Talk, Talk That Baby Talk

by admin on June 17, 2013

My brother and SIL have a 2 year-old son, “Bryan” who I love dearly. They live quite a distance away and so the only way I communicate with my brother and his family is through Skype and telephone. While my SIL is pretty good about communication, my brother has picked up a habit over the last 12 months or so that’s driving me insane and I’m not sure how to respond.

My brother will call once in a while to say “Hi”, which is great. However, the conversation usually starts with a “Hello, how are you doing?” and then immediately gets sidetracked into a play-by-play of what Bryan is currently doing and a conversation between my brother and Bryan only. For example: “Hi sister! How are you? We’re great. Bryan is eating corn right now. He loves corn! Don’t you Bryan? Did you like the park today Bryan? Bryan played in the sandbox. Bryan loves the park.”

This goes on for a long time with me unable to get a word in edgewise. The majority of the time the conversation ends when Bryan begins to act up and my brother will end the call to deal with him (which sometimes occurs 30 seconds after my brother initiates the call, which is maddening in and of itself).

As much as I enjoy talking to my brother, I don’t feel like I’ve actually really spoken to him in almost a year. I’ve pretty much given up making attempts to call him on my own, because it always seems to be a very inconvenient time for him. The next time he calls I’m tempted to tell him something to the effect of “Why don’t you call when you’re not so preoccupied?” but I don’t want to seem rude, and I don’t think he realizes just how much he focuses on Bryan. How should I handle this?  0613-13

Bryan is not going to be 2 for the rest of his life.  Grit your teeth, bear the baby talk, look forward to the day when Bryan can actually talk to you himself and be grateful your brother initiates telephone calls.   Some people  have no one calling them.

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

Green123 June 17, 2013 at 3:18 am

This one comes under the same category as last Thursday’s article, where the OP’s friend was easily distracted by other people’s kids. In this instance, OP’s brother is distracted by his own kid, and is being annoyingly disrespectful. I know people love their children, but the world does *not* revolve around them. OP’s brother should call her when he can give her his full attention.

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Alazne June 17, 2013 at 3:22 am

If this happened once in while, I don’t suppose I’d be that bothered. It would be a way of catching up on nephew’s life, and what he likes doing. But for it to happen every time? I’d be frustrated too, particularly if I hadn’t seen my brother in months/a year. I presume you’ve tried heading him off with direct questions that need an answer? Do you have a good enough relationship to get hold of SIL at some point and ask her to take Bryan when your brother calls you? The other thing is, although I think Admin has put it a bit harshly, she is right in that this isn’t going to continue happening long term, and it may be something that would harm your relationship with yourt brother if he takes it the wrong way.

I’d also be interested to know if the people who commented on the Distracted by Kids story below would have similar opinions with this story. To me, it sounds like the same issue, but with family rather than friends.

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NV June 17, 2013 at 4:22 am

“Look, could you please stop telling me what Bryan’s doing? I want to talk to *you*, not Bryan, and since I haven’t had a meaningful conversation with you in over a year, I think this is long overdue. Thank you.”

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Lisa Marie June 17, 2013 at 5:23 am

Answer is simple – as soon as he phones you, ask him if he can call you back WHEN Bryan is taking a nap so you can tell him …. something and make the something whatever just so you two can talk

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Margaret June 17, 2013 at 6:33 am

It could continue forever. We lost touch with DH’s nephew for quite a while. That’s normal for his family. Then nephew re-initiated contact. We got together once. Got to meet 15 year-old great-nephew for the first time. Nephew drones on for 5 hours straight. It was exhausting. Nephew would call about once a week, droning on and on about great-nephew’s accomplishments. It was hard to get a word in. Did he ask about us? No. Did he care about my DD’s accomplishments or doings? No.

After a while, we stopped answering the phone. After a longer while, nephew stopped calling. Now we have peace.

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Lynne June 17, 2013 at 6:46 am

I think it’s ok to let your brother know that you miss having “adult time” to really share/confide in him, and ask for an opportunity to arrange some one-on-one time. Yes, it will have to be scheduled, much the same way it would have to be if you lived in the same city and wanted to talk w/o the possibility of the little one interrupting you two.

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Lo June 17, 2013 at 6:53 am

He’s two and he’s their first child presumably so I’d cut him some slack. Don’t all parents find their children much more interesting than anyone else does? He probably thinks this is more entertaining for you then it really is.

It sounds really annoying, but I’d do what admin suggests and just bear it until your nephew is old enough where his antics are less perpetually attention-worthy and he needs less one-on-one time.

Also if your brother is initiating the calls, maybe he’s seeing it as a “let’s chat with So-and-So!” kind of thing, where he wants to involve your nephew in the conversation.

