OK (mentally bracing myself), here goes... Well, it's 0315 in the morning and here I am again, ruminating on the same thing. I'd been planning to post here for a while for advice... Sorry, this is going to be a very long post as there's a lot of background detail. I should say I genuinely am delighted we have this forum - it's utterly invaluable for me. Thanks in advance for any advice (and for anyone still reading til the end!).
Some of you will have been lucky enough to have been raised in a family which was understanding, respectful and accepting of your Giftedness - I applaud your parents. And some of us - me included - weren't. I grew up feeling very lonely, broken and wrong (if I had a dollar for every time I heard I was 'oversensitive' Simon Cowell would be my chaffeur!). I have a critical yet best intentioned Mum who is narcissistic, has fairly low EQ and has very little respect for 'boundaries'. My EQ (perhaps *because* she's my Mum?!) is fairly high. I find it nearly impossible to have a conversation with her. If she's Gifted, it's hard to see (I can see Giftedness more on my Dad's side). She's with my equally (though never openly) critical step-Dad who is most definitely Gifted (ironically!). They've been together since I was 8 and very much formed a 'wall' against which I constantly smacked my head growing up - and still do.
Since realising that our 3 year old daughter is Gifted I've made it sort of a 'life mission' to understand much (much!) more. Along with way I realised I too am Gifted (as is my husband). The 3 of us 'fit' beautifully together (most of the time). Because of my own upbringing I'm also *incredibly* (and at times, painfully!) conscious of the importance of communicating to my daughter that she's OK how she is and for who she is (and who she's becoming). I've read up extensively on Giftedness (which has really helped me better understand myself and make sense of my childhood). I have a very good understanding of Dabrowski's OEs and of his Theory of Positive Disintegration - these make perfect sense to me as a framework and I'd highly recommend them to others.
Anyway, I'm aware that my very bright daughter does not present as 'normal' (though she is very 'normal' (whatever that means!) for a Gifted kid). My parents see that she is 'not normal' but think it's because I'm a neurotic Mum (yep, let's not even *go* there!) With a basic understanding of Giftedness, a lot about her makes sense. So... armed with how cr*p I felt growing up, and desperately wanting for the pattern to be broken for her, I attempted to have a chat with my parents about her Giftedness. I didn't even get to the 'chat' stage - somehow the wheels fell over waaaaaay before that!!! The wall went up and they refuse, point blank even to discuss her 'giftedness' (yes, they use quotes! She's in the 99 percentile - so she's Gifted, not 'Gifted', in my book).
After trying to instigate a meeting (about 6 weeks ago) I received two (separate) emails from my Mum and step-Dad basically telling me they don't need to be 'told' how to interract with her and how selfish and ungrateful I am (they believed I was unfairly attacking Mum as a parent - which wasn't my intention, I just don't want history to repeat). I feel compelled to stand my ground as their criticism of our girl, I believe, won't be healthy. She has EQ and emotional intuition out of the ballpark and picks up on it *all* - spoken or not (her ability to read non verbal cues is terrifying!). I choose the role of her advocate (she's 3!) and I make no bones about it. I understand she needs someone *truly* on her side - I'm hoping, growing up, it'll make a big difference for her and her self esteem. It might sound arrogant but I so wish I'd had me as a Mum when I was growing up!
So now to the crux... (sorry, it's before 0400, my brain isn't working and this is taking *ages*!)... all communications have stopped. I didn't reply to either email as I didn't want to 'escalate' matters. This isn't about me wanting to attack (others) or defend (myself). This is about trying to create a healthy emotional environment for my kid. I have a theory about social contact where I see 'tiers' of social importance. Currently (and this will change with age) for our family, tier 1 has me and her Dad in it. Tier 2 'should' have her grandparents and our close friends in it. Tier 3 has other extended family (of which we don't have much) and general friends and tier 4 is everyone else. My intention is that tiers 1 and 2 understand and support her - the others are of (far?) lesser importance to me. The problem is without an understanding of Giftedness, there's no way my parents can understand her (been there, done that). My belief is that, at this age, our daughter will be especially sensitive to message/ opinions from those in tiers 1 and 2.
Through this all though I'd actually *like* her to have contact with my parents (our family is very small, plus she doesn't understand where they've suddenly disappeared to). To make matters worse, they live 5 mins up the road and we're in a smallish, rural area. At some point we're bound to bump into each other - how do I explain that to her?! It goes without saying that I don't want her to feel this is about *her* or somehow her 'fault'.
