So, I survived the party weekend. I'll try to keep this brief, but you know me. A bit too wordy.
When NM and Step father (SF, from now on) arrived, it was as uncomfortable as usual. Several years ago, when I would travel the six hours to NM's home, she would DEMAND hourly texts as to where we were. It use to annoy me to no end, so I started stretching them out more and more. I felt a text saying when I was leaving and when we were close was sufficient. NM didn't and it pissed her off. So, she started refusing to text me at all. It became a game of "surprise" hoping to catch me off guard. Several times she even showed up and went to the BACK of my home to look in the windows.
So, now, we play the game of "when is NM going to show up". I don't bother to ask because that feeds her NS. And she works it to her advantage and sets me up for more communication.
They arrived in late afternoon and, as usually, it's stiff and strange. We never really have the big family reception, everyone hugging and excited to see each other. Years ago, I would be tense and uptight. Now, she is sullen and moody. They are both quiet and often seem pissy.
I was in the middle of cooking when they walked in, so I couldn't give my full attention to NM and apologized and said I'd be with her in a minute. She said fine, but continued to pile things on the counter I was cooking on and trying to pull attention from me (I really couldn't stop what I was doing). And then, the moment I stopped and gave her my attention, she took off for the kids. She would wander back in on occasion and tell me something but then the minute I would start saying something, she would walk off. At one point, she was talking about her purse and struggling to find something in it. I had recently gotten a new bag and was showing it to her, saying how convenient it was because it had lots of organizing compartments and I could keep the kids stuff separate from mine and how excited I was. But as I looked up, I realized she was looking at her phone. I stopped talking MID SENTENCE. And guess what? She didn't even notice. She showed me the picture on her phone and then walked off.
The evening didn't get much better. I really do like to cook and entertain (but have been burnt out lately since most people I've had in my social circle take it for granted and don't reciprocate at all). But tonight, I had cooked homemade pasta sauce. I cooked down tomatoes and carrots and zucchini from my garden, simmering it all day. I gathered fresh vegetables from the garden and made an amazing salad. I made a special, separate sauce for my SF because of a dietary constraint. I worked all day and it was amazing. Not that you would've known it from NM and SF's reaction. Not a thank you. Not a "this is nice". Not a "this is good". Nothing. Not that I expected much. And I really didn't care. But it just goes to show how little they notice that I do for them.
NM, of course, talks a lot about herself. She (AGAIN) brings out her newest business venture (selling stuff at home parties crap). She's been trying to "sell" me (using me as a guinea pig) for awhile now. I just nod and say 'um hm". She likes to be an expert. She likes to give lessons. I just ignore it.
She spends a lot of time with the kids, so I'm left alone a lot to cook (and clean up. She does offer to help, but it's clear she doesn't really want to. And she's a pain, demanding "help" while she cleans, so it's easier if I just do it.) I always wonder what it must be like to have a mother who cooks for her kids or helps (my NM never did my laundry when I came home from college and rarely made "home cooked meals" to comfort her wayward college kid, like I heard other mothers did.)
The next morning it's a bit strained and uneasy. Nothing really has happened, but it's like there is some undercurrent in the air. She had wanted to go somewhere, DO something, in the morning. But trying to get the kids up, dressed, fed, and gather all of the party stuff left me feeling there was little time to do anything else. I can tell she's annoyed, but busies herself playing with the kids. I would imagine that this should be good enough. And by early afternoon, we are off to the party.
The party: Either I'm wising up and have better planning or they've all become easier to deal with. I'm guessing it's the former. Most of the party went off without a hitch. We had an hour of structured "kid activity" time, which left little room for socializing among the adults. I was a bit frustrated as one of my friends, Toby, just sat back and expected us to help his kid, despite being told that he needed to participate with him.
MIL arrived on time. But, as usual, with her, she has a million things to dole out (including some VERY ripe fruit swarming with fruit flies. I swear she just gathers shit to bring to us-often old and regifted.) And as usual, despite us trying to get the party going, she expects us to help her "off load" her stuff so she can calm down. Until then, she is a bit manic and antsy. I avoided her for most of the party. She did offer to help, but I didn't need her help and said so. She asked my son about activities that he clearly doesn't do (I'm not sure where the hell she heard that) but ignored it.