I also like Alazne’s suggestion of saying something to SIL that she might look after your nephew so you can have an adult conversation with your brother.

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Wowsers June 17, 2013 at 6:54 am

Call your brother when you know the child is in bed? 2 year olds usually go to bed by 7 or 8 or even as late as 9. That’s not too late to call your brother.

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Anonymous June 17, 2013 at 7:08 am

I agree with Alazne here. If it was once in a while, then okay, fine, but for EVERY phone call that Brother initiates to revolve around Bryan, for an entire year? I think it’s time for the OP to speak up, and tell her brother what she’s told us–that she feels like she hasn’t really spoken to him in about a year, because every time he calls her, it’s all about Bryan, and he often doesn’t even have time to talk, when HE calls, because of Bryan, and she feels that she can’t call him, because she always seems to get him at an inconvenient time, because of Bryan. I think she should emphasize that Bryan is a cute kid (or whatever positive statement is closest to how she really feels), but she also wants to connect with her brother. Maybe Bryan won’t be two for the rest of his life, but who’s to say that Brother and SIL will automatically go back to normal once he’s three? Who knows, they might be like this until he starts kindergarten, starts making friends and developing a life of his own, and gets embarrassed by their behaviour and tells them to stop. So, no, I don’t think the OP should have to put her relationship with her brother on hold over this–I think she should talk to him. If time, finances, and logistics permit, maybe she could offer to pay for a babysitter for an evening, in order to facilitate some “adult time” for herself, her brother, and their respective partners, or the adults (OP, OP’s partner, Brother, and SIL), could trade off watching Bryan, to facilitate couple time, brother/sister time, and so on. Then, maybe, in a year or two, when Bryan is old enough to play independently with adults in the vicinity, but not directly supervising him, then the adults could do things like hanging out at the park and catching up over coffee while Bryan plays on the equipment. However, the key to making that happen is laying the groundwork now, so that Brother and SIL get the idea that it’s okay if they aren’t completely focused on Bryan, all the time. Actually, I blame articles like “Dear Mom on the iPhone” for that kind of thing: http://community.babycenter.com/post/a40783834/dear_mom_on_the_iphone. But, like I said, if the OP can tell her brother, nicely, that she misses him, and if she’s willing to be part of the solution, then I think things just might work out–in the short term, she gets her brother back, and in the longer term, Bryan will start developing the tools to function without his parents right with him all the time. That’s the flip side of “Bryan won’t be two for the rest of his life.” He certainly won’t, and it’s never too early for him to start learning independence, as long as it’s done in an age-appropriate way.

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Keli June 17, 2013 at 7:17 am

I feel that it is rude to talk solely to or about his son while your brother is on the phone with you, but I’d like to address the “maddening” aspect of his having to leave the conversation to take care of his son, sometimes 30 seconds after the phone call begins.
Parents are in the difficult position of being told we “never call anymore” and needing to raise our children, which is a 24/7 job when they are babies and toddlers. Although other aspect of his phone call are lacking in manners, this is one thing that he may be doing out of necessity and should be allowed for. I am a SAHP, and I miss my family and love talking to them, but as the only parent home, I sometimes have no option but to call them when my children are awake. I believe our society would agree that children should not be allowed to run wild, and little ones can go from playing quietly with blocks to throwing blocks at the t.v. in 15 seconds, and (in general) parents should be given grace when they need to deal with that.

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Mojo June 17, 2013 at 7:26 am

A parent should realise that not every conversation needs to be about their child, but that ain’t never gonna happen! Parents are parents first and foremost, and I’ve never met one who realised that not everyone is fascinated with their kid.

As the Admin suggested, patience is the key. Your brother’s not being mean, he really can’t help it, and this won’t last forever.

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--Lia June 17, 2013 at 8:01 am

Back in my day, it was parents putting their toddler on the phone to talk to me. Evidently I was supposed to be as charmed as they at listening to the gurgles and baby talk. I wouldn’t know what to do or say while I waited for the parents to come back on the phone.

The way I see it, the big problem is that you never get a chance for adult conversation with your brother. The minor problem is that you have to put up with a few minutes of boring distraction interaction with his son. So tackle them one by one. For the first, write your brother email a nice letter where you talk to him about what’s important to you, what’s important to both of you, and ask for an answer. Tell him you prefer that form of communication. He’ll probably have some trouble getting used to the switch in communication forms, so keep at it. Keep writing to him even as you get unsatisfactory answers.

For the minor bit, do as our admin suggests and grin and bear it. Set a timer for 5 minutes and put up with it once a week. That’s not too bad. It will be easier if you make it at the same time each week. Sunday afternoon or Wednesday night might be your baby-time. If you look at it that way, you’ll be a part of being there while your nephew grows up– which is a win/win.

