Mr. Rant and I have our annual argument today. It comes about at some kind of family lunch or event. It is always centered on our children and it is fully due to cultural differences.
I don't know why I let it get to me still. It really is just the culmination of a bunch of tiny little things over a lunch or a family weekend that seem to push me over the edge.
Take today for instance. My Mother-in-law was kind enough to take it upon herself to make my boys' plates at lunch. I have no idea why it rubbed me the wrong way because what she was doing was her being helpful. But I have just never warmed to the idea of my children equally belonging to everyone in the family. It annoyed me to see her automatically determining what they would eat and not at all consulting me. At the same time, we live here. She is with the boys all the time. It's not like their habits are a mystery to her. Just the same, I felt that burning annoyed feeling when she cut up pork on Chatterbox's plate, the exact meat I had just finished saying that I do not think is good to eat. Side note, I think pork (minus sausage because there's no real meat in it anyway) is a dirty meat. I do not purchase or serve it to my family.
So that was the first annoyance, and I'll admit that it was something I should be over by now as it has been the story of my life here. No one died. Chatterbox was happy eating it. Not a biggie...
Then the Menace decided he wanted to roam around the restaurant. I'm not too anal about this but I do expect my kid to finish eating before they start running amok. But today there was a little girl sitting behind us and the family thought it was adorable that the Menace wanted to talk to her. I was thoroughly annoyed because we are working on exactly this with the Menace, sitting down to eat and then getting up. I'm being a hardass as he has been being a pain in the ass.
Was this respected? Nope. And since I was already cranky I did actually put my foot down. I told them no, the Menace got a talking to, and he actually cried. I thought I was going to get stoned right there in the restaurant. Holy crap I held my almost 3 yr old accountable and he did not like it. How dare I! I obviously should have been like the woman with the 4 yr old girl who had to keep calling her back to the table to spoon a mouthful in before she ran off again.
The Menace and the family ended up winning that one as it had jumped into the impossible battle.
But I informed him, if you don't sit to eat you don't get ice cream afterward. He accepted that, played with the girl, and ran back to grab bits of food off his plate occasionally.
And it is just this that I find so frustrating. I know we are at a restaurant with the family but why because we are with them do I lose rule over my own children?! How is that? Of course I am the only one bothered by it as the Grandparents take control and my kids obviously choose the way which means they get to do whatever the hell they want.
Anyway, we finally left the restaurant and headed out for ice cream. The in-laws didn't think that I was going to stick with the rules. They actually called the Menace over to get ice cream. I didn't let it happen and the Menace accepted it. He saw Chatterbox with his and when he asked for some I asked him "Did we sit and eat our lunch?" He smiled, said no, and went on with his life.
That is just the thing, culturally Brazilians are not as rigid with their kids as some of us Americans are. Sleep routines, bedtimes, consequences, or standard rules are not part of the day. Just like the rest of life, in Rio de Janeiro at least, they just go with the flow. You know what, it works for them. I see parents spoon feeding 7 yr olds at restaurants or small children out until midnight during the week and everyone seems ok with it. I have Moms tell me that their children will only eat sausage and thus that is what they feed them, everyday. Fair enough. To each their own. They obviously didn't grow up in my home where I quickly learned what "putting your foot down" means.
But as someone who is so not like that, it drives me insane. I can be pretty damn flexible with my kids but I draw the line at running after them to eat. I can not stand listening to people trying to convince kids to please do something. No, you do it or you don't get to do this. If you are fine with that then great. If not, do what you are supposed to. There is room for discussion but not everything is a discussion. I'm sorry but I just don't have the time nor the energy for it.
And it drives me insane to feel like someone is undermining my parenting because they feel that they can handle it better, as if they are coming in to save the children and smooth things over. Back off dude. I am the Mother.
At the same time, it is never going to change. In Brazil the Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, close friends etc have a certain amount of authority with your kids. In some ways it is great, in others it is extremely annoying. The key though, it is not done maliciously. No one is trying to actually undermine me or anything like that. In their way they are helping. They are being involved as all good Brazilian family members are. I can totally appreciate the positive and helpful place it comes from. I know my in-laws and the rest of the family adore me and my kids. We are their family. Though sometimes the American in me wants to throw a stinking fit and cry.
Oh wait, I did that this afternoon. I guess you can check that off the to do list. ;)
Freaking cultural differences! Which ones have you experienced?