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A delicate situation

So I haven’t posted in a while — more on that later — but right now I’m wrestling with something and I need to figure out sooner, rather than later, what the hell I’m going to do about it.

My mother’s sister is coming for Thanksgiving.

Now, my aunt is a deeply unhappy woman. She’s an alcoholic, got divorced a few year ago. Her best (only?) friend is in the final stages of a brutal bout with cancer and likely won’t live until Thanksgiving. She has bad health, no work skills, lives on money she gets from her daughter and my mom.

She’s from the South and has some strong feelings about gays, blacks, etc. etc. And she’s not afraid to say them out loud. She knows that sort of language isn’t acceptable in the Northeast, so she makes “jokes” and if you call her on it, she says to lighten up. (My folks won’t call her on it unless it’s awful and frankly, their attitude gets worse when she’s around.) I’ve noticed that whenever my mother spends more time with my aunt, my mother’s politics, already staunchly Republican, turn hard to the right.

There is a ton more — all Southern Gothic stuff — but you get the idea.

Then there’s my mom. My mom had the good sense to get the hell outta Dodge when she was in college and has lived in the Northeast twice as long as she lived in the South. But she is the baby of the family and the dynamics that build a family are hard to overthrow. Especially when one of your first priorities has always been keeping up appearances.

So when my aunt comes, my mother, who almost never has even half a glass of wine at parties, will pull out the wine bottles and have a glass with lunch, another a few hours later, and then two at dinner. It’s an excuse for my aunt to drink enough that she doesn’t need to sneak around and doesn’t get the DTs. But, of course, my mother insists that my aunt isn’t an alcoholic.

(At least, she did last time we talked about it. She changes her opinion at whim, it seems.)

Anyway, when Aunt was up in Nov. for my kid brother’s wedding, there was a Minor Incident.

The Husband was out and I had to get ready. I left The Child with my mom and dad and went upstairs to shower and get dressed. A little while later, I heard a car drive off and then a little bit after that, I heard my aunt on the stairs.

“Hey, who left?” I asked, drying my hair off.

“You parents did,” she smiled at me.

“Did they take The Child?”

“No, she’s downstairs.”

Now, my folks’ house is many things. It’s not even remotely childproofed. The Child was 2 1/2 at the time and well behaved, especially for a two-year-old, but there are two giant dogs who are not used to children, lots of tools and knives that a tall child can reach, steep and somewhat rickety stairs to the basement, exposed outlets, etc. etc. Also, thanks to an acoustic quirk, you can’t hear anything from the first floor to the second. (This is a pretty big house, too, so it’s not an easy job to find an adventurous toddler if you’re not keeping track.)

And my aunt, left in charge of my daughter, just left her unattended downstairs.

As I said, it’s a minor incident. But add to that her drinking (and my mother’s denial thereof), and her general attitude towards child rearing (more in a moment) and I don’t want to leave my child alone with her.

Now, do I simply not say anything and make an effort to never leave The Child unattended by me or The Husband? Or do I force the issue and say to my folks, “Do not leave The Child alone with the Aunt”? That would cause a huge confrontation and fight, I’m sure. But I feel really strongly about not leaving her alone with The Child.

Why? Well, it’s hard to articulate in a small space. Mostly it’s that I was a child in The Aunt’s household. Not under her charge, ever, but I remember being a kid and visiting. I hated it. I remember my mom would have talk with us every time we went down and tell us that we needed to “toughen up” and “get used to the teasing. That’s just they way they are.” I remember finding out that my cousin was indulging in all the standard teen behaviors with her 16-year-old boyfriend…. when she was 12. (And I do mean ALL standard teen behaviors.)

So, while I accept that childrearing mores are different in culture, it’s not acceptable for me. And it may be insane not to want her alone with my kid, but there you go.

A friend today suggested that even if I did have the fight with my mom — and it would be a fight, I can’t see how it wouldn’t be (if you CAN, please tell me!) — would she listen? She’s ignored my rules about sugar, television, and bedtime, why would it be any different? I was kind of aghast at that thought, but the evidence does support her.

Maybe we’ll just all come down with the flu or something.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. September 30, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    I thinking avoiding the situation would probably be best.

  2. October 14, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    I would speak to my mum and if she ignores my concerns, I think I would just get really busy over the Holiday. If your mum is upset by not seeing you, she might learn that as an adult your concerns for your child are a higher priority than ignoring her sister’s alcoholism.

    I definitely would not allow my child anywhere near whilst she was there.

    I hope it works out for you.

  3. C'tina
    October 17, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    I would have a hard time leaving the child with your mom or your aunt. I had a hard time leaving mine when they were toddlers with my own parents, who I trust! they truly must forget what it’s like to be responsible for a little child. My parents kept forgetting ot close the half door that lead to the baaement stairs. deal breaker.

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