Something to keep in mind– As far as your brother is concerned, this time talking baby talk, playing silly games with the toddler, comforting minor hurts, and basically never spending more than a minute on any one thing, all this IS what’s important to him right now. This IS his idea of sharing with you. Since it’s what he’s doing as an adult now, he IS making you a part of his adult life. Looked at that way, it is a form of adult conversation.

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Xtina June 17, 2013 at 8:02 am

I think this happens, like it or not, to every parent of a young child to some degree. They go from being normal, able-brained conversationists to distracted messes anytime someone calls or talks to them in person when the child is there with them. While a certain amount of this is inevitable and excusable and temporary only for a few years, it’s rude past a certain point. Parents-and I lump myself in as well and try my best not to do it-do need to be mindful that the world does not revolve around their child and when people call or visit with you, you need to give that person your attention since they have taken of their time to see you or talk to you. While callers should understand that a lot of your life now IS your child and there are some things a kid is doing that they can’t ignore (get down off the roof, junior!), parents should also realize that there’s more going on outside their homes than kid stuff. As a parent, as much as I love my child, I enjoy getting out from under the umbrella of child-centered conversations and try hard to catch up with friends and family–it’s a few minutes of distraction from my world!

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Susan T-O June 17, 2013 at 8:06 am

If the brother were having a side conversation with another adult, it would be considered extremely rude. Why should he be given the OK because the side conversation is with a child? Still rude IMHO. And I may be waaaay off base here but isn’t this sort of teaching Bryan that daddy on the phone = time for child to receive attention? Kids can be bad enough about interrupting a parent who is on the phone; why start out “training” him to do so?

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WildIrishRose June 17, 2013 at 8:10 am

“Brother, I’m really eager to talk with you, so why don’t you call me when Bryan is taking a nap/in daycare/at the park with mom? I’d really love to have an adult conversation with you!”

I completely disagree with Admin. on this one. Yes, Bryan will outgrow 2. But a kid who dominates everything at 2 will continue to behave that way at 3, 5, 9, 12, 15 . . . get the picture? I speak from experience. I have a grandson who is 12, and still acts like he’s 6, the world revolves around him and always has. I don’t put up with it, and he gets really mad at me, but I don’t care. At 2 years old, a child can learn not to interrupt adults. And your brother can learn to make a call to you that doesn’t focus on his son. Next time he calls and starts the Bryan thing, just cut the call short and ask him to please call you back when he can talk to you. Your brother is being insufferably rude.

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Erin June 17, 2013 at 8:12 am

This isn’t the same issue – in the last situation, the OP’s friend was dealing with a major emotional trauma. In this one, the OP’s brother needs to get to the stage where he realizes not everyone is as wrapped up in his kid as he is. People are a lot more complex than parent/nonparent.

Maybe the OP can call sometime when Bryan is napping, or asleep for the night, so he won’t be able to interrupt. And then when the call gets to Bryan-centric, steer it back to something mutually interesting.

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badkitty June 17, 2013 at 8:19 am

I have a friend whose children are 5 & 7, and she STILL calls me only to spend the majority of her call dealing with the children. I have one of my own (13) so I know that they often wait until you’re on the phone to start with the asking and the shennanigans, but I always dealt with it by the simple expedient of answering any question while I was on the phone with a ‘no’ and my son quickly learned that pestering while I was on the phone wasn’t really in his best interests. She knows that I did this, but doesn’t feel that’s the right choice for her children. Fine. But then she will call me up, ask how things are going, and then cut me off in the middle of my first sentence! “Just a sec, hon… Sweetie, did you finish your breakfast? I know you’re having fun, and I see you’re doing good things, but did you finish your breakfast? Let’s go look at your breakfast…. you didn’t finish your breakfast! Did you not like the toast with rose jelly? I like rose jelly, and you wanted to try the rose jelly… okay well let’s just set this aside” and on and on and ON until I’m rolling my eyes and mouthing “YOU called ME!” because I can’t even say that much to her – she’s not listening.

My point here is that I wish I’d said something about it when her children were younger, because now she really thinks that this is the normal way for conversations to go when you’re a parent. I’ve tried butting in with a simple, “do you just want to call back at a better time?” and that gets her attention back on me for a second or two (max) before she’s off “dealing with the kids” again. I have other friends with young ones and they don’t do this, assure me that I didn’t do this, etc. There have been a few opportunities to mention the problem to her, but she always brushes it off as me just not understanding or remembering what it was like to have little ones around – because I let it go so long and this is her “normal”.

