In a couple of weeks time, my mother-in-law and her partner are coming to stay, for a whole seventeen days. She lives a very long way away, and due to her work commitments and her partner’s ill health, it has been more than two years since we’ve seen her.
In those two years my daughter has gone from a hyperanxious child who couldn’t look anybody in the eye, and who barely spoke, to a mildly anxious child, who adores spending time with family, who is full of stories and ideas and excitement. My son has gone from a small baby, who was just working on sitting up by himself, who spent most of his time in my arms, on the boob, to a full of energy and adventure, running, jumping, dancing boy, who chatters away constantly and is always in the very centre of any mischief, who still spends quite a lot of time in my arms and on the boob! They feel entirely unrecognisable from the children they were two years ago.
I am really excited about the visit. Me and my mother-in-law have always got on well, from when we first met, to me raising her grandchildren. I think lots of mothers feel a constant conflict, a feeling that they have been judged not good enough for her precious son, or that that wasn’t how she brought up her children. My mother-in-law has been very clear that she is their grandparent and it’s not her place to tell us how to bring them up. Her mother-in-law said the same to her and she really valued that.
Whilst being excited I will admit to feeling a little trepidatious about it as well. I can’t help but want the people who love my children to think I am doing an ok job as their mother. I want her to think that they’re doing great, and by inference, that I’m doing alright too. There have definitely been times with other relatives that I have felt criticised, whether explicitly or by implication. I realise that lots of the parenting choices we have made, have been different from others, and sometimes our long term goals may fade in comparison to some of our short term difficulties. That can be hard to justify at times when there is a tantruming child in front of you.
I think it is hard developing a normal relationship on two weeks presence in two years. I don’t blame my mother-in-law for that. I know she is desperate to see more of her grandchildren, and would love to move closer if circumstances did not make that so difficult. When they come to visit they buy local property papers and daydream about living down the road. I live in hope that may one day happen, but meanwhile we talk about Grandma lots, and try to give her regular updates. It does mean that when she visits, she has a habit of being rather full-on, a little manic, almost as if attempting to fit all those missing months into a few short days. She goes into full blown indulgent grandmother role, buying toys and sweets whenever she goes near a shop. I remember how much I loved my indulgent grandmother, and I don’t want to come across like the killjoy mother, but sometimes it can be hard to get the right balance.
So, wish us luck. Luck for relaxed children who are on good form. For grandparental approval. For feeling like an ok mother who isn’t getting absolutely eveything wrong. For successful cohabiting with family for more than two weeks. For my children’s teeth not falling out from all those sweets and finding room for all those toys.