Saturday, June 27, 2009

Is this gut feeling intuition...or neurosis?

Because, you know, people do say to mothers all the time, trust your instincts. And I really can't tell if this yukky feeling in my stomach is anxiety, or some sort of warning. I know I'm over-protective. But a certain level of hypervigilance is realistic, surely?

I've been trying to convince myself for some time that my concerns about my mother looking after the children are just based on my anxieties. She spends a day a week with us, and is an enormous help, and adores them, and when I'm supervising her I'm absolutely delighted to have her around and involved in the twins' lives. But she's so absent-minded.

She cannot remember to put her hot cup of tea away from the edges of the tables - I'm always moving them out of reach. Last week she kicked a full cup over, narrowly missing Louis, and we have a friend's child who has had skin grafts from a hot cup of tea incident, so I'm abnormally careful.

She cannot remember to close the wire door when she goes out the back to helpfully hang out the washing - the babies are pretty good with stairs now, but I'd prefer they didn't do it unsupervised. It's a wooden staircase that gets slippery when it rains, with stupid ornamental stones (rental house) at the bottom. And it's only got a handrail, not a proper banister, so it's possible to slip sideways and fall out the side of the stairs, if you are small.

Wednesday evening when I got home, she'd put Pearl in her car seat but omitted to do up the belts.

Last week she was helpfully sorting some cardboard into the recycling for me, and Pearl walked past her and out the front gate. Louis and I were picking lemons at the other end of the garden, so I just said calmly, "I'd rather you went after Pearl than did that," and she did.

I've been telling myself that when I'm around she probably relinquishes a lot of responsibility, and that she'd be more focussed when she has them by herself, but I've been more hesitant to leave them with her since they've both been toddling.

Friday she looked after the babies for us at her house for a couple of hours. L went to pick them up and the side gate was open. She lives on a busy road so this really feels like the final straw. The kids were inside at the time, but the back door was open (it's one of those kitchen flows out to the patio kind of arrangements, so the kids just wander in and out). L pointed out the gate (and I had asked her to mention it to Mum when L dropped the kids off) but Mum said, "Oh, it's alright, I'm watching them." Which is all very well but she was in her pyjamas when L had dropped the kids off, so presumably at some point she'd had a shower, and possibly gone to the toilet, so there would have been moments of inattention. I mean, why not just shut the gate?

Are these normal oversights? What do other people expect of their mothers? It feels like a really big deal to say my mother is not capable of looking after her grandchildren.


Deborah said...

Difficult to say, because my own parents are very sensitive to their grnadchildren and the dangers in the environment. But I think this comes from the 25 years plus that my mother spent working in and then running a Montessori pre-school, in addition to the 15 years or so before that rearing her own children as a full time at-home mum, and the three or four years before that working as a teacher in a country school.

I would be nervous, partly because I know how much harder it is to keep an eye on two active toddlers rather than just one.

Can you write a safety check-list for her? Would that work?

Mikhela said...

One of the problems is that she is so sensitive to any suggestion that I would like her to do things differently. So, when I mentioned the undone seatbelt, she said, "oh, that wasn't me," which is a bit crazy making, because I had to stop and think, and I know it was. She really believes we are too overprotective; I really believe she underestimates the potential for unpredictability from two toddlers, as you say.

If I gave her a safety checklist I'm pretty sure she would be offended, thinking I was teaching her to suck eggs. As she says, she has raised three children. Also, I don't think it would work because it's a general lack of attention - there would be bound to be something I hadn't listed there, such as, I don't know, "when at the planetarium do not allow one child to wander off into a wormhole unattended". It's as if she doesn't have the ability to scan new situations for possible dangers - but the flip side is that I see dangers everywhere. So I go back to, am I just being neurotic?

Mikhela said...

I'd feel much more confident if she could own when she slipped up: "Oh my god! I didn't undo the seatbelt? That's terrible! I'll be sure to double check next time!" and "Oh, the gate was open? How silly of me! I really must check it regularly when the children come over" would have been reassuring responses.

As you can see, I am quite ruminating on this issue at the moment.

Mikhela said...

I mean, "do up the seatbelt".

E, SS and the Little Man said...

I think it's a very difficult situation. I would have to trust my gut like you are. I don't think you're being overprotective in wanting the gate closed, seatbelt done etc. God, it must be hard though. Is she expecting to look after the twins on an ongoing basis? Do you have to break the news to her, if you decide not to?

Anonymous said...

Go with your gut instinct. I'm a granny who looks after my two and half year old granddaughter.

I worry about her injuring herself so I'm extra careful when she's at my house. Gates shut, cup of tea out of reach, etc.

I sympathise with your dilemma. I would be crushed if my daughter told me I couldn't look after her. But you have to be sure in your own mind.

Anonymous said...

No doubt this is a difficult situation, but if I were you I would find a reason to not let her mind them on her own anymore. If something happened to one of the kids, you would never forgive yourself.
Perhaps others would say you should be honest with her and say why you don't want her looking after the kids on her own, but I wouldn't do that. For the sake of peace in the family I would make something up or just work around it so your mum is not alone with the children.