Thursday, November 25, 2010

"That" Relative

Now, I appeal to my faithful blog readers for advice.

My mother is trying very hard to be affectionate to Raphaela, and to connect to her.  I am thrilled beyond words.  Unfortunately, her method makes me cringe.  She comes up to Raphaela, pinches her cheeks very hard until they turn red, squeals in baby language for a bit and then takes Raphaela's cute little head into a pincer grasp, and kisses her almost violently; meanwhile, Raphaela, who does not have the verbal accuity to say "Stop," starts squirming and crying, but my mother ignores the obvious signs of discomfort and makes her grip even stronger.  It is even more scary when my mother does this when Raphaela is tucked into bed, I almost fear that my mother is so busy planting these Polish kisses on Raphaela that she does not realize that she is crushing my daughter with her body weight.

We all have "that" relative who we dreaded seeing on holidays and family functions, the one who gave wet and uncomfortable kisses, and hugged just a little too hard and a little too long until you felt like you couldn't breathe.   I had an elderly relative whom we all called the "Kissing Monster," and out of 'respect' we let him slobber on us and choke us, but none of the grandchildren enjoyed it.

I don't want my mother to become that relative.

And yet, I feel like there is no way to explain through kind words that Raphaela squirms and cries because she is unhappy and uncomfortable.  I don't know how to let my mother know that I love that they are beginning to bond, but as her mother, I must speak the words Raphaela cannot.

Any suggestions?


Sarah said...

That's a toughie.

My thoughts are going in the direction of "say it in a positive form, eg 'Raphaela is used to being touched lightly' rather than in a negative form eg 'Raphaela doesn't like that' or 'don't do that.'" And hope your mom gets the hint. Because anything stronger than a hint could backfire into your mom not hugging or kissing her at all.

But, it's a toughie.

I do think though that in a few years, when Raphaela is more fully verbal, you can encourage her to sweetly ask Grandma to be more gentle, please, and that will be the cutest and therefore most effective way. (And will also teach Raphaela to be straightforward about what she wants, which is a very helpful skill for life.)


koshergourmetmart said...

perhaps, speak to your father about it and have him broach the subject with your mom. I like Sarah's suggestion about saying it in a positive way

Ariela said...

This is not a toughie – it is a no brainer. The golden rule with grandparents is to NEVER interfere with the relationship. Trust that they (Raphaela and your mom) will work it out. Interfering always makes it worse - always. Don't cringe - look away instead. When you respect your mother and her choices, it teaches Raphaela to respect your choices. Nothing is more important for children than כיבוד הורים (respecting their parents). The best way to teach them that is to truly respect your parents.
It seems like you have lots of expectations from your parents and are always winding up disappointed. The way to improve your relationship is never to accept that they will never change. If you want a good relationship with them, you will have to make changes. This is the most important lesson you can teach Raphaela.

Commenter Abbi said...

Agree that you will have they will have to work it out. My grandfather always pinched my hand to tell me he loved me, but it never really interfered with our relationship. My parents were always tushie pinchers and that basically made me one too. Neither I nor my kids were worse for the pinching. Some people just have a very physical way of expressing love.

My middle daughter (5 yrs old) is extremely shy. When my parents come in they want instant affection (which my oldest and youngest happily oblige) I first just ignore it and let them try to work it out and then i gently remind them that she needs to come around on her own, which she usually does. They get it, they wait a few hours and she is right there in their laps.

So you might want a combo of the first two suggestions- let them work it out, then a gentle explanation of how things usually go with Raphaela. Good luck.

Amy Charles said...

I don't see what all the hands-off stuff is here about being rough with the baby. It's your house, she's your daughter. What you say, firmly and nicely, is:

"Mom. That's too rough. She's not used to it. Please be more gentle."

If your mother does not get the message, demonstrate what "gentle" means.

You'd have to be emotionally 15 years old to be offended by a mother's request to be more gentle with her baby. If your mother is emotionally 15 years old, this is too bad, but you're there to take care of your daughter, yes?

I also have a difficult family, and I find that being firm and direct works best. Hysterics and pleading are not necessary. Eventually they will respect that this is the line with you, and they will stop trying to cross it.

Firm, pleasant, direct.

Ariela said...

Amy, it depends what the long term goal is. If the goal is a good relationship between your child and their grandparents, the "hands off" approach is best. No one like to be told what to do, especially in regard to their kids and grandchildren. Doc's mother may be emotionally 15 years old, but she still can forge a great bond with Raphaela if Doc stays out of the way.
If the goal is not to have your child pinched, then by all means, tell her off.
Doc, remember that Raphaela will model her relationship with you on your relationship with your mother. That is what I tell myself whenever my mom drives me crazy. I tell myself, if I react negatively, it is teaching my children to react negatively to me. If I react with love and patients, then I am teaching my children that. R
RivkA of blessed memory (out mutual friend) said something at her oldest daughter's BM that really sticks wth me.
"Before I had kids, I was sure I would be a much better parent than my parents. When my oldest daughter was born, I realized that I had to hope to be at least as good as my parents. Now that my oldest is 12, I realize that I will never be as good as my parents. "

Amy Charles said...

Ariela, I don't think that being clear about how people are to treat your child and good relationships are mutually exclusive.

It's true that no one likes to be told what to do, especially with regard to grandchildren. However, if my experience is any guide, family will eventually come around and respect both you and your straightforwardness. And they will abide by your wishes, mainly because they don't want to cause trouble. Along the way they sometimes learn that there's some merit to what you're saying.

Personally, I could've put up with all kinds of bad behavior from my daughter's grandparents. I said no, and told them what was acceptable. Were they hurt, yes. Was there withdrawal for a time, yes. But...well, just today there's an "apology and I'll do better" email in the inbox from a relative who'd really been treating her poorly. They don't run away forever.

I think in Jewish women's culture we've got a tendency to deep-six a lot of terrible behavior and make a big silent-movie kerfuffle around compensating for people's behavior. And maybe it gives us something to do, but frankly, as another single mom, I've already got plenty to do. So I find it's much simpler to be to the point and require my daughter's family to act like grownups around her. After all, this is part of what I'm teaching my daughter: How to treat other people, how to expect other people should treat you.

As for learning how to treat people...well, to be frank, RR doesn't see very much of Doc's interactions with her family. She will likely learn more from watching her friends' relationships with their mothers, and friends' mothers with friends' grandmothers, and her mother's friends with older local women. If they are healthy, this is all to the good.