petite anglaise

October 29, 2004

lost weekend

Filed under: french touch — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:38 pm

I am filled with dread.

Next Monday is a public holiday in France, for Toussaint. This should be a Good Thing, as it is one of the only bank holidays which has fallen on a weekday in 2004 (we lose when they fall at weekends, which makes Christmas this year a very bad joke), giving us a longweekend. It is however a Bad Thing because I have consented under duress to spend these three precious days with the Evil In Laws.

In order to get to where they live in the Franche Comté region, we have to endure a two hour train journey. During which Tadpole will not want to remain seated, but instead will run continually up and down the carriage, falling over each time the train tilts and running the risk of having hot coffee poured over her head by a fellow passenger. It is not even worth packing a book or an MP3 player in these situations. At best, I will be made to read ‘Miffy’s bicycle’ over and over again. At worst, I’ll be doing laps of the train a few steps behind Tadpole. So that’s 5 hours of our precious weekend already spent in purgatory before we even arrive at our destination. This is because the In Laws do not like Paris, and so despite the fact that FIL is retired, MIL has twice as much holiday as I do and they own cars, we are expected to go to them, accompanied by car seat and pushchair and all the other paraphernalia which you have to cart around when you have a small child, like . We could conceivably hire a car, but this would mean driving for 4-5 hours. An even less attractive prospect.

The In Laws, misleadingly called belle mère and beau père in French, are nice enough people and we actually got along just fine in the beginning. Things turned sour immediately after the birth of Tadpole. Without dwelling too much on the details, let’s just say that I feel I have served my purpose in producing their grandchild (the Frog is an only child so Tadpole is the focus of all their attention) and I now seem to be very much in the way.

I will be expected to surrender Tadpole as soon as I walk through the door, so that MIL and FIL can play mummies and daddies. If Tadpole does come to give me a hug, god forbid, she will be prised from my arms immediately. MIL will sulk if we dare to take Tadpole out with us when we go shopping for her new coat, or when we pay a visit to some of the Frog’s childhood friends. If we do have plans, she is likely to foil them by taking the Tadpole out for a ‘short walk’, returning only at nightfall. The latest plan is to persuade the Frog and I to sleep in a room they want to refurbish in the garage/cellar, next to the cars and the boiler, so that Tadpole can sleep in the room next to their own and they can pretend we are not there at all.

So, I’ve made a decision. Next time we are blackmailed into visiting them, I shall let Mr Frog (who is, understandably, partially blind to all of the above) take Tadpole there without me. I think, on balance, I’d rather not see Tadpole at all, than spend the whole weekend inwardly raging. I will be able to shop, blog, read, eat curry and go out on the town. And maybe, just maybe, the In Laws will reflect a little on why I chose not to visit.


  1. Commiserations. :sad: Although the setting does sound like a typical weird French movie, couldn’t you just murder them and brick them into the cellar? I’m sure no-one would ever know…:twisted:

    Comment by Claypot — October 29, 2004 @ 1:13 pm

  2. They won’t care if you’re there or not. They’ll probably do what mine do every time they have our kids- tell you how lucky you are to have them to “take her off your hands” so you can get some rest. So many mothers don’t have anyone, you see- every time my MIL goes to the park she meets one of them who inevitably tells her she wishes her MIL was as helpful…:roll:

    Comment by Suziboo — October 29, 2004 @ 1:18 pm

  3. I tried running laps of a train but kept falling off the end. Your trains sound like something Camus or Iain Banks might invent where you keep running forever, passing the same faces again and again, getting faster and faster… I’ve had too much caffeine today, can you tell?

    Seriously though, I can empathise with this situation. Grandparents (whether they’re the inlaws or the outlaws) develop intense bonds with their grandchildren which often make parents redundant, especially mothers. It’s good that you know your place.

    Comment by backroads — October 29, 2004 @ 3:05 pm

  4. Sounds very similar to what happens in Portugal, where grandparents expect you to do all the effort to suit their own self-made time-share arrangement with the kids. I have a friend who is facing exactly the same situation over her role/in-laws/only grandchild, etc. She is a lot happier ever since she has decided to let the precious one grandchild to go either solo or with dad. Less anger, less conflicts, more freedom. Good luck!

