Not so Daughter. Before Husband and I left to go to the cinema a fight broke out between the two children. Son had spotted Daughter hiding the mini chocolate bar she had been given (given by MIL after Son had already made it clear they were not allowed any more food treats that night, I might add). As she denied having anything, I stood over Daughter and held my hand out. With a right face on her, she put the mini bar in my hand and Husband got an apology from her.
Driving to the cinema I remarked to Husband that it just wasn't wise to encourage our children to break the rules. You might get away with it with neurotypical children, but the stakes are too high with adopted children.
And yet! There was a little whispering voice in my head that said 'Yeah, but it was only a small chocolate bar, can't the grandparents just treat the kids? How mean did you look standing over Daughter getting her to hand over the treat her Grandmother had just given to her?'
Hands on the buzzers please ladies and Gentleman for the following question - was giving the children chocolate just before bedtime without their parents' permission:
A) the harmless act of an indulgent grandmother.
B) the act of a subversive grandmother trying to buy the affections of her grandchildren with sugar, messing with the kids' heads by undermining their parents, and storing up a whole lot of trouble for herself?
***the studio lights flash and spooky music plays whilst the readership make their choice***
And those of you that plumped for answer B give yourselves a pat on the back!
It was very upsetting for Husband and I to come back from the cinema to find a strained pair of Grandparents. Son had lost the plot again. And it was worse than the time Son stayed over at their house and went mental.
We don't have a clear narrative of events, but Son's behaviour escalated after a happy bedtime story. We've heard fragments of stories about him saying how he didn't like them, that they weren't 'generous', that he preferred my Mom and Dad. He wouldn't do as he was told. He wouldn't stay in his room. His bedroom door was held shut on him. He threatened to wet himself. Finally he was screaming obscenities at MIL and after threatening to hit her, did so. Several times, apparently about the head.
Son has violent emotions but has never been physically violent towards anything but his toys before now. I was, and am, shocked. From the things MIL said he was saying, it would seem that he was trying to get MIL to stop him, but she just didn't know how. It made me think just how much of my energy I spend of 'containing' son, steering his behaviour and managing his moods. If he doesn't have an adult doing that for him he can't contain himself. Clearly.
None of this was the fault of my Parents-in-law. My son's impressive range of expletives and his need to scream them at a woman in her mid-70s who has shown him nothing but indulgence and kindness, comes from the years he spent with his birth parents where such conflict was every day.
But if last night proves anything it is that you just simply cannot parent traumatised children in the same way you would ordinary children.
You cannot try to get these children to break the rules and not have payback. By giving him chocolate in a subversive way she made Son choose between her and me. He chose me. She was doomed from that moment.
I wish my parents-in-law had listened to me and their son the times we've tried to explain to them how and why we parent like we do. I wish they had taken our advice to 'be in charge' and to not let the children get away with anything. It makes them feel safe, we told them. Their birth parents were chaotic and scary, they need adults who give them rules and routine and refuse to be bossed around.
But they bumbled on with their particular brand of relaxed grandparenting, an open palms , shrugging style of parenting, indicating that nothing will phase them, all behaviour is acceptable, pitting themselves in open conflict with me and Husband too many times.
Son was literally begging for boundaries last night ('Aren't you going to hit me to shut me up?') because he didn't feel safe. I'm not making excuses for him, I'm just outlining cause and effect. He kept pushing and pushing and pushing trying to find that boundary, for someone to stop him, for someone to at least tell him off. When that didn't happen ...
The whole thing is hideously upsetting. I feel very sad for MIL who has wanted for so long to be the type of loving, affectionate grandparent that her own parents were to her children. I feel sorrier for her tonight than I ever have for myself that I was not able to have birth children. She's probably grieving right now for the grandchildren she wanted and will never have. Yet, bless her, she left our house last night insisting that she was still going to carry on babysitting for us.
At 7pm we are having a family meeting. I will get out the Rug of Truth and we will all sit on it and talk. If Husband and I can come at this with curiosity then maybe we will learn something. Although I have to say if it was my parents he'd done this too last night I cannot say I would be able to handle this so calmly.
Otherwise, having babysitters in is now a lost dream, much as we were enjoying it and benefiting from it. I won't have people come into my house and be physically and emotionally abused by an eight year old boy.