As we left the movie theater, I stated that I had really liked the movie. "You couldn't have liked that movie. It was very depressing. It didn't have a positive message." Well, I explained, I didn't need a "positive message" to enjoy a movie. Sometimes, seeing the underside of life brought interesting thoughts for me to ponder. I enjoyed thinking of things from all angles, I stated. And besides, the movie (a later Oscar winner), was well written, beautifully filmed, and entertaining. And so it went, as I tried to explain why I had a right to like the movie, as she argued that I couldn't have liked the movie. Because she hadn't liked the movie, it simply was a fact that it was a movie unworthy of liking. Finally, she took the stance that, when I was her age (60), I would see the error of my ways and not like trivial things like this movie and choose to only have positive influences in my life. I questioned my Dad. Did he like the movie (as he was also close to 60)? Well, yes he did. It changed her mind not at all. I simply was wrong for disagreeing with her opinion.
This would become a defining theme in my adult relationship with my stepmother (SM). Her way was the "right way", the only way, and any differentiation of that was wrong. She had met my Dad when I was in my last year of high school. I had met her when I was 18. They lived two states away, and so I saw her, on average, once a year. She really knew nothing of me, but she knew what was best for me. My sister got the worst of it, as she lived with them for quite awhile. It was a chaotic, stressful time for them all. And instead of helping my dad and sister get along, she inserted herself, tried to control it all, and generally drove them apart. She refused to allow them a relationship that didn't involve her, and it ultimately separated them as my sister felt betrayed that dad didn't defend her more.
SM has three boys of her own. She was a single mom for most of her life after an abusive relationship. She is extremely enmeshed with them, even as they are married. They call her constantly, seek her advice on everything, and she doesn't allow them to make decisions without her input. She would budget her grown, married son's money every month; going through their bills, determining how much they could spend. She "requested" that everyone spend all holidays together. All her kids and all their in-laws. It never went well (as you can imagine.) She disliked DIL's mother (another overly enmeshed mother) and they fought over turf. She rarely has a nice thing to say about people and she is very black and white in her judgements. She also has pushed for everyone to stay around her city.
Regardless, I rarely had too many problems with her. She would offer her advice when we visited. Offer up her opinion, but I could easily ignore her, as we saw her so rarely. She would come to my home and make efforts to "teach" me how to be a grown up (despite me already being one, and functioning just fine the other 51 weeks of the year.) One Christmas, she bugged me to help. I finally asked her to complete the gravy, so I could finish up all the other last minute prep. She proceeding to demand my attention as she "taught" me how to make gravy, as I ran around the kitchen trying to do everything else. Dad asked me if I had known how to make gravy. I explained I did. He said nothing more about it. She announced that she was going to "make herself at home". Well, I like people to be comfortable in my home. But what she meant was, she was going to treat my home as if it really was her home. Helping herself to anything she wanted, commandeering the washing machine, going into any cupboard she felt necessary, taking apart old family albums to "make copies at home", and ripping apart my carefully organized scrap book of recipes to copy them onto my fancy, expensive stationary (if she'd just asked, I have a ton of normal notebooks to use.)
When I had my son, all hell broke loose. They arrived a week and a half after my c-section to "help". But she meant "to teach you how to be a mom". She preached, she pushed, she scolded. She and my father argued that because she had raised 3 sons, that I needed her advice. They didn't ask what I knew, they didn't care if my opinion was different. Any attempt to do what I thought was best was met with anger at my being stubborn and not doing what was best for the baby. She insisted that I use a pacifier. She snapped that the baby was nursing too much, using me as comfort. I argued that he was a week and a half old, we were attempting to get off to a good start, it gave me a chance to sit down, I didn't mind nursing, and that really, every two and a half hours was not that much. I finally hid the pacifiers from her as she kept stuffing them down his throat. When I came home from a half hour errand run, I found her rummaging through my bedroom looking for the pacifiers. He was "about" to cry, she wanted to soothe him. She knew best, after all.
She wanted to do the cooking, again "to teach me". But I have been cooking since I was 13. And although I would've loved someone to cook, I was tired of the huge messes she made and left after her cooking sessions. So, I had food prepared ahead of time and frozen. I had it all done. She insisted she could help. So, one day, I asked for help. I said we needed to pull the carrots up from the garden, clean them, and chop the vegetables. Well, she needed to have her iced tea first. She sat on her ass as I, fresh incision in my abdomen, bent over the garden, pulled up the vegetables, washed them off with a hose, cleaned them further inside and finally chopped them all up. Only as I finished up, did she also finish her tea and come inside. God forbid she had to do things my way on my terms.
She left my house complaining to everyone who would listen how much of a spoiled brat I was. I wouldn't listen to reason. How I was harming my kid. How I didn't respect that he wasn't "my baby" but the "family's baby". She didn't care that I had gotten different advice from my pediatrician. She didn't care that my mom and MIL had different advice. I was the bitch for not listening to her (and her decades old advice.)
Things continued to get worse. She declared herself a cutesy grandmother name that I hated. She had asked me about it and I had told her that we were calling all the grandmother's the same thing (to avoid jealousy and such). She didn't care. Her DIL had picked this name and she expected me to use this childish name that I hate. She nitpicks. She finds fault. She helps herself to my home in ways that push boundaries. When they visited two days after we moved into a new home, despite seeing the unpacked boxes in my garage, she constantly commented on the things I needed to provide a better guest experience. All of the things I had but were unpacked. I felt she was lucky to have a bed. She always has critical judgments, always has a damn opinion. ON EVERYTHING. From what we serve, to what I eat (she claims I'm unhealthy, despite my weight being normal and hers being very much overweight), to how meals are prepared, to how we raise my son, the sleep he gets, the way I do laundry. Everything is up for discussion, and my refusal to follow her opinions is MY personal flaw. She has convinced my dad, somehow, that my kids are not as developed as her grandkids and he eats up her advice like it's law (which totally confuses me since he's not that type of person to just go with one person's thoughts). She's slow and lumbering and makes people wait on her. She can never be ready on time. She requires 500 trips to the store to get things when she's here. She and Dad call me anal and over organized. They resent that I ask them to accommodate my kids. Two of the last three times they've come here, they've arrived at 11:00 at night, despite the fact that I had a VERY newborn baby and was very short on sleep (and my husband had to work the next day). And it's because they decide to go out to breakfast with relatives, or couldn't leave before 1 pm. They have had little consideration or empathy for the fact that the last three visits have been at the three of the most stressful, difficult times for my family. They make assumptions and judgments based on what they see during those visits, never taking into consideration that those were atypical times in our life, and often, things are different when you have house guests. I always feel like I'm under inspection.
So, Dad called the other night and announced they wanted to visit...soon. They couldn't arrange things before now, and want to come at one of the busiest times in our summer. I would love for just Dad to come, as he actually, is pretty easy going, but that won't happen. And he doesn't realize how stressed she makes me. I really want the boys to see the grandfather. And if it doesn't happen now, it won't happen for another year. I would like to see my Dad. I actually enjoy him. I just wish he'd leave her behind.