SIL was actually very helpful. I'm not dumb enough to buy that she did it to really help me. She can be, and has been in the past, very helpful. She's very skillful at knowing what needs to be done and doing it, without taking over. I did appreciate it and intend to tell her so. At one time, I liked being around her (mostly) although we weren't that close. But she's sneaky and untrustworthy and I know better than to get too close to her. But, I did appreciate it her helping me with the kids.
NM forced me to drive with her to the venue. DH took the kids to get the balloons and I went early to set up. NM has some weird resistance to me driving and NEVER lets me. This time I tried to bring my own car, but she backed her's in front of mine saying she wanted to have her own car. So, I was forced to drive with her. She drove HALF of the speed limit the whole way there. Despite me, repeatedly, telling her to speed up, she just meanders. I'm not sure why the hell she does this. She says she gets anxious in a different town (more reason to have me drive. I'm not a horribly driver) but I know she drives just fine (and often fast), so I'm not sure what the deal is.
On the ride there, we sat in silence. I had nothing to say to her. I've realized that I really don't enjoy spending time with my mother. She is often pompous and needing to be the "wise" mother who is handing out advice. I don't need her advice. I can no longer share my thoughts or feelings with her. She doesn't ask about my life or hobbies and when I try to share them with her, she zones out, talks over me, or walks off. Or she makes fun of me (when I tried to show her my sewing projects, she said "WELL, quite the little Suzy Home maker, aren't we?"). I can't ask her about people in her life, because she dislikes them all. I can't ask her about what is going on in her life, because there is nothing. She has no hobbies, no interests (maybe one), and is involved in nothing. I refuse to ask her about most people we know because she gossips or tells me negative things. It was a long fucking ride.
When we got there, she acted huffy because she decided to load two huge armfuls of stuff up and acted put out (I told her I was coming back for the stuff.) We got up to the room and she instantly just starts grabbing stuff and putting it where she wants to (not where I want it to go). I don't want to control it all, but she doesn't even know what I have. She doesn't ask how she can help, but just does what she likes. When I try to stop her, she acts offended. She thinks, as the mom, she just KNOWS how I like things.
The worst part was during the cake. I tried to set my son down next to it and asked the other kids crowding between him and the cake to move to the other side of it. I'm trying to get pictures, worried that my cupcake tower (which is wobbling) will crash and trying to move two very stubborn preschoolers around. I ask them to move (loudly) three times and then finally do it myself. I'm not sure where the hell the parents are. I've discovered that when I get upset or frustrated in these situations, I just put my head down and avoid eye contact. I don't know why I do this, and it bugs the hell out of me. Any thoughts? Anyway, I'm taking pictures of my kid with his cupcake, while two VERY angry and glaring children stare at me. I get the singing done and I suddenly have kids grabbing for things and demanding me to get them juice. I figure that my only job is my two kids and (LOUDLY) tell Toby that his kid needs something (thanks for that suggestion TW). Toby says "what does he need?" I say "I don't know, ask him."
Then, during presents, I have to ask my niece and nephew repeatedly to move back. I know they are excited and just want to be involved, but they are so close that I can't get pictures of my kid. They also keep grabbing at his presents trying to open them. My niece is almost 5, and considering I was a preschool teacher, I think that, although this might be normal behavior, it is behavior that needs to be corrected. It's rude and pushy to try and open another kid's gifts. I ask her to move back. I move her back. I ask her to move back. I, again, move her back. I'm feeling claustrophobic. Then, MIL hands my younger son a gift for him so that "he won't feel left out." I don't want my younger son to open a gift while my older son is opening his gifts. He's old enough to be able to focus on someone else for 10 minutes and (as the youngest child) is handling it all just fine. I put the gift aside, and I'm sure I look like a mean old shrew to her.
