A.J. asks from Atlanta, GA on July 02, 2012
First off let me say my sister and I have very different parenting styles. It’s not a bad thing. However, when both families spend extended time together things can get stressful. This brings me to my current dilemma… We decided to spend the summer together. It’s been great, but sometimes our rules clash and it ends up being my kids who feel like they’re being shorted. At home we have our routines, mealtimes, healthy snacks, activities, play dates, chores, bedtimes, ect… It works for us. My sister’s children don’t have set rules or routines. They’re obviously taken care of, but it’s a different environment. If they want to eat oreo’s 10 minutes before lunch they can. If they want soda with every meal, they get it. If they don’t want to eat fruit or veggies it’s not even questioned. If they want to stay up until midnight playing video games, and then sleep until noon it’s fine. Cleaning up is another huge issue we’re having. We don’t allow our children to do any of those things at home. So when we’re all together it’s like I either have to let my kids run wild and deal with the backlash when we get home, or be the mean mom/aunt. I try to find a happy medium, but it doesn’t always work. More and more I find myself dealing with a pouty 6 year old or ticked off 9 year old. I’ve tried talking to my sister, but she (and our parents) think I’m being too rigid. So my question is, what should I do? Just let everything go for the summer and deal with it later? Or keep trying to rein things in?
Thanks for all your suggestions!! We’ve had stressful couple of days, so the feedback is definitely appreciated. I don’t know if anyone reads the follow-ups, but I was asked few questions, so I thought I’d answer. We all live in different states, so we decided to spend the summer at our parents’ vacation home in South Florida. We’re already here; we’ve been together almost 3 weeks. Personally, I don’t feel strict but out of the two of us I do have more rules. lol Like I said in my earlier post, I’ve been trying to find a happy medium. The examples I made were just so you got an idea of what I’m dealing with. Some bother me more than others, but I have let more slide than I ever would at home. I NEVER once thought we would keep our routine here, and the list of things I expect at home were never expected here. Someone misunderstood that part, so I wanted to clear it up. I never thought I would come here and set up play dates, or have my little one in bed by 8:30. I’m not crazy, and this is summer. I do want my kids to have fun. lol The snacking and bedtime I don’t really have a problem with. My kids are (thankfully) healthy, so a summer of junk food between meals isn’t the end of the world. I don’t like it, and always push healthy snacks, but I’m not going insane over it. I let them have one can of soda a day at home, no caffeine for the littlest, but Cherry coke, slim jims, and chips for breakfast will never fly with me. If that makes me strict then so be it. lol After writing and reading everything today, I almost feel like the real issue is with my sister. I would NEVER try to change the way she parents her kids. That’s just not cool. But when we’re together I feel like I have to pick up a lot of her slack. If my kids want to walk down to the beach she may not be in the mood to go, but her 3 kids all want to go. Then I either have to say not unless your mom goes, which she won’t and then I get to be the bad guy for not letting them go. Or try to watch 5 kids from 3 ½ to 12 by myself. But, if I try to talk to her about it, she just gets emotional. So this is probably something that goes a lot deeper than a stressful summer vacation. Once again, Thank you!!! I really appreciate all your comments and advice. :) :)
Someone asked about their routine (or lack of) at home regarding school, and to be honest, I don’t know. Her oldest is home schooled because of attendance and emotional issues, the youngest isn’t old enough for school, but her middle just completed kindergarten without any major issues.
J.M. answers from Missoula on July 02, 2012
I wouldn't let things slide, so much as relax your standards.
Say, instead of eating oreo*s* 10 minutes before dinner, they can have ONE. Any more can wait until after dinner. They can have soda with ONE meal, juice, water, or milk (maybe even chocolate milk...) with the rest. Let them stay up an extra 1-3 hours, and sleep in an extra few, but not stay up all night or sleep all day. As far as cleaning up... they have to clean up one activity before moving on to the next. (I can't really relax in a trashed house, so that's one I couldn't really bend too much on...)
