Saturday, July 18, 2009

Quandaries

Hello from southern CA! Warning: lots of ranting follows, with a question at the end -- I'd love your feedback.

Mostly things have been going well here. My niece is gorgeous and a very sweet baby. Really only complains when she's hungry or need her diaper changed.

Yesterday was a little rough, and the last couple hours have been rough. It occurs to me now that I'm on my own w my sis and bil, and I really don't like him. Really. Don't.

Aside from the fact that he "refuses" to get up with the baby when she cries at night, and will only change every other diaper, at most, he's just rude and contemptuous of anything he doesn't understand.

This house is enormous. Gorgeous. At the top of the Bel Air section of LA. 6 bedrooms. 4 Full baths on the bottom floor (2 guest rooms, his office and a BA for the rec room. The house is built into the side of the mtn and the master bedroom is on the secobd floor, guest and rec rooms on the bottom and kitchen. Family, living, and dining rooms are all on thr top floor.

He goes out of his way to talk about the custom-made everything ib their freakibg house, down to the egyptian cotton handmade sheets.

This guy has no grasp of reality.

He also refuses to acknowledge the magnitude and scope of what my sister is doing. BFing every few hours, and essentially taking care of all the baby's needs. He will hold the baby if A asks him to, or change her for the same reason. They are talking about getting a night nurse to give my sister a break. Because he won't give her one. Spending tobns of money on a doula so A can learn about taking care of a baby (since my mom is not available, obviously, and his is nuts, and probably had a nanny raise her kids anyway).

And then he bitches to her because she hasn't made phonecalls about household stuff. With all her free time. Thr doula missed last night because she had to attend a birth, so my sister was up most of the night with the baby.

He doesn't even have a real job. He is helpibg take care of the finishing touches on this mansion and I guess he manages his/their investments. From the house. The baby is 10 days old, but he can't, won't get up to help. Whether or not he can is immaterial to me. He's just leaving it all up to my sister.

My sister, who was up at 12:30/1:00 am to greet me when I got in on Tuesday. She said she tried waking him, but couldn't. Nice to see you, too.

So he takes care of the house construction and she takes care of the baby? That's bullshit in this day and age and she deserves way better. They both do. This guy gets to have a child and we don't? They had a 2nd trimester loss, too, but really?

Also, the first 24 hours I was in the house, all he did was bitch and complasin to her, and criticize her. In front of me and in front of our dad. Finally, my sister called BIL into the other room, and he came back much better behaved -- even if he was faking it.

I heard my dad use a word today to describe BIL that I havew only heard him use a few times in my life. He's really worried for her. She's paying a high price to live the high life and get her baby.

And she is great with the baby. It's freaky how she looks and sounds like my mom. More than that, it's amazing to see the joy on her face, in her eyes when she looks at her daughter, talks to her, soothes her.

*****
Okay, here's why I titled this quandary. After dropping off my dad at the airport , b was chided for taking topo long helping him in with hisb things and getting him pointed in the right direction. All becauseb they *might get a ticket* by the airport police. God forbid. I weanted to say, Well, I would have paid for it, okay? The man is 76-years old and has a big tremor and is movinbg slow anbd is emotionally wrung out. Joy and frustration. Fuck all of you.

So when they're alone (not with Dad), they fall into regular relationship dynamics (:-p). He is condescending and judgmental, openly (like, why would anyone disagree or take offense?)

Okay, here it is: after riding back from the airport, riding up front so my dad could coo at the baby, and then so she could keep an eye on her, he doesn't hear, totally discounts my contributions to the conversation,(again: how could any reasonable person think differently from the way he does?) We find a parking space in Westwood. (One that I point out, that he openly questions "is that a real spot? Really? Well, there's another if this isn't one. Oh, it is a real spot." I'm 39 years old and working on a Phd, but I ant identify a real parking spot? I guess 13 years in Boston was no help either.) My sister walks down the street to pay the meter. I'm wandering a little looking at the shops near the parking space, waiting. (Not even attempting convo.) I turn around to see that he has set the baby (in carrier) on a cafe's outdoor table and went back to the car at the curb, easily 15 or 20 ft, leaving the baby comepletely alone. Granted, it was maybe 30 seconds, but this was Friday night in west.wood, we had seen at least 2 sketchy looking characters as we got out of the car. His back was completely to the baby. Reflex drew me to go to the baby (MY niece!) But I moved away a little because I wanted my sister to see this. Unfortunately, the moment was over before she got back.

