Thursday, September 3, 2015

Surviving the Terrible Twelves

I'm terrible at taking blog breaks, or relaxing in general. But just in case I do happen to feel like relaxing with this new baby when the time comes, I've asked some of my favorite bloggers to guest post for me. But not in the usual way.

Blogging is a great way to share insights and experiences. But, sometimes, as much as we'd like to start a discussion, it's not our story to share, or feelings could be hurt, or relationships damaged. So, for my guest posting series, I asked some of my favorite bloggers to share here, anonymously, posts they felt they couldn't put on their own blogs.

I hope you'll find them as compelling as I have.


I feel like I've gotten pretty good at the terrible twos and emotional threes, having gone through them quite a few times now. But, I gotta say, my first time through was NOT a great success. My oldest was an especially challenging toddler, and I took everything he did really personally, and reacted to him very emotionally.

You'd think maybe I could have anticipated the terrible twelves and emotional thirteens. But I was pretty much just as blindsided this time around. And I handled it just about as well.

Eight years ago, when I was first beginning my homeschooling journey, I got a lot of advice and heard a lot of stories of other people's experiences. Some of that was helpful, some was not as helpful. One anecdote in particular really stuck with me, just kind of simmering, but I didn't know what to do with it.

I wanted to ignore it, or figure it wouldn't apply to me . . . but it came from a woman I really admired. She told me that she had helped found an independent Catholic school that she could send her older kids to, primarily because she got to a point with her middle school aged sons where exerting the authority over them that was necessary for successful homeschooling wasn't worth the toll it took on their mother-son relationship.

I've read the blog posts, I know about always meaning what you say.

I figured we'd be fine.

And for quite a while, we were. My oldest has never been an EASY guy to teach, but I like a challenge. He's very bright, and confident to a fault, and has always been hard to motivate, especially for things he believes to be not worth his time. Each year, we'd have a crisis or two (or six) that would require dad's involvement to sort out. But we were mostly making it work. His academics were on track. And our personal relationship was solid.

Then, as he approached puberty, everything changed in subtle but profound ways. He's a good and responsible and fun and helpful kid, but it seemed like all of a sudden, he had this biological need to not be bossed around all day by his mother anymore.

Getting him through a school day became increasingly difficult, and required more and more pushing from me, resulting in more and more push back from him. That meant I had less time for my other students, and less patience for everyone.

In the moment, again, I was taking it personally, and reacting emotionally.

But the more I thought about it, the more his behavior made sense . . . this wasn't just simple laziness or rebellion, this was him trying to become a young man.

For most of human history, children were under the supervision of their mothers and the other womenfolk until ten or twelve. But then, the boys would get to leave the domain of women and assist their fathers with work on the farm, or be apprenticed to a blacksmith, or shipped off as a cabin boy, or accepted into a school of witchcraft and wizardry. But wherever they went, it meant they weren't spending all day long being dominated by their moms. My son just couldn't handle it. And I wasn't sure our relationship could handle it either.

Last year we tried doing online classes, in the hopes that some outside authority figures would help. But . . . it's still homeschooling, and homeschooling online teachers are pretty chill. So, the buck still stopped with me. And it was hard to leave that baggage behind and just be mother and son at the end of the day. The negatives of homeschooling felt like they were outweighing the positives.

So, just for my oldest, we have decided to make the jump into "real school." We are moving to a different part of town so that he can start eighth grade at the school my friend helped found fourteen years ago. I'm sure packing up and moving house and enrolling in private school isn't the only solution to this issue (and that it just isn't an option for all families).

If my son were a differently motivated kind of guy, I think a very student-led approach to homeschooling could be a success at this age. But I don't think it would be a success for him. Tutors, or a co-op, or more involvement from dad could have helped I'm sure. But this has seemed like it will be the best solution for OUR family.

We have always taken homeschooling one year at a time. And we figured traditional school was always a possibility for our older kids. I'm more of a lifestyle homeschooler than an ideological one, anyway.

And I'll still have plenty of students at home. We plan to evaluate them individually, when the time comes, and with their input, to determine when and if they'll make the same transition. Maybe some of them will homeschool through high school. We'll have to wait and see.

Now I just need to figure out how to be a regular school mom and a homeschool mom and a mom . . . all at the same time. It's possible that there might be other teenage-y things that come up.

And we have to pack up and move.