Should I just give up on the notion of 'acceptance' of my daughter from my parents (I gave up on 'acceptance' of me a while back!), do my best at 'damage control', limited their visits (my Mum thinks nothing of dropping in whenever she chooses) and try to patch things up? (I have mostly 'parented' myself my whole life so (as harsh/ clumsy as this sounds) I have no need for 'parents' myself now. It makes no difference to me whether they're in *my* life or not - it's whether they're in my daughter's life that I'm questioning.) I don't want to 'step down' but I can if it's in her best interests. Worst of all is that I know my Mum means well but she's just so clueless. Life is all about her, communication between us is maddening (I made the decision to mostly keep to myself years ago as it's easier that way). I think she has visions of 'being a Grandma' and wants to be trusted with our daughter but her attention span is so short, her listening skills so poor (plus she often seems to think a child is trying to 'manipulate' or 'control' her so can be very controlling herself) I simply don't trust her. I can't see a time in the near future where I'd feel comfortable leaving the two of them alone together for quote some time. The only reason I'm even questioning this is that my daughter likes her grandparents (or at least she's used to them).
I can't tell me how much your advice means to me. I put a *lot* of faith in this forum. Please help!
Hmmmm.... so much to think about. First and foremost, you need to decide whether you a) give up on having your parents in your life, b) give up on ever making them understand or c) continue to try to educate them.
Once you've made this decision it'll be easier for you, for then you either accept the situation and move on, or put more time and effort into deciding how to educate your parents.
Just from what you've said, I'd be inclinded towards b. Accept them for who they are and what they are capable of and just work with that. In which case you need to decide how to damage control the situation. At 3, even though your daughter may feel undercurrents and emotions, she won't understand the why's and wherefores. So, do you gradually educate her to the fact that there will be ppl in her life who won't necessarily understand her but will love her in their own way? Or do you limit contact and when it does occur deal with it the best way at the time.
When your mother 'complains' about the fact that you don't allow her time with her grandchild you can then simply say 'if you're willing to learn more about giftedness and how these children tick I can offer you a book to read' and leave it at that. They may in time come around but you making it serious by making times for meetings etc is just going to get their backs up and result in taking a backwards step.
While you are feeling so ill-at-ease towards your parents and in their company, this emotion in itself will be effecting your daughter. Our children are more resiliant than you give them credit for. Although I haven't been in your situation and fortunately both sets of grandparents are accepting and supportive, my daughter (now 10) is also as you say. She has always been incredibly intuitive and mature in her outlook. She was depressed at age 5 1/2 because she wasn't learning to read as easily as she thought she would (she is dyslexic) so I do understand what it is like having such a child. Luckily my son is not like that!! You do need to be extremely supportive and protective, but likewise you need to allow these children to experience and learn. By limiting time, relaxing and doing damage control when and where necessary, and by educating your daughter gradually, I think maybe you'll be heading in the right path.
Of course this is only my opinion and the great thing about this forum is that you'll have differing opinions, views and you should hear from ppl who have been in your shoes.
Giftedness is difficult and we have lost friends because of it. We also homeschool now after my eldest spent 2 1/2 years in school. Her confidence and esteem have increased hugely but it is an ongoing process - one as a mother while you need to be aware, you can't be too fragile about it as you're children will pick up on it. And you, as mother is the one person whom they need to feel secure with, around and from.
Unfortunately we can not control how others are towards us (including mum and dad or in-laws) however we can choose to include people who will be our most valuable support system along the very long road of parenting our precious child.
From the day my beautiful children were born I had no one. I moved to new zealand from australia (my mother lives in australia), my husband is a kiwi. From the first day i met my in-laws they did not like me because I had my childrenout of wed lock, I am australian, they prefered my now husbands first wife etc etc I can't fully explain in this email the pain I have and still endure with my in -laws towards me and towards my children.
It has been 10 long homesick years and my mother in law in particular at 71 is still rude, rejecting and neglectful.
I too am an Aussie and have the exactly the same issues as the other Aussie. I have a mother-in-law(although I too am living in sin) that is elderly, very self centred and at the best of times difficult. But what I have realised is that regardless of what I think of her my 3 year daughter loves her. My M-I-L has about 15 grandchilren and about 12 great grand children. My daughter is just another number to her.
It used to hurt me the way my M-I-L was whenever she was around but what I have come to accept is there are all types in this world and perhaps my little girl is stronger in character and able to deal with all types of people as her grandmother can be very abrupt rude and self absorbed. I am careful as to always be in the same room whenever we are at her home. I take my daughter to see her very week for an hour and thats it.
When I expressed my concerns about my daughter spending time with my M-I-L to my sister she replied 'You can't protect her forever' and she was right. Although at the time I didn't agree with her. My sister's in-laws died very young and her children have no paternal grandparents.
