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Ask Sherry: Thoughts on Montessori and my relationship with in-laws and my family

You asked, and I am answering every Friday once I have enough questions!

You can ask any question using the form here.

Why do you have so many 3rd party trackers on your site?

I did not know I did!

What are third party trackers? :-S

I have no idea how this stuff works, all I do is just try not to break it. :-/

Hi Sherry, you alluded previously to the tense relationship you’ve had with your father in the past.

Very tense. He screamed at me before he knew I was pregnant, basically did not want me in his house, and was not happy to have me around because I was meddling in their finances and trying to get my mother to pay attention to the money she was making and giving away to him for what exactly?

He was not happy I was messing with the dynamic but I have a very strong sense of equality and fairness, and my mother was not being treated well in terms of money, considering she made 100% of the money.

Once he realized I was 6 weeks along, he sort of backed off and I think at that point, he realized what he had done in terms of ruining our relationship.

We did not speak for years. About 3.

It was my baby boy that brought us back together because my father wanted to see his grandson, and he came up one year to visit when Baby Bun was 3, convinced by my mother to make peace, and from there, we have slowly been rebuilding the relationship.

It is still not like it was before. I do however, feel a lot more latitude in saying how I feel and being clear that I won’t handle any BS.

How are you able (mentally/emotionally) to spend the summer with him and your mother?

I focus on my mother.

I don’t necessarily avoid him, but I just try to let the past go. What was said and done in the heat of the moment is over, and done with. No point in dwelling in the past.

Plus, my mother is way more money-minded now, and that is the only goal I had when I started asking her to ASK about the budget and get real about her money.

We still have issues with him complaining about us being here and using more water, electricity, etc. All the bills he has to “pay” (out of the money my mother gives him, HUGE EYE ROLL), and it is this penny pinching attitude with money that IS NOT HIS, that really irks me.

I have to sometimes leave the house and calm down. Or rant to my partner who totally gets it.

Are you using any coping mechanisms?

Lots of cake.

My son. I just focus on other things, to be honest. I go out a lot too.

My partner also gets it, so when I rant to him, he understands. He is under no illusions that my father is hardworking and a good person. He knows my mother is the key to this whole house of cards.

Also, what’s the dynamic between your family and your partner?

My family loves my partner.

They know he is a picky, difficult, perfectionist, and my mother had him pegged when she said that she expected he would want Little Bun to be THE perfect Little Boy, and she was right. He had a lot of high expectations and she knew it would be difficult with him as a father in that respect, although my partner is an amazing father and very loving, he is definitely a Helicopter Parent.

She understands completely.

She knows his character and mine (I am not perfect, I am fragile like a bomb), and she is cool enough to back off and let us do our thing when she knows it is tricky or a minefield (e.g. food, especially processed food being fed or offered to Little Bun is not allowed.)

My mother loves loves loves him. She loves that he cooks, he helps out, he trades recipes with her, he gets along with her.

My father also loves him, they talk about what is on TV, etc.

My partner however, is always on my side. He has my back, and in private, we both know the faults of each parent and the weird dynamic.

He had sworn 6 years ago when this all happened to never reconcile with my father for the way he treated me and us as his family, and he has loosened since then, as I have.

Is it as difficult between him and your family as it is with you and his family?

No. My family is far easier to be with for him, than it is for me with his family.

His family sees me as lazy, unhelpful, etc. All the things I am not. I even mentioned this to a few friends to get a perspective to see if I was lazy, and they all concurred that I was a GUEST in the home, and not really expected to clean and do all of the household chores.

Had they asked, I would have gladly helped.

They didn’t ask, I don’t know their family dynamic or rhythm, I have not seen them more than once a year at best, so all of this equals out to me being very confused and hurt by their treatment.

My partner is again on my side, and he sees what I am saying. He is also under NO ILLUSIONS that his family is perfect. He does see that they penalize me quite unfairly compared to the others, and I am puzzled at why I, as a woman, am being asked to do all of these traditional tasks I know nothing of.

I tell him to tell them — She makes half the money and pays half of the household, plus has half the household chores. What more do you want?

It is like they wanted me to be Super Mom and are confused why my partner is cooking, and I am not.

In contrast, my partner is NOT expected to clean or to help out in anything when he is at my parents’, why should I be expected to do anything at his?

If my mother asks, he gladly helps. I would do the same in the reverse, but I was never asked, just expected to know what to do by osmosis.

I am never going back to see them.

He can go alone, or with Little Bun. I am going to stay where I am. I don’t need that negativity in my life.

I don’t really give a #%* right now, I am still pissed off about everything, and what they said about Little Bun, comparing him unfairly to his cousins who are there ALL THE FRICKIN’ TIME.

