Visiting with family is a joy, especially when you do not live close to family and your family is small. That is, it's a joy, until it's not. Then it's just torture waiting for it to end.
The worst part about having family live far away is the fact that when you do have visits, they are long visits. Sometimes, even made longer by the airlines who trick you into extending your trip so that you can get the best deal.
We just finished our marathon Christmas visit. My mother-in-law arrived on December 17th, a week before Christmas. My mother arrived on the 20th and just left today, on the 29th, so we have had guests in our house for almost two full weeks.
Our mothers are completely different, especially in the way that they relate to our son, Dylan. To Grandma (my mother-in-law), Dylan is the perfect child. He never does any wrong. If he is not behaving, I get the feeling that she somehow thinks that it's our fault, that we have certainly provoked him in some unnecessary way. During Katrina, when we evacuated to her home outside of Atlanta, she fed him Oreos and ice cream for breakfast. To her, he is the prince and all of us are merely his servants.
My mother (Nana) sees things far differently. For starters, Dylan is not a girl. One strike against him at birth. And his ADHD sometimes leads him to be difficult, distracted, and demanding. When it starts, you can feel her disapproval permeating the air. I begin to think that I'm telepathic because I know I can hear her thinking, "This child needs a good crack on ass." Being from Boston, that is exactly how she would put it. When I'm trying to be utterly calm and dispassionate, I know she feels that I'm not putting him in his place. That I'm discussing things that don't deserve discussion. He should be punished and that is that.
Today was not a good day. Grandma had already gone home. Nana and I were going to breakfast and before we left, Dylan began ordering me around like he was the dictator of a small country. Not good behavior and I was not fulfilling his requests. For a non-oppositional child, they would have realized this and changed tactics. For Dylan, that was a challenge that escalated and suddenly, not only did he want me to fix him breakfast, he wanted to come with us. Obviously, his behavior did not warrant breakfast out and I told him as much. Much crying, demanding, and gnashing of teeth followed, along with him getting dressed quickly and insisting he was going. He soon realized,, however, that he was not going anywhere and he lay crying on his bedroom floor as we left, when my mother said she was glad it was us dealing with him and not her.
I lost it at that point. I had been dealing with these little digs all week. (That is, all nine days.) There had been lots of eye rolling, lots of sighs, and several comments about "that child!" I told my mom I was tired of the disapproval and wished she could accept my child for who he is. Her response was that she had tried. Not that she was trying, but that she had tried. Her efforts, it seems, were in the past.
The next several hours were painfully long until I could get her on her plane. It's back to the three of us. It's FAR from perfect. But we are no longer specimens in a family research jar. We don't have to try harder, which only led us to perform worse. We can get back to the routines that keep Dylan and the rest of us on track. We can work on Dylan's behavior without judgment. We can recognize when he is being oppositional and defiant without it being our fault, and continue to try to help him learn better ways of getting through life.