Staying Sane: 9 reasons to communicate when something upsets you


Hi Mamas.

It’s Sunday night and I spend time on these evenings writing about something that I believe helps me to “stay sane”.  However, I am not the best person to follow such advice and certainly am not an expert.  So these are just my thoughts, take them for what they are.

I spent years biting my tongue over certain situations.   This has not been healthy for me, or my family.  Years later, my stance is that it’s best to face potential conflict and communicate when something is upsetting, regardless of how awkward or difficult it may be, because [please don’t take me too seriously]:

  1. Issues will just fester and cause greater distress
  2. Relationships will become strained, for those directly and indirectly involved
  3. Over time, the littlest things that happen appear and “feel” to be so much bigger than they are
  4. You have too much to worry about with work and with kids — why add another point of stress in your life?
  5. Keeping things bottled up could affect you physically – think zits, furrowed brows, headaches, grimaces
  6. The people/person may not even know that their behavior has upset you
  7. Communicating will provide an opportunity for future situations to change or the behavior to cease
  8. Communicating over some beers/wine is just another great excuse for some cocktails
  9. It is great to embrace situations where difficult communication is required – this provides great practice and can improve your effectiveness and self-confidence at it over time

So, let me get to what happened this past weekend.  I had a relatively enjoyable weekend.   The kids shined with great behavior but unfortunately there was other behavior happening in my house that I did not like or appreciate.  My in-laws were here for Hubby’s birthday and their visits always bring me an added sense of anxiety.   There has been a tug-of-war happening between them and I ever since the kiddos arrived.   I understand their need to form a bond between themselves and the kids, and I support this – however, not at the expense of the relationship that Hubby and I each have with the kids, our roles as parents, or at the expense of the children’s overall welfare.

I know that email communication is not the best.  In fact, I think it’s cowardly given this type of situation.  What I would like to do with the audience tonight is preview a [cowardly] email communication that I would like to send to my in-laws.   Please provide feedback because I would like to send it soon before the situation festers too long for me.  Or, maybe I’ll decide not to send it and just the below in black and white will be therapeutic enough for me.   Or, maybe Hubby will step in and lobby on my behalf.
 
 
 
*****
 
 

[In law], [In law],

Thanks for coming this weekend to celebrate [Hubby’s] birthday and also to babysit on Friday night.   I think [Hubby] had a great weekend.   Also thanks for helping with the fence and cleaning – every bit is appreciated!!!

I would like to get something off of my chest though, in the spirit of open communication.   There were two situations that happened that appear small, however there are things that underlie the following actions that are very upsetting to me.

  • Big Bro informed me on Sunday that during Saturday’s lunch with [in-law], he had something sweet but he wasn’t supposed to tell me.   He said that Daddy knew, but he was specifically asked by [in-law] not to tell Mommy.
  • On Saturday morning I overheard conversations that [in-law] was having with Big Bro, about how both of you were not going to be here for Christmas this year and how you were not sure if Santa was going to come to Big Bro’s house, but that Santa was definitely coming to your house and that maybe Big Bro should come to your place.   Or, you would maybe save Big Bro a present or two from Santa.

I’ve talked to [hubby] about it and he agrees that this is not appropriate behavior.  First of all, it completely undermines the role of a parent.  Children, particularly young and vulnerable children, should not be taught that it is OK to keep secrets from their parents.   This is just common sense.   We are there to protect them and in fact we are teaching them the exact opposite — that they should always feel comfortable coming to us at any time, with anything that is on their mind.   We are teaching them that there should be no secrets from Daddy or Mommy.   But what is most upsetting is that it puts a very young child — 5 years old!!!! — completely in the middle of any issues that may exist between you and me, which is not acceptable and not OK.   I understand and respect your need to build a bond with the children and I support that — however certainly not at the expense of my role as a parent OR by putting any of our young children in the middle of a confusing and/or tense situation.

It honestly is not healthy to do this to the children.   If this was done in humor, I would think the humor to be too complex for just a five-year old, and I do not appreciate it.    As a family you need to understand that [Hubby] and I are the parents to these children and people should respect this.  I also hope that you see how putting the children in the middle can create situations that are awkward for them — hopefully you agree that the health of these children should come first.   Having such conversations with the kids to strengthen your bond makes matters worse for us as a family and impedes creating a healthy environment for our children.