    Comment by claudia — October 29, 2004 @ 3:17 pm

  5. absolutely claudia!
    petite, do exactly what you said, let frog take her and you have a lovely paris weekend alone, doing what you want… I feel your pain! my mil also thinks my house is hers as well as my children… she’s lovely but i have had to clean my house from top to bottom and had to leave it smelling strongly of cleaning products so that when she comes to babysit tonight she won’t spend the whole time cleaning and rearranging it. erg. It’s a euro thing.

    Comment by vitriolica — October 29, 2004 @ 4:13 pm

  6. and she irons my knickers. sorry, that’s over the top.

    Comment by vitriolica — October 29, 2004 @ 4:15 pm

  7. Argh, Vit! How uncomfortable is that? I would love McGregor’s mum to come over and clean every now and then (which she has offered to do), but she will then pass judgment on how dirty things were, which I cannot stand. Consequently, we live in a pit of a house and she never visits (very efficient strategy). And I would personally pay for a witch to put a bad spell on anyone who dared to touch my underwear. Brrrr…

    Comment by claudia — October 29, 2004 @ 4:26 pm

  8. ah you’re unlucky with your mother in law !! i will be very lucky with mine about children, because she lives at the other side of the world, so i won’t be too much disturbed with her!!!lol well i wish you a good weekend if is possible
    and sorry for my english because i’m french!!:oops:

    Comment by pri — October 29, 2004 @ 7:03 pm

  9. No In Laws for me, how lucky I am!
    Just to say “Good Evening” from Franche-Comté…

    Comment by Dawn — October 29, 2004 @ 7:43 pm

  10. sorry I’ve forgotten to tell you : it’s damn raining overhere; take warm clothes and umbrellas

    Comment by Dawn — October 29, 2004 @ 7:45 pm

  11. I used to enjoy the bank holidays in France and Belgium where they fell midweek and they’d “faire le pont”, giving a super long weekend! But I guess the flipside is, as you say, when the holiday falls at the weekend…


    Comment by witho — October 29, 2004 @ 9:24 pm

  12. Unless your employer is really tight about holidays and never gives you a ‘pont’ so you have to take days off instead

    Half our bank hols fell on Saturdays this year. Which means they’ll all be on Sundays next year.


    Comment by petite — October 29, 2004 @ 10:27 pm

  13. two things:
    1. if they are as mean and evil as you say, they probably won’t wonder why you’re not there, and instead they’ll just rejoice! so you’re missing on a perfect opportunity to piss off mean people… c’est regrettable ;)

    2. my mom has always felt like that about my grandparents, and let me tell you, it’s a PAIN for us kids. i don’t care if it’s true or if it’s just my mom imagining things, but growing up in this environment was not fun at all and i think made things worse for everyone. i don’t know the details of your situation, but i’m sure your Tadpole feels the tension… and will do so even more as she grows up … …

    Comment by miss lulu — October 30, 2004 @ 5:40 am

  14. Your plan for the next time the in-laws want to revel in grandparentness sounds like a good one. Let Tadpole be the benficiary of all the cheek pinching and spoiling, while you suffer none of the ill effects! It’s always good to NOT play people’s manipulative games!

    Comment by Emily — October 31, 2004 @ 1:32 pm

  15. Aaah, you’ve been posting on the message web-site about this haven’t you? I think I’ve worked out who you are but your secret is safe with me as your blog is just great.

    And you have my sympathy

    Comment by heather coombs — October 31, 2004 @ 3:19 pm

  16. yes, the holidays have been a bummer this year, always falling on either a saturday or sunday. but in belgium it is the law to let employees have the day off on another day – which is why i am at home next week until thursday :) i would check this out with your SS people.

    i ask my parents to pay for my children’s flights to visit them – how else can they see them ? and being rich, as they are, they do. as for your in-laws … don’t forget that you want to marry their son. could you take them on as well ? ;)

    Comment by zed — October 31, 2004 @ 11:14 pm

  17. My mum (only child) had a demanding mum – but we kids understood – saddest thing (to me) is now that she has died mum’s only thought on mother’s day is that she doesn’t HAVE to make the trip to see her mum – who had no kids except her and never though that daughter with 3 kids under 4 would appreciate it more if her mum visited her on the day rather than the other way round – 3 toddlers in a kombi on a 3 hour drive to sydney …. aaaaarrrrrgggghhhh!!!!!