Regarding the admin’s statement that OP should be grateful her brother is initiating calls: I don’t see that calling someone only to ignore them completely is any better than not calling them at all. I’d rather just not hear from my friend other than via email and chat than sit through endless calls in which I hear half of her conversation with Firstborn or Second, interrupted only by her murmured asides to me about why this conversation is happening (as if I care). It’s rude to call someone when you don’t have the time and attention to devote to actually talking to them – you don’t call to catch up when you’re rushing to get ready for work, right? Same principle.

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yokozbornak June 17, 2013 at 8:30 am

I agree with the Admin. It sounds like your brother loves you and wants you to feel connected to his son. I would let it go. Yes, it may be frustrating, but it the grand scheme of things it’s not a big deal. You can also try calling your brother after your nephew is in bed. That way you would have his undivided attention.

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o_gal June 17, 2013 at 8:35 am

I could be related to the OP :-) I have a similar situation where I make phone calls to my Mom (usually about once a week or two weeks). The situation is getting better now but for a long time (years!), every phone call, after the perfunctory greetings were made, was a long monologue about my brother, his twin boys, my brother, the twins, more about the twins, some more about my brother, then more about the twins, my brother, the twins, the twins, and by the way, here’s some news about the twins. I couldnt’ get a word in, and many times, the monologue would end with her saying “well, that’s about all so I guess I’ll talk to you next week.”. And all I could say that point was “bye”. And if I did manage to get a word in about us, particularly about DS, her reaction was usually “Oh.” And then more about my brother and the twins.

As I said, the situation is getting better as the twins get older. And maybe my Dad has clued her in to what she sounds like on the phone. So as the Dame suggested, just wait a little bit and things will probably change.

But I do disagree a little bit with the admonition that the OP should be grateful that he’s calling her, that some people don’t have anyone calling them. Every situation is unique and she should not be made to feel guilty or ashamed because she isn’t enjoying these phone calls.

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BeachMum June 17, 2013 at 8:39 am

My SIL used to do this. I actually would say to her, “You guys seems really busy right now. How about you call me when you can talk.” She did get annoyed a few times, but, eventually, she got better about it. Her kids are now nine and 11 and she still does it sometimes and I still hang up (politely). I feel no need to be on the phone, listening to her have a conversation with her children, even if it’s about stuff that involves me.

BTW, I have children and have tried to teach them not to interrupt when I’m on the phone. If they really need me, I apologize to the person on the other line, quickly deal with the issue and, after the call is over, remind the child that I don’t want to be interrupted while on the phone unless it’s really very important and can’t wait.

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Huh June 17, 2013 at 8:45 am

I don’t know what it is about a parent being on the phone that is a siren call to children to have to talk to you IMMEDIATELY. When mine were that age, and a bit older, I would try to call my best friend after they were in bed asleep because if I tried to talk to her any other time, I would get interrupted or have to be half talking to them the whole time. I’m sure it annoyed her, because frankly, it annoyed me! Eventually they got older so now I can say, “I’m on the phone!” Now my best friend has a young child and it’s reversed, it’s her calling when she’s asleep or having half a conversation with me and the other half with her.

So it’s probably only going to last while he’s young like this and it’s one of those things you’re going to have to bear for now.

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Cat June 17, 2013 at 9:28 am

Seems to me that, at age two, little Bryan probably has a nap time and he is also probably put to bed rather early. I’d find out when he is likely to be asleep and call then.
I would not put money on this behavior ending soon. Bryan is going to begin to talk. Sis may find herself in a situation where, “Hi, it’s your sister…” is met with, “Bryan, your aunt’s on the phone. Come talk to your auntie.” and then you will be left to entertain litttle Bryan rather than talking to your brother.
I had a friend who went through a phase of having his nine year old son call me to tell me what his Dad wanted. If I wanted to discuss it, sonny was at a total loss. I finally had to tell my friend that, if I wanted to talk to his son, I would have said so. If he had something to say to me, I expected him to say it himself.

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Mer June 17, 2013 at 9:56 am

I wonder if it would help to try to “hijack” the conversation from the beginning with something important. I assume you recognise the number, so when your brother calls, start immediately with happy “Brother! So nice of you to call! I was just about to call you about this . Would you tell me what you think about this?” I wonder if this would derail the conversation from the instantBryan. If it would, of course, later in the discussion be polite to ask how they/Bryan are even if it might end up to baby talk again.

The optimist in me hopes that after few different kind of phone calls a new culture is formed between you and your brother. The pessimist however … :D

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Mer June 17, 2013 at 9:59 am

Addition to my last post: I was trying to say: “Brother! So nice of you to call! I was just about to call you about this Important Matter…” but I used stubidly tags to mark it as a “fill in here something suitable” and I think that part was erased from the post.

