Frustrated with sister's parenting inconsistency
I've been over at my sister's house every weekday for six weeks, because of my niece having surgery at the beginning of February. My sister needed someone to watch her son while she went to the hospital to spend time with her daughter, and now that the twins are together again I'm still there every day because Evie needs so much care and attention.
The twins are 17 months old now, so more than old enough to have definite limits and know those limits quite well. There really isn't a problem with Evie, since she hasn't gotten back to walking yet and can't get into mischief other than yanking her feeding tube out of her nose. But Gavin..... My sister was just realizing that he needs limits when Evie went into the hospital. But with him suddenly losing his playmate for a month and having babysitters every day, she felt bad for him and started giving in with everything. He always wants phones, timers, cameras, video game controllers and more that belong to the adults and he shouldn't be playing with. He got a LOT whinier while Evie was in the hospital, and so my sister started just giving him anything he wanted to get him to stop fussing. I realized pretty quickly that he always wanted to be picked up when I went in the kitchen because that way he could see the counters and try to reach things he's not supposed to have. My solution? Pick him up and walk out of the kitchen, or if I'm doing something on the counter don't pick him up and too bad if he fusses. My sister's solution? Pick him up, give him anything he points at, and then get upset when he rips/breaks something or sticks a wrapped-up piece of candy in his mouth.
This is very slowly getting better now that Evie is home, but now that we're not giving him whatever he wants he's throwing tantrums. My solution: Leave him on the floor where he's fussing and ignore him until he calms down. My sister's solution? Run to him immediately and try to comfort him. And during mealtime, he won't eat unless he has at least one toy on his tray table. If he whines and reaches for another toy, my sister gives it to him because he won't eat any more unless he gets what he wants. Same thing if he throws the toy down and she doesn't pick it up. If I'm feeding him, I won't put up with that, so he generally doesn't eat much. Once he starts shaking his head and refusing to open his mouth, I get up and walk away and tell him he's done. If he's barely eaten anything, I'll go hit the bathroom and then try once more when I come back out. Sometimes that break is enough to get him to eat again, and sometimes he's done after barely any food. He eats seven times a day, between bottles and solids, so missing a meal isn't going to hurt him. But he knows that I won't put up with his fussing, and he doesn't push me to give him more toys like he does with my sister.
Then there's naptime, which is where it's getting harder and harder for me to keep my mouth shut. I think 17 months is more than old enough to be done with bottles and for him to go down for a nap without needing to be rocked to sleep. But here's the routine with Gavin: Take him upstairs with a 5-ounce bottle, turn on aquarium in crib that plays soothing music, sit in rocker to give him bottle, then rock him to sleep after he's done with the bottle. Once he's sound asleep, then he gets transferred to the crib for the rest of his nap. This routine used to work like a charm, but ever since Evie came home, he wakes up the second he's shifted to be transferred to the crib. Then he'll cry for 45 minutes to an hour. Some days he cries himself to sleep, and other days my sister gives in and goes up there to rock him again, at which point she falls asleep with him and they both take a nap. I've gently suggested that maybe he should be put in the crib as soon as he finishes the bottle, since he wakes up the second anyone tries to put him down, but she insists on him being rocked to sleep. So I'm already frustrated with that, but I'm really frustrated with the lack of consistency when he's crying. I feel very strongly that by going back up there and napping with him some days, he's learning that if he just cries long enough, someone will come get him. Today he screamed himself into complete hysteria, and she went running up there after only 15 minutes. But why would he calm down and go to sleep in his crib by himself if he knows that mommy will come get him if he just keeps crying?
Oh, and Evie? Never mind that she just had heart surgery, she gets her bottle and gets put down after it and is expected to go to sleep. If she fusses for more than a few minutes, my sister will open her door and tell her to knock it off!
So do I say anything, or do I keep my mouth shut because 1. I'm not a mom and I have no room to criticize, and 2. My sister is stressed beyond belief between Gavin's nap issues and Evie's constant barfing. I'm really concerned that if things don't change soon, these two are going to grow up to be horrible kids who fuss all the time and get whatever they want. They're both very smart and observant, and they know exactly what they can get away with around mommy, but that I won't tolerate. Sorry this is so long, I really needed to rant.....
~Diana, happy mom to Fern and Fergie