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Grandma, My Daughter Is NOT Your Doll

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Guest Blogger Tracy: My mother is playing "dress up" with my daughter -- and it's not cool.
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When my daughter was 10 months old, my mother came over to babysit while I ran some errands. I was grateful. She also came bearing gifts for Ruby, for which I was not grateful. A denim miniskirt with sequins and a glittery tank top emblazoned with "Princess in Training"? Not really my style. I'm not into the "Baby Bratz doll" look. Up until that point, Ruby's wardrobe had been simple, as if she were attending a perpetual yoga class: jersey pants and long-sleeved T-shirts. I wanted her to be comfortable. I figured she had enough to contend with without snaps and buttons gouging her when she crawled.

I politely told my mother that I appreciated the outfit but didn't think it was right for Ruby. Then I put it back in the box. (There's a little more to this story than meets the eye: All through my childhood, my mom forced me to wear things I hated and sometimes was even embarrassed to wear. It was a constant battle of will that, among many other things, wore down our relationship.) 

"Don't you want her to try it on?" pleaded my mother. 

 "No, Mom, I really don't," I replied firmly. "She's fine with what she's wearing." Thinking it was settled, I left the house.

The next week, I was at my parents' house when I noticed a picture of Ruby I had never seen. It was a photo of my baby girl in the "miniature streetwalker" outfit I had nixed the week before! My mother, so determined to get her way, had put my daughter in the outfit and snapped a photo. 

Wait: How many times does my mother get to be the mom?! I think just once. But I guess she thinks being a grandmother gives her the right to override my wishes.

Does it?


next: Are You Ready to Rumble? Your Kid's Not!
25 comments so far | Post a comment now
Shannon August 20, 2010, 7:42 AM

My mother in law drives me crazy with giving my son sips of her tea all the time! I only allow my son 1 8ox motts for tots a day! Why would I ever want my son having tea that has caffine in it?! Annoying! On top of that she’s mad at me at the moment so we haven’t talked in 2 months b/c she just won’t let something go & I won’t say sorry b/c I feel I was right in my actions (too long of a story). When my son turned 2 she wouldn’t even come to his birthday party making my hubby take our son to her hrs before. Makes me wonder how the holidays are going to be?

Robin August 20, 2010, 8:23 AM

I doubt anyone can top this one: My MIL tells us to give crying babies (wait for it) SODA in their bottles! And, after having voiced my opinion (politely as possible) I came back into the room to find her trying to give my under a year old child sips from her soda, “But he likes it!” He might like arsenic too but we’re not planning on feeding it to him. She wonders why I won’t allow her to babysit!

Mo August 20, 2010, 8:39 AM

Honestly, in the case of clothing, I think you should relax. You have expressed your distaste for the items and I find it unlikely that you would receive more clothing along the same vein. Your child isn’t being hurt by a miniskirt (physicallly OR emotionally), it’s not like the woman bought the poor thing a choke chain and leash.

momwfaith August 20, 2010, 8:52 AM

I think you’re making a big deal out of nothing. It’s clothes. Be grateful that your mom is babysitting and takes an interest in your child. I do understand the tea and soda thing. My FIL gave my daughter DIET soda before she was a year old. His excuse, it’s not caffinated. No just loaded with fake sugars and other ickies! You really should learn to pick your battles.

damill August 20, 2010, 9:45 AM

I agree with picking your battles, but grandma won’t change if mom doesn’t make her preference clear now. What happens when Grandma takes the 12 yr old shopping for inappropriate clothes? Mom is going to have to battle Grandma,daughter, and the culture. I say, start as you mean to go and talk to your daughter about it as she gets older. My MIL, who I love dearly, told my then 3 yr old she looky sexy in her bathing suit. I made it clear we didn’t think it appropriate and she’s honored how we are raising our kids. However, it’s how the other granddaughters were raised so I do have to remind them that my now 9 yr old doesn’t need a bra yet and doesn’t have boyfriends. I’m lucky in that my MIL truly loves all of us and doesn’t interfere, but supports.

Christina August 20, 2010, 10:26 AM

I have to respectfully disagree with Mo. Not only did the grandmother not find anything wrong with age-inappropriate clothing of questionable taste, she went behind the mother’s back and dressed her in the outfit anyway. That demonstrates a serious lack of boundaries. If she’ll do this with clothes, she’ll do it with other (potentially more hazardous) things. It’s fine for a grandmother to find certain parenting choices silly or humorous, and I see no issue with grandparents doing things differently at their home if there is no potential for harm; however, disrespect is unacceptable at any time, on any level.