Wish me luck.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Kids Cook for Themselves: Crock Pot Pulled Chicken Burritos

Here's another of our go-to recipes. From scratch, real food, but quick and easy enough to be managed by busy moms, or even kids . . . all on their own.

Jack (13) is a pretty accomplished cook these days. His preference is to grill out <imagine quip about men and fire here> but: Put chicken/brats/burgers on grill. Cook until done. Didn't seem like much of a recipe post. So, he agreed to share with us his Aunt Jeanne's Crock Pot Pulled Chicken Burrito recipe.

Here goes . . .

Hey everybody. These burritos are really great. We serve them at parties because they seem pretty complicated. But they're actually really easy. You just throw a bunch of stuff in the crock pot and in four hours you have pulled chicken.

What stuff, exactly?

This stuff:

Ingredients (exact amounts aren't important, just fill up your crock pot) . . .
  • Fresh or frozen chicken breasts (no need to defrost if they're frozen)
  • Diced tomatoes fresh or canned
  • Onions
  • Sweet peppers
  • Chili powder or taco seasoning packet
  • Fresh or dried herbs
  • Fresh or powdered garlic
Slice the onions and peppers.

Plug in the crock pot. Turn it to high. Dump all the stuff in it.

First the chicken:

Then the tomatoes (with juice). And my mom says I should tell you that this can opener is the best can opener because even little kids can use it. It's supposed to be for old ladies to be able to use, which I guess means it's also good for six year olds. I don't have really strong feelings about it, myself. It's a can opener. It opens cans.

Then put the seasonings and garlic on top of the chicken, and the peppers and onions on top of that, and the herbs on top of that.

Leave it to cook on high for about four hours, until the chicken is cooked through and it's all juicy in there. Make sure the chicken is cooked all the way through. Then turn the crock pot off and let it cool down a bit. Then use two forks to shred the chicken.

Serve it right out of the crock pot with tongs, along with tortillas, rice, beans, cheese, salsa, and whatever other toppings you like.

My mom also wants me to tell you to make extra because you can use the leftovers to put in layers in a casserole dish and freeze it. It's what she usually brings over to moms in our homeschool group who just had a baby. You just have to bring the one pan and a package of tortillas and salad and cookies (always bring cookies) and they can heat it up in the oven and spoon it into the tortillas for instant burritos. Terrific.

Hope you like it.

For more Kids Cook for Themselves, check out . . .



Top Secret Ten Minute Ice Cream Cake: Kids Cook for Themselves

Kids Cook for Themselves: Friday Frittata



Monday, August 31, 2015

Mailbag: What if I'm Pregnant but My Two Year Old Hates Babies?

Mailbag time! This is a variation on a parenting topic I've addressed a lot on the blog. But I know it's something a lot of us struggle to figure out how to handle. So here we go again . . .

- the question -

Hi Kendra,

I'm a new fan of your blog, and I love all of the advice you give. I'm going through a bit of a sticky wicket right now and would love to hear from you about it!

My son is 2 and a half and is probably the most clingy child in human existence. He loves and adores my husband, but he loses it every time I go upstairs or use the bathroom or the shower. (Dad can do whatever he wants, of course.) He's a social child, though, and gets along with our little troop of friends his age (five other kids) that we spend time with, but he's also extremely jealous. If I pick up or hug one of his friends, he cries until I put them down and hug him. Our friends are now having their second babies, and when I hold one of them, he just stands there and sobs uncontrollably, no matter how many times I tell him it's not our baby, it's okay, I still love him, etc..

I'm at my wit's end! I am also expecting our second in June, and I am dreading the transition. We're doing the traditional things to help him now, like reading books, explaining what's going on with mommy's tummy, etc - but if he gets so jealous of kids he's known for two years, how the heck will he respond to someone who will take up so much of mommy's time?

I would so appreciate your advice! Thank you so much!


- the answer -

Hey Christy,

Thanks, and I'm so sorry, this sounds super challenging. And kind of familiar, the day we got the baby stuff out of the closet before Gus was born, I found the two year old crammed into the baby swing shouting, "No! Bobby Mommy's baby!"

A few things come to mind . . .

Your son is a unique individual. Even as a toddler, he's got his own particular temperament and issues. The way he IS isn't your fault. It's just who he is. He's clingy and prone to outbursts. We're all something, though. We all have our issues. In my experience with my kids, you just get what you get, they'll all different. Then we, as the parents, have to figure out how to support our kids' character strengths, and how to help them change where that would be helpful to their own happiness and the peace of our families.