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Ergala June 17, 2013 at 10:02 am

I have the opposite issue. When I talk to family I give them a quick play by play of my kiddos and then I want what we call in our home “Tall Talk”….i.e. nothing that involves Bob the Builder, Dora or Cheerios. I love my children, I love them more than anything. HOWEVER I spend 24 hours a day with them as a stay at home mom and when I call someone I am calling to have a chat with another adult. But my family wants to know every single thing the kids have done and want to do during summer vacation. They are 3 and 7, it’s pretty simple really. One of my family members asked me if I even like my kids since I don’t talk about them constantly. Um I love my children, but my whole world does not revolve around them. I have my own interests and likes and I am trying to foster them. If I center every single aspect of my life around them what will I do when they turn 18 and leave for college?

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Angel June 17, 2013 at 10:09 am

On the one hand I agree with admin and think that this is a phase that will end, on the other hand though, what if it doesn’t? Two is old enough to start training the kid to know–I am on the phone–otherwise occupied, you can wait for 5 minutes. Maybe they won’t get it right away but usually by 3 they are old enough to be reasoned with and if you lay the groundwork early, you won’t have a kid who dominates every social interaction/phone conversation you have. My kids are 5 and 7 and while I still remind them every once in a while, usually they know that if I am in the middle of talking that it’s not polite to interrupt. Because they wouldn’t want it done to them.

But, at 2 the kid probably still naps or goes to bed early. Therefore I suggest to the OP that if she wants to talk to her brother she call at one of those times. If that is still inconvenient for him then hey, at least she tried. For something like this I don’t think she should give up on contact with her brother and his family–it might change over time and then she might miss out on her nephew’s toddler years. They go by quickly and you can’t get them back.

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Mae June 17, 2013 at 10:37 am

I agree with most of the comments that brother is being rude. I have kids (they are teenagers now), I know what they do and sometimes, you have no choice but to deal with them while you are on the phone. However, at age 2, Bryan should be able to entertain himself for few minutes so that brother and sister can talk. Calling during naptime or after Bryan is put to bed may be helpful at this age.

I also agree with WildIrishRose- if Bryan is dominating the brothers attention now, even during phone calls, it is not likely to get much better as Bryan gets older. At least until Bryan is a teenager and never wants to talk to his parents! :)

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Gena June 17, 2013 at 10:51 am

I have a friend that does something similar, only it’s with her DH. I’m on the phone with friend, and it goes something like this:

ME: It rained really hard last night.
FRIEND: DH!! Goldie says it rained really hard last night. He says that’s too bad. So, did you have any damage.
ME: No. Did I mention that I bought new curtains for the kitchen?
FRIEND: DH – Goldie bought new curtains! For the kitchen! He wants to know what color

And so on. I try now to call when I think he’s most likely to be at work. I don’t know what I’m going to do when he retires!

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Roslyn June 17, 2013 at 11:08 am

Good Luck. My Husband has a brother that is just like this. He is famous for calling while he is sitting in drive thru with a car of misbehaving dogs and two screaming (break glass screaming) girls. He will call at home, with the same dogs and screaming girls and in the middle of a sentence he will start screaming at one or the other. Or when the wife is around they start screaming at each other, with the dogs and the girls in the background.

My husband hasn’t had a decent conversation with his only brother in at least 8 or 9 years. The girls are older, about 10 and 5 or 6-ish and he never calls to just talk without the chaos in the background.

They live quite a drive away, so visits are non-exsistent, but my husband has managed to visit when he is working in their area. However the visits aren’t much better, they are the same chaos live instead of over the phone.

You have to remember that this IS your brother’s life. You have opened a window through the telephone to his life, and that’s it. He may not have a quiet time to think and talk, and if he does he may be getting housework done or just sleeping.

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Annie June 17, 2013 at 11:19 am

My brother has a toddler also. When we talk on a Saturday afternoon, it’s generally about baby, and/or heavily baby interrupted. When we want to have an uninterrupted conversation–and we often do–we call each other after baby’s bedtime.

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Christine June 17, 2013 at 11:37 am

Sorry, Admin, I disagree with you on this one. Unless this parent is trained, as one would train a child, that his child is NOT the centre of the universe, this behaviour will continue. His child is two, not six months, and is capable of entertaining himself while his father has an adult conversation. In addition, it appears that it is the father who turns the conversation to talk of the child. When he does so, the OP should gently try to turn the conversation back to an adult topic. If her brother refuses to take his attention off the child, then she must end the call, telling him clearly why.