By this point, I'm flustered. I feel overwhelmed with the kids. I'm not understanding why the other parents aren't helping. Toby has a habit of letting me take over with his kid. He sits back and lets me feed him, get him stuff, and clean up after him. I'm getting sick of it. My SIL and BIL don't really believe in "rules" and like letting their children be more...um, "free"? I'm thinking, I'm too strict, I look like a harpy, I don't like having to correct other people's children, but I don't want my kid to have to share his presents or not get a chance to be in the spotlight with his cake. I'm wondering how I'm coming off to the other people. Do I look like a hard ass? This isn't the first time I've had to be the person in charge of the kids. And I don't like it. Am I wrong? Am I over reacting. I know I was frustrated and had less patience with the kids than I should've. But I felt under the pressure and like all eyes are staring on me.
So, I finish up the gifts and start packing up (we only had a half hour). I start packing up the food and my FIL complains. He is a grazer. He LOVES buffet food and will linger forever (he's also cheap, and will fill up on it and avoid a meal later). I tell him to load up another plate and then I'm packing it up. He's joking, and mostly nice about it, but I'm not in the mood.
I hustle everyone out the door, pack the kids up and alert MIL that we are leaving. She says goodbye to the boys in the car (as usual, she focuses mainly on my older son...that's another post thought).
NM is behind us with the gifts and decides to make a stop. She is gone for about an hour, but texts us to let us know where she is: buying a gun. Seriously. She has some paranoia that the world is changing and she fills unsafe driving by herself. So, she is getting a gun. OK. When we don't respond, she calls my husband who kind of laughs her "checking in" off. She later asks why he was so grumpy.
My son is waiting and waiting for his gifts. She has them all in the trunk of her car. But we wait. I'm getting frustrated, but he's handling it well, so I am doing OK.
She gets here and we get out the gifts and she doles out her million more presents to my kids. They are playing happily and it's well after dinner time, so I get up to start dinner. She had offered to take us out, but says nothing. When I go to start dinner, she says "Oh, is this what we are doing for dinner?" I say, well, it's about our only choice right now, as the kids need to eat. She appears annoyed that I mead the decision without talking to her.
I can feel her circling. She's been quiet and odd the whole time. DH heads outside with SF to do something and the kids follow them out. It's just her and I in the kitchen.
The first thing she asks is if my father is coming to visit. I haven't told her he is coming in two weeks. She is nosy and it's none of her business. And there she will have an attitude about it (although I never quite know why). Plus, whenever I've told her in the past that he is coming, she gets all offended and complains that he needs to go visit my sister too. (And as background, he does visit her, but not as often. They have a difficult relationship, and he doesn't particularly like going to visit her. He did offer to visit her during her "cancer" but she refused...she refused everyone. She also rarely visits my parents. She has visited my mom once in seven years. She has visited my father once in seven years; once she flew into his town but visited her abusive ex-boyfriend instead. She has come to my home, but often at NM's expense. NM always feels NSIS is getting the short end of the stick and is constantly taking up for her and demanding "equal" treatment. She also expects all of us (including extended family) to coddle her, as NM does, make excuses for her lack of reciprocation, make excuses for her period, and bend to NSis, despite NSis being in her 30s).
So, NM asks if my father is visiting (they have been divorced for 20 years). I say "yes". And she responds with "He really needs to go visit your sister!" in an exasperated tone. And there it is. I knew it was coming. NM had been hinting around NSis. Nsis, herself, had been hinting on FB (she rarely posts on FB) about visiting and my father's lack of visits (she said this to an odd, distant relative. NSis had been posting odd posts, period, which I imagine where meant as some sort of "message") NM had been detailing her recent visit to NSIS. I had nodded and um-hmm-ed but didn't say much . I said "that's good." when NM told me NSIS had had a "checkup" for her condition and it all looked good. I bet it did. I sidestepped NM telling me how my NSIS makes the dish I was, at that moment preparing, but telling NM how I liked to do it. NM changed the subject by cutting me off and saying "we all like to do it differently." Um, OK. So, NSIS's making of this dish is a story, but me telling you is boring you?
And when all that didn't work, she traps me by asking about my father's visit. I tell her that that is none of my business. That I don't know what his plans are. That he has offered to visit her in the past and she refused. I say it calmly and matter-of-factly. I tell her that it's between NSIS and my father, as they are both adults and that it doesn't have to do with how often he visits me. She is flustered and walks away and drops it.
She circles back. She loops in my grandmother (my father's mother) and I tell her that my grandmother is moving. She is surprised. She usually hits up my paternal cousin for information (she works with him) but hadn't gotten this information. I tell her that my father and I were discussing the move and how most of her belongings will be given away and if I wanted anything. I tell her that a sentimental piece of my grandmother's cookery was given to me. She gets sputter-y. "WHAT ABOUT NSIS? IS SOMEONE MAKING SURE SHE GETS SOMETHING?" I say, I don't know. That it's not between me. Again, I stay calm and collected. It's not my job to make sure NSIS gets anything. NSIS has rarely made any effort to keep in contact with my grandmother. She's, twice, had very upsetting confrontations with my grandmother. Even when grandma had a heart attack, NM was sputtering that my grandmother needed to call NSIS about NSIS's medical condition. It's always about NSIS.
I repeat to NM that it's not place. That I'm sure grandma has things for her, but I don't know and I haven't gotten involved.
NM is worked up now. (And the rest of this conversation gets fuzzy for me. I was too busy avoiding the pit falls to remember it all verbatim. I'll hit on the "highlights" with my thoughts in italics. And did I mention, I'm trying to cook dinner during this?)
NM is defending NSIS. She is making points about how NSIS is forgotten and "better" be remembered. I say that it's not my place. I tell her that my father and NSIS are adults and will need to work it out for themselves. NM says "well, I don't get in the middle either, but..." I cut her off. I am not getting in the middle of it, I repeat. Her relationship with my dad is not mine and doesn't effect mine.
NM starts in on how NSIS "misses me". I say nothing. She makes some remarks about how we can work it out. I tell NM that I'm not discussing NSIS with her. That NSIS, herself, asked me not to discuss her with our mother. I say that I will not discuss it with her. She keeps trying different angles. She tells me that she "knows everything that has happened between you two." "No. You don't." She takes on a superior tone, a smug tone, yes I do. I say, "no. you don't." I'll admit, she almost had me for a minute. I HATE when she tells me she knows me better than myself and that she knows everything that goes on. I tell her that, as she has never bothered to ask me about my feelings, has never heard my side of the story, has never bothered to listen when I have told her my side of the story, she CLEARLY, does not know "all of it".
Again, NM circles to another angle. "Well, I just hope the two of you can work it out someday. I just hope you can get back together. I know how it is..." and then relates the experience to her and my aunt, who have had periodic estrangements. I say "NSIS is not (aunt). Aunt is weird and difficult, but she is NO NSIS." NM smiles as if she's won a point, "I know how it is because of (aunt). But I am not perfect either." Her implication is that I'm not perfect either. That it's a mutual between me and NSIS, this estrangement. Ha.
"NSIS is not my aunt. NSIS is abusive and cruel and mean. NSIS lies and manipulates. NSIS takes money from my father and then uses it for alternative purposes. NSIS is not someone I want to be around anymore. And besides, NSIS knows perfectly well how to "resolve" this rift between us. I've told her, flatly, in an email how to do that." I still am cool, calm, and collected. I probably didn't need to say all I did about NSIS, but I really don't care. It's the truth, I wasn't slandering her, and I was speaking calmly. I repeat "NSIS had it all laid out for her in an email. I'm sure she's read the email to you, since you know everything" I say to NM. NM, generally surprised, says "what email?" I say "what email? Well, I guess you don't know everything then. Regardless, she knows what I need to move on in this relationship and she's chosen not to do it. She's chosen to try and buy me off with paltry peace offerings instead of making any real change. And I won't move forward without that."
NM's stumped for a moment. She then asks about the money from my father. I say yes, he gives her money (not really the best thing to say, but not something I think my father would care for her to know). The wheels are turning in NM's head. She tries offering excuses up for NSIS. I say, "Listen. It's none of my business. But the thing is, NSIS lies and is deceptive. I know this because the stories I hear from you and the stories I hear from dad, don't correlate at all. You both express COMPLETELY different accounts of things. Somebody isn't telling the truth. I believe NSIS lies to you and to dad, so you can not know the "whole truth". I'm will not be a part of that anymore. And I will not tolerate her abusive nature towards me, her manipulations, or her making me a part of deception."