I can see the difference it makes when the adult is WILLING to make a connection with the child, rather than expecting them to suddenly love them for being blood relations.

I can see it took 3 weeks for Little Bun to warm up and now LOVE his grandmother openly, by telling her things about his day, sitting on her lap, and greeting her and even my father each morning with hugs and kisses.

He never did any of that with the other side of the family because they made zero effort and that is not on me, that is on them to not see the shyness and joy that there is inside my little boy. It takes time to get him to trust you, but it is worth it once he does.

If Little Bun is closer to my parents than he is to his family, that’s on them, not on me. I have no responsibility in this, as I have tried my best.

I also make it a point to mention it to my partner each time about how much Little Bun is bonding with my mother in particular, and he agrees.

He knows it takes time and effort to love our son, but it is worth it once you do, and it is clear that in a short amount of time, my mother has gotten Little Bun to love and respond to her in ways his mother could not and cared not to.

What is your opinion about Montessori education for children (if you know about this)? In my country, Montessori schools are public, not private, so money is not an issue.

I can actually speak a little about this, as Little Bun was in a Montessori daycare (it happened to be one, I did not choose it for that purpose, it was chosen by location).

I’d like to know if you would like this kind of education (if it was free) for your child. Why or why not?

Free? Sure. I’ll take free anything.

I am not going to really kvetch if they use this method or not, as long as it is free, he is healthy, they are treating him well, he is playing nicely and enjoying being there.

Free is a dream. I paid $75 a day for my kid to be in daycare and that was painful.

I’ll tell you what puzzles me somehow. I visited a few of these schools and, while the children there looked content, playing with all kinds of hands-on materials, I didn’t really see books being used. My child likes hands-on materials AND books. Even at a very young age (under 3), he likes me to read to him from books and is happy when he gets a book as a gift.

I don’t know if my impression about this school system was correct or not. So what do you think and know?

This sounds odd. Maybe it is the “true” Montessori method being used there, but I do know that Montessori is all about kids learning to be independent from going to the bathroom, to tying shoelaces, to putting aways things after using them, helping the younger ones clean up when they make messes, etc.

I do remember that the daycare he went to, had plenty of those hands-on toys you speak of, like blocks, and nothing electronic, all wooden like puzzles and the like, but they also had a reading corner.

My son used to go to the reading corner, and his best friend would hand him a book and tell him to read to her. They developed a special relationship because he could read and she liked to hear stories.

That said, if the place had no books, I would be fine with that too. He has plenty of books and reading at home, and now at 5, he is reading by himself and choosing out books. Not just looking at the photos, but reading and understanding the stories.

I don’t think any of us can really count on a school to be 100% learning. I believe the parent also has a role to play, whether it is exposure to books and reading like I have done with him, or playing soccer with him for motor skills and so on.

We should send our kids to schools or daycares that look to be like good ones and don’t feed them sugary junk all day and plonk them in front of a TV, but I also think a lot of the learning and stimulation also comes from outside the daycare/school, like at home.

I don’t take him to museums or exhibits, but we go to the park, we learn how to play and be social (very important, I am teaching him this and it is difficult as an only child), and to be exposed to the public in general with noise and crowds (I hate all of this but have learned to live with it as he has to..)

As long as the school seems to be teaching them independence, I am all for the Montessori method and would gladly send him there, particularly if it is free. I have seen some of the results of this method at home – he does clean up after himself and does arrange his things before leaving the house, so this is all very positive for me.

Still have a burning question?

You can ask any question using the form here and all of my previous Ask Sherry posts are here.


  • emily

    I think relationships between children and parents and children and in-laws can be tense if one or both parts are not willing to treat the other with respect and goodwill.

    Fortunately for you, you live very very far away from your in-laws, so this relationship won’t be much of a hassle for you (or your partner).

    Things become trickier if one doesn’t live so far away from them AND one doesn’t deem them a good influence on their children. What do you do when you think one parent-in-law is not a good person to be around your child (in terms of personality, character, language, behavior), but your partner doesn’t think they are so bad or doesn’t deem that aspect so important?…

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I live far enough from the in-laws to have them not be an issue unless he wants them to be.

      If one parent in law is not a good influence, I have the perfect example — my father.

      Luckily, we sort of keep Little Bun away and we don’t mention the behaviour or being light to it, because we want him to have good memories of his family, in-laws or not.

      If push came to shove, I’d tell him the truth rather than hold it back all these years the way my mother did with my grandmother. She treated my mother (her daughter-in-law) so TERRIBLY and she got her just karma at the end of her life but I had no idea until years after she died.

      I’d rather not sugarcoat things. I’d rather have been told the truth even if it strained the relationship between us ..

      People are who they are. We can only use them as examples and mitigate the situation and use them as learning aids.

