So. NM. Was it better. No, not particularly. Did she get to me? No, not particularly.
I'm getting to the point where I've pretty much emotionally detached from her. I don't feel this aching need for her to get me or understand me or validate me. I'm unwilling to accept any sort of "love" or "caring" from her, as I know it isn't real (or is fleeting). She doesn't work me up (as much) emotionally. Sure, she's still annoying as hell, but I'm don't get overworked and over raw around her. I've learned to LEAVE the scene when I can't take anymore (I disappeared for chunks of time over the weekend. She only came "looking" for me once. I did not allow her to amp up the drama.)
It's interesting watching her from a much more distance, unemotional place. She is. such. a. child. It's amazing to me the many ways this woman can bring things back to herself. I mention I'm not thrilled with my son's kindergarten teacher. "OH! Not like YOUR kindergarten teacher, huh!" She seems to take personal responsibility for my teacher, like she GIFTED the woman to me. She also did this with when I mentioned my sons doctors and how I was switching. She completely MISSED the points I was trying to make and never asked WHY I was switching or felt uneasy with the teacher. In the past, this would've made me feel invalidated and angry. But this time, shrug. I told her that I had little memory of either of these people, which annoyed her.
Every conversation turns around to what she would do, how she did it, or what it was like when I was a kid (because, apparently, I can't remember how SHE did things as a mom). Everything is said in a way that clues me in that she believes she's giving advice. Propping herself up. Patting herself on the back. I rarely begin conversations at all because she doesn't listen and will tune into her phone or the kids. This used to annoy me too, but now I just say "Are you listening?" When she nods and "ummm hummm" I say "no you're not". Then, I stop the conversation. Even if she tells me to continue. Nope, you had your chance. It gets tiring listening to her was poetic about herself, disguising it as conversation.
She also demands TONS of attention. She gets pissy and complains if the kids spend too much time with her husband. But then she gets pissy and complains when OS takes up "too much" of her attention. Or puts demands on her. Once, when the kids and I asked her to come outside and look at something, she purposely procrastinated. In the past, I would've fumed. This time, when OS complained that she wasn't coming, I said "Do you know the kids are waitng for you?" and then to my son "I guess she's not interested." She likes to be asked to do things and then to stall. I'll have to remember this in the future. She keeps bringing up people no one cares about and making huge announcements about what is going on (her coworker's daughter was getting married and NM was very involved in the drama, texting for updates and then expecting our rapt attention as she discussed it.) She kept bring up the same trivial bullshit over and over (SD! I'm so worried about the weather and we may not be able to camp out next weekend. She brought this up every day and stressed over the weather report. She made us go shopping for camping equipment. It would really be comical how she demands so much attention if it wasn't so annoying).
She's also profoundly negative. How she describes things, even when not intending to be a bitch, comes out pissy. For example, DH and stepdad were going to go somewhere and NM asked "Or will OS throw a fit because he can't go." It's the "throw a fit" part that gets me. It's an awful negative characterization by my standards. When we were leaving for OS's game, she came up and started nagging Stepdad (SD) , saying "Do you still have to brush your teeth?!? Well you better get going!!! We are leaving soon!!" Then she stood there patting herself on the back (out loud) for "taking the reins". She went on and on about how she had to lord over stepdad and keep him on track (which is untrue. SD is very considerate and (mostly) thoughtful (he has been known to pout) and always is ready on time. The whole situation was very emasculating for SD, in my opinion, and NM would not let it go. She gets this gleeful expression when she does stuff like this and thinks she's being 'strong" and "in charge" and hides it behind the fact that "he's being rude and inconsiderate of Jessie and DH". Lots and lots of shaming go on around her. I've learned to ignore her when she does this or walk away. Before she'd try and haul me into participating, but I ignore it. Interestingly, since I've begun to stand up to NM, my relationship with SD has improved. His much kinder, no longer snarks at me, and seems considerate and interested in me. (Side note, my father and I's relationship has also improved once I removed myself from all of the drama with my sister.) I assumed SD would attack me for taking on NM, but he seems to be grateful for it.
I also notice that NM requires CONSTANT validation. She forces people to agree with what she says. For example "I also do such and such, don't I SD, don't I!" It's not a question. Poor SD always just nods. It's like watching her use him as a mirror in real time. She says something and then forces "the mirror" to reflect it back by agreeing with her. I quit doing this too. I either ignore her questions, or give a contrary opinion. Not to piss her off, but because that's how I feel.
She also is quite contradictory, speaking out of both sides of her ass. In the midst of a conversation she said that she "likes having my kids grown and gone. I like my life and having it to myself. I don't want to go back to parenting and take care of kids all of the time." And then two seconds later she talked about how she would drop everything to care for her grandsons all of the time.
After the soccer game, NM knew I was upset. I decided to let her see how I was feeling. (I know TW, don't kill me.) I had no expectations of validation, gave no information that would make me vulnerable, but (factually) explained what bothers me and express the appropriate emotions with it. I'm sick and tired of either hiding my emotions or pretending it's OK. I know that this opens NM up with information, but I don't care. She already had the information and could clearly see what was going on. I expressed how ANGRY I was with MIL at the game. I didn't allow NM to comfort me (I pushed off all hugs she tried to give me. Fuck that. And some hug from NM wasn't going to wipe away my emotions. I actually think showing her my emotions bothers her. Another reason I don't mind not hiding them from her.)
