didn't want me to do.

I'm angry and I'm giving my mother the cold shoulder until I leave this house on June 12th.

While I type this post my mother is sitting behind me on my bed trying to have a conversation with me and frankly, I'm not having it. Furthermore, for the entire remaining duration of my vacation I am not going to allow my mother to babysit. Just because I am a young mother does not give people the right to go behind my back and try to parent my child in a way that I have made explicitly clear I do not want my child being parented.

If they will not respect my wishes they will not be allowed to be alone with my child. PERIOD.


Blogger the prisoner's wife said...

you have every right to feel that way. i know that my mom & grandma have said they'd give my son things (i.e. water, mashed potatoes, etc) before i would allow it. my son is 7months old & for the longest my mom said she didn't understand why i wouldn't give him water. i tell her i'm following his doctor's orders & the things that i've read. she respected my decision, but basically laughed because...."i gave it to you & you were alright."

it's hard being young & raising a child among mothers/grandmothers. they are merely trying to help & sometimes do not understand that what we set up as boundaries should be taken seriously. continue doing what you're doing...making your feelings know.

9:19 AM  
Anonymous angel said...

I don't know if this is an age related thing as much as it is just a "bad-habit/mother thing." I'm in my mid-thirties and my mother still pops-up here and there with her authority-like tone. It only takes a strong (yet respectful) tone in return to remind her that I am capable and that I am well-equipped. Mothers never stop being mothers, even to someone else's child.

I think one of the mistakes that some young mothers make (and I'm not saying that YOU do this) is that they allow or depend on their mothers to watch their children so much so that the mother then considers herself "the mother" rather than the grandparent. I know we all need childcare from time to time but the danger is that grandmothers, when left with the babies so long and so often, can inadvertently forget their true role. That has often been the case in my family (with my sister and her daughter) -- the boundaries became so unclear and resentment took hold and there was incredible (and unnecessary) tension.

Be as clear and consistent with your Mom as possible. Sit her down when you're not angry and remind her that to be a good mother, you have to make your own decisions just as she did. Try not to harbor any resentment in your heart for your Mom. I'm sure she only wants the best for you and your little one. Lastly, remember this experience. I'm willing to bet it'll be a deja-vu many years from now.

Wish you the best,

5:42 PM  
Anonymous jasai said...

As I am reading this again for the third time I am chuckling, and not because it is so funny (I have experienced first hand how especially frustrating this can be) but because as mothers we become so sure that the way we are doing/or have done things in the past, is right and best because it worked for us.

I think often, our mothers and aunts especially have a difficult time seperating the child they raised from the mother who is now rasing her own children and so for them it is a bit of a reflex (and maybe a bit of innocent retribution as well!)

Try to be easy on them. They have seen our foibles and so in their own sqiggly way are trying to protect and help us raise our babies.

I think if you gently insist that they respect you, they will. It might take a few times and a few deep yogic breaths but you will all get through it.

5:56 PM  
Anonymous angel said...

amen, jasai. the instinct of mother is to always protect, show, even "do for" at times. and i think it's more reflexive than anything else, as you said. i know one thing, i feel blessed to still have my mother with me. i know it won't always be that way. in fact, my sister in law lost her mom when her children were young and she's still grieving (her oldest is in college). you're so right....a dash of yogic breathing, a pinch of gentle insistence towards respect and we'll all be okay.

peace, sisters.


6:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mother has flat out told me that she will let my child do all sorts of things that I don't want him to do because she is the grandmother. She also said she'll buy him things I don't want him to have for the same reason.
I understand grandparents have a unique relationship, but does that mean they have to blatently disrespect the wishes of their child in order to 'bond' with their grandchild?

4:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw my sister blatantly disrespect her daughter-in-law. "Do not give my child a cookie, it is too late and he will be up all night." Yet my sister announced she would give the boy a cookie, and her daughter-in-law let her. I would have started yelling at that point.

You can be respectful and soft and sweet up to a point, but when it is clear that you are being disrespected, you need to say WITH ANGER that you make the rules for your child. Especially women of color are susceptible to this because mother-respect is often drilled into us. But it's a two way street.

I won't let my godmother smoke around my child. She insists on smoking indoors every place she goes, but she smokes on my balcony, because otherwise she doesn't get to see my child as often as she would like.

5:29 AM  
Blogger angel said...

I don't recall saying or inferring that anyone should be a doormat just because we're dealing with grandmothers.....judging by my re-read of my post I suggested being firm, clear, and consistent. And exposing children to the hazards of second hand smoke, poor nutrition etc, I think the "what to do" goes without saying.

Lastly, in the ten short years that I've been a parent I just haven't ever seen that operating with anger or resentment will solve anything. But that's just my experience. Anger and yelling and cutting people off may work for others but it hasn't ever proved healthy or productive for me.


2:01 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

You have to get to a point where you can be nice about telling people to back off. When my baby was 11 months old I was not prone to be nice about it either because I was too fed up with it. Now that he is 2 I may be nice about, I may not be.
I agree completely with your post, this is YOUR mama experience and older women do not have the right just by being older to take it from you. You're doing good girl, go forth.

5:19 AM  
Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

My wife is going thru the same thing, but it's not bad yet. Her Mom is sooooo into the baby. I just think they want to be needed.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Trula said...