NM again tries a new angle "Your father shouldn't discuss that with you." (HAHAHA. Did she really just accuse me of gossiping behind someone's back?) "You need to be careful. He brings you up to NSIS and then says that NSIS needs to discuss things with you." Well, that's just so convoluted I don't even know what to do with it. She's accusing my dad, who's as straight forward as they get, of gossiping. And frankly, aside from some basic "fact finding" we rarely discuss my sister, so I know he doesn't discuss me. And clearly, he tells NSIS to deal with me herself, so how is he gossiping again? All b.s.
Then NM tries to take my side when I repeat that, as NSIS is now, she is not healthy for me or my kids to be around . She feigns sympathy. Says that she always knew if she had to choose between her kids and her family, she'd choose her kids. Gee, thanks. But she has NEVER been in a situation like this. She agrees as I state that I do not want to expose my kids to NSIS's attention sucking behaviors that are often not child appropriate. That NSIS's scuz ball of a boyfriend is not welcome around my kids. I offer up a few examples of their inappropriate behavior around my kids. NM seems disturbed. When I make a few more statements, NM screws up her face, puffs out her cheeks, and closes one eye. She looks like a cartoon character as she makes her exaggerated facial expressions. She seems disturbed by what I'm saying, but I'm not sure why. I don't really care.
And then NM goes pathetic. She starts crying. She states NSIS is toxic and hard to be around. She says, dramatically, and with a pause, "That's why I ended up in the E.R. last fall." Oh, fuck me. I had forgotten that she told me about this before, and so I'm stunned for a minute. But I quickly regroup. Notice, she doesn't say WHAT the fuck she was in the E.R. for. This is clearly for dramatic purposes. "Why are you brining this up now, NM? Why not then?" Well, NM realizes she's getting beat. She drops that line (it's pathetic anyway. I remembered afterward she was in the hospital for a panic attack and got prescribed tranquilizers. Good for her. I suggested at the time she get some fucking therapy. I would do the same now, but she knew this new tactic wasn't working.)
SO, then she tries "I just want to go back to the way our relationship was." Sobs. Ick. And really, what fucking relationship? The one where I had anxiety and panic attacks (oh, yeah, NM, I've had those too! And a gun to my head! So, guess what, we all have our mental health issues at time. Get some help, I have.) The relationship in which you dominated and controlled it all, demanding endless amounts of NS that was never enough? Where you devalued and degraded me and accepted nothing I did as good enough? Where I tried to be the perfect daughter and you shit on all attempts, and instead focused all your attention on NSIS? Where you forced me to hand hold you and parent NSIS and made me fucking ill? Yeah, let's go back to that. "NM. I call and text and email as much as I can. Contact is hard on the phone with the kids, but I am in contact with you several times a week." "I know." she sobs "things change. I know it's hard. I've been there and been busy...and someday you'll be where I am." Where is that, NM? Alone and desperate? No, I won't. Because I won't demand that my kids be my whole fucking life. I won't be such an asshole that they won't want to be around me. And if I am, than I'm sure I'll figure something to do with myself instead of whining and crying that no one loves me. I despise that she threatens me like that: beware, someday, being a bitch to your mom will leave you alone too!
Then, NM ask for a hug. I fucking recoil. NO. FUCKING. WAY. I don't want a fucking hug. And what fucking good would that do anyway. She's on top of me, telling me how proud she fucking is of me and how much she loves me. Frankly, I don't give a shit how proud she is of me. It means NOTHING to me. I walk away, and DH walks in. Thank god.
He's in and out, but I tell him to come back I need his help. He says he'll be right back in (he can tell something's up). She tries a bit more shit (there is more to this confrontation, but I can't remember it all). I tell her I'm done talking about it. I walk away, again, from another hug. I tell her again that NSIS is abusive and name calling. She says "don't let her do that to you." I say, "I don't. That's why we are in the situation we are in." Game. Set. Match. I win.
DH walks in and NM makes a big show about how he's "the best son-in-law". Ick. "I'm not just saying this, Jessie!" OK.
We get through dinner and she acts like nothing happened. And then has the balls to ask me if I'm having another kids...because SHE wants me to.
Sigh. She's never going to change.