The first incident the following day came when she brought up a family reunion she wants to plan with her FOO. This FOO of is VERY dysfunctional, not close and has rarely gotten together. Plus, NM wants NSIS to be there. She asked what I thought, all bubbly and excited. I said "good luck with that. Your family doesn't seem to be the "family reunion" type." (Plus, she's already told me that they were struggling to agree on doing it. No one wanted to take it on....because no one really wants to do it. I'm sure they think it sounds as uncomfortable and fraught with tension as I do.) This pissed NM off and she started arguing that my perceptions were wrong. Well, so be it. Then, she went on and on about the plans for it. I ignored it and finally turned my back. (I was making cupcakes at the time, and one batch came out completely wonky. The first ones were good, but the last few I'd completely messed up. I told DH you could see the evolution of the conversation in those cupcakes.) This pissed her off more and she bustled outside to make a phone call. I'm guessing to NSIS (who the fuck else would she call. She has no friends and has no one she needed to call. ) She never said who she was talking to, but was out there for an half an hour (she also used to do this, calling me when frustrated while visiting NSIS, so it's a habit for her). I'll admit, it pissed me off. She also used to have a habit of calling NSIS the second BEFORE she would walk into my home to visit. She would spend the first ten minutes of a visit with us describing me, my house, and everything to my sister before she would even greet me. I hated this. And you can't call her on it. She just says "aren't I allowed "me" time?!" When the kids complain she's on her phone instead of playing she says she's "tired". I told her last time that she always says how much she doesn't get to spend time with the kids, that it seems a shame to waste time she IS with the kids on her phone.
The next day, she cornered me as we all prepared to go out for a walk. She does this often to force "alone time" on me. She calls it "mother - daughter" time when my son asks where we were (almost implying my son is being obnoxious for asking it, like he's annoyed that I got NM's attention. Which maybe he is, he's six and likes to be played with. But she reacts as if he's doing something selfish and uncaring. Just another example of how she her reactions are skewed in a negative way that makes the other person feel shamed.)
She kept flitting around from topic to topic. First asking about my grandmother who is dying. I've avoided the topic in the past, but I know she knows now. I gave her the information I have: she's dying, I don't know when, I don't know of what type of cancer, and I don't know how she is (this is a whole other story). NM starts in on what my she told my sister to do. Starts pestering me about questions about my dad. I close off. She flits to another topic: my dad. Asks if he came to visit this year. I say no. She starts to give an opinion on my father, how he should take time off, how he should visit my sister (even though she visited him instead, the first time in SEVEN years. But of course he is expected to dance around my sister too), blah, blah. I've been down that road. I say "yes, I wish he visited more. But it's his loss and I can't force him to do more than he does." I show no emotion, I state the facts, and then I quit responding.
She says some more crap. Then she brings up her father, an alcoholic, asshole of a man who has is spoiled and has always expected his own way. He was a horrible father and a piss poor grandfather (he wasn't mean to us, but could care less. He's done some kind things for me in the past, but he's not, by any stretch, a good grandfather. I have few feelings towards him except mild kindness and duty. Note: not obligation, but duty.) She says that he brought up that he felt like a horrible dad. NM gets up on her soap box again (I really don't know how to explain this. She takes this odd, mature, superior tone where she acts as if she's schooling all of us. It's sort of like a lecture. I suppose with her family, she is imparting wisdom, but for me, it just seems ridiculous. ) She said she told grandfather "we got both good things from you and bad things dad. It wasn't all bad...." blah, blah. I appreciate that she's seeing him from a continuum, but I actually feel she's glossing over the bad things. Like she's "balancing" things out. I do not believe that good things, balance out bad. I'm finally able to see that my childhood DID have good things in it, that I took lessons from both my mother and father, that she wasn't awful, all the time. But I certainly wouldn't level it out and say that it was OK. And it seemed she was saying this all to seem superior rather than any real understanding of what she was saying. And I couldn't stop myself. Matter of factually, I said "but he wasn't a good dad. You maybe have gotten a good work ethic from him, but he was a horrible father." She sputtered. "And he was a piss poor grandfather." She sputtered again, regrouped and started in on her lecture again about how to "properly view parents in good and bad light" and how my grandfather blames my grandmother for all the "bad" traits in the kids. I kept all emotion out of my voice and again said "he was not a good grandfather and she was not a good grandmother." She stopped and then, like a switch, agreed with me. But not because she got it, but because it gave her a moment to vent about him. I said "he is a spoiled, selfish man who only focuses on himself. " And then there she was back to the childish NM, bitching about how awful he is, how horrible he was, how spoiled he is. It was rather crazy to watch in real time.
And then DH and SD and the kids came back. She lost "her moment". I felt SO DAMN PROUD OF MYSELF. I dislike these moments of being trapped by her, but at least I am no longer afraid of them. She can't drag me down. I didn't respond emotionally and was able to think about things before I responded. I also didn't allow her to feed me a lot of bullshit. