Its not ME, its not YOU … its our families fault!

I’ve been married nearly ten years. We have a pretty solid foundation by this point on how we want our children to be raised, and the kind of people we hope that they’ll grow up to be. On occasion, though, we fight like cats and dogs have a civil disagreement. I’ve recently come to the realization that it isn’t MY fault, it isn’t HIS fault, its our FAMILIES fault…it’s just how we were raised!

The husband thinks that my family is a little cool and lacking in affection. They do things that he cannot comprehend (like knock on people’s door before entering, or calling someone before dropping in.) I think his family is a little creepy close and they do things that I can’t comprehend (like dropping by unannounced. A lot.) My parents call to check in about every ten days. If we don’t call his parents every two days we get a call on day three. His father thinks global warming is a crock…mine is much more eco-friendly. My parents supported us moving 800 miles away (even though they weren’t thrilled) His mother hung up on him when he told her we were moving to Virginia. Total. Polar. Opposites.

This has caused us some friction over the years. Here’s what got me thinking about it:

My husbands parents (my in-laws) will be arriving in about five weeks to spend some time with the kids. They are staying with us for this visit. I don’t have an issue with them staying here PER SE … the issue I have is that there was no “courtesy ask” involved in them staying with us. There never is. In my husband’s family its assumed that if you’re going to be in the same general area as someone, you’ll be staying with them. No need to ask if its ok. I’d prefer it if they called and said “We’ll be coming from such a date to such a date. Is it ok with you two if we stay in the spare room?” Of course we’d say yes. (Probably).

Husband cannot even wrap his mind around the fact that I’d prefer that they ask first. His brain can’t even process it. If his parents are coming, of course they’re staying here. I told him, “If we were going to visit Maine, I would ask. I’d say ‘We’re going to be in the area. Is it ok if we stay with you/pitch a tent in the backyard/sleep on the floor?’ ” In his family, it would be perfectly acceptable to just call and say “hey, we’re coming. And we’re staying with you!” Once in a while…especially on the longer trips…I’d really prefer they spent half the time in a hotel.

My parents also come to visit (though not as often). I “try” to get them to stay with us. Inevitably, they politely decline and choose a hotel. I understand why. They don’t want to intrude on the house or our routine. They also understand that having company is great, but it’s also a little more enjoyable and less stressful when you don’t spend 24/7 with your guests — especially if they’re going to be around for more than a weekend. This is a HUGE bone of contention for us. I inevitably lose the battle, but it doesn’t mean I feel differently about it.

Meal times, and how we feed the kids has been another sudden “its our families fault!” moment. I was raised in a house where dessert was a pretty rare thing. Holidays. Dinner with Grammy. A new recipe my mom wanted to try, perhaps. Snacks and dessert just didn’t happen. You ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you were still hungry after dinner, well … you should have eaten more. I’d love to feed the kids that way. They’re still small-ish, and I get they need a snack on occasion. Fruit, frozen juice, maybe crackers and peanut butter are all acceptable snacks to me. Here’s the “aha”. Ready? DH’s family are feeders!!

He grew up expected to clean his plate, clean his plate again, and then eat dessert. Dessert after lunch. A snack before dinner. A huge, belly busting dinner. And then dessert. Possibly another snack before bed. Until very recently, he believed this was normal. For his family, I suppose it was. I began to point out that our seven-year old son was eating as much, and sometimes MORE at a meal than I was. He was constantly asking for snacks, dessert, second helpings of dinner. He was developing really crap eating habits. And it was our families fault. My husband was feeding him the same way he was fed. I used to have major anxiety when we’d visit the in-laws and I’d watch them feed my kids. Literally every twenty minutes someone was feeding them something. Half a sandwich. A popsicle. Ice cream. A handful of chips, a few cookies. Food = affection in that house. Unfortunately, affection ends up meaning obese kids that then become obese adults.

There are other, smaller, issues that we’ve had to deal with. Its taken me forever to convince my mother in law that I really don’t want her to come over to visit and wash my dishes, fold my laundry, or vacuum my rug. Really. I’ve begun to clean obsessively before she comes just so that there is nothing for her to pick up and do. It’s a way for her to “help” or show affection ( or so my husband describes it.) My mother would have had a small stroke if her mother, or mother in law, had EVER walked into our house and begun to wash her dishes! My parents house was always immaculate, and it would have insulted her greatly for a guest to come into her house and clean it! It’s another family difference. I don’t want her picking up my mail, washing my dishes, folding my laundry, or making appointment for me, the husband, or kids. At least, not unless I’ve asked her to.

There have been very few instances that have really driven me over the edge, but the birth of our second child sticks in my mind as one that still leaves me shaking my head. I was living in the same town as my parents while we were expecting my daughter. My mom was only ten minutes away, and we had decided that we would call her to watch our son when I went into labor. I had felt overwhelmed with the number of “visitors” I had while in labor with him, and had expressed that I wanted this one to be just the people who were there at the conception. Since the in-laws lived over an hour away, we planned to call them from the hospital to let them know that things had started, but I assumed that they wouldn’t come to see us until the baby had arrived and we called to let them know they had a granddaughter. I left for the hospital about 11:30 that night, in pretty advanced labor. We waited and called my mother in law just before two am when it was obvious that I was going to deliver in the wee hours, mostly as a heads up for visitation the next day. My beautiful girl was born at 2:33 am, and my mother in law arrived just before three a.m. She had called her oldest son at two in the morning ( he lived 45 minutes away) had him pick her up, and speed her to the hospital to “catch” the birth! I was even more irritated when I headed home from the hospital twelve hours later to find both my in-laws at the house already waiting for me. They were showing support in their way, and I just wanted time alone to bond with my child and recover from labor without needing to feel like my house wasn’t clean enough for company. Different families, different ways of showing affection. (For the record, my parents called when our daughter was three days old to ask if I felt up to having company or if we needed them to bring anything over.)

I’ve found over the years that most of the arguments we’ve had over the years have come down to a simple thing. We were raised differently. He and I have different expectations of what proper behavior entails. They think I’m cold and impersonal. I think they’re overly affectionate and hug too much. How do you handle it?

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