But I have. I felt fucking awesome. She NEVER rattled me. She NEVER baited me or got me to respond. I remained in control and strong. It bothered me. It made me sad. It certainly pissed me off, but she didn't draw me into a drama match. And I finished fucking dinner. And it was good.
Afterwards, I was processing it. I realized she never once seemed concerned about how it was effecting me. She didn't even ask for my feelings. She was only concerned about her and NSIS. What they needed, who was screwing them, how life sucks for them. Well, too damn bad. I'm done with that shit. It was amazing how clearly she fell into the narc patterns. How easy it was to see them coming. How little they stung. Do I just not care anymore? I'm sure there will be some backlash to this. I'm sure that she will come at me again. But I'm not fucking afraid of her anymore.
A couple of other things, mainly just to vent. This woman has serious boundary issues. DH was on the phone. Instead of excusing herself, she just listened in. I tried to get her to leave but she just "hung around" and, clearly, listened. When a neighbor came to the door, she had to come around and peer over DH's shoulder. She invited my son to climb into bed with her in the morning. This bugged me and he was instructed to not do it again.
She relishes the role of "older and wiser" with the kids. She forces "teaching" moments on them, most of the time, not even knowing what she was doing. She kept forcing DS to listen as she "instructed" the appropriate way to line up bowling pins. He couldn't have cared less and told her, repeatedly, that he just wanted to play. I told her that she was sucking all of the fun out of it. She didn't care and just kept going on. He finally walked away. This annoys the hell out of me, as I feel she is taking advantage of a "captive" audience to appear as the great teacher. Which she's not. She also sets DS up, by purposely buying toys for my other son of DS's interests. And when he suggested a way they could play together with it, she jumped on the chance to chastise him. I nipped that shit in the bud immediately.
She used several opportunities to put me down to DH, by acting like she "sympathized" with him in my treatment of him. I was teasing him because he called something a funny combination name that was a completely different word, but similar sounding. DH does not have an insecurity about his intellect, so me correcting him and teasing him doesn't bother him. NM does have an insecurity about being "dumb" and it does bother NM if I correct her (although she often ASKS me to correct her and I'm always kind. Damn double bind.). So, she says "don't worry, DH. She does that to me too." Yeah, well, fuck off.
NM feels that everything that goes on should be run by her, and if she doesn't understand she expects an explanation. But she doesn't ask for one, she states something in a weird way, like I'm some sort of freak for what I just said. It's hard to explain. But here's an example. One evening, I needed a break, so I said I was going to get the mail. I really don't need to tell her where I'm going anyway, but she watches me (and accounts for me) like a hawk. I snuck off to email Kara during the ordeal and was only gone five minutes before I hear NM shrieking my name. Geez. Anyway, I say I'm going to get the mail. "THE MAIL?!?" NM says, screwing up her face and raising her voice at the end. Another time, DH reminded me to bring ketchup. She says, in the same raised voice and odd questioning way "KETCHUP?!?" I say, yay, ketchup. She repeats "KETCHUP?!?" I say, yay, for the party. Two can play this fucking game. If you can't just say "what do you need ketchup for?" then I can't answer you. Finally, DH breaks in and tells her, but I figure if she's going to demand answers for questions she hasn't asked, she can kiss my ass.
So, there you are folks. The last morning was tense. NM did make some comments about coming again soon to watch DS play sports. I let it go. Step father gave me an extra long hug and was more than kind to me when leaving. I felt it was sincere but I wondered why. He and I have always been at a distance...until I started standing up for myself. He seems to like me more now. NM hugged me lamely goodbye. Nothing was resolved and I don't expect it to be. This is how it has always been and how it always will be.
I do worry about my son. He loves her and ask for her a lot. She is fun for him. She can be silly and goofy and plays a lot with him. She gives him a lot of attention. But she's fucking dangerous. I know, NC would be best. But it's just not possible right now. So, I hope I can help him navigate her and teach him how to deal with her. I've already started. And we work on it. And he already notices a lot (which I capitalize on when I can). I guess we'll just take one step at a time. And if it gets worse, I know where the exit sign is.
Thanks for reading, folks. And thanks for all of the support. Sneaking in and finding emails and loving concern sustained me through the weekend. It all meant more to me than you'll know. Thanks, Jessie.