There are perhaps issues between you and your mum that need to be addressed first? I don't know. Just trying to read between the lines.
You are obvisously very upset and I really feel for you.
I am very lucky to have family that while they dont always understand the details, are very supportive and can see that following my lead works the best for my daughter. I do feel for you.
I am not going to comment on the choice you need to make BUT say you do need to make one and stick with it. For your sake, and to make sure you dont spend too much time on the computer at 3am in the morning!!!!!!
I will comment however about your tier system. I completely understand where you are coming from (we have a circle of friends model for my daughter) but I wonder if you are limiting the great, supportive, inclusive stuff you can get from friends??? My daughter doesnt have her Dad in her life and I am soo very very grateful for the many males of her/my friends who go out of their way to spend time with her. Sometimes if family is not an option, letting some quality people into that Tier 2 might be really rewarding.
Here goes free advice :-) I'm sensitive to the oversensitive gene (if I had a dollar for every time my report card said... :-) so I hope this doesn't come across as rough. I also know about trying to parent very differently from how I was parented (tho in a slightly different arena).
On the one hand, don't worry about history repeating itself, because unlike you, your daughter has you as a parent, not your parents. The grandparent role is important one but being misunderstood by grandparents is not the same.
On the other hand, don't be too dismissive of the damage you have taken. You had needs for parenting when you were a child, you feel deeply that your parents failed to be parents, you DO have needs now for parenting and still feel let down and that affects the person and parent you are now. Sure, you coped, but you cannot effectively parent yourself - it's nonsense. You'll be doing heaps of things because of your experience, including bending over backward trying to make up to your daughter for what happened to you as a child. Which you can't do.
You won't change your parents. If they never "got" you, at this advanced age they certainly won't take instruction from you, their daughter. You have a very specific Tier theory! but you can't be responsible for anyone else's attitude. Remove head from that brick wall :-)
HOWEVER I believe that family connections are important, and your daughter likes her grandparents. In your position, I would focus on making sure your parents' behaviour is appropriate for their role, rather than worrying about whether they get your daughter. Asking your mother to call before visiting seems very reasonable. You might point out that criticising and discipline is now your job as a parent and you just want their visits to be enjoyable.
Ok now I have a Narcissistic mother - and one of my few regrets in life is that I didnt stop making excuses for her sooner - I used to rationalise her actions as best as I could "she means well" "she cant help it" so on and so on - to this day I have great sympathy for the woman, I genuinely do ..... but these days I have sympathy from a "safe distance" and just hope I cut ties soon enough for it not to impact too negatively upon my childrens future relationships.
I too effectively raised myself - and my sister too and my emotional health is just fine - and like you I dont need my mother at all. In fact, I have nothing to do with her .... but first I had to re-prioritise my values - more specifically the ones pertaining to family.
It took me quite a while to get to a point of being able to show my children that it is ok to remove yourself from unhealthy relationship dynamics and people who impact upon you negatively - including family.
In actuality it wasnt really me who made that decision ultimately - I set down boundaries - apparently "unreasonable" ones like "its not acceptable to teach your grandchildren that it is acceptable to steal from their mum".
Serious - my mother was staying as a guest in my home and enlisted the assistance of my daughters to go through all the cupboards and drawers and take whatever took her fancy .... but she would rather go without seeing her grandchildren than abide by any conditions or boundaries, least of all any that had a central theme of respect towards me.
The interesting thing was, once I took that step to protect my children, other family members soon followed.
You are absolutely the best person to be in a position to decide what is the best option for your family in keeping with reality and "hypersensitivity" is as much a tool as anything else.
I have a REALLY simple "rule of thumb" with friends and family theses days "Would I feel safe leaving my child alone with this person?" if the answer is no then they simply are not a person I would want around my child, or me for that matter.
Most certainly we cannot protect our children from every assault upon their being but, as parents we do have a duty of care towards them and IMO what it comes down to is what values you yourself wish to teach your child.
It drives you crazy. I have had issues with both my mum and my inlaws.
My mum and I are very close but to the point of suffocation. Since having grandchildren I think she thinks its her job to make sure I am a good mum and has constantly been at my shoulder, making comments that I take as critical ( 'your mother never brushes your hair' to ' there is a stain on that shirt [ straight from the machine, so old stain], how disgusting I am embarrasssed to walk down the road with these children]. I had two kids 15 mths apart, both with health issues, one with sleep issues and adding the mother and MIL's improvement points to daily life did not add alot of value.
HOWEVER, the fact that you are so emotionally bothered by the argument I think perhaps means you do have some connection with them. In my experience they just don't get it - or they are wanting to think that they have perfect grandkids so refuse to believe there might be something different about them.