Cheryl August 20, 2010, 11:06 AM

I think that your issues with your mom are making a mountain out of the molehill. It is just clothes, and she clearly thought the outfit was cute and wanted to see her granddaughter in it. Unless you don’t let the baby go over there, you can’t know what she is going to let her wear anyway. At this young age, there is no potential harm. It sounds to me like you want a reason to fight with your mom.

Stacie August 20, 2010, 11:14 AM

I think that in this situation, mom should have the final word. She said no, and grandma should have listened.

Claudia Goswitz August 20, 2010, 2:24 PM

I think you should let grandma know of your wishes and how you’d like her to respect your values (casual wear over glitzy), your authority while you’re open to things that won’t hurt anyone (a photo for her purse with the glam outfit). A discussion prior to anything could go a long way towards y’all getting along. I went through that and my kid is now 20 and in constant communication with grandparents where I feel their advice is wonderful (backing up all my advice as a college kid who don’t think mom knows best).

Kelly August 21, 2010, 1:18 PM

I would just have a talk with your mom. It’s clear that to some you over-reacted, but to you it’s not an isolated incident. It’s a button pusher with you because of how you grew up with your mom pushing you to wear things. If you cannot trust that she respects your wishes with your child, then you can’t have the cake and eat it too, she shouldn’t be baysitting.

Carol August 22, 2010, 12:33 AM

Maybe you should focus on the positive. That the grandmother wants to be involved in her daughter’s life and she is willing to babysit. Not all grandparents are willing to babysit. You should have accepted the clothings and then either returned them to the store or put them away.
Getting in a p-g contest with Grandma over clothing is only going to hurt your daughter.
As for the comment about “when she’s 12”, when she is 12 the mother would have instilled her values and standards into her daughter. At 12, she would know what mom would and would not approve of in clothing and can act accordingly. If she chooses not to, knowing Grandma will let her by anything, then the daughter is just as copable (sp?) as the grandmother.

Laurie August 27, 2010, 11:59 AM

As someone who no longer has her mom living to interact with my kids now, HEED MY ADVICE: be grateful you HAVE a mom who loves you and the baby, no matter how idiosyncrate she maybe. Quit thinking of ways to prove yourself “right” and find ways to reconcile and forgive. Be grateful for the love, no matter how misguided or off the beam you think it may be. Just grow up and fix your mommy issues before you no longer have a mommy there to fix them with. And the longer you take to do it, the more dysfunctionality you are spreading to your kids. I know that sounds harsh and I’m sorry. I suggest counseling together with your mom. This is about much more than clothes.

Roo September 20, 2010, 5:32 PM

I sympathize. After years of putting me in embarrassing but not yet street walker outfits, my mum put me in a faux leather mini skirt when I was thirteen, in spite of my crying protests, and then sent me out on an errand. I was leered at and shouted at by a car full of disgusting men. She tried to set me up with a man who was 21, but after he found out I was thirteen, and not sixteen like she’d led him to believe, he just provided me with shelter, let me hang out at his place without ever touching me just so I could have some time off from my nutty mother harassing me into becoming the woman she wanted to be. After that, I fought her tooth and nail. Her excuse was always, “IF I LOOKED LIKE YOU, THIN AND YOUNG, I WOULD WEAR THIS, BUT I CAN’T BECAUSE I’M FAT, OLD, AND UGLY!” I won the battle to pick my own (and in backlash, radically conservative) clothes when I was sixteen, because I was finally physically stronger, it was that much of a battle to stop her from projecting her unhealthy desires on me. Unable to live vicariously through me anymore (by seeing men she wanted to hit on her hit on me?) my mum ‘eloped’ with a lover a year later, our relationship has remained strained, and she doesn’t get to babysit or even see my child much because we live at the other side of the globe. I think your mother doesn’t realize to what extent you resent her dressing up your little girl as a mini version of what men desire, of what she thinks she would want to wear if she could.

mommyof1 November 3, 2010, 1:31 PM

I have a 2 year old daughter. My grandmother has changed towards me since I had her and she is always doing spiteful things when it comes to my daughter. She has given her soda 3 times now infront of me and as she does it, she looks right at me and glares. This has been going on since she was one. Also, I have made it clear that I don’t want the baby eating a lot of candy, so recently when we visited she handed my daughter candy and said ‘ASK MoMMy’ knowing that its hard to take it away once they already have it. On our last visit she told my daughter not to call me mommy, but to refer to me as my first name. Needless to say, but I have not been back to visit with her since!

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