Saturday, July 31, 2004

So Mad I Could Spit

I'm so angry right now — not jumping-up-and-down pissed off, but deeply and quietly angry — that I don't quite know how to deal with it. And the worse part is that this anger requires a confrontation; I can't just get over it and forget about it, as I usually do when I'm angry... this time I have to do something about it.

Regular readers will remember my kvetching about the Two Small Children that plagued our lives earlier in the summer; these are my cousin Kellie's children, Jessie and Alex, and it seems that these two are about to descend upon us again for the next two weeks. Why? For the second week, because Kellie is going on vacation to San Diego with her friends, and the first week because Kellie did not sign up the children for the Y day camp for that week... I still don't know why she didn't do it, but I will find that out later.

Regular readers will also remember that The Grandmother has just spent three weeks in bed with a bum knee and a cold, followed by this last week of being able to hobble around somewhat (but not much). And this is what is mostly angering me: when Grandmother asked Kellie to make other arrangements for the children next week, so that she'd have more time to recover from her disability, Kellie nagged and pressured her into taking them for the whole two weeks instead of the one week she'd already agreed to. I was in the kitchen and listening to Grandmother's end of the conversation, and it took every ounce of good manners I possess to keep from launching across the kitchen, snatching the phone out of Grandmother's hand, and giving Kellie a piece of my mind right then and there.

In the end, Kellie said she'd try and find a baby-sitter for the week; but when she called Grandmother this morning she said she'd only been able to find a sitter for Alex, not for Jessie. Grandmother, quite predictably (and since I wasn't there), said that she'd take them both for the week, in that case, since there was no point in taking one of them for one week and then having to drive down to San Jose next week to get the other one (the other part of this story was that if Grandmother didn't take both children back with her from her own birthday party this afternoon, that we'd have to go to San Jose next week to pick up the children... Kellie can manage to go to San Diego with her friends, but she can't come to Oakland to drop off her children).

So this situation, where Grandmother is being pressured into taking care of two children, at a time when she can barely take care of herself, is angering enough. But this is just one more episode in a long-running series of Kellie abusing Grandmother's hospitality in this manner. I think she doesn't try very hard to find sitters for her children because she knows Grandmother will do it , with overnights, for weeks at a time, and for free... not only does Kellie contribute nothing for the upkeep of her children, she doesn't even cough up for a nice thank-you gift. She claims poverty as her reason, but she still has money to go on vacation to San Diego and to go out with her friends. She claims that her car can't drive more than ten miles at a time without breaking down (which I don't believe for a minute), and she claims that she can't find a babysitter in the middle of summer (another difficult-to-believe fairy-tale).

I find it extremely difficult to not resent Kellie's abuse of Grandmother; but if Grandmother is willing to allow this abuse, that's her problem and not mine. However, since Grandmother can barely take care of herself nowadays, that means that I am the one taking care of the children... and in many cases taking care of Grandmother and the children. And nobody asked if this was OK with me.

And another thing: Kellie isn't doing her children any good, foisting them off on relatives for prolonged periods like this. Last time the children were here, they became so deeply neurotic at the end of their visit that Jessie was eating surreptitiously all day and wetting the bed every night, and Alex fashioned a surrogate mother doll out of a two-liter soda-bottle and written-on paper-towels held on with rubber bands, which he slept with every night and carried around with him all day. All so that Kellie could run around like a single-girl and enjoy a childless lifestyle... sure she'll say she missed them, and maybe she did: but let's not forget that, although she called the children every day on the phone, she did not come visit them on her days off (because of her half-assed car, ostensibly, but I think otherwise).

Having been raised by a largely disinterested mother, myself, I find myself resenting Kellie on her children's behalf. She's no more fit to raise children than a parakeet... from what I can see, she completely ignores them most of the time. I have never seen her play with her children, or include them in a conversation, or focus solely on them for more time than it takes to scold them for whatever mischief they were doing to get her attention. I'm not around her when she's alone with them, obviously, but what I do see burns my ass.

And finally, the thing that's really grilling my ass is that I don't get to go away for vacation this year... I don't have the money, for one thing, but more importantly I can't leave Grandmother alone right now; instead, I get to help Grandmother take care of Kellie's children so she can go on vacation, and I don't even get a say in it. I have next week off from work, and while I certainly intend to make time to visit friends and to do some research for my book, I am going to be at home with children, not gallivanting off to San Diego with friends. That pisses me off like you wouldn't believe.

What I'm left with, though, is that I have to confront Kellie about this without creating so much conflict around us that it colors our family life; this will be made difficult by the fact that Kellie is a drama-queen of the first water. I have to weigh every word out of my mouth, and keep a lot of things to myself, because while you can say all sorts of things to people with whom you no longer intend to consort, with a family member you have to live with them after the confrontation... and that rather draws one's claws as far as what can be said. So I have to focus my remarks on Grandmother's inability to take care of children any longer, and try to convince Kellie that this is no longer a resource she can use.

Well, I was going to go on about this at some more length, but I have to get dressed now and take Grandmother to her birthday party in San Ramon. Wish me luck in my dealings with my cousin; I'll keep you updated on the outcome. I hope your day is lovely!

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