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The week before Tanya arrived; I had a nagging suspicion that this would not be a peaceful visit.I had overheard her quizzing Tennisfiend over the phone. She was concerned about how I fed Tyoma. Why was I giving him finger foods so soon? Why wasn’t he was eating (cow’s) milk or wheat products? Was he sitting up when I fed him? And so on.
I took a deep breath, attributing the session to her pre-travel nerves. Her last visit had left me feeling frazzled, but I attributed that to my then undiagnosed PPD. So, she arrives and is as sweet as ever. During her first hours here, she brings up her concerns about his diet. She repeated four times that TF ate wheat and cow’s milk products from his third month on, and that it is very healthy and necessary for growth. I thanked her each time and responded that it is too early to start him on such a diet according to my pediatrician (and my own copious research).
The next day, she brought it up again and I was visibly aggravated. I suspect TF spoke to her, since she did not bring it up subsequently. Two days later, a major blow-up occurred over Tyoma. Tyoma was protesting over being put to bed.  Fontessa is a “no cry” person. I am a “some-cry person.” We butted heads. She told me she knew about babies and that I didn’t understand–my baby needed to be comforted and she would take care of him. I replied that it was typical of him to cry for a few minutes before falling to sleep, especially after a stimulating day, so please leave him alone. It got ugly.
I’m not going to re-hash all that happened, but the end result was a tearful apology to me. I find such emotional turmoil insufferable. I prefer logical, rational discussions. Brrrr. During her last visit, we had some minor control issues. I frequently felt monitored by the Secret Police, but this was new. Anyway, this scene set the tone for the next two weeks.
We had another battle a week later over Tyoma. Again, I’ll spare you the details, but I was spitting mad. She got into my face and continued to harangue me about what she thought was right for the baby. After she locked herself in her room I tried to calm myself down, but wound up absconding with Tyoma to my parent’s place to cool off. It’s been years since I was so pissed off. Afterward, we had another happy family reunion, this time without the tears.
Was I beginning to detect a pattern of drama/reconciliation? TF did tell me that a hallmark of his mother and step-father’s relationship is a three hour long passionate argument, accompanied by tears, slammed doors and joyous reunions. Nonetheless, they love each other very much and are very, very happy. The hallmark of our relationship is a long tranquil evening spent reading, gardening, or sharing a movie; often punctuated by rational discourse or random goofiness. We, too, love each other very much and are very, very happy.
TF observed that the beyond the obvious differences in dramatics, we differ in the amount of tolerance we have for each other. No one is trying to change anybody in our home. TF reads philosophy books non-stop, while I am a Richard Dawkins kind of gal. We listen to each other, applaud the other’s insights and go back to our favorite pursuits. No one gets into the other’s face to make them think or act differently. Maybe it transcends interpersonal dynamics and becomes a matter of culture. TF said that such heated discussions are a part of the Russian way. Hmmm.
Anyway, back to the Fontessa story. After the second incident, she ceased to impose her baby-raising beliefs on me, avoiding me whenever a conflict might arise. Tennisfiend would remove her from the house as needed.  She could not bear to hear Tyoma cry. This irritated me, because it is not about her, it’s about what is best for Tyoma in the long run.  A great deal has changed in baby raising over the decades, not to mention the differences in culture.

She says, “I raised two sons!”  This gives me pause, but there is a great difference between E and his brother. And E was raised in part by his grandmother, since Tanya worked. I don’t think she was a bad parent. I just think that her time to parent is over and I resent that she doesn not trust me and that she tries to impose her will on me with theatrics.

TF and I reached an agreement concerning her next visit: only three weeks long, with a focus on the quality of her time rather than the quantity of her time here (I came to this conclusion after my second needy visit to Ewbliette, who suggested that paying more special attention to Fontessa would cure all my ills—she was 100% right).

In conclusion, I don’t want to give the impression that Fontessa was an impossible woman. As my Dad said, “It’s not like she’s Hitler.” Aside from the above events, she was quite sweet; cooking TF’s favorite meals, sewing plush decorative pillows, and helping me with the gardening. It’s just that I felt on edge around her more than was necessary and I became suspicious of her instigating incidents to meet her level of drama/attention. Ultimately, I think I need a few weeks to digest the whole visit. I think I especially need to look at myself and not blame her for all of the conflict.

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