This sort of child-centric behaviour by a parent at this age leads only to parents who cannot separate themselves from their child in any social situation at any age. The OP needs to set her boundaries now.

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Lori June 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Just countering with a GOOD story of talking to people with kids. I frequently make a long drive to visit family and often use the time to chat with friends I don’t get to see. The last trip, I called my friend B, who has three young sons. He was just going out the door with two of them to run some errands and I said I could call back, but B said “Why don’t you come along?” He put the phone on speaker and I rode along with them. B sang songs with the boys, then I sang a song for them, then we all sang songs we all knew. I talked with B some, with the boys some…it was just like I was visiting them. I loved it.

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Jenn50 June 17, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Maybe your brother feels as though he’s obligated to stay connected, but feels awkward conversationally, or hates what you normally talk about, and is trying to fill the encounter. If you have a contentious history, maybe he feels that the nephew you jointly love is safe territory. Or maybe, he talks about nothing but Bryan because Bryan is his whole world right now. After a couple of minutes of “Bryan-dom, I’d try to change the subject, and if that doesn’t work, you could just say “Gee, it sounds like you have your hands full with Bryan right now, we can chat later. I wanted to tell you about my promotion/favourite band/gender reassignment surgery.” That way, you can subtly and politely remind him that there are other topics of interest, and that his constant verbal diarrhea about his son is derailing things.

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Snowy June 17, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Sorry, Admin, I disagree with you–at least in part. This is a bad habit on Dad’s part, where he’s teaching Bryan that Bryan is more important than Uncle or anything that Dad is doing, and that Bryan is always the center of attention. Basically, he’s teaching Bryan to work for Dad’s attention whenever Dad is trying to Skype.

Right now, it’s cute, because he’s two, and Dad is in love with his kid and a bit obsessed. But soon he’ll be four, and when it’s not as cute, he’ll start to do other things to get Dad’s attention during call time–make noise, interrupt, climb on Dad, beg, throw things.

Then he’s sixteen and doing the same damn thing (I have a friend who’s daughter did this–it wasn’t conscious, but she liked Mom’s attention and awould cut in whenever we were trying to talk). By that time, he may think he can do it to his friends–or his coworkers, too. (I know it sounds like a slipper slope argument, but when you instill in someone early that it’s okay for them to take over at times like that, it sticks with them.)

It’s a habit Dad needs to curb now, so he can teach his son proper etiquette later.

It’s also Dad telling Uncle, “I don’t really care about what you have to say. I just want you to be my kid’s vicarious audience, bro.”

Uncle needs to allow that Dad is going to fawn over Bryan sometimes, and that’s fine. Uncle needs to just give it up and live with it sometimes–and that’s fine. That’s part of an Uncle’s job, being that audience! But Dad needs to–at least half the time–tell Mom that he wants 20 minutes to talk to his brother alone, and then remove Bryan if Bryan shows up. (Barring emergencies or meltdowns, of course.) And if Dad keeps making Bryan the sole topic of conversation, even in absentia, Uncle needs to say, “Hey, Bro, look, I love your kid, but I want to hear about *you,* and share what’s going on with me. How about we have a thirty-minute kid-free conversation? I promise not to talk about my girlfriend/hobby/potato farm/whatever else would drive BroDad to boredom in exchange.”

tl;dr: Uncle needs to accept this is going to happen sometimes, but Dad needs to teach his kid good manners by setting them both up with good manners early on. Uncle and Dad need to establish some BroTime that is a kid-free zone, and then stick to it. There’ll be plenty of time for Bryan to dominate the conversation later.

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Shea June 17, 2013 at 1:26 pm

I must disagree with the admin. Sure, the kid’s only two and it’s entirely reasonable that sometimes a call would be interrupted because he needs something, but it’s not happening sometimes, it’s happening EVERY time. Not only that, but it sounds like the brother draws the child in and doesn’t even make an effort to have a “real” conversation with his sister. I understand that his kid is his life right now, but he needs to realize that the world at large does not, in fact, revolve around his offspring. If I were the OP, I’d feel ignored and disrespected too.

Maybe the OP could try to arrange a date to talk when the little boy will be out of the house for an hour or so, or after he’s gone to bed. Even just the occasional call that does not revolve around a toddler’s play and snack habits would probably go a long way toward getting the OP and her brother caught up on each other’s lives.

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KJ June 17, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Have a “list” of topics/things you’d like to tell your brother or discuss with him. Listen to the “Bryan talk” for a while, then politely segue into something you’d like to discuss — “Hey, did you see that double play last night?”

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Bluemyst June 17, 2013 at 2:34 pm

I respectfully disagree with the admin here. To me, the core issue is that OP’s brother monopolizes the conversation, regardless of the content. That is extremely rude in person and on the phone. A conversation means both parties participate and both parties speak and listen. The impression I get is that OP’s brother calls to info-dump about Bryan to OP.

