Dinner Crashers

July 31, 2011

I’m trying hard to keep it all in perspective. I know it’s not a big deal, and I’m sure my surging hormones are fueling my fury, but I am not happy. On my brother’s last night in town, my sister and I and our spouses organized a sibling dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant that my mom used to take us to. My sister made it extremely clear that this was our dinner and our virtual step-father was not invited.

When I greet my sister at the restaurant she hands me a camera and says Dad is showing up to take a picture. I’m livid. Why can’t he leave us alone for one dinner?? Last week he was at every dinner at our mom’s house. The night before he had us all over for Shabbas dinner. I *believe* my dad asked my sister or her husband if it’s okay and they said sure. I think it was entirely out of line. My sister has repeatedly heard me say this week and last that if she would have dinners with dad, I’d have to pass because “it was too much.” In fact I must have repeated “too much” half a dozen times in the same breath. There was no ambiguity to my feelings.

I’m sure my brother who visits one week out of the year was happy to go along with whatever. My brother in law just got into town and was in the process of kissing ass to my dad. He will have two weeks to continue the phony sycophant act without involving me. Why did he have to come this one night? Of course my dad loves being with his kids, but since when do his desires and wants trump what we want? How utterly disrespectful.

He shows up buzzed before we even finished our main course, pulls a chair up from another table with guests, and orders dessert beside us. I am livid. My mother is rolling over in her grave. I was tempted to stand up and say thank you for visiting, we will see you soon but kept my mouth shut. Perhaps my sister wonders why my needs should trump hers. And they don’t, but my feelings should be considered. Just as she walks on eggshells not to offend or upset or machisto husband, shouldn’t her pregnant sister weigh in?

My father refused to have my mom over for dinner at his house because “she would dominate the conversation” but it’s okay for him to crash our dinner and dominate the conversation? When the check arrived I even considered handing it to him, as if he wants to partake in our dinner he can afford it. I didn’t. When my husband told me at 3 am that I was right and my dad was totally ridiculous I could not go back to sleep, still fuming.

My sister knew I was upset, but I do not think she knows the extent. In fact she has not even spoken to me today. My dad called at 1:30 completely oblivious.

I know in the scope of things this is ridiculous and I should not blow it out of proportion. I’m lucky I have a dad who wants to be with his kids, but I wish he knew his boundaries and my siblings who are free from his overbearing constant presence 50 weeks out of the year, would respect that I deal with it 50 weeks out of my year.

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Walking on Eggshells

July 29, 2011

My stepfather calls him a sociopath. My mom hated him and my grandma definitively does not like him. He kisses up to my dad so my dad thinks he’s wonderful with forgivable faults. If he was great to my sister or at least respectful and less immature I’d overlook a lot, but he’s not. Bottom line: I do not like my sister’s husband.

He arrived in town yesterday for two weeks. The day before my sister lamented, I feel like it’s our last day together, because her husband has no desire to be around me unless my husband is here. Now I feel like I need to make an effort, or at least be conscious of respecting him (because it means respecting my sister and giving him less ammunition to bad mouth me and poison her against me, making her feel more torn) and not overlap schedules even though our kids want nothing more than to be together.

My brother wonders why I’m returning to New York City for two weeks less, one maybe two weekends of the Brother In Law’s stay. “You could stay at dad’s house,” my brother reasons. My dad and his wife who three times point blank did not answer my request if I could stay. My brother and sister and their kids have stayed/ are staying separately there. My dad’s wife did comment at the beginning of the summer, I don’t have your dates to stay at the house and I replied, You never gave me permission. I asked three times and was never given an answer. Of course even if I did stay, I would still feel an obligation to side step my sister and her husband’s plans. It’s such an acrimonious feeling.

This is the same sister who articulated multiple times that she did not think my husband should travel with the kids to his parents house the same weekend she and my brother were in town (never mind we would have seven additional days together).

I know my sister is torn. And she knows her husband is immature. I suppose I should be happy they are in a good spot, getting along, at least for the last 26 hours which makes her happy. She acts so subservient around him.