I am with the others, if they love your daughter don't deprive her of the opportunity to be with them. The longer you leave a fight the worse it gets. I don't think you need to " step down" from your views. Perhaps you could let your daughter spend some time with them but you go out for a while - this way they can bond and you might avoid the arguments.
It drives you crazy, I don't have the answers, but I have learnt to accept that they won't change and alot of the issue with how I feel is my own reaction to their behaviour, rather than the behaviour itself.
And, try to get some sleep, it all seems worse in the middle of the night.!
It very hard to know if acting as a shield or a support is best.
There may be something positive from continuing engagement with your parents. Your daughter is very young now, but in a few years your common empathy may allow you both to share how you respond to your parents. They won't be the only people who dont 'get' your daughter, and your in depth understanding of them may allow you a unique opportunity to understand your daughter's responses to them and help your daughter come to terms with them. It may really help when you also wish to help her deal with others who you only know through your child's experience.
I think it may be possible to take cues from your daughter over time. Does the relationship make her feel bad or not? Does she wish to be with them? While being similar, your and her experience of them may be very different, and the pain that results may be more yours than hers. Atleast for her, it should be far less intense or relevant.
Empathy is rich, beautiful, poignant and deep but also painful.
I'd like to add that 'drop-in visitors' should not be indulged i.e. don't stop what you're doing to accommodate them. For annoying ones I would go a step further and ask them to help with what your doing or about to do around the house especially the less desirable jobs i.e. "I'm just about to [insert mucky job] if you want to lend a hand". They either useful 'keepers' or will pop around less.
Visitor who call ahead for permission should be rewarded with top hospitality.
This is my theory and works well for me.
If you like it you could talk to your parents about calling first 'because you will then be able to help your daughter learn good hospitality'. Perhaps a tea party!
Thank you lovely people...*seriously*, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I'm frankly amazed that firstly, you were kind enough to read all the way through my massive missive (!) and secondly, for your wonderful and wise collective advice. I'm humbled and grateful beyond words - and cried when I read your posts. (What would we do without this forum?!?!)
I'm going to try to re-connect with my parents, for my daughter's sake. I'm also going to truly try and accept them as they are (and accept too that they won't do the same!). My girl likes them and that's what counts. They're well intentioned, emotionally clumsy but caring in their own way. As Jess says, my daughter has me and my parents can't do the same damage to her that they did to me. I know I have a tendency to over-protect her and I need to ease off (gently!). I want her to have resilience and, as many of you say, she won't get that unless I let her. She needs a degree of emotional 'friction' (can't find the right word!) to rub up against, in order to learn some of life's lessons. As MOGG's sister said, I can't protect her forever.
So much to think about and I don't envy you in the situation with your daughter and your parents.
I can understand to some degree from my own experience where you are coming from,but I also think there's a few things to consider.
Firstly, is your mum and step dad's interaction with your daughter so terrible as to be really damaging? Or is it more that they are maybe a product of the generation they belong to, and so their philsophy about kids in general is pretty old fashioned?Thus the idea of giftedness maybe sounds arrogant/too precious or something to them?
I have one son who can be pretty challenging (he's middle school aged now) When we first moved close to my parents when he was about 2 it was really tricky. They weren't used to kids, thought he was "naughty" and really, I couldn't leave him with them at all. I had a few run ins with Mum trying to make her understand him(my mother is not a person you can argue with on any level-she has no logic and her ideas are pretty set and unmoveable!)
However, I have to say that time, and frequent contact has made the relationship with my parents and all of our kids very strong. Yes they still probably don't understand a lot of issues, but they love the kids and support them. I think the changes have come because being around the children a lot has increased their confidence in interacting with them, and so they enjoy them and understand them more and more. There have been times in the past when I have felt really hurt in things that have been said about how my son is, that its due to my parenting etc. But, I have decided that for our family the children having grandparents is really a wonderful thing in their lives, and it is worth the troubles it sometimes brings. I think the kids also need to understand that Nana and Poppa are older people and so they have their limits, and that their home may have different rules etc.My mum also didn't used to seem very interested in doing much with the kids, but now she even does stuff like organises arts and crafts sessions for them at her house. I try to appreciate the good things and not dwell too much on the rest. Grandparents are sort of allowed to not make too much sense in our book. Maybe your parents do love your daughter and would love to interact more, but feel they don't know how as your thinking is so different fro theirs?
Its not easy, but my humble opinion is that its worth working on. I also have hurts from my own upbringing and my relationship with my mother, However, I think I have now come to a place where I can say "She did do her best even if she didn't/doesn't always understand".
