Thursday, July 31, 2008

Birthdaygate '08; or, The Family Drama Never Ends

As usual, I have some family drama. I don't know if it's better or worse now that I have a kid - on the one hand, the situation with my father's immediate family has gotten worse, but I care less. On the other hand, the little bits of constant in-law drama are much, much worse. And I DO care about that, and since we are much more involved with my in-laws than my father, it is kinda a big deal.

The current family issue is a little something I'm calling Birthdaygate '08. The background on this is that my in-laws go on vacation twice a year - they have a time share in Hawaii, and they get a favorable exchange rate on their weeks. This means that on years they don't go to Hawaii, they can trade for weeks in time shares in other places. I don't exactly get it, but let's just say that instead of going to Hawaii this year they went to Florida for a week in April, and they are going to Arizona and Mexico for two weeks this fall.

Last year they went to Florida in the fall and it was a huge deal around the time that I was in and out of the hospital and being monitored all the time because we were all afraid that they were going to induce me on vacation and they had Red Sox tickets. I'm not saying that they would miss the birth of their grandchild for the Red Sox, because that is mean. What I'm saying is that there was a lot of concern and pressure that they might have to give up their tickets and try and get an earlier flight due to all the maybe-they-will-maybe-they-won't induction nonsense surrounding Charlotte's birth. I managed to bargain with my OB practice for an extra weekend and went in to be induced on Sunday the 23rd of September, and got to go to my baby shower and also insure that my in-laws would be back in the state before the baby actually made it to the outside world.

Also, all the drama around the christening was also complicated by the fact that we wanted to have it the last Sunday of April, but that had to be rescheduled due to the spring Florida trip and Red Sox tickets. Which was fine, we weren't exactly prepared in April anyway...but it would have been a lot easier to have had the christening and party in April since I wasn't working at the time.

I tell you all that so that I can tell you this.

There is now a ton of drama surrounding the putative date of Charlotte's first birthday party. Her birthday is September 24th, a Wednesday, if I recall correctly. (She was born on a Monday and this year is a leap year, so that makes sense.) Matt and I don't want to actually have her party until on or after her birthday. Since Wednesday is in the middle of the week, we'd like to have her birthday the following Saturday. However, Matt's parents leave for vacation that weekend, to be gone for two whole weeks. This means that the next available weekend is in the middle of October, which is their other grandchild's birthday (Charlotte's cousin K). The weekend after THAT, fully one month after Charlotte's first birthday, is my brother's wedding, and we'll be spending the weekend in Syracuse. So, unless we want to have Charlotte's birthday party in NOVEMBER, at which point we start interfering with all her grandparents' birthdays, we need to have her birthday party when we want to have it, that weekend right after her birthday.

The controversy arises from a couple of things - firstly, that Matt and I STUPIDLY stated that we don't want to have Charlotte's birthday party before her birthday because it makes us uncomfortable, and that there are a number of world cultures that back us upon this tradition (esp. Puerto Rico and Hawaii, as I recall). The other factor is that my mom is going to be travelling the weekend before Charlotte's birthday, so that is two strikes against it. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Because the in-laws have grabbed onto this, and are saying that we place a stupid superstition above them.

Phone calls and emails have been exchanged on the topic, and silly arguments, such as "We are more than twice your age and know of no civilized culture with that kind of superstition." This fills me with fury because their son-in-law was raised in Hawaii, and they go there all the time, and therefore their grandson is of that descent, and they apparently don't consider that civilized. Lovely. Then Matt and his mother got to have the whole exchange where Matt's mom said, "We told you we were going on vacation! You know we go on vacation on the fall! You've known for six months!" Matt retorted, "You've known her birthday for almost a year!"

The whole situation is made that much more complicated by the fact that none of this is in a vacuum - Matt's older sister and their parents have a relationship that is strained at times, and there are feelings that his sister punished his parents by keeping their grandson away from them. I don't think this is the case - except maybe as a form of self-protection, but that's the feeling that is there, and that kind of underscores every decision we make in regards to the grandparents. "Well, they didn't get to do this with K," Matt will say, and I will say, "That has nothing to do with Charlotte."

A dangerous precedent has been set. Because Matt feels like he needs to make up for what is interpreted as various slights on his sister's part, we've bent over backwards to accomodate them over and over. Unfortunately, they see it as their due, not as something special that we're doing for them. As a result, whenever our opinions diverge from theirs, they take it as a personal insult, and an added layer of "ungrateful child."
I don't need this from 2 out of 3 sets of parents - this sucks. Every time there is something special, a holiday, a christening, a birthday, we have to way out the needs of 3 different sets of grandparents, in the interest of fairness, and our preferences get pushed to the end of the list. It's easy to do that, because right now Charlotte's little, and she seriously doesn't care what happens as long as she has Mumma and Daddy with her. She doesn't know that her christening got re-arranged, that her maternal grandfather constantly chooses his second family over her, and that her paternal grandparents will never be happy with her parent's decisions. So it's easy to try and make everyone happy while wearing ourselves down to a nubbin.

But enough is enough. We are her parents, and we are allowed to decide what to do based on whatever we want. We also have to be prepared to weather the storm based on our decisions, and that's a little hard to deal with. I guess that's what it really means to grow up.

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