My husband comes this evening and he’ll not only calm me down, equalize the situation. I’ll have my ally and partner and we can do whatever we want with out children!


Imagination Nation

July 28, 2011

Like most cliches: I want the best for my kids. I love to see them happy. I’d do (almost) anything for them.

I’ve found myself at discount stores, boutiques and gift shops debating whether to pay the reduced, retail or inflated price for some toy, gadget, puzzle, knickknack or souvenir for my toddlers. More times than not, I’ve restrained although TJ Maxx and Daffy’s are weaknesses.

One reason for my hesitation is space; I’m in a Manhattan apartment where every inch feels precious but the main deterrent is my kids need nothing. They have such an abundance of toys that I’ve taken to putting a collection in a closet. When they are bored with the toys that are readily accessible, we replace the hidden toys with tired ones and repeat the cycle. The kids are excited to use something that have not used “in a long time” and I’m thrilled that half the time I don’t have to stare at a pile of forgotten plastic.

We have a toy kitchen at my mother’s house with just a few plastic plates. I’ve been so tempted to buy toy food but every time they go in the kitchen they happily prepare “meals” and do not notice any void. I think it’s my own projection of seeing the toys in the stores and at friends’ homes that I think my kids ought to have more.

Then there are the moments that my kids will spend happily engaged with a cardboard box. It becomes a house, a car, a tunnel, a space ship, a canvas. I watch them laugh and use their imaginations to think of new scenarios to act and think I will never buy another toy again. It’s almost enough to encourage me to shop more online. And when they are done, I break the boxes up and deposit them in the recycling bin.

Of course they still manage to bicker when they want to. “I want the big box.” “That’s not a seat belt.” “No you can’t drive to the moon, you can only fly and I have the only rocket ship.” But that’s what siblings do, and I imagine even if they had the exact same toys (which in rare cases they do – like those ridiculous spinners I had to buy when taking them to a kids’ show) they can still find a reason to argue.

It’s easy to get caught up in the nonsense of buying more especially when each toy advertises it’s educational aspects. A box on a plastic truck I purchased for a present read: promotes interaction, develops hand-eye coordination and stimulates imagination. I try to take a step back and remember that Einstein and Mozart never had Baby Einstein or Baby Mozart CDs.

This post was inspired by The Costume Trunk Book by Paddywhack Lane as part of my participation in From Left to Write Book Club.


Family Influx

July 12, 2011

I’ve begun an influx of family visitors for the summer. First my husband’s brother, wife and toddler son for a weekend and now my sister and her three children for six weeks, two of which I will be out of town.

We are co-habitating in my our childhood home after several incarnations, where my mom lived. I remind my siblings that even though I live closest to the house, it is just as much theirs as it is mine. This fact made me more uptight than I would have preferred to be when my husband’s side was visiting. My sister was coming the next day and has strict ideals of how the house should be maintained.

Some stresses I’ve eliminated, like the special silverware that could not touch other utensils in the dishwasher. These, I packed up, replaced and encouraged my sister to take them home where she could properly enforce the guidelines. I’ve left a note on the PAM spray reminding my husband not to use it on non-stick pans.

Since I am not going to install coasters everywhere in the house or happily wipe up everyone’s crumbs, I intervene when damage could be done and roll my eyes when my brother in law walks around the kitchen holding a bagel looking for a plate.

My sister arrived yesterday and other than, within five minutes of her entrance, telling my nanny that she should no longer be using the empty bedroom because my sister did not want her sleeping on the furniture that my mom had painted, things have been going well. I explained it’s hard for me to tell someone who has been staying in the bed that now that we have five more bodies in the house we should keep that room empty for no real apparent reason.

Perhaps this is the same frustration my husband experienced when I told him the nanny should not sleep in our guest house. My husband rolled his eyes, mumbled something sarcastic and could not comprehend my rationale.

As anyone can imagine, it has been totally chaotic with all of the kids but for the most part everyone has been getting along great. It’s been adorable seeing the cousins play together and as my husband reminds me, it is about having fun!

While I’m prepared to receive a brunt of criticism from my sister complete with a list of items I should or need to do, I’m trying to embrace this opportunity for us to bring our families together.