What I would do first is stop all reference to outside influences when dealing with his behavioral issues. Because what's motivating his behavior, whether it's that he misses you or that he doesn't much care for babies or whatever, none of that matters. He's allowed to have all the feelings he wants. He's just not allowed to lose it because of those feelings. So, I wouldn't say "It's not our baby, I still love you, etc." Because even if he is worried about those things, that's not the problem. The problem is his crying. It's a behavior that you want to modify. Once he has gotten his emotions and behavior under his control, you might find that his feelings are actually pretty manageable for him. That's been the case with my kids.

I would start at home with "Cryin' babies go to bed" type stuff. My kids don't get to hang on my leg and cry. It's just not allowed. If their physical needs are met, and they can't get their behavior under their control, they go sit in a crib or pack n play until they can settle down. Even if that's a long time.

I've had a lot of success with this method with my own kids. It takes longer with stubborn kids, but it even worked on Frankie, eventually. I make sure my kids understand that I have the expectation that they would not throw fits in our house. And that if they are crying for no reason, they'll need to go to their bed to compose themselves. Period. No yelling, no bargaining, no threatening. One reminder, then the consequence. Frankie came out after waking up from his nap today in tears, and I just sent him right back down the hall until he could come out happy, and a few minutes later, he did.

Once he has an understanding of what is acceptable behavior at home, I would implement the same expectations in public. If he threw a fit in public, I'd take him to a corner to sit to calm down, or to the car, or I'd just take him home if I thought that would make a bigger impression. And I'd really, really reinforce that it is his behavior that's the problem. He can't throw fits. He must learn to compose himself.

My guess is that learning to control the behavior will take care of the feelings. But if it turns out that once he's not throwing fits anymore, he calmly says to you. "Don't hold that baby. I don't like it when you hold babies," write me back and we'll work on that. Write me back either way. Write me back if you think I'm totally off base on this right now. We'll figure it out.

Some blog posts you might like:
Hang in there!

Mailbag Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Overcoming Food Idolatry: Mystery Blogger Series

I'm terrible at taking blog breaks, or relaxing in general. But just in case I do happen to feel like relaxing with this new baby when the time comes, I've asked some of my favorite bloggers to guest post for me. But not in the usual way.

Blogging is a great way to share insights and experiences. But, sometimes, as much as we'd like to start a discussion, it's not our story to share, or feelings could be hurt, or relationships damaged. So, for my guest posting series, I asked bloggers to share here, anonymously, posts they felt they couldn't put on their own blogs.

I hope you'll find them as compelling as I have.


It seems that food is an inescapable part of our culture, especially as women. When there’s a playdate, a mom’s group, or a women’s conference, you can bet there will be a table of baked goods, pastries, and other delicacies. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course; but the sight of such tables used to fill me with a sense of dread and a rush of adrenaline. You see, I’m a compulsive overeater, and food is my idol and my drug of choice.

Just from looking at me, you might not know that this is the case. At my heaviest (197 lbs on a 5’6” frame) I was a size 14 and while I wasn’t slim and trim, I wasn’t morbidly obese either. I’m currently hovering between 160 and 162. Health-wise, I could stand to lose another five or ten pounds, but it’s also not a guiding factor of my life to be a certain pants size or see a certain number when I step on the scale.

It used to be a guiding factor. I could write a book about my relationship with food (and maybe someday I will), but here’s the abridged version:
  1. Loved food, especially desserts, junk food, and “comfort food”
  2. Discovered as a preteen that eating as much of these things as I wished was making me gain weight
  3. Disliked how I looked when I gained weight
  4. Attempted to diet and exercise
  5. Failed; consoled myself with food
  6. Attempted step 4 again; succeeded; rewarded myself with food
  7. Repeated steps 4-6 continuously for about a decade
  8. Was certain that my college crush would love me if I were thin
  9. Through a lot of unhappy dieting, got thin
  10. Crush dated and eventually married another girl
  11. I comforted myself with the thought that at least I’d learned how to “eat right” thanks to my diet
  12. I started uncontrollably binging again and fell into despair
And then, after those 12 steps into the abyss of isolation and food obsession, I discovered a new set of 12 steps: the 12 steps of Overeaters Anonymous. I went to my first OA meeting in November of 2005 and left the meeting knowing I was not alone. I wasn’t the only person who couldn’t quit eating. I wasn’t the only one who...
  • snuck food
  • hung around the food table at parties
  • went to social events for the food
  • bought food and ate it in the car on the way home from the store so no one would know
  • lied to cashiers who asked if I was having a party based on how much junk food I was buying
  • hated myself for not being able to “just have a little self-control”
I know some of you--maybe even most of you--are normal eaters. You can leave a half-eaten piece of pie on your plate because you’re full. You can eat a handful of chips at the Superbowl party and then not think about them anymore. You can even notice that you’ve gained a couple of unwanted pounds after the holidays and then actually go about losing and keeping off the weight with a diet. I applaud you, but I am not one of you.

