line, crossed

I like to think that I am a fairly laid-back person, and that I extend that approach to my parenting. What this means is that I won’t judge your parenting (out loud) and hope you won’t judge mine. If you do something differently than me, I’ll (try to) see it as just that – different. Not worse, not better, just different. This is fairly easy for me to do in regards to your children, though slightly harder when it comes to my own – that is, if you choose to do x,y,z for your child, go you! If you choose to do it for mine, when it’s not something I would do for her? Well… Depending on what we’re talking about, I’m usually able to take a deep breath, smile, and go with the flow.

The key phrase up there? It’s “depending on what we’re talking about.” Because there are certain things that I will, indeed, judge – out loud. Anything that affects the safety of a child – yes, I truly do believe there is one way to do it, and that is the safe, responsible way. And if you don’t do this? I will indeed judge you. And say something. ESPECIALLY when it comes to my child.

The problem arises (of course you knew there would be a problem) when the person who is showing that questionable judgement is related to you. Or perhaps, to your husband. They are family, anyways. Someone inextricably liked to your life, and your child’s. What do you do then?

I never thought I would be asking myself this question. Because I truly never thought it would arise. Everyone in my family – both sides – are wonderful, smart, thoughtful, caring people. People who I thought might, true, do some things differently than I – but the little things. The things that don’t cross that invisible line. For example, when I leave my 6 month old with them for an hour or so in order to get some errands done (laundry, etc), and they might decide to entertain her by sitting in front of the TV and letting her watch and play with the remote. NOT something I would ever choose to do with her, and not something I particularly want her doing, but also not something I am going to explode into mommy-bear territory about. For this, I can take a deep breath (or two), tell myself to relax (and that they’ll be going home soon enough), smile, and just go with it (after all, they’ll be going home soon enough… right?)

But.

Then there are the things that do, in fact, cross over that line. That do call for that explosion of protectiveness. And that do – or rather, did – also occur this past week.

For example, the first day I went back to work; we’d arranged to split the day with my daughter in daycare for the morning, and spending time with her grandparents all afternoon so that they had plenty of time to spend with her, since they’d come such a long way. I was a little anxious because she was still sick, getting over the rampant virus that had ravaged her daycare the week before the holidays; she was still snotting and coughing and often, vomiting as well. But I swallowed my anxiety, knowing they would all have a good time with each other, and knowing that this time with her family was precious. And, indeed they did have a good time. But. BUT. While having this good time, it turns out, my daughter was refusing to drink. Anything. AT ALL. In daycare they’d managed to get her to take 1 oz, which was pretty good considering she’d slept all but 45 minutes of the time she was there. But that afternoon? In their desire to play with her – to spend “quality time” – they allowed her to continue to refuse all liquids, kept her up to play instead of nap, and then gleefully told me as I arrived home that “she was so great! AND we didn’t even have to change any diapers!”

Um.

What?!?!?!

Yes. Indeed. Somehow, they didn’t see it as a problem that not only had my daughter not had ANY fluid intake ALL DAY, she also had not had ANY wet diapers. In their desire for fun time, they managed to keep overlooking the fact that my daughter was, indeed, still sick – and might need something other than continuous play time. That there might be something wrong with this situation.

After I lifted up my jaw from the floor where it had dropped in shock, I lectured them about dehydration. And the fact that they had, in fact, just allowed my daughter to enter that territory. And that she might now need to go to the hospital. After less than one day in their care.

I didn’t even get into the fact that they should have called me when she was refusing to eat – see if there was something I could suggest or do. First, they needed to recognize that this was a problem (which, mind-boggling-ly, they DIDN’T). I figured we’d get that straightened out first. Then work on the steps to do after that.

That night was an agonizing time of watch and wait – if she had a wet diaper, she was OK; skirting dehydration, but not quite there yet. If not, I’d be taking her in to the doctor in the morning, likely for some lovely IV fluids. Luckily, she had that wet diaper. Not her usual saturated overnight underoos, but still. Something.

After my lectures of the day before, I decided to try once more. Same schedule once again, with very precise instructions on feeding, calling me, etc. Is there any way to misconstrue “Offer her fluids every 10 minutes – it doesn’t matter if she only takes 1 sip, at least it is something. Keep offering. Every 10 minutes. Call me if she doesn’t drink enough, or doesn’t have any wet diapers. And make sure to keep offering her plenty of fluids!”??!?! (You’d think not) They’d watched me feed her some banana the night before at dinner, and asked if they could try to feed her some in the afternoon; I’d allowed that they could, but made sure to emphasize this was not a substitute for fluids. Again – fluids, fluids, fluids.

