Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I'm a Bit Miffed Myself

So as of yet, we have no second child. Unbeknownst to me, I have had hypothyroidism probably since the birth of Mr. Personality, which made it fairly impossible to conceive. That makes me mad, because I could have been having twice as much fun without having to worry about anything. But I'm off the subject here. When and if I have a second child, I pray that I will not fall victim to a strange phenomenon of motherhood that I have seen time and time again in families that I know. I am talking about the tendency to give the most attention, praise, and effort to the least "deserving" of the children.

Before you get all huffy, let me illuminate from my personal experiences.

My own grandmother is victim to this peculiar blindness that seems to strike mothers. My uncle, my father's brother, is an ass. That is putting it kindly. He thinks of no one but himself, what is most convenient for him is how he runs his life. His father's birthday party? He's got a bike ride scheduled, sorry, can't make it. This is not an uncommon occurence, by the way. Bike rides apparently are more important than most of our family's events. A couple years ago, he told the other end of the table that the present that Hubba-hubba was currently opening was something he had found that morning in the bottom of his closet. He thinks it is perfectly fine to bring his floozy of the month uninvited to family parties when he does bother to show up. My grandparents loaned him money to buy out his ex-wife's share of their house, and has never paid them back, despite owning a rather sucessful business. His son, who we suspect is a bit of a pothead, is "forced" to appear only at certain events, which did not even include my grandparents 60th anniversary party. I think I have seen him 4 times in the past ten years. And this past Christmas, he got my three year old son a shoe cleaner. Yes, a shoe cleaner, the kind that has little bristles and you put it outside your door.

As I said, the man is an ass.

Yet, who does she go to vist at his workplace once a week for lunch, which is farther away than anybody else's residence or place of business? Yup.

Who has she helped paint his house, re-do his kitchen, and used to come and clean his house for him? Yup.

Who does she call daily? Yup.

Who did she defend when I told her I did not feel comfortable with him bringing his strange women around my then-newborn? Yup.

Who does she worry about, fret over, and generally smother? Yup.

But it is my father who goes to her house to re-wire her kitchen for speakers and dig out old planters, who sets up her cable and DVD players and such, who gave a toast at their 60th as my uncle sat without a word with his unknown date, and goes to her house at least once a month just to visit?

My father has mentioned how this has hurt and bewildered him a bit.

The same thing can be said for my mother-in-law. Without going into gory details, my husband is the only one of four sons who does not have an arrest record and jail time, who has never had a debilitating chemical addiction, who has never stolen from his mother, and who has never been helped financially by his mother for one thing.

Yet who does his mother treat with the most indifference? Yup.

Obviously, Hubba-hubba is a bit miffed.

Don't get me wrong, the fathers are also to blame. But if a mother wants to coddle a grown child, there is not too much the husband can do about it. So in my two personal examples, they just pretty much go along for the ride.

When our children are young, we reward them for good behavior and punish them for bad. Why, for some women, does this reverse when their children grow up?

I am just praying that this is not a genetic trait.

9 comments:

Suzanne said...

I wonder if moms work harder with such children because they're afraid of losing them -- the "good" child will always be loyal, but the bad sheep might stray out of their life without constant attention.

Doesn't make it right, or any easier on the good sheep, of course. And I'd be as resentful as you if I saw this happening in my family.

WordsRock said...

The other Suzanne makes an interesting point. She may also be unwilling to let go of the "problem" children/adults because she feels her job as a mother is unfinished. Or feels such guilt at getting it wrong, she keeps trying to get it right. Whatever it is, it's messed up!

I can completely understand your resentment. But you'll frustrate yourself to no end trying to understand why she's like she is. And forget trying to change it. Old dogs and such.

Suzanne

Heather said...

Yeah, I've seen it too. But, I also have to admit, that, as the mother of three kids, I sometimes catch myself paying most attention to the child that is the most "challenging". Because, as the others have said, we want to "get it right". I try hard to keep a balance though.

Liz said...

I wonder what the deal is with thyroid problems in this country. I know so many people who have that problem.

I guess there's a reason for stupid phrases like "the squeaky wheel gets the grease". Aren't families fun?

Paige said...

A word on "tough love" it is very hard to do. Other folks will judge you harshly & turn their noses up at you. Not to mention the guilt you WILL feel, even though you KNOW you are doing the right thing for your child. If all parents will only stop & think about "who" will take care of my child when I'm dead! We must teach our kids to stand on their own feet, be responsible for themselves. Otherwise you end up on social security (if you are lucky enough to have any) taking care of you 54 year old baby. Or maybe the kid keeps robbing you when you paid their bail & let them come home. I have seen one person (for kids grow up to be a person) take a family down to being homeless, because the parent(s) keep helping that one person. What about everyone else! Yes...sorry a touchy subject for me. Fyi my kids (7) range from 30 to 13.

Piece of Work said...

OH, I know. I don't get it either. My brother in law is an ass, as you know--and my mother in law freely admits that this is largely due to the fact that she has spoiled him his entire life. And yet, she completely allows him to treat her like dirt, to this day. She defends him constantly, and refuses to admit when he acts like a dick. And guess what? He's STILL as ass! Gee, I wonder why.

At least she is equally kind and loving towards my husband. I can't imagine how difficult it must be for your husband, and your father. AH! Family!

theyellowwallpaper said...

Good post and interesting discussion. Yeah, I've seen the "favored child issue" cause a lot tension for both sides of my extended family. My Dad is now estranged from his brothers and my mother's brothers and sisters no longer talk to each other either because certain siblings, deserving or not, were obviously favored by a parent.

The reality is, any time a parent favors any sibling it becomes divisive. It always leads to resentment. And as the mother of two I always try to keep this in mind. It's a tough balance to strike, but a necessary one.

Gina said...

Some great points that I hadn't thought of. I really do try to put it out of my mind, but in MIL's treatment of my beloved is something I have a hard time forgiving.

And an official welcome to Paige, who has my admiration for being mom to seven children!

J said...

Oy vay, I have the same issues in my family. My aunt was the loser, and her younger daughter is following in her mom's footsteps. My grandmother coddles them the most, and they get all of my Grandmother's (VERY limited) resources. Why? They need it the most. Shame on me for even thinking otherwise.

So there you go. Because they cause the most worry, they need the most help. And because they need the most help, they don't have to be grateful or learn to take care of themselves like a normal person would. Steams the hell out of me.
Whew.