For anyone else out there who knows the magnetic pull of food; for anyone who can’t be satisfied with “just one” or “just one more,”... I get you. There are some foods I just don’t eat anymore because “none is easier than one.” I can’t eat them moderately, and God knows I’ve tried. Just as an alcoholic can’t have just one beer, I can’t have just one donut. I will either eat as many as I can surreptitiously lay my hands on, or I will obsess about how to get some more later without anyone knowing about it.

Since coming into OA, I have learned that my problem wasn’t that I was kind of fat and I just needed to lay off the ice cream for a while. My problem was that I had made food into my god. I was breaking the First Commandment and food was my idol. Food was my comforter, my peacemaker, my friend. Food never turned me down for a date. Food never gave me a C on a paper and demanded a rewrite. Food was always there with open arms, promising the same old thrill.

But the same old thrill wasn’t enough; as with all addictions, food addiction is progressive in nature. At some point in my life, one piece of pie was enough. Eventually, one whole pie was enough...enough to fill my stomach for a while, but as soon as I could manage to eat some more, I would. I wasn’t happy about any of this, mind you. I hated myself. I ate to console myself and to punish myself. If it sounds crazy, that’s because it is. But perhaps some of you know what I mean.

This November will mark my first decade in OA. I say “first decade” because, by the grace of God, I plan to spend the rest of my life going to OA meetings and talking to OA friends on the phone and working through the 12 steps of the OA program (which, while not religiously affiliated, align pretty much perfectly with our Catholic faith). I wish I could say that I’ve been “abstinent” (which is defined in OA as “the action of refraining from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviors while working towards or maintaining a healthy body weight”) for the whole time. I’ve had multi-year periods of abstaining and I’ve also had multi-year periods of relapsing. I’m currently six months into a new period of abstinence and I’m so grateful to be released from the slavery to food.

In her song “Compelled,” singer-songwriter Sara Groves puts into words the whole gist of my life in recovery.

What a relief it is to know
that I’m a slave to Christ.
Of all the masters I have known,
I’m compelled to live this life
free for you…
And I have a new hope that blows away
the small hopes I knew before
and at the end of the day I am yours
and I am compelled

At the end of the day, whose are we? Did we labor under the yoke of slavery to food, overspending, sex, prescription drugs, or something else? Or did we take up Christ’s easy yoke and light burden instead? AA’s primary text, Alcoholics Anonymous, puts it this way: “We tried to find an easier, softer way [than taking the steps suggested for recovery]. But we could not.” Our own idols promise comfort and delight, but they don’t have the power to give those things in abundance. Only Christ can do that.

As one great hymn pleads, “Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more.” Those words have a whole new meaning to a compulsive overeater like myself. Till I want no more? Jesus, do you even KNOW how much bread I can eat?? Yes. Yes He does. You’ve likely heard it said that Jesus comes to meet us where we are; that He meets us in our weakness. It’s true. My mouth has been the gateway to the great weakness of compulsive overeating; yet in the Eucharist Christ enters even there in order to heal me and claim me as His own.

When I pray, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…” I think of the roof of my mouth. I think of all the excess that has passed its way and how much I’ve sinned against my own body. I’ve stuffed it full of food in ways, at times, and to degrees which were sins against the body God bought at so great a price. I know that I am definitely unworthy of receiving the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ into this same space; and then I say the rest of the sentence: “...but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” It is a mystery of mercy.

