We met my parents in Sturbridge yesterday, to retrieve Micah. It was a very interesting dinner.
We meet, of course, at a Pub-type restaurant. My parents have been on the South Beach Diet for the past three years. And since they do eat non-kosher meats, and shellfish, out of the house, they find plenty of plain food at places like this.
My family, on the other hand, does not. The kid's menu was fine - although both boys had Fish & Chips, there was also pizza, pasta, mac&cheese, and grilled cheese that they could choose from. (We do not eat meat, non-kosher meat, out of the house.)
But for me, David and Sofia, the choices were extremely limited, and ultimately not what we would have chosen anywhere else. I appreciate a tasty Fish&Chips fish, and this particular restaurant (Picadilly Pub, a MA chain) does a very nice job at it, but it's a very heavy meal, which I am not used to. I would have prefered a piece of grilled or broiled fish. No such luck - the closed they had was a baked haddock, smothered in bread crumbs and butter.
David at least will eat shellfish (also not kosher) out of the house, so he could get the seafood casserole, but it too was heavier than we are used to. And for Sofia, the choices were practically non-existent. I settled on a cup of corn chowder, which they were all out of, so it was tomato-rice soup, and then she munched on David's carrots dipped in mashed potato.
Ok, so that was the food, in itself a stressful thing. Oh, and the fact that, since my parents are South Beach fanatics, my mother also watches every mouthful I take. Or at least I think she does.
See, my mother has something called Dystonia, a neurological movement disorder, and Blepharospasm, which makes her eyes droop. So she always has a LOOK about her of watching, judging, not approving. And since she generally tells me what she's thinking, I also know that most of what I imagine she is thinking is fairly accurate.
So first, the Boys. They were actually very glad to see each other after several days' absence, but that meant Sam got a little wild and they tried to wrestle while we were waiting for a table. Micah had spent the week in a bit of a MOOD, very dark-cloud-over-his-head grumpy, so getting scolded by first Grandma, then Grandpa, then Daddy did not make him happy. And he wanted to see me, but Sofia became very clingy, so then they got in a fight, too. David had to peel Sofia off me, and I took Micah aside for a cuddle.
Ok. Then we get to our table. The boys sit next to each other, so it's Sam-Micah-me-Sofia all along the bench seat, then at the corner next to Sofia is David (blocking her exit!). Then my parents in chairs across from us - of course my mother across from me.
The boys continue to be a little rowdy during dinner. It's a loud restaurant anyway, and there was some sort of motorcycle convention going on, and it was a Friday evening and it was packed. But they were still louder than acceptable, especially for my parents. So there was much disappoving looks and scolding on that end of the table.
In the other corner, Miss Sofia was being difficult. She had taken a long nap, but she's been very ornery all week, and her tummy hurt, so she didn't want to try the food at first. And since the soup was hot, she got a bit frightened of it, so she needed to be cajoled and fed.
Which brings me to Perceptions. As a part of me floated back and observed the three-ring-circus that my family was causing, I thought about the vehement arguments my mother had presented to us back when we first got the amnio results about Sofia.
How can you do this to the boys? What kind of life will that be? You won't be able to give the boys any attention. You will be saddled with this all your life.
(Ugh, it's still raw, nearly 5 years later).
And while since then, she has NOT uttered these arguments again, they are usually very much in my mind when I see her watching Sofia. Last year, my parents had watched the kids while David and I were in Tahiti. When we got home, we were subjected to a lecture about how difficult it was to deal with our three-year-old. Not because she was three. "No, it's because of the Way She Is". "It's because of her Condition."
And since my parents do not see Sofia every day (they live 2 hours away from us), they see her not as my friends and our community do, as a regular little girl which a strong personality and a lot of talents, but rather as different. She doesn't Talk like a Normal child. She doesn't do things like a Normal child.
To be fair, they don't usually say any of this. But with my mother's stiff facial features and piercing stare, I can still hear it.
So here we are, in a Public Place (my parents are always very aware of appearances around people. One of the phrases that still makes my sister and I shudder is "I want to talk to you - Away From The People".). My boys are not on their best behavior. My daughter is being difficult. I am both defensive, and glad to have my children around me. David is trying to maintain a polite manner and not offend my mother any more (because that would cause another private lecture for me later, which would make me even crazier).
And Sofia requires a lot of attention. She does not sit still like other little girls (I was always jealous of people with girls; they sit so nicely compared to boys! And my boys ARE very well behaved, usually). Sofia needed cajoling to eat, needed to be fed her soup because it was too hot (and messy, but that's another story). Ate odd foods. Required extra attention.
And all the old arguments were VERY LOUD in my head.
Your boys need your attention. They are not behaving well. But you are stuck with this child. Look at her, she needs both parents to help her. When will she talk? Why can't she feed herself? Just get her some food, for goodness sake. This whole Allergy Thing is crazy.
(Ok, the allergy problem is a whole other post - my mother simply cannot understand it! "How can he be allergic to it if he doesn't eat it?" ).
She doesn't say this stuff...out loud. And honestly, I don't know how much of it she still even thinks. But it all comes to ME when we are together. And that's horrible. The only time I ever have to question my daughter's worth is around my family. This is NOT FAIR. To anyone. I don't know what everyone thinks. And would it be different if we lived closer and saw them more often? (Well, yes, because I would have had a nervous breakdown and been locked up long ago...)
It's hard enough to get the criticisms about Micah. Micah is not like Sam, not like my nieces. Micah is a little brother - which means he knows how to poke and prob and annoy to make sure he gets his place in the sun. He is critical. He is unsatisfied. He is annoyed. He glowers. He glares. He grumps.
My parents love having Sam visit. They spoil him rotten - easy to do, since Sam WANTS things. They have fun with him, and he is easy because he loves being the only child, and he also loves hanging with his cousins, the twins, who are the same age (six weeks older than him).
But Micah is not as appreciative. Not as easy to please. It's harder to deed him because of all these silly allergies.
And they take all of Sam's complaints about Micah at face value, but Micah does not bother telling his side of the story. So Micah gets built up as this monster-child, while Sam is Perfect.
And I know darn well that's not the case!
And on top of all this, I have a daughter who is Different. Who needs more of my attention. Who doesn't talk.
Why don't my kids Behave? Why don't they sit like perfect little angels? According to my mother last night, it's about Expectations. I need to be firmer. I need to punish more, scold more, make their lives more miserable.
I refuse. My children are actually VERY well behaved. But when they see my parents, the circumstances are different. They want attention, from each other AND from the grownups. My parents generally eat later than we usually do, which means they are hungry - and Micah especially does not deal well with hunger. It brings out the little growly bear in him.
None of this is Fair. And it's not a normal everyday occurrence. It's just stressful. And I really don't like having to even mentally "prove" Sofia's worth. I adore my daughter (AND my sons), and wouldn't trade them for anything.