    I say BUGGER “EM petite! and BUGGER the frog as well if he doesn’t understand – he’s not dumb – it’s just easier not to act like a grown up and expect the respect from his parents as an adult that he accords them … sorry to be blunt. if, in the future, the Tadpole asks you why you don’t visit her grandparents – tell her – but make darn sure that you do it only as information and with no resentment – and keep sending them invitations to visit you – that way you will not be on the back foot when you’re accused of not wanting to see them!

    And before anyone says “Australia” – wouldn’t understand European thinking – other parent is Australian born Croatian – thank God he had a great mum and 4 older sisters and is non-patriarchal (though still head of the household) – sorry if that offends all Croatians out there but in Oz (probably not in Croatia) it’s well known that Croatian dads are incredibly strict and patriarchal – I’m just glad mine isn’t!

    Comment by Lisa — November 1, 2004 @ 12:14 am

  18. What is it with MIL and FIL’s that do this to them? My MIL and FIL consider me part human, because I haven’t contributed to the grandchildren yet – only been married 3 months – gimme a break. I’m guessing that when I do eventually ‘produce’, the same will happen, we might as well just dumpt the kiddiewinkle with grams and gramps and be off having a nice adult kidfree weekend. Rather that than endure lectures on how to raise kids…

    Comment by Valkyrie — November 1, 2004 @ 8:13 am

  19. Actually, other thought – though probably you’d like to be able to make the choice / timing yourself – have another kid …. have two more kids …. have four more kids! spread the load around a bit!!!!!!

    Comment by Lisa — November 1, 2004 @ 11:33 pm

  20. tiens c’est marrant moi je vis ça avec ma mère… en ce moment elle a ma fille avec elle en vacances, et j’ai aussi l’impression qu’elle me la tient en otage, tellement je ne sais même pas quand elle me la rendra

    horrible impression

    dans ces moments-là je déteste ma mère

    A part ça j’adore vous lire, votre style est très agréable.. et compréhensible pour une froggie

    Comment by sansmoi — November 2, 2004 @ 12:23 am

  21. sans moi – toi de même, j’adore ce que tu écris… et ton post sur ce weekend me touche bcp!

    Comment by petite — November 2, 2004 @ 8:47 am

  22. I always get the feeling that my in-laws feel a sense of obligation in the things they do for our kids – but not necessarily any joy or great pleasure in the experience. In fact, I often think they’re relieved when the visits are over. That’s just the way they are. Are they trying to give you some relief, thinking they’re doing you a favour? But anyway, whoever heard of an open, honest discussion about child-raising with the in-laws?

    Comment by David — November 2, 2004 @ 9:56 am

  23. How do you say “reverse psychology” in French?

    Comment by yayaempress — November 2, 2004 @ 9:47 pm

  24. The Frog tells me it is ‘psychologie inversée’.

    but he’s proved an unreliable dictionary in the past so I’d take that with a pinch of salt.

    Comment by petite — November 2, 2004 @ 10:41 pm

  25. Is there any way at all to avoid trouble with IL at all? My previous IL were nothing but trouble, specially MIL who tought that the little one hopping around was in fact her son and not mine. Having gotten rid of these IL and moved far far away, I thought that this time I would get it right with my new bf, by not getting married at all. So far it’s working, probably dues to the fact that IL are 3 hours away, and also that there’s no common kid. Now that i read your post, I start to wonder whether the problems will star if a newborn arrives… Does anyone know how to avoid those problems?

    Comment by daisy — November 5, 2004 @ 2:05 pm

  26. The In Laws, misleadingly called belle mère and beau père in French […]

    Actually, they’re not the ones supposed to be “beaux” according to the idiom: it’s just a shortening for “La mere de ma belle” (resp. “mon beau”) and “Le pere de ma belle”.

    As for intrusive parents in law, I can only commiserate, I had similar experiences, without even needing to have a child…

    Comment by Fabien — November 13, 2004 @ 7:00 pm

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