Thursday, January 10, 2008

Mom-Wrangling

My sister needs some advice (I might need it too someday):

My mom is kind of a scary driver. Sister feels strongly that she does not want Mom driving Nephew S. (Or anyone, really, but Nephew S. is the person Sister has control over.)

This issue keeps coming up, since Mom and Sister live so close to each other. Mom has talked about buying a carseat so she'll have one in her car for S., and Sister has always kept her from doing it. But now: Mom has offered to drive Sister and S. to our city for Jo's naming ceremony.

Now, this could be solved by borrowing a carseat for S., since Mom's husband is likely to drive. (Mom always defers driving to him when he's in the car, which is a whole other post, believe you me, but in this case her deference is a good thing.)

But the larger issue remains. How to deal with Mom on this issue? Sister said she posted to some mommy boards about it, and people just said "You have to protect your son." Useless advice from people who don't know my mother. So those of you who do (or have read enough of my commentary about her), I invite you, I beg you.....

12 comments:

fostermama said...

I have been in a car with your mother driving. The people on your sister's message boards are right.

Not fun, but you have to do it.

Lo said...

OK, so let me add, does anyone have any suggestions of how to do this in a gentle way that will create less, rather than more, of a firestorm for my sister?? I agree it probably needs to be done but there has to be a way to manage her...

S. said...

Oy.

I think I'll pass this one along to A, who knows your mom better. We have some similar concerns about her father's driving, and it would be good to think about that.

ohchicken said...

i think a disclaimer of "we really don't want to make a big deal out of this, and please think of this as our way of wanting YOU to be safe as you drive...but..."
may take the sting out of the conversation.

i don't know your mom but whenever i'm in a touchy situation like this, it always helps diffuse the tension by admitting that i didn't know how to bring it up without hurting feelings.

good luck!!

steinbockfrau said...

There are two options that immediately spring to mind:
1) Tell the truth. A simple, "I don't want my son to drive with you."

2) Tell a version of the truth. Variation (a): "I don't want my son to drive with anyone other than me. or (b) fudge a little- play up or create the role of hysterical new parent.

Imagine your Mother complaining about it to her friends and it goes something like this, "My daughters are such crazy new parents! They don't trust their kid in anyone's car but their own! They quoted all of these silly new studies and books. Crazy these kids! What do they know??"

I SO get your need to not upset your Mom. But if you make it less about her and more about some sort of fear then she might be apt to not take it personally.

Erika said...

I don't have a kid, but I -do- have a mom, so here goes:

My mother is one of those really overbearing persons who just HAS to have her way and acts hurt if she doesn't.

After years of trying to pile it on and trying to find excuse after excuse after -she- found ways around my excuses, I opted for honesty.

It hurts her, initially, but once she gets past the hurt, and realizes that I AM NOT BUDGING, no matter what tantrum she throws, she will calm down and act like a grownup again.

I seriously believe that your best bet might be to tell her:

"I know you are probably going to be hurt by this mom, but the truth is, I don't feel very good about you driving my child around considering the way you drive"

Or an alternative way to go around it would be to tell her:

"Mom, sis and I wanted to talk to you about something important. We have wanted to bring this up for the longest time before, but didn't know how to do it. We are very concerned for your safety over the way you drive (bring up a couple of examples of her style) and we are afraid you will be in an accident. We love you dearly and we don't want to see you get hurt."

That way the point about the kids would be moot, although in the end she'd know that it's about that too, but since you're making it about -her-, she wouldn't have a chance to be offended.

So, take your pick, and hope I helped!

FosterMommy said...

I like the options others have suggested. I think an important thing to remember is that there is probably no way to approach this that ISN'T going to hurt her feelings, at least just a little bit. There will be some size of firestorm. How you approach it just just vary the size and aftermath length, I suspect. Though it's very likely that she'll bring it up very often, for much longer than you'd like, even if she goes along with it.
It needs to be done, like you said, and the chance that it will just turn into another way for her to guilt-trip you and your sister doesn't invalidate that. I suspect, though, that, as was said, once she realizes you're not budging, she'll give it up.

Holly said...

ugh. that's tough. I think I've gotten a little glimpse into your mother through posts.
We went through a similar thing with the wife's grandmother. She's quite testy and getting her to stop driving the kids around was ABSOLUTELY BRUTAL. But it wasn't long afterwards when we had to entirely take the keys away.
I hate to say it, but safety is the biggest thing. For anyone in the car and those other drivers too.
You'll need to find the right way to break it to her based on how you know her. I think she's going to be upset no matter what, but it sounds like it really needs to be done.
Good luck!

charlotte said...