My parents have always respected [Hubby’s] role as father, our roles as parents, and have NEVER said anything to the contrary in front of the children – I would expect the same treatment from you.

Hopefully with your maturity you will see how this can negatively impact the kids.  I therefore ask that these types of discussions and insinuations with our children stop immediately.

Thanks so much – if anything is unclear please let me know.  My intent is not to cause a big issue out of this, but my first priority is to my children and if I think they are being harmed or put in an unhealthy, confusing, or un-necessary situation on purpose,  I need to get myself involved.

[Mama K]

******

So ladies, am I over-reacting?   Should I bite my tongue?   Are these truly just petty comments and am I a victim of Reason # 3, above?   Have these power-plays happened with you in the past and how have you handled them?  

Even in separation situations, it is common knowledge that you should NEVER put the children in the middle.  This simply is not fair.   And I’ve been hearing comments like the above for years now.    My father in-law starts the power-play with me all the time and his comments are well thought out and purposeful.   He knows what he’s saying and knows what he’s doing.

Comments please!!!

Thanks for listening,

– Mama K

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Comments

  1. Linda J. Costanzo says:

    I agree that there are bigger issues at hand…having nothing to do with a bit of sugar, or visits from santa, which I think we can all agree pose no danger to the child.

    I do feel however, that this same approach is used in harmful situations. A child might rationalize that if my grandfather asks me to keep secrets from mommy & daddy, then it must be o.k. to do this. What happens if someone with harmful motives uses this approach? (pedophilia and other forms of child abuse). It could lead a child’s innocence in the wrong direction. Children should ALWAYS be encouraged to share all with mommy & daddy….and to NEVER keep secrets. The wrong message is conveyed which could potentially cause harm to child. That would be my biggest concern.

  2. Thank you Mamas for your feedback here and on Facebook – I’m going to let hubby deal with the issues directly; unfortunately he avoids conflict at all costs so hopefully he has that conversation. The unfortunate thing is that I don’t forsee any changes in behavior in the future – this is just the way my father-in-law is. Very sarcastic, and knows what he does and what he says – everything is purposeful. In any event, thanks for your feedback!!!!

  3. I started a comment but I lost it somewhere. Are the kids not allowed sweets? Is is it they said not to tell? I would think a sweet once in awhile especially with grandparents would be o.k. I love how you feed the kids, you always fix very healthy foods. Your a great mommy, I also love the LISTS for the store! Wish I would of done that. Are they upset your not coming to their house for Xmas? I most likely would of laughed it off with Big Bro that it was silly, Santa always knows where you are or something like that. Hope it helps, you do such a great job as parents. That small thing dont let it bother you. love your blogs!!!!!

    • Thanks for the feedback — the irony is that I’m the one that is actually OK with the sweets – it is Hubby who is more protective of them on that front. In fact, for Red and Twin Crazy, I took them out last night and I did not have time to get them dinner so his b-day cake was their dinner and dessert… and I am fine with that. The issue was that he was specifically told not to tell me, and I was made to be the “bad guy” and he was over-stepping the boundaries that hubby and I set as parents. He probably didn’t ask Hubby either in advance. He just does.

      In terms of Santa, I did go up to Big Bro separately and tell him of course Santa was coming here to our house. I just feel bad that Big Bro was put in that situation to have to work it out in his head. He’s been put on the spot like that for years and it is just annoying me and I feel the need to protect him from selfish statements like that.

      I will probably have Hubby address this with them and I’ll stay out of it. It’s just that this is a trend and I don’t see any changes to it now or in the future, which upsets me.

      Thanks for the feedback!

  4. While I completely agree with you, I’m not sure what outcome you are trying to acheive. Your in-law’s will most likely be angry and resentful. No doubt, they will turn to hubby who (IMHO) should have spoken up before this. I think sending an email, even though it allows you to express yourself without letting emotions take over, can be perceived as cold. Honestly, the tone makes me think that you really don’t care if you offend them as long as your point is understood. No matter what you decide, I do think it has to be addressed. Sorry you have to deal with this. Hang in there Mama!

    • THanks Mama N. I’m not going to send it but i will pass it on to Hubby so he knows specifically what happened and the specific underlying issues I am objecting to. Hubby is extremely passive and avoids conflict at all costs. It bothers me that he does not stand up to his parents at all and in fact will only do so if I prompt him. Uggh.

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