Holiday fun! Relatives who don’t get your ETL child…

I posted this almost a year ago today and it’s still pretty relevant. Thanksgiving and the holidays are really stressful for kids like ours, and unforgiving family doesn’t help matters at all. I’m hoping this year’s holiday will be okay, but I have a contingency plan if anything goes wrong – pay attention to my child and leave as soon as things go awry.
Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go: I have a really great family. My parents, my in-laws, my sisters, their husbands and my nieces – all have been really understanding and forgiving when it comes to dealing with Little J.
Yes, there have been moments, like when my (very tired) mother-in-law was seated next to LittleJ for a 4-hour car ride and he talked non-stop from the maple syrup capital in northern Vermont all the way to their home in western Massachusetts , forcing her to eventually put her hands over her ears to try to drown him out, or the time he called my mom a Big Butt and my step-dad picked him up and turned him upside down to “teach” him not to do that, or the very first time he met his same-age, heretofore peaceful female cousin and within 5 minutes had goaded her into punching him in the head…oh, the list is really endless. But all in all, our immediate family has been very understanding and kind and generous in helping with Little J. Many times much more than I’ve managed to do so, frankly. And I really appreciate it.
But there’s always someone, right? To preserve family harmony I’m not going to name this person or even describe him very specifically, but let’s call him The Cranky One. The Cranky One is an older person, didn’t like kids even when his own were small, and is actually pretty sick and tired of people in general, nevermind my own hyperactive, talkative, noisy, sometimes rude-ish little boy.
The Cranky One, to give him credit, doesn’t really understand LittleJ. What he sees is a child who doesn’t act like all the other children in the family, who talks back, who doesn’t always obey, and who is, above all, NOISY. The Cranky One really dislikes NOISY.
But on the other hand, from my perspective as momma, I know that on the occasions The Cranky One has been around Little J, Little J has typically been on his very best behavior. Being around family both excites Little J and creates anxiety. He usually will stay away from the adults, playing mostly with his cousins, and almost always remembers his manners at the table and at gift-giving time (for we usually see The Cranky One at the big gift-giving holidays). Little J loves his grandpa and his cousins and he knows that his mom and dad are typically in a happy mood on these occasions – so he’s in a happy mood, too.
These are times when Little J is deserving of lots of praise. And we’re sure to give it to him.
The problem is that behavior that is praiseworthy in Little J may seem to an outsider, or to someone who doesn’t really “get” my boy, more like something that needs correction, were he a little more neurotypical.
And The Cranky One corrects. He corrects the momma and he corrects the boy. The former I can take, the latter I cannot. He can blame me all he wants for my child’s behavior. I know the truth and The Cranky One doesn’t (although he’s been told). But it’s been the times when he’s corrected the boy that have been the hardest to take. Not that the boy doesn’t need correcting from time to time, or I even mind it if a friend or family member steps in – but if Little J has been trying hard and doing a good job and then is yelled at, well, that’s when I mind.
So what do I do? I hustle Little J out of there as fast as possible and try to explain how everyone has different levels of patience, that The Cranky One is older and we respect him but he likes things very quiet, and that Little J did a great, great job and remember when he was playing so nicely with his cousins, etc.
Because that’s really all I can do, when it comes to this particular person. If The Cranky One were a younger relative, or was someone who was around Little J a lot or who did care-giving for us or who went out of his way to stir up trouble, then I’d handle it differently. But because of his status in our family and because it doesn’t happen all that often I just prepare myself for it, then grin and bear it. And do damage control after the fact. Meanwhile Little J is being taught what? That there are some people in every family who are a little scary? Who are a little impatient? A little cranky? Is that so bad? That’s life, no?
Am I taking the wimpy way out?
I don’t know. What do you think? I’m sure you all have stories about this – please share them! And share what you did to resolve (or not) the situation. It’ll help us all.

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2 thoughts on “Holiday fun! Relatives who don’t get your ETL child…

  1. Some battles are like hitting your head against a brick wall. I do the same thing in our family. In our case, the elder fits the typical ” you can’t teach an old dog new tricks “. I choose to remove & soothe, rather than take him on. He may not be around for many more holidays & seeing him twice a year, it’s just easier than making an issue.

  2. Great point about the fact that we applaud our children for things others would get in trouble for (my words…not yours). For someone who doesn’t get invisible disabilities, that would be hard to understand, especially as the child gets older. I think you’re doing the exact right thing, which is whatever is right for Little J.

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