      I throughly plan on telling Little Bun the truth about his grandfather as he gets older so he understands how and why I’m so militant on him being independent, hardworking and reliable.

  • SarahN

    I’m not a parent so you can ignore ignore my point of view. But I do think parents do guide their kids relationships with adults. If you never mention someone, the kid isn’t necessarily going to remember them over in EUrope. If you don’t foster some
    favourable convos between you and your partner about these relatives or park friends, convos a bright kid like yours will overhear and listen to, you’ll find he won’t be as warm with them. It’s entirely fine for you to blame them as other adults but your kid and his paternal relatives rely on a level of groundwork you do. Your kid can’t do control his social world currently, but family shouldn’t be jeopardised by your current hurt. I’m not diminishing your hurt, not one bit. But those people are his blood relatives, and will have possibly shared characteristics or interests that you and your kid don’t share.

    They’re unkind or cold. They are gossipy. Be open to what they might mean over time to your son, seperate from your own meaning these people have to you.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I think the effort now, has to come from them. I’m not interested in continuing a relationship. If my partner wants to, he can. He has to make that step and push it. Even he is not keen on it, and I’m just not going to pay to be berated on a vacation.

      If he wants to go, he can go with Little Bun and I’m staying home.

  • Mia

    Montessori schools usually have a reading nook like your school.

    The thing that I personally wasn’t crazy about with Montessori was that they emphasize a bigger class size than some other programs and mixed age groups. Bigger class size means more germs and sick days.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I remember a big reading nook so I find it strange a school with the Montessori method wouldn’t have it.

      As for class sizes I expect big classes in daycare due to costs/profits… If I wanted smaller classes we’d have to go private.

  • Gail

    I think your in-laws are intimidated by you and your integrity…and of course jealous. You and your partner seem to have a great thing going. Enjoy that: many do not have it in their lives.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I don’t see why they would be intimidated. I’ve never been anything but excited and interested in being with them, introducing Little Bun and having family time but if they don’t want to foster that, I won’t be the only one making all this effort and spending all this money that I’d rather save or spend in Montreal living.

  • lili

    I’d like to ask you something related to the going to the park and playing part.
    Do you yourself talk to other parents there? If so, how much?
    Are some parents eager to see you more often and form a closer relationship? How do you react to this? Are you interested in this kind of relationships (meeting them for playdates, coffee/tea) or not?

    If you don’t have the time or energy or are simply not interested in a relationship with a parent, what do you do if that parent seems interested, or even needy or pushy?

    Also, what do you do if some parent is so chatty that you lose focus on your child? Or can you focus on both?
    (Fortunately, most parents I’ve met are all right, but not all of them. So how do you handle those that you don’t want to get involved – or too involved – with?)

    Thank you.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I do talk to other parents. We chat a little, but I don’t go out of my way to make friends. If I see them there often enough, and they are regulars of the neighbourhood, we get to chatting. I have made a few Park Friends like that but we drift away because our kids are of different ages, and they get jobs and cannot go to the park as often as I can any longer..

      I do not mind doing playdates and meeting parents for coffee but to be honest, I don’t need that if I have my close friends I text and talk to. Plus the blog keeps me busy enough, and all of my readers are my support lifeline, as corny as that seems.

      I have had a parent who was a little pushy because she comes to my place to escape her own life (she has 2 under 5), but I don’t really love the way the kids are starting to be whiny brats because it rubs off on Little Bun. He picks up their behaviours and I then have to deal with the #%#*%) mess of what he learned after.

      I cannot really focus on both. I find fathers can just chat away and not care about their kids, but my eye is always on Little Bun running around although at his age now, I have relaxed a little.

      Little Bun won’t let me talk too long however. He polices my time and pulls me away and doesn’t want to share me. It is becoming an issue and I am trying to work on it but it is very difficult.

      The parents I don’t want to get involved with, I am polite but not offering information about myself, or following up with false pleasantries to do this again another time. I don’t offer to exchange info, etc. I find most of the time that you do, parents actually don’t have time to meet up. I have made and broken 90% or higher of all my play park promises, so .. *shrug*

      • emily

        Regarding your last paragraph here, I would like to know: what do you do when you are asked for information about yourself (like profession and contact details)? And how do you react when someone else makes pleasantries to do this again another time?

        • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

          In person/real life? I mention my industry. If they want to know more, I tell them. People tend not to press because it confuses them.

          As for pleasantries I do not wish to reciprocate, I say: Well it was nice meeting you. Have a great night..

          And I smoothly exit.

          Failing that, I try not to commit and say — That’s an idea. Well, goodbye.

          It might sound rude or curt but I haven’t found another way out without outright lying and falsely giving my info with a false hope that it could happen again.

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