She slept through most of the morning at daycare again, and ate 2 oz there. She then went home. And what happened? I am not exactly sure… Except I never got called (I myself called mid-afternoon to check in, and was told she was “fine” and napping, no need for me to come home to try to feed her). But at the end of the day? She’d eaten… drumroll… a total of 3 oz (two of them in daycare!) and had only one wet diaper (also in daycare). And what was I told when I arrived home? “She didn’t really drink that much, but that’s OK, we got her to eat some banana!”

W.T.F.

At this point, I am beyond livid. This is not one of those childcare things where people can all make different choices, and I can bite my tongue and live with it (even if your choice is not the one I’d make). No. You are actively endangering my child. AND YOU DON’T EVEN SEEM TO REALIZE THIS.

I closely monitor for dehydration again, she manages to skirt it (barely) yet again.

We have 2.5 more days with them staying here with us. They are family.

What can I do?

The next day, I bite my tongue – hard – and again, it’s daycare in the morning and time with them in the afternoon. This time, with me running home over my lunch break to make sure she eats. It works. And I keep biting my tongue.

Same the next day. She’s slowly, oh so slowly, creeping off the brink of that scary precipice, her diapers becoming a little more saturated, though still nowhere near where they should be.

Final day (half day, really), and I am ready to breathe my sigh of relief.

But. BUT.

Turns out there is one more surprise in store for me.

As I go about my morning, listening in to them playing with my daughter but allowing them this last time together before they leave, I hear this… sound. ??? I step closer, listen harder, and hear it again. They hear it, too, and laugh and clap and cheer my daughter on, telling her she’s so funny! Oh my!

I don’t laugh, or clap, or cheer. Because that sound? Was inspiratory stridor – a.k.a. my daughter struggling to breathe. YES. My daughter is trying her hardest to get some air in, and they think this is just a funny little noise she is making. How long was this going on? I can only imagine, days.

I swoop in, yet again, and rush my daughter off to take a steamy shower to open up her airway (which works wonders, by the way). They seem, yet again, completely oblivious to how close to harm my daughter has come. How far across the line of “different childcare decisions” into “endangering child” they have crossed.

I bite my tongue as hard as I can for the rest of the morning, so we can end this visit on a pleasant note. Because they are family. They are her grandparents. Because they are inextricably linked to all of us, for the rest of our lives. Because I truly do know that they want the best for my daughter – they just have no idea what it is (or rather, now “not the best” their time with her has been).

They’ve gone now, and I’ve struggled for days with how to process this past week, how to talk about it or write about it or even think about it. Because, on the one hand, they certainly crossed the invisible line into areas where I feel free to judge – areas where their actions (or lack thereof) certainly endangered my daughter, or came very close to – and I am aware that it is only through luck that they didn’t. But on the other – family.

If they were not related to me, I surely would cut all ties. But I cannot. And so, the question is, what to do?

They love my daughter with all their hearts, of this I am sure. They also endangered her life this past week, by being unable to see what she actually needed instead of what they wanted (and also? If I may say it? A distinct lack of common sense).

We survived this week. And are certainly unlikely to have another like it. However… unlikely is not impossible. And that curious blindness could easily translate over into many other areas in the future. I know they would never intentionally hurt my daughter. It is the unintentional harm that I am worried about.

I will never again be able to leave my daughter in their care without worry. I don’t know that I will be able to at all (at least for a very long, long while)…

I wish there were an answer to this problem. A way to go back in time and keep them from crossing that line. A way to repair the damage this has caused – to our relationship, to my peace of mind, if not, thankfully, to my daughter. I wish… I wish. But.

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  1. 2012/01/06 at 4:53 pm

    I’m so sorry you are going through this dilemma! Sounds like you are using as much of your rational mind as you can when it comes the well-being of your baby, but I think your trust issues are warranted. I hope your partner is understand and a balance can be struck the next time those grandparents are visiting! Hugs!

  2. charmcitykim
    2012/01/10 at 10:58 am

    I have to assume a few things (and it isn’t make any of this okay)…
    (1) Meeka is the first grandchild for your in-laws
    (2) Your in-laws must be Asian

    My mom does things that always have me wondering how the hell I survived. But I hear these stories from other friends who have Asian parents or in-laws. My favorite story was when my half-Korean friend left her first child with her mother (Korean) to babysit. She came by to see that her mom had put PEPSI in a bottle and was feeding it to her 4 month old son. CRAZY.

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