Another idea is to provide BETTER alternatives to what the other kids are doing... They are having soda with dinner? Well, your kids are getting fruit smoothies! Healthy, cool, and yummy. It's a win-win. You are leaving at __:__ am to go do something FUN, and if they have been up too late, well, then they will be too tired to come with. How sad! lol. Make them WANT to follow your rules whenever possible. :)
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D.. answers from Charlotte on July 02, 2012
I read your post and addition, but not the other posts. Here's my opinion. This isn't really a vacation. This is different - it's all summer. I couldn't stand what you are doing, really, living with another family for such an extended period, especially when their parenting style is so different, and when the other mom is as laid back as your sister is.
Maybe that makes me rigid in anyone else's view (not something I really care about, to be honest.)
My kids needed scheduled meals, naps and bedtimes. When they no longer needed naps, they STILL needed scheduled bedtimes. One of my kids, in particular. Letting him stay up until midnight became an absolute meltdown and the next day turned him into a little monster. In fact, this same kid went to bed at 9:30 up until he was a sophomore in high school, without me even telling him to. He knew he needed the sleep.
The reason for being at the beach is to enjoy it. It's really hot and the sun is hard on kids in the middle of the day. Most folks get up earlier and go out to the beach before it gets real hot, then come in around 11:00, eat lunch, rest, read, play games, work puzzles, have a substantial snack, go back out around 4:00, and then come have dinner around 7:00. Bedtime is around 10:00 after the dishes are clean and the toys put away. Your sister is kind of taking the beach out of the beach. Since she isn't all that interested in enjoying the beach, I have to wonder if her thought of doing this was to have you as a built in babysitter.
Perhaps you are too gracious to actually come out and say that your sister won't say no to this stuff with the kids because she's too lazy to take the heat for saying no. Or, maybe she truly doesn't care about this stuff and she's very permissive at home when it isn't summertime too.
I certainly hope that you aren't being a short-order cook for her family.
I guess I'll tell you that since you are stuck with this and it wouldn't go over well to pack up and go home, to get through this summer as best you can and not do this again. Next year, tell her that you want to split the summer with perhaps a week of overlap, but you should get the first part of the summer and her get the second. (So she won't "forget" about going home when it's your turn.) I would put your kids to bed at a reasonable hour and get up early with them, feed them cereal and go to the beach. If the other crew is waking up as you come in for lunch, feed yours lunch and then enjoy your afternoon. I would be unavailable for taking 5 kids to the beach - I really would. That's just not safe.
Spending dinner time and up until around 10:00 is enough "togetherness". If your sister doesn't like it, she can amend her schedule.
That is what I would have done after the first week if I had found myself in your position.
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H.W. answers from Portland on July 02, 2012
If you've made an agreement to spend the summer with your sis and folks, I'd try to prioritize what you feel strongly on. For example, I might let bedtime go a little later, if it's doable. Not wholly later, but maybe a half-hour or so. I might let an oreo or two slide, but let your kids know that you are still mom and it still matters. You don't need to have that conversation in front of your sis or her kids, (and be aware that it could all get repeated), but be clear with the kids that sometimes it's hard to be a parent, but you as the mom do know what's best for them.
Stay consistent as you can with your own kids, and let your sister do as she wants. Be clear with your sister when her kids have made a mess, and if it were me, if those kids don't want to clean up after themselves, designate some places where they aren't allowed to be (your room, for example, or if your kids have room they are taking care of which isn't shared, let your kids know that they can choose to take group play into the common areas-- that way they can clean up their part of it). Let your kids have a stay-up later night once a week or so, if you want. (Dependent on behavior?)
I wouldn't let everything go, because you will be finishing summer and going back into school routines, but try to figure out where you are going to give wiggle room and what it is that you need to hand back to your sister regarding her kids. Sometimes, in our family group gatherings, my husband or I take Kiddo off to do our own thing when we feel like the way family is spending their time doesn't work for us. (watching inappropriate shows, too much focus on video games, etc--this stuff is beyond our little guy's level.) This way, we aren't really affected and we don't have to give a lot of 'no's to our son.
Tough situation-- good luck.
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B.C. answers from Norfolk on July 02, 2012
I wouldn't be happy spending a whole summer in this situation.
It's just started and you've got 10-11 weeks to go.
Just tell Sis it's not working out and limit your time with her and her family.
My family is happy with structure, boundaries and routine.
