the Oompahs

Nate said:

but, the oompahs! what about the oompahs?? moving the kids is huge… right? more! need long blog entry on this! spill!

Yeah, the oompas (for those of you who joined us late, that’s my name for Oma + Opa: my in-laws). We have relied heavily on them for the last seven years, and we have never stopped being grateful that we can rely on them so much. We lived with them while we waited for the previous tenants to vacate the house we were about to move into, they are unstinting in their offers of babysitting and taxi services for any or all of us at any time, in addition to the unlimited loan of every kitchen and garden gadget in existence, plus when they bring the hedge-clippers over they usually wind up clipping the hedges for us. They have been just terrific.

So terrific, that we’ve had to overlook a few things. I know that grandparents have earned the right to be more indulgent than parents, but they really do take it to extremes, and that has had some fairly unfortunate consequences. For instance, our attempts to teach our kids how to handle money have failed, because the Oompas hand them cash whenever they ask for it, and frequently when they don’t. In addition to buying them everything they ask for, so that I’m not even sure what they expect our kids to spend all that money on. Junk food, possibly, except that their house is already crammed to the rafters with it.

Anecdote: They keep a drawer full of candy in the living room. The kids can help themselves whenever they like. We put our collective foot down, pointed out Ignatz’s skin-rash and the Sniglet’s overweight, and said please get rid of the candy drawer. So they put the candy on top of the dresser in their bedroom, which is right next to the living room, and the kids can still help themselves whenever they like. See? No drawer! And they really thought they were doing what we asked.

More? Okay. Ignatz and Tommy like to watch “wrestling” on TV – that staged kind, I don’t know what it’s called, where they cheat all the time? – and then act out the scenarios in play. The Sniglet loves this game, but doesn’t understand that it’s not real life, so he applies the violent dialogue to his everyday activities: he even threatened to hit his teacher. When he threatens us, we say “we don’t talk like that” in the I-mean-it voice, and if he persists, he goes to his room. The Oompas do not call him on it, which may be why he still thinks it’s acceptable behavior and uses it on the playground, which may be why he has so few friends.

Now, with all this, they are still lovely, wonderful, helpful people, they just don’t know how to say no to their grandchildren, at ALL, ever, and the negative effects of this are amplified by how prominently they figure in our lives. I wanted them to be involved in our children’s upbringing, because I want my kids to grow up with a wider definition of “family” than just mom-dad-kids, and on the whole I think it’s been a good thing. But I also think the kids are getting to an age where the benefits of the relationship no longer balance out the negative aspects. For the past year or so, we’ve actually been talking about how to reduce contact between them and the Sniglet, because his behavior to us is so much worse after he’s spent the day with them.

Still. When I say they’ve helped us, what I really mean is they’ve helped me, since the babysitting and taxi service are usually my responsibility. Doing without them is going to be a much larger shock to my system than to DrBob’s.

Food: this was first sunny day, so we grilled! With the electric grill (borrowed from the Oompas, you see how much we rely on them?), since we discovered shortly after moving in that if we use the charcoal grill it blows smoke right into our house, yuck. There was also a cabbage salad, a DrBob specialty, which contains shredded white cabbage, little bits of fried ham or bacon, um some kind of vinegar, and… um… a spice… caraway? I should learn how to make that, actually.

Song: Pokušaj, by Laka, for Bosnia & Herzegovina. I am unable to determine whether this is Bosnian humor or some kind of conceptual art, though the chicken makes me tend toward the former interpretation.


2 responses to “the Oompahs

  • amy

    This is why I have no good backup besides my husband. I’m not willing to cede that much control to people who yes, love my children, but have no respect for the way those children’s parents are doing things. (Remember I told you this started at two days past the first child’s birth?) On the other side of the family, when their first grandchild was born, my parents told my sister that they’d already raised their children and had no plans to be babysitters. I think my father has completely forgotten he said this. Either way, he is unreliable, as he is busy “doing what is best for him” right now.

    In case of emergency, if my husband isn’t available, I am screwed.

  • alala

    Yup, that’ll be me soon. Except that as the kids get older, emergencies get fewer – I can leave them home alone for an hour if I need to, so it’s less worrisome now than … well, than it ever has been. I’m liking this!

    Wrt ceding control, I would not have signed up for this if I’d known in advance how it would turn out, but it came on so gradually, I didn’t see it coming until it was already here. And disengaging is much more difficult than not engaging in the first place.

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