I agree that it is up to OP’s brother to have clear boundaries and, when he is talking to OP, to carve out even a few minutes of non-Bryan-centric talk. I don’t think OP minds hearing about Bryan, but doesn’t want to have a “conversation” of “Bryan did X, Bryan did Y”

In my opinion, OP should text or e-mail his/her brother and explain how s/he is feeling about this.

And I think that, if someone is too busy to give the other person his/her full attention, that person is too busy to call. To me, that is basic phone etiquette. I think receiving no calls is far better than receiving Bryan-info-dump “calls.”

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hakayama June 17, 2013 at 3:14 pm

You have my full sympathy, dear LW, on having a brother whose whole life now centers around his child. That in itself is not censurable in itself, but he, and countless other probably first time parents, should not make their child the center of everyone else’s universe.
It’s just so sad that some of those parents insist on taking their infants to the most inappropriate places and events at the most inappropriate hours. I’m referring to situations where children are kept up well beyond what should be their normal bedtime, and wind up cranky and hungry because the food is not right for them.
LW: Please keep in mind MOST of the “advice” given. It makes a lot of sense, as in “where’s a will, there’s a way”. And, in the worst of cases, you’ll talk at Bryan’s graduation with a doctorate… ;-) Right now, your brother’s life is focused on the nuclear family he is part of. YOU, sad as it may be, most likely come as a distant, make that “very distant”, second.

To my “fans” ;-) : Please relax. I like children of all ages, and I’m also a mother, grandmother and great grandmother, OK? I’ve also spent quite a few lovely and loving years as a public high school teacher in NYC.

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mama2tnt June 17, 2013 at 3:23 pm

@Lia (#12) – thank you for saying this.

My oldest sister went out of her mind when I had my first one, and couldn’t stand to hear me talk about the baby (she’s infertile), even though it was the biggest thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life and I was trying to SHARE it with her (she was thousands of miles away).

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mama2tnt June 17, 2013 at 3:26 pm

@badkitty (#17) and @Gena (#28): my best friend does the behavior the letter writer complains about, only it’s with her PETS (she has no children).

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Snowy June 17, 2013 at 5:14 pm

>tl;dr: Uncle needs to accept this is going to happen sometimes, but Dad needs to teach his kid good manners by setting them both up with good manners early on.

Er, that should read: “but Dad needs to teach his good good manners by setting them both up with good HABITS early on.” Whoops.

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MichelleP June 17, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Uck, same issue with my sister. Now, this is partly my fault, because she runs a daycare center out of her home and I shouldn’t call her during the day. However, even when the kids aren’t there she’s doing fifty other things while I’m on the phone with her. I’ve gotten to the point where I just hang up. I don’t want to listen to her screaming at her kids directly in my ear.

I agree with Ergala. My sister made her daughter (and still does) the center of the universe. My niece is now 14 years old, nearly 15, and still can’t let any adult have a conversation on the phone.

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Marozia June 17, 2013 at 6:33 pm

@green123 & @NV are correct. Gently steer brother back to adult conversation each time he does this ‘Bryan did this….Bryan did that’ talk. Keep steering, until you get his full attention. Then, after adult discussions, you may talk about Bryan.

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SS June 17, 2013 at 6:47 pm

He’s your brother. You should be able to simply say “Will you please stop that and talk to me?!!” next time he derails the conversation. That should get your point across.

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kylynara June 17, 2013 at 9:35 pm

I have a 2 yo boy and there’s no reason this kid can’t play while dad talks on phone in the same room. He’s old enough to entertain himself for a bit with supervison. What I think I’d do is next time brother calls hijack the conversation. If you have to interrupt and talk over him a bit do it. Start by playing a long for a bit. “Hi Bryan! What did you do today?” “Oh, you went to the park. That’s wonderful. Did you play on the equipment?” “You swung on the swings? Do you like the swings?” I’m assuming brother is probably filling in answers for Bryan, just cut him off quickly with follow-up questions. He should soon get the feel and let you. After a few minutes, maybe about a quarter of an average call with him, steer the conversation around and ask, ” So what are you doing now Bryan?” or “What’s your favorite toy?” Get an answer, then “It’s been great talking to you, Bryan, but I need to talk to your daddy about some grownup stuff now, so can youdo that for a few minutes now. ” or use “play with that now.” Then I would explain to your brother how you feel much like you did in this letter. Say you love Bryan and it’s fun getting to talk to him, but you feel you never get to talk to Fred (or whatever your brother’s name is), and you’d really like to catch up with him now. Then ask about his work or something.