As we walked to the diner, he said to her, "do you want to walk be hind me so you can watch her as we walk?" At the table, she was watching the baby to make sure she was still breathing (she was sleeping).

Do I tell my sister? If so, how? Or is this no big deal? To me this seems like the stuff lifetime tv movies are made of, someone turns their back for 30 seconds and the child is gone. Maybe I'm over-reacting, trying to compensate 'cause it's not my kid...

I can see that he loves the baby, but he seems to have no clue. I think my sister's head might explode if she knew. Or it might cause a fight, and the last thing she needs is more aggravation and stress. But is this kind of thing something she should know about? She freaked at the prospect of leaving the baby alone with my dad and me for an hour today (definitely too soon for everyone) how would she feel about this?

Help?

**As you might be able tp tell I am really wanting to rip this guy a new one. I've been biting my tongue so much there may not be any left by the time I get home. Trying to be supportive. Ack.

***edited to add:
My biggest concern is that he walked away from the baby on a city street. Maybe he thought I was there, maybe not. (It's not like he has any respect for me anyway.) She's pretty aware of all the other stuff. But do I tell her about this? I agree, it may start a fight, which causes my hesitation. Maybe he just doesn't know. Doesn't think it's a big deal. I just don't know.

Thanks, though for all you thoughts on the subject!

10 comments:

Newt said...

Oh boy, he sounds like a real peach.

I wish I had a good answer, but I don't. I am certain I wouldn't say anything, but I have no idea if that's just cowardice or diplomacy. Your sister is sleep-deprived and hormonal right now, and doesn't need an additional worry or fight or reason to resent her husband (sounds like she has plenty of those). I would only say something if I thought he was a real and ongoing danger to the child, and I guess this incident doesn't sound like that to me.

Even though the prospect is horrifying beyond imagination, the chances that your niece will actually get babynapped are infinitesimally small, so I chalk it up to his being naive, and would not choose this battle to fight. I think it's just more stress for your sister, and if/when she confronted him about it, he would surely tell the story in a very different way that would suggest there was never any risk. You don't want to get into a big he said/she said with your brother-in-law with no physical evidence and no witnesses. (Wow, listen to me getting all lawyery)

Of course, if you see him doing something with a higher probability of harm--say, shaking the baby or putting whiskey in her bottle to make her sleep--I would pick that battle in a heartbeat.

But only you can make this call, and should do what's in your heart. Sorry about my long-winded answer--insomnia tonight. Hope the rest of your trip is less enraging! Enjoy your niece!

Rachel said...

Great that he doesn't plan to help out at night at all. Sounds like your sister is in for a fun first couple of months. Maybe instead of hiring a night nurse, you could suggest a housekeeper or organizer since I'm sure your sister would rather delegate the house stuff and snuggle with the baby. I do know a couple people who have had night nurses, and it has been an issue for breastfeeding.

I would tell your sister (especially if you see anything like this again), but try to divorce it from their relationship and everything else as much as possible. I am married to the most loving guy and wonderful father, but in the first few weeks he did -several- things which were not particularly safe with the baby. Sometimes I think guys spent so little time around babies that they just aren't aware (see? you can blame society as opposed to the guy for never picking up on this stuff). I had to remind my husband exactly what was safe/ok, and of course being a reasonable smart guy he got it (for example, my daughter was crying for no reason and he made a really loud noise at her which totally shocked her into being quiet. And then we had a -long- conversation about why we were never going to yell at our daughter again, and he got it and hasn't. But he honestly hadn't thought it through). But I would definitely try to avoid criticizing the relationship in general - this is not the time for your sister to reevaluate her marriage.

Bonny said...

I would not say anything at this point. Your sister is not seeing these things right now because she is a new mother. When everyone has left and they are on their own, she will notice his lack of parenting opposed to the level that she is putting in and it will bother her enough to finally say something to him.

Tash said...

I'm gonna play devil's advocate here a bit but it sounds to me like he has multiple issues, not just one big one. And some guys (and probably women) are just really clueless around newborns. I know friends who received books from guys (like, novels) when they gave birth because "they were off from work and had time." A friend of ours once set a squirmy Bella down on a granite counter top (um, couldn't ask one of us to hold her? put her down on the rug or something?). And I think it's a combination of not knowing, and not caring, or at least not wanting to look as though they care because that would be unmanly. Which is stupid, but there it is.