Anarchy brings anger, frustration and unhappiness (not to mention tummy aches and cavities from too much junk food).
Her systems might work for her, but it's not right for everyone.
Just like your system is right for you, but not everyone.
Recognize you and she are different and be ok with it - and move on doing your own thing.
I think your sister is on a vacation from parenting.
It's so not fair to you.
Don't be afraid to say 'no' if she's not coming along to watch HER kids.
5 kids is too many to keep an eye on.
We just had a 10 yr old go under in the surf over here and they still have not found the body (there were 5 kids in that group, too).
Saying 'no' in this similar situation might have saved a life.
If that makes you a bad guy - then I LOVE you, Bad Guy!
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J.K. answers from Phoenix on July 02, 2012
I'd just keep dealing with your kids the way you want to. If they pout and get ticked off, then put them in time out or take away a privilege. I wouldn't worry about how others parent or what they think of your parenting style. Your kids would act the same way even if you all parented the same. It's just something different and they can use their attitude to put pressure on you in front of the family to get their way. If you ignore it or discipline them, it'll stop. Good luck!
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S.L. answers from New York on July 02, 2012
After reading your update, I'm wondering if your sister is depressed? Is she engaged with her children? Does she cuddle them and read to them at bedtime or let being "relaxed" be an excuse for not doing those things and letting them fall asleep wherever, whenever. Does she let "not being strict" be an excuse for ignoring them a lot? Is letting them eat junk easier than making them healthy meals, grab some chips easier than washing off fruit? Can you ignore the lack of routine and normal rules and just talk to her about being engaged with her children?
If you are not in your house, at Grandma's or a Beach house, then you can "Beach rules" which will not continue when you return home. Call it :beach rules or Vacation rules, to remind the kids it is temporary. They are old enough to understand when you get home its business as usual. Personally I could live with them not cleaning up as much, I could live with more goodies than usuall but I could NOT live with oreos and soda All day! I would let them stay up later IF they are not cranky and miserable the next day. What can you live with? You've had some great ideas here about compromising, one oreo before supper, fruit smoothies instead of soda, make soda from club soda and fruit juice....
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H.P. answers from Houston on July 02, 2012
I grew up knowing that we simply were not allowed to do what some of my cousins could. We had fun and hung out together, but that was limited. I knew that I coudl participate in certain activities for so long and then had to do something else. Certain things I did not eat, period. I think that on vacation, you should probably ease up a bit because it's their vacation, too--like let them go to bed a little later--but not with everything. I don't know how difficult it is to tell your kids no, but I will say that as that kid, I learned to accept that I couldn't do everything that every other kid could do. That was just a fact, and I didn't feel left out, because my parents did allow fun. I changed my thinking. Instead fo feeling like an oddball, I just felt like we had a different set of rules, but not different from everyone else in the world. I didn't always understand why my cousins were allowed to run crazy while we weren't, but as I got older, I saw the differences in how we were parented. I think that your kids are well old enough to understand the difference.
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K.I. answers from Los Angeles on July 02, 2012
I think a little bit of both would be your best compromise.
Try to relax the rules a little on your end and remind your children that it is a special occasion only kind of thing...
...and stand up for the rules that bother you the most...so in essence I say 'pick your battles'.
Whats more important to you? The cleaning up or the drinking soda with every meal? Ya know?
~I know exactly where you are coming from b/c my sister and I are the same as you and yours...I am the 'strict' one and she is the 'lax' one...although, I hardly think I am strict! Ha! My compromises have been: For the teens, they can stay up late and play video games BUT they will be woken up every morning by 10am...so its their choice how much they value their sleep. For the little ones, only 1 soda a day while on vacation (that is WAY more than they ever normally get so its still a treat for them) and 3 snacks a day BUT I make sure at least 1 of them is healthy! The one thing I refused to compromise on was the picking up after yourself...when that many people get together things can get way out of control in the mess department if everyone doesn't pull their own weight...so you better believe I am 'Mean Mommy/Auntie' and on each and everyone of them to pick up after themselves...and I was just honest with my sister about it too, I mean C'mon? What kind of vacation is it for me (or her) if we spend all our time cleaning???
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