Well, I see both sides of this. I was a very young mother, having had my first child at 17, my second at 22, and my third at the 'right' age of 25. I was once very staunch and assertive about my mothering, because when you are a young mama few respect your parenting, that is true. and when you have babies and small children, you HAVE to speak for them, you have to protect them. Now at 34, I am much more relaxed, in part because my kids are older. But I still woouldn't put up with anyone going against my basic parenting rules (like one is no spanking/hitting). I guess for me and my family what worked was having rules that I could explain in a way that made sense to my parents and extended family, that I could explain how it would hurt my children if broken. Sometimes our mothers, aunts, grandmoms, cousins and them may not know or understand our rules so it is helpful to explain them clearly, without patronizing. I have found that works very well and inspires them to respect and listen to you. For example it may not be enough to say, Don't hit my kids or Don't smoke around my kids. You may have to explain why spanking hurts children, why cigarette smoke hurts children.

I have also found it to be helpful for me to be flexible as well, on the 'lesser' infractions of my rules. When I find out that grandma gave them cookies late at night, or let them watch some horrid show, I no longer freak out about it or threaten that they can't ever see my kids again. Some cookies now and then isn't going to hurt my kids, neither is a trashy televison show. and it helps me to remember my own relationship with my maternal grandma, who broke every single one of my mother's rules whenever I went to stay with her. She straightened my hair, she fed me red meat, she let me eat ice cream and donuts whener I felt like it, and she bought me new toys whenever I broke a toy, which was often. End result? I still remained my mother's daughter, and live a life filled with values she instilled, down to being happily nappy and meat-free.


9:13 AM  
Blogger angel said...

Trula wrote:

"End result? I still remained my mother's daughter, and live a life filled with values she instilled, down to being happily nappy and meat-free."

Trula: well said !! Like you, once I got a little older and began to collect more experiences with parenting I was able to choose the battles, so to speak....and choose my language so that no one felt hurt or insulted but understood that I needed to parent my children the way I saw fit. I also learned the importance of just listening to my mom even when I was solidly against what she was saying. Sometimes I later found out she was right and sometimes she wasn't and sometimes we just had to agree to disagree and I think we're closer today -- woman to woman -- because of that.


11:18 AM  
Blogger angel said...

I should add: I learned to listen to my mom -- "listening" in terms of hearing her out....respecting her time to talk and she, in turn, respecting my time to talk.

11:20 AM  
Blogger soledadsista3 said...

My mother and I had a constant argument about this very topic the entire time I was pregnant and I think she was able to see what I thought was important to keep away from my son(for me, it was meat products, cow's milk, and sugar) and what she really wanted to give him because, for all goodness, she was a "Grandma" and that's what they do. I had to look her in the face and tell her that I wouldn't let him stay in her house if I didn't feel I could trust her because she might give him things I didn't think my child should be having (I use the possessive very loosely here, knowing he is only on loan to me for the moment).
It certainly took a lot of talking and setting of ground rules. Not only did she have to respect my rules as his mother and primary caregiver, but I had to cave and let her do some things that I may have initially not wanted to let him do (drinking soda ONLY happens at Grandma's). Once I loosened up and saw that sugar in moderation wasn't gonna kill him and 2% cow's milk was okay, since he was already in love with cheese, everything was easier.

In the last months, she has come to inherit my niece and nephew and I have noticed that she often practices some of my mother-habits and asks my advice.

I think that as women, we have to be able to re-find that middle ground where love and respect lie peacefully.

5:03 PM  
Blogger SmartBlkWoman said...


My situation is pretty much like the one that you described. I made it clear as daylight that I didn't feel comfortable with what my mother was trying to do and she blatantly disrespected me by thinking she would do it anyway to prove a point to me. I wasn't having it.

I can see where everyone is coming from with what they are saying. Thanks for the good advice.

Sincerely, Jamila

1:09 PM  
Blogger ebony said...

Lighten up! I guarentee that you will give unsolicited parenting advice too. We all turn into our mothers ("Don't make me stop this car!) and that's just what mothers do. At 35, I'm a "seasoned" mother of 4. I still get (so-called well meaning people don't care how old you are) and to my sometimes horror, give advice all the time.

When someone wants to give my child something I disappove of I stop and think if it's really going to hurt them to have an occasional treat (no), or I offer an alternative. Someone gave my son candy late one night after I said no, I simply took it from my son and said again, "It's too late for him to have this. I'll give it to him tomorrow after his lunch. Thank you, I'm sure he'll enjoy it." My point was well taken and this individual has never given my kids anything without asking first again, that I know of at least.

No one, least of all your family wants any harm to come to your children. Stay firm and know that they love you and your son, but they will always be the momma, grandma, auntie, whoever who "already raised __ kids, so I must know something. That water I gave my kids didn't kill them, did it?"

8:00 AM  
Anonymous tina said...

just wanted to weigh in and agree with you; it doesn't matter if you are 100 years old and with a partner, if you ask someone to follow some directions in regards to your child, your request should be enough. she is your child, you make the decisions. end of story.

-a nose soul of adoption reader (celebratewewill)

6:19 PM  
Blogger Soulfull said...

I can totally relate to this post. All I can say I'm sure these folks mean well, but it's not good for the child to see conflicting instructions... God bless ya sis!

8:26 PM  
Anonymous Kohana said...

I think it's important for young mothers (myself included) to assert themselves and stand their ground when they feel strongly about something. We are doing it for our children's benefit but we are also doing as part of learning how to parent. We start drawing boundaries with what foods they eat and we progress to what playmates they may have. We need to build confidence in our ability to choose what we think is beneficial to our kids, and to learn to stick with it, even in the face of adversity.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Professor Zero said...

You are so right !!! I hate being disregarded like that, & it doesn't get worse than when it's over a baby...

7:30 PM  
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