But on top of just sounding like he has no idea that there are people who would come grab his kid given the opportunity, he sounds kinda out of touch with your sister. And that's really no good. Do you know, was there an agreement to have this child? It almost sounds as if this is what she wanted, and he agreed to it as long as he didn't have to do anything cuz he wasn't really keen on it. And if that's the case, it's sad, but not really our business. (For the record, one of my cousins had an agreement like this -- she'd take care of the kids if she really wanted them -- but her husband became so enamored with baby #1 that they wound up having another and now he's completely on board.)

FInally, if he's kinda poopy about involving himself in her life ANYWAY, she may not realize anything odd is happening because that's what she's used to. Which is sad, but on the other hand it's not like she has any expectations for him to ruin either. If she's expecting him to help out and he's not, she's gonna read the writing on the wall fairly quickly. And then you need to just be there to support her in any decisions she needs to make.

Sorry it's causing you stress, he sounds like a real winner (rolls eyes). We all can't be C, can we (wink!)

Michele said...

forgive my language, but you bil sounds like a prick. a mega prick at that. i'd come right out and tell your sister. i mean, it is her life and she can choose to live with him but if she doesnt know someone should take the wool from her eyes.

what an asshole!

Reba said...

I would tell your sis that her hubby might need to learn how to keep a closer eye on the baby, as lightly as possible, but not about all the other issues with him. Like you said, you don't want to send her over the edge (the sleep deprivation alone probably has her about 80% there already). And she knows her hubby and in some way, likely loves him, and won't want to (or maybe be able to) hear criticism of him right now. Probably it would be fine if you didn't say anything, but what if something did happen and you hadn't said anything? This is your niece after all!

CDE said...

Man, sometimes I hate it when I'm right. I was hoping his general assholery was a function of being out of his comfort zone, but it sounds like that was the only thing keeping him polite. So, yeah. Fuck him.

My two cents on the incident? Don't tell A right now. Maybe tell her later...maybe. It may very well be just new-parent cluelessness on BIL's part, stacked on top of his more pervasive cluelessness and self-absorption. So either he'll get past it or A will see it for herself. It may be diagnostic, it may not. All you need to do is help her in the here and now with what needs doing in the here and now, and giving her one more thing to worry about (and potentially making it look like you're asking her to choose between her husband and her family) isn't going to help relative to what little good it might do.

Also? Did I mention fuck him?

Bluebird said...

Oh this sucks. I can only imagine how horrible it was to sit back and watch all this happen to someone (two someones!) you care about.

That said - Tash has an interesting point. I had a coworker with a similar arrangement - it was his job to make money outside of the house; her job to take care of the house and children. He never lifted a finger to do anything that fell under her job description even though her job was 24 hours a day) - BUT - that was the agreement they had before they had children and she (at least told herself that she was) okay with it.

Although. . . surely you would know it if something like that was going on with your sis?? *Sigh* Who knows. . .

If you do feel compelled to say something *about the baby's safety* I would probably approach it by kind of jokingly saying something like, "So, BIL hasn't been around babies much has he? Haha. . ." and see what kind of response you get.

CDE said...

I think it'd be easier if he actually worked outside the home - he doesn't. In fact, I'm not sure he's ever held a job. He graduated from Wharton with an MBA, but as near as we can tell, his occupation is managing the money he already has. All things being equal, there's really no reason he shouldn't be more involved with the baby - I can understand it a little, since they just moved into a new house, so there's all kinds of stuff that needs settling and arranging. But he's spectacularly not good at working well with others, and I can totally believe that he just doesn't see what he's doing wrong. He really seems to be used to a world in which all of his neuroses are accommodated.

And she can't really approach her sister obliquely about this, because her sister knows what a pain her husband is - I have no relationship with him and never have, he doesn't get along with Sue's brother (and that got worse when Sue's brother got married), and the only person who really didn't mind spending time with him was Sue & A's father. And that's pretty much done for as well.

Melanie said...

Tell her. Yes, it may start a fight but she needs to know. It could (will) happen again and it may not be so innocent.

Maybe BIL just doesn't know, being a first time dad and all, but you never, ever take your eyes of your babies whether you are in a store or on a city sidewalk. If you are turned away, keep your foot or hand on their carseat or stroller. Always.

She needs to know, because he needs to know. The fact that he did that makes my heart jump out of my chest.