Sunday, December 5, 2010

Holiday Humbug

With our peculiar parenthood situation, we often run into issues that most parents, well, don't.

Often, the issues involve the girls' biological parents.

Case in point, the girls' biological mother, emailing us and telling us she's shipped "really big" presents for the twin Fries' 4th birthday, along with something for Large Fry, without clearing that "really big" presents are okay (our house is old, small, and we just don't have a lot of room for "really big" stuff), or that it's okay to send a present to Large Fry (when we'd decided that, since Large is now five, she  understands it's not her birthday and that's why she isn't getting presents).  Incidentally, we're still waiting for those "really big" gifts to show up.  And since SIL is over in Afghanistan, we're expecting the usual lots-of-talk that amounts to almost-zero-action.

Today's issue involves my brother.  And, really, it's not just today's issue.  This has been ongoing for the last couple of months.

Somewhere around September, Bro pulled Hubby aside during a routine visitation to ask when the girls could possibly meet his new girlfriend and her kids.  Hubby agreed, provided that the meeting took place in an environment familiar and comfortable to the girls (ie, our house or Gramma & Boppa's), and that we weren't introducing her as Daddy's girlfriend.  Both Bro and his GF took exception to her not being labeled as the girlfriend, but our reasoning was that we didn't want to make that introduction, in the (rather likely) event that the relationship crumbled and they split.  It would protect the girls.  And besides, Bro's divorce still was not final, and while he sees nothing wrong with having a girlfriend while still married, we disagree with his choice, and we don't want that actively modeled in front of the girls.  We offered to compromise by introducing GF as "Daddy's special friend," and seeing if my parents would host a meeting time on Bro's birthday weekend in October (our home is NOT an option), but apparently, that wasn't good enough.  GF was mad, and said no way was she going to meet us now and so nothing happened.

We let it go.  If she was mad, there wasn't much we could do about it.  Since it wasn't an issue, for the moment, there was no need to dwell on it.  With the holidays approaching, we decided that a meeting was now not going to happen until after we'd gotten through the holidays, especially with the changes in my mother-in-law's health.

That lasted about a month.  Bro once again pulled Hubby aside during a visitation early in November, saying that GF really needed to meet the Fries before the end of the year.  "Why?" Hubby asked.  Stubbornly, Bro said, "Because it needs to happen before then."  Hubby held to our earlier decision.  A meeting could not happen until after the holidays.

Bro was insistent.  Hubby pressed more, and Bro confided that he had "a question" to ask GF, and she needed to meet the girls before then.  Plus, he'd already put down money on a ring.

Sigh.  This is very typical behavior for Bro.  He'll make a decision that affects all of us, and then expects us to just go along with his last-minute plans...because the Fries are his children, after all.  Well, according to the court, they're our children as well, and since we are the ones tasked with raising them, we really dislike him throwing biology at us as a good reason for him to disrupt our lives.  Hubby tried to explain that our first and last thoughts, every day, are what is best for the girls.  That's not something that Bro has to consider.  Bro was unhappy, but Hubby stuck to his guns.

The issue was tabled until the next visitation, which happened to be at my parents' home, the weekend before Thanksgiving.  I stayed downstairs and worked, trying to get ready for a very shortened payroll week, until lunchtime.  When I came upstairs after Mom called down that lunch was ready, Bro and Hubby were discussing it again.  Hubby was insistent.  This meeting was not going to happen until after the new year.  Bro said he didn't see why not.  Hubby explained--again--that the holidays are extremely busy, and it's a stressful time of year for the girls, and we felt it was best to wait until things settled down before introducing Daddy's new girlfriend.  (Not to mention, his divorce wast still not final.)  Again, Hubby said, the girls are our first priority.  Bro is waaaay on a back burner.  He didn't know what that meant, so Hubby elaborated and said that Bro's life is not a priority of ours.  The debate continued until we were finally able to herd Bro out the door, still grousing about the fact that we wouldn't do this.  He even went so far as to say, "If you're not going to give me this, then don't get me anything for Christmas."

We didn't budge.

We also suspected that part of the reason why he was pushing this so much was because GF had already told him that she wouldn't say "yes" unless she'd met the Fries first.  Not to mention the fact that we could see the writing on the wall about this relationship, and, due to other circumstances that we'd been made aware of, we could see how both Bro and GF were really using each other in this relationship.  (Not a good foundation for a marriage, that.)

Hubby started having second thoughts about our decision last week, which led to him having a conversation with my mother that almost indicated that he planned to reverse his decision, which led to me getting upset, and that led to Medium Fry scolding me as my emotions boiled over: "Auntie J, you be nice to my Unca D!"  (Being chastised by my four-year-old would have been amusing if I wasn't so frustrated.)  The big issue with Bro's requests (for just about anything, really) is that he will take about a zillion miles if you give him an inch.  And this was part of my problem with the thought of changing our minds.  If we said yes to a brief meeting, he would milk it for all he could get, to the point of badgering us relentlessly until we gave him what he wanted.  Plus, I told Hubby, I was really tired of him expecting us to up-end our lives just because he'd made some decision that affected our entire family, not just the kids (as Bro seemed to think), without consulting us, and expecting us to cheerfully let him run our lives.

Hubby ultimately decided to talk with the associate pastor at our church, who is leading the weekly men's discipleship group that Hubby is involved in.  As it turned out, it was just Hubby and Pastor J that night, and they discussed the situation at length.  Hubby came home and told me that he was not going to change his mind about a holiday-time meeting with Bro and his GF.  Our decision would stand.  (My mother heartily approved.)

We'd planned to spend Christmas with my mom and dad, since we had spent Thanksgiving with Hubby's mom and family, and we knew that Mom was planning to invite Bro for Christmas dinner.  Problem: we really didn't want to spend a big part of Christmas with Bro.  With Christmas being on a Saturday, and Hubby's worship team leading on Sunday, the 26th, we were running into scheduling conflicts.  We did not want to have Bro around to watch us open our gifts, and we couldn't figure out how to make that happen without sacrificing our Christmas morning at home, as we usually do, before going out to Mom & Dad's for dinner and more presents.

My mother called this afternoon, saying that she'd sent a text message to Bro, asking if he planned to spend any part of Christmas with them. He sent a text back, saying he'd like to bring GF and her kids to dinner at Mom & Dad's.

Like a 13-year-old not getting the answer he wants from one parent and going to the other, my brother went and tried an end run around our decision by going to Mom and getting her permission to have GF & kids along for the ride.

Mom sent a text back that she would have to consult with us.  Which, Hubby thought, Mom shouldn't have done, because his request technically didn't involve us.

I really think, since he'd couched it as a request, she could have delayed sending her text, talked with us, and then sent him back a simple text: No, GF was not invited to this event.

This puts us in an entirely unwinnable position: our collective choices now either "prove" how evil my parents are, or how evil we are, or force us to do what Bro wants.  Regardless, he gets something he wants no matter what we do.

Mom told Hubby that she'd already told Dad that they would be going wherever their granddaughters are for Christmas, if we were unable to go to their home.

It makes going back to the in-laws look preferable to staying here in the area.

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