Just a few thoughts, take from it what feels right to you and disregard the rest. all the best with your journey and I know you will find plenty of people who have fought similiar battles on this forum!
Narcissistic characters are dotted through my family on both sides (in-laws and mine). I was "overly sensitive" cried at blunt comments from MIL but after a couple of years had to grow a thick skin or drown, which has helped me function better in social and work environments by not taking anything personally. Now I prefer blunt honesty to veiled comments where the meaning is implied and guess work is needed.
A book that really helped me with different emotional types was "Emotional Vampires" forget who by but any book shop will find the book by title alone as it is a very unique title. Informs how to deal with narcissistic types to bring out the best in them and have them on your side.
I tell my 4yo son that his grandma is blunt and that's okay because everyone is allowed to be what makes them happy. He also has the right to be happy and if she says something that makes him sad, she would appreciate him also being blunt and saying "That makes me feel sad" or "Be kind to me please" or "I am upsetting you and I need to go now". It is hard for a grandparent to disregard a child's statement. Arm your child with some simple phrases she can use with anyone (kindy friends included) to stand up for herself. You can also be on your daughters wave length. If she cries to you, you can say "I used to feel exactly the same way when she said that to me when I was your age. But do you know what I realised..." etc. Then your daughter will always have your wisdom and knowledge of how to deal with hurtful things.
The best thing your mother will give your daughter is a thick skin. In this world, that is not a bad thing. Use it as a learning tool. Tell her that is how her friends would feel if she criticised them or was too blunt. Now that she understands, she can know how to be more gentle when talking with others while also understanding that not every child was lucky enough to learn the same lessons that she just has. Those children grew up unaware of how words hurt and they are still unaware so we just have to let them know. We are just lucky enough to have learned ourselves. "Aren't we lucky?" I ask my son. "Yes. I'm glad I know that," he says back. "Sometimes we can help others understand and sometimes we can't. If we can't that's okay, they are just not ready and we forgive them and we enjoy what fun they do bring us," I say. "Yeah. I love grandma." "She's wonderful, isn't she. She cooks yummy bikkies too," I say with a grin and he agrees. Actually, I don't get along with MIL well though I try and I don't agree with her harsh, yelling, demanding ways but if I think of her more like a granddad then she fits perfectly and brings a lot to my son's life. I also say positive things in front of MIL. "Isn't Grandma so good to you!" "You're lucky to have someone to kick a ball with outside" "Doesn't Grandma make the most delicious dinners." "I hope you said thank you. Grandma went to a lot of effort to make that xx for you." So praising the MIL by showing appreciation when talking about her to your child helps all relationships a lot. Also, what can your mother teach your gifted child? "Grandma knows all about xxx, you should ask her to show you." Will make your mother feel important and she will be showing something she loves while teaching your child another talent that perhaps you don't have. Same with your step dad.
These are some of my coping mechanisms. They have worked very well for me. Yes we have had blow ups and haven't seen each other for six months until I do the 'make up' phone call where I was told a divorce from her son would be a good idea. So it's not all roses at my end either. It was after this that I realised it is easier to see her as a boundless resource for my kids than a friend to me or a family member. My relationship with her doesn't matter and is too much hard work but I can praise her through my kids eyes so they see her in a good light and she feels good about her grandma role and she knows I'm not obstructing her relationship with them that I am supportive and positive about her.
Hope this helps. Good luck with fostering a positive relationship between them and you will find a happiness in your role as daughter/mother too.
I am not sure if this is the thread about unannounced visitors, but when my boys were little ( say baby and 2 years old - they are 15 mths aparent), my in laws ( separately at different times of the week) would drop in at 5.30pm on their way home from work just as we were trying to do dinner / bath / bed. It would have been ok if they just watched while we worked, but they expected to sit down for a wine.. play with the kids and have a general sunday afternoon visit during the crazy hour! Then the kids wouldn't eat, would be late with their dinner, we would be grumpy and end up eating at about 9pm. Nightmare. Just reading this has reminded me how we would both DREAD that 5.30pm doorbell.
After a while, when my father in law used to arrive, I would simply hand him the spoon / towel etc ( whatever I was doing kid related) and disappear into the laundry and do someother non child housework. Grudginly I began to accept him turning up and after a while used to find that 15 minutes quite useful. My MIL was harder, as she always wanted to ENGAGE my husband in chat while I wanted him to be helping with the dinner. In the end I convinced him to just continue what we were doing when they turned up and we seemed to get used to it...
Now we have an arrangment where one of the inlaws takes the boys to school once a week. This works fantastically,they get the regular visit with the children and it means we can go off to work without worrying about the school run. Win Win!