Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Birthday Recap and MIL Visit

We recently celebrated Danielle's 16th birthday.  We paid to take Danielle, her friend "Maxine" and her mother, my mother, my father and my stepmother out to dinner.  We gave Danielle an expensive electronic gift, and my mother bought her an accessory to go with it.

Danielle didn't really thank anybody at the party for her gifts, even though it was clear she was pleased with at least some of them.  She was not, however, pleased with the gift we bought, because she was hoping for the much more expensive version of what we'd selected.  She was disappointed even though we'd already explained (for reasons of expense, care of personal property, and trust) that she wasn't going to get the coveted model.

Danielle didn't thank us for buying everyone dinner, either.

She complained about the gift we selected three times, once during the party in front of everyone, once in the car on the drive home, and once again after we got home.

It worked out that Danielle's therapy appointment fell between her birthday and the following weekend, which we had scheduled to go camping with FosterEema's mother, who was in town for her brief, once-a-year visit.  During that session, we shared how it hurt our feelings that we'd gone to the expense of buying an pricey electronic gift, and paid for dinner, only to be rewarded by complaints that we'd done the wrong thing.

Danielle's therapist told her that her behavior was really "not cool."

The following weekend, while we were camping, Danielle complained in front of my mother that she didn't like the accessory she'd bought.  My mother had come up for the day to visit with us, and when I suggested Danielle use her accessory, she griped, "but I don't like it!"

My mother was understandably hurt.

Danielle later said that she thought we had bought the accessory, not my mother.

We explained that we had ordered it at Grandma's request, but that she had paid for it.  "Does it matter who paid for it?" FosterEema asked, "What you said is still hurtful, either way."

* * *

Although Danielle's behavior wasn't as horrible as the last time my mother-in-law visited, she still spent quite a bit of time playing to an audience.  Fortunately, my MIL has grown somewhat wise to Danielle's antics, and she didn't fall for it as much as she could have.

The last night that MIL was in town, Danielle was in rare form.  We were in a restaurant, and she was chewing noisily with her mouth open, spraying bits of food out of her mouth.  I was sitting directly across from her, and the view was positively disgusting.  At one point she smeared her lips with ranch dressing, and made a big show of asking everyone to look at her lipstick.

Danielle is 16 years old, way too old for this kind of behavior.

I didn't make a big deal about her behavior in the restaurant, because I knew that my MIL would likely come to her defense.  The following afternoon, after my MIL had flown out, I did have a sit-down talk with Danielle about her behavior, and I explained that 16 years old is far too old to be behaving like that in a nice restaurant.

"If you do that again," I promised calmly, "I will ask our server for a box and you will not be allowed to finish your meal."

"You're mean!"

"That may be true, but you are far too old to be acting this way in public," I replied.

* * *

Although this birthday and visit from MIL was substantially better than ones we've had in years past, as it was meltdown-free, I can't help but feel frustrated and disappointed at my child's complete lack of gratitude and her disgusting table manners.  We tried to do something nice that was within our budget, but since it wasn't the grandiose affair she'd wanted with hundreds of guests*, she couldn't choke out the words "thank you" without a rash of complaining and ugly manners.

* Danielle had asked to have a huge, quinceañera-style party for her 16th birthday.  We had already discussed the fact that we weren't prepared to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a birthday party, especially when we don't have that many friends to invite.  Although Danielle has a fantasy of inviting hundreds of her best friends to such a party, the reality is that she's only got two friends we know personally, and perhaps a handful more at school that we haven't met.

1 comment:

  1. I know it's hard! Birthdays are enormous triggers. I work really hard at responding to emotions and ignoring the behaviors and it usually works. I mean, she knows it's not acceptable to spray food out of her mouth, right? She's shooting for disgusting and humiliating and embarrassing and angering. Mine feel really cared for at the end of it, but I sort of drop everything in moments like that, we head out holding hands, do a short walk, talk about what's going on, come back and restart, never once mentioning the food spray (because that's not what it's about). It's hard to see the emotional disability through the behaviors, but the behaviors are not where it's at in our fam. May be true in yours true - but it's hard to tell from this distance.


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