Make this a pattern for your calls. I suspect your brother will be willing once he knows how you feel, as long as you don’t get him defensive. You do have to be sincere in your excitement during your initial chat with Bryan. But I don’t get the impression that you mind catching up with Bryan, so much as you mind catching up with ONLY Bryan.

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Lisa too June 17, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Oh, the joy of people who think every kid is cute, everyonone SHOULD think children are cute (god forbid you confess you don’t think they are) and, most of all, that theirs is the cutie-cutest of them all! *shudder*
I’ve spent many a Christmas/birthday watching the one or 2 children around being the absolute and utter center of attention. Oooh look, Brian does a little dance! Cute. The first and even the second time…. Not the 10th. Ooooh look, Brian took your soda and is pouring it all over your couch. Hahaha. Couch is thirsty, eh, Brian? Every sentence interupted by a running commentary… Brians going to look at the doggies now, isn’t he? *yech* I can very much relate and am reading the answers here with interest. I haven’t found a way yet to stop the above behaviour, because I don’t know how to do it without coming across as rude and/or telling people how to raise their child -which I’d never do, since that seems to be THE most offensive thing you can do, ever, in the history of the world… WAY more offensive then unleashing a little brat on the world, it seems.

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Celia June 18, 2013 at 1:06 am

I’m a little of column a and a little of column b on this one.

I’d be irritated too. I guess for me, the assumption from your brother is that you don’t have anything else you’d prefer to be doing. So he initiates a call. You stop what you’re doing and take the call however your brother doesn’t really stop what he’s doing to talk to you. He probably thinks you would love to know all about Bryan’s growth and development – which you may do. I’m not sure I agree with Admin that you just have to grit your teeth because there have been other posts where people get distracted mid conversation and many on here say they’re being rude. I’m not sure that being family gives a get out of ehell free card (as the family board would attest to!). Also some people have no one calling them is right. But is a call that isn’t really to catch up but is in fact for them to continue conversations they’re having at their end worth having? I don’t know, that’s up to Op.

Having said that, Admin is right in that Bryan won’t be 2 forever so this isn’t likely to be a forever issue – well I’d hope not anyway. Unless it does become Bryan went to school/college/on a date/got a new job didn’t you Bryan!

Op perhaps if it’s frustrating, instead of you being on the receiving end and sitting there waiting perhaps you could say something like “Hey Brother, sounds like you and Bryan are having some great father/son time. How about you let me say goodnight to him and give me a call back later when Bryan has gone to bed”. Or initiate a call to them after Bryan’s bed time?

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NicoleK June 18, 2013 at 5:23 am

Why don’t you just change the subject? People talk about what’s going on in their lives, if it doesn’t interest you, then talk about what DOES interest you. Why be so passive?

“Hi brother, how’s it going?”
“Today I went with the pool with Junior!”
“Aw man, it’s raining here. I’m so sick of it. Hey, did you read that article about Syria?”

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Emmy June 18, 2013 at 7:56 am

I have to disagree with admin as well. While I do agree it is nice your brother calls you, he actually hasn’t had a conversation with you in over a year. If your brother called and only talked about himself, then disrupted the conversation to talk with a spouse, I doubt anybody would say “well at least he calls you”. Although the child is 2, only calling the OP when the child is present and only talking about or to him is distracting. I have a child who will be 2 next month so I know how time consuming and distracting they can be. However, I realize that nobody want to hear only about her all the time from me and make calls to friends and relatives while she is in bed or being minded by somebody else. (If I am on the phone and trying to actively take care of her, I cannot focus on a conversation). Although the child will not be 2 forever, it can be several years before he is not the focus of every phone conversation. Maybe the OP can suggest a good time for brother to call her would be after the child’s bed time and tell him that she hopes to catch up and have a nice adult conversation with him sometime soon.

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AMC June 18, 2013 at 7:58 am

One of my girlfriends was living in another state when she had her first kid. Because of the distance, we could only communicate via phone. And she got into this annoying habit of putting her child on the phone and making him talk to me even though he hadn’t yet developed much of a vocabulary. It was annoying, but I decided not to make an issue of it.
THEN I had my daughter, and I finally understood. For some reason, when it’s your kid, *everything* they do is amazing, even the mundane. And it’s easy to forget that others are not equally interested in how much your child loves eating peas.
My advice to OP is to try to change the subject to something non-kid related when Brother starts to slip into the baby talk. Example: “Bryan had so much fun playing in the park today! He just loves the duckies!” “Aww, how precious! So how are things at work?”
As Admin said, it won’t last forever. Even parents occasionally enjoy a break from the kid stuff in favor of conversation with other adults.

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