Whether you read this post in puzzlement that anyone could be so obsessed with food, or whether you are reading it while nodding vigorously and maybe even crying because you’re this way too, I want to thank you for reading, and to thank Kendra for letting me share my story here. If nothing else has worked for you and you feel completely demoralized by your attempts to deal with food obsession (dieting, starving, purging, etc.), I hope you will look into Overeaters Anonymous. It has changed my life for the better in countless ways. As we say in OA meetings, “Whatever your problem with food, you are welcome here. Welcome to Overeaters Anonymous. Welcome home.”


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How NOT to Receive the Eucharist While Holding a Baby, Illustrated . . .

When I had my first baby thirteen years ago, I knew a lot of things would change. I was warned that sleeping, and showering, and getting laundry done would all suddenly require ingenuity and advance planning, and back up.

And that was true.

But no one warned me about trying to receive communion while holding a baby.

No one warned me. So I tried to figure it out myself . . . with the same ingenuity I applied to other things. And I gotta say, it was not always a great success. Since then, I've realized that the perfect solution already existed, I just had to be willing to give it a try.

I've seen plenty of other moms fumbling through communion trying various methods. So, I'm here today to show you what not to do, and why . . . with the help of my children, who will participate in pretty much any of my crazy schemes to get to eat crackers.

The guidelines for reception of Communion in the hand, as explained by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops are thus:
If Communion is received in the hand, the hands should first of all be clean. If one is right handed the left hand should rest upon the right. The host will then be laid in the palm of the left hand and then taken by the right hand to the mouth. If one is left-handed this is reversed. It is not appropriate to reach out with the fingers and take the host from the person distributing.
But, if you're holding a baby with one arm, that's pretty much impossible. So, what're ya gonna do? . . . 

1. The Pluck and Pop

This one is tempting. You just reach out and grab the host in your fingers, then pop it in your mouth. Unfortunately, it's right there in the guidelines that "it is not appropriate" to do so.

Oops, moving on.

2. The Lean and Lick

So, you can't grab the host. What else can you do? You still have a baby in one arm. So you just end up sticking one hand out to receive the host. And then it's just sitting there. So . . . you kind of lick it up off your hand. Right?

I'm thinking the big problem with this technique is that when Pope Paul VI introduced communion in the hand as a valid option for Catholics in the United States in 1969, he did so with the caveat that:
The condition is the complete avoidance of any cause for the faithful to be shocked and any danger of irreverence toward the Eucharist.
Licking up the Body of Christ out of one hand is probably going to seem both shocking and irreverent to anyone who's really paying attention.

So that one's no good either.

3. The Dodge and Dart

Trying to receive with two hands, while squeezing a small person against your chest with your forearms can get . . . awkward. And let's be honest. Any receiving of any food is going to require avoiding the chubby, grabby little hands of the baby I'm holding. And she's got two hands to work with, plus a lean. I've got a church full of people facing me, and I'm supposed to be focused and mindful and reverent in the reception of the Eucharist, plus not drop the baby, or squeeze her too hard.

So, in practice, there's twisting and dodging, and trying to just get it in my mouth as quickly as possible. Not super reverent.

I think it's just plain silly how many years and how many babies it took for me to realize that the perfection solution had been there since the beginning of the church . . .

Just Receive on the Tongue!

Yes. It seemed weird at first.

Yes. It took a little getting used to.

But then, once I did, I really love everything about it.

It solves ALL the holding babies issues. It helps me to be more focused and more reverent. It allows me to hold a newborn with two hands. It even allows me to be nursing a newborn while receiving communion. It allows me to use one arm to hold a toddler and the other to hold her arms down, so there's no grabby grabbing.

I like it so much that it's the way I receive now, whether I'm holding a baby or not. In fact, it's how the husband and kids receive now, too. My kids have never known any other way.

Here's Jack at his First Communion, receiving on the tongue . . .

Wait. Is that? Yes. Yes, it is. Cool story . . . 

It felt like a big transition for me, going from receiving in the hands to receiving on the tongue. But, really, it's not a big deal. I think the two key things to remember are . . .

1. Be Obvious

Some extraordinary ministers of communion, and even some priests, are not that used to people receiving on the tongue. So, I try to be really obvious that that's how I'll be receiving. I make a slight bow while the person in front of me is receiving, then step forward. He says, "Body of Christ." I say, "Amen." Then, immediately, I tilt my chin up a bit, open wide, and stick my tongue way out. No confusion.

If I don't have a baby in my arms, I'm careful to keep my hands together in prayer. Again, no confusion.

2. Be Confident

We always have the right to receive on the tongue . . . NO MATTER WHAT.

The USCCB says:
Those who receive Communion may receive either in the hand or on the tongue, and the decision should be that of the individual receiving, not of the person distributing Communion.
Pope Paul VI says:
It is a matter of particular seriousness that in places where the new practice is lawfully permitted every one of the faithful have the option of receiving communion on the tongue and even when other persons are receiving communion in the hand.
So if you decide to give it a try, know that you have every right to do so. Which is not to say that reception in the hand isn't also valid and acceptable. It is. But only if it can be done in a non-shocking, very reverent manner. And if you can manage that and also hold a baby, well, you're a better woman than I.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Everything I Ever Thought About Homeschooling, Schoolish Free Printables . . . and anything YOUR heart desires

The school year is upon us!

I figured it might be nice to have all the schooling-type posts in one place, and I made some new schooling-type printables, and now there's a way for you to get a custom printable . . . made just for you.


:: The Homeschool Posts ::

Maybe Homeschooling Isn't For Me?

The Secret Truth About Why I Homeschool

See Me Homeschool

Seven Odd Things I've Come to Appreciate About Homeschooling

Quit Worrying About Preschool. Seriously, Stop It.

Why I Homeschool Like That

Homeschooling: One Room Schoolhouse Meets Three Ring Circus

My Top Ten Books for Teaching Kids

A Homeschooling How We Roll

A Day in the Life of Me, Kendra Tierney, in Which a Lot of Things Happen and Often I Don't Yell

How to Get Your Husband on Board With Homeschooling

How To Introduce Kids to Poetry, Fine Art, and Classical Music

Homeschooling for Beginners

Homeschooling Multiple Grades: MODG hacks and other things I've learned the hard way

Homeschooling is a Scary Proposition

:: The Printables ::

As with all my printables, you are welcome to save the images to your computer for your own personal use. You may print the images and / or upload them and have prints made for your personal use or to give as gifts. (These are sized for 8x10 or square but will print well much bigger.) First click on the image to bring it up in a new window, then right click on the image to save it to your computer. You may use my images on your blog, just please link back to my blog. If you would like to sell my images, please contact me first.

 For LOTS MORE free printable prayers, check out my Pinterest board.

:: Plato ::

:: St. John Bosco ::

 :: St. Thomas Aquinas ::
:: The Opportunity ::

 Wait, don't click up there. Click here. Or over there on the sidebar.

I love making printables! I get lots of requests from you good folks for specific prayers, but I thought I'd make things official, and offer them for sale. For the low, low introductory price of only $10, I will create a printable digital image, just for you. Have a favorite prayer, quote, poem, or house rule that you'd like to be able to print out and stick on the fridge, or have professionally printed and framed for posterity? I've got you covered.

All YOU have to do is click through up there, or over on the sidebar, to make your payment, and email me at catholicallyear {at} gmail {dot} com with the exact text, along with (if you'd like) your preferred colors. You can also check out the Pinterest board, and tell me which style you like best. You'll have it in your inbox within a few days.

:: The Feast Day ::

Tonight, we'll be eating off the good dishes. And today we're going to Mass, saying a rosary, and, ya know, just generally bein' fancy.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Becoming a Mother Changes Your Relationship with Your In-Laws: Mystery Blogger Series

I'm terrible at taking blog breaks, or relaxing in general. But just in case I do happen to feel like relaxing with this new baby when the time comes, I've asked some of my favorite bloggers to guest post for me. But not in the usual way.

Blogging is a great way to share insights and experiences. But, sometimes, as much as we'd like to start a discussion, it's not our story to share, or feelings could be hurt, or relationships damaged. So, for my guest posting series, I asked bloggers to share here, anonymously, posts they felt they couldn't put on their own blogs.

I hope you'll find them as compelling as I have.


 When you are expecting a child, people warn you that your life will be different.

Wait and see, they say. Parenthood changes your marriage.

A child will turn your world upside down, they tell you.

You’ll never sleep again, they say.

As it turned out, though, those changes seemed easy. We had been hoping and praying for children for years, and becoming a mother felt natural and exhilarating. Watching my husband become a father was absolutely magical. And I had never needed much sleep anyway.

Becoming the mother of my in-laws’ newest grandchild, however, was the greatest challenge I had faced in my marriage. Even though our child wasn’t the first grandchild on either side, my in-laws expected to be actively involved in every facet of our child’s life.

“We’ll come see him every weekend,” my mother-in-law said. And she meant it. That is probably the dream of many new parents, who wish their own parents could have—or wanted to have—a
relationship with their children. It wasn’t mine.

Much as I love my in-laws—and I do love them dearly—we couldn’t make that happen without our marriage and our own family suffering. My husband and I were both working full-time. The idea of entertaining out-of-town guests every weekend, during the little time we had as a new family of three, was daunting.

When I balked at that idea, however, everything started changing.

From the day I had met my in-laws I had felt cherished and valued and loved. Suddenly I felt hostility and bitterness. They started dredging up past complaints that we had never heard. Why hadn’t the photographer taken more pictures of them at our wedding? Um, I didn’t know. He hadn’t taken many pictures that had come out, actually. Wasn’t that five years ago?

One day my mother-in-law asked me what we were doing for our child’s birthday. I said we were
keeping it low-key and not throwing a big party. A few days later I came home checked the mail and found a birthday invitation to a large family party for our child—planned by my mother-in-law and her daughters.

When we protested, the situation went downhill quickly. We started receiving angry phone calls from my husband’s parents and siblings. My in-laws threatened to take us to court to guarantee they could spend more time with their grandchild. As the heated emotions continued to escalate, we realized we needed to take some space.

Even though my husband and I were on the same page, it was a sad and troubling time. I knew my in-laws loved us, but the situation made me feel they were treating our child as some prize, almost a piece of property. I wanted us to make our peace and build—or rebuild—our positive relationship. But as a new parent, you aren’t really looking for extra issues to resolve.

Months later, when we were expecting our second child, we reached out with that news as our olive branch and we were reunited. And my husband and I are both so grateful that our relationship with his parents is as strong and warm as it is today.

I’m not sure how helpful my advice is since we really hit rock bottom and had to work our way up to where we are now. But if you were to ask me how to prepare for this transition with your in-laws, this is what I would offer:

Discuss expectations in advance, both yours and theirs. Do you expect them to help? Do they expect to be allowed to help? What does “helping” mean to them? Are they moving in for three days? Three weeks? Three years? You can avoid a great deal of hurt down the road if these questions are discussed before your precious bundle of joy is beaming at her grandparents.

Realize that a baby changes all the rules. You may have worked out a good method for balancing both of your families, missing an occasional gathering and never hearing about it. Now your absence will matter. Relatives and friends of your in-laws you’ve never met will need to meet the baby.

Make you and your spouse are communicating your concerns. Keep in mind that your spouse may respond differently since these are his parents.

Find ways to keep the grandparents involved. My in-laws crave not just pictures but stories about our children to share with their friends and other relatives. The simplest story about something that happened on the playground or a cute thing their grandchild said is pure gold.

Don’t be afraid to set boundaries—and ask for what you need. If you have an open-door policy for visits, fine. If not, say so. If they ask to come and it’s not a good time, tell them. If you aren’t ready to host them for a meal, communicate that. Don’t be afraid to ask them to pick up a few things at the grocery store.

Accept gifts graciously. But don’t be afraid to give the giant rocking horse a new home and discretely mention that you keep running out of socks or onesies or paper plates or coffee.

Be clear about your child’s needs and be sensitive to theirs. Tell them if there are better days or times of day for your child—or you. But also ask what times tend to be good for them.

Pray. Prayer brings comfort and clarity.

Focus on what unites you. A child also deepens your connection with your in-laws in many positive ways. It’s such a blessing that your in-laws are there for your spouse, your child, and you. What wonderful memories you can make together! And you will.

Today, I navigate the in-law relationship with great care. I consider it to be part of my role as wife and mother—a pleasant part, and an important one that did not come naturally to me.

When my in-laws visit, I am much more intentional about our time together, planning simple craft or baking activities that work well for our children to do with their grandparents. Now that our children are old enough to hug and kiss them and sit and talk to them, my main job is staying out of the way, smiling, taking a few pictures, and ordering pizza for dinner.

Weekly visits might be beyond me, but calling a pizza place? That’s something I can handle.

My life really has changed.

Three bloggers you just might want to check out . . .

Julie at These Walls
Erica at Saint Affairs
Rita at Open Window