I agree with an approach that says "I am paranoid about him driving with ANYONE, ever, cars freak me out, and I am hyper vigilant. Mostly I don't want him driving with ANYONE other than me, but if I might occasionally make an exception if I think someone is the most anal, rule following, overprotective driver EVER who probably would irritate most people with their driving. In some rare cases, I'll make that exception, but for anyone who is just a normal driver or a carefree driver, I just can't do it...I'm sorry...new parenthood hasn't been easy on me." and she can throw in stuff like "maybe when I have been a mom for longer i'll feel more relaxed...but right now this issue terrifies me like a phobia" and crap like that. The other option, the truth, I think your sister would rather have Nephew S drive with your mom than really tell her any version of the truth. If a giant lie will keep the kid safe, do it!

fostermama said...

Sorry if I sounded flip in my first response. I know this could be an insanely stressful thing to deal with with your mom.

I guess I just go for the straight-forward or avoidance route. The lying seems unlikely to work. Your mom will never let it go, and the lie will just have to get bigger and more uncomfortable, and harder to maintain.

Personally, I think it's as important for parents to protect their own lives and safety as that of their children, cuz if something happens to you that's no good for the kid either.

So maybe you tell your mom that her driving is erratic and you don't feel safe, and that it's one thing to risk yourself but now you're a mom so you have a responsibility to someone else. I have no idea how your mom handles that kind of criticism, really. It's the kind of thing that's hard to infer from seeing other things.

Or, you avoid. That's pretty much the plan as I see it with our relative who isn't going to be watching Squeak alone. It just won't come up, due to our orchestrating and excuse-making and whatever over time. So if your mom's husband is around and driving, great. Otherwise, it's excuse time. Your sister wants to have her own car when they're in town so they can go visit X Imaginary Friend, or they want to stop along the way at X Random Spot. They don't want to have to coordinate travel times because Nephew S. has been cranky if naps are delayed, etc, etc. Those kinds of lies are one-time things that are easy to keep track of.

The new-mom paranoia thing doesn't seem like it would be a sustainable lie.

And you and Co have little to worry about, cuz there's not much driving that needs to be done around your city. And even if your mom gets a car seat for Nephew S, it won't fit Jo. Even once he's big enough, the straps would have to be adjusted and it'd have to be switched front-facing to rear-facing, or whatever, and "it's just so much easier to plop him in our car and meet you there."

Lots of luck. I don't envy you dealing with her about anything, and I hope that this issue lands on the less explosive & stressful end.

meanmama said...

Tough one. Will it start a world war to tell the truth? (That's an honest question, not sarcasm.) It does in my family.

Some suggestions:

"Mom, the last thing I'd ever want to do is hurt your feelings, but I have to tell you that there have been times I've been in the car with you driving, and I've felt a little unsafe." Yada yada.

"Mom, to be honest I get nervous sometimes when *I* am the one driving the baby. I am just not ready to put him in a car with other people driving, and I don't know if or when I'll ever be. I can see how that might sound crazy, but that's just how it has to be for now. Please respect my feelings."

The truth is always preferable, but having gone the honest route with my parents a couple of times and causing permanent tics in our relationship, I say use your best judgment in how honest to be. But beyond your sister's concerns, if your mom's driving is truly unsafe, you might have an obligation to address it with her for her own sake and the sake of others on the road. Maybe she could take a driving course or something.

judy said...

Hi, I am coming from the perspective of the one being banned.
My little sister and I were in a car accident while I was driving when we were teenagers. I am now forty years old with four children and no accidents since. My sister is in her thirties and had her first child last year. My sister has told me that she is uncomfortable with me driving her daughter around, not because she thinks that I am a bad driver, but because she has some very real lingering post traumatic stress since our accident thirty years ago. My sisters wife is longing for her to "get over it" so they can get some help from me with their little girl since I am a stay at home Mom and they are both working full time.
Anyway my point is. If there is any way for your sister to tell your Mom that this is about her and her insecurities it will lesson the blow. She can in fact tell your Mom that others view her as a fine driver (like you Lo) which just proves how her anxiety over this is unwarranted, yet must be taken into consideration for sisters sanity.
I , for one, respect my sisters PTST and hope she can eventually find the help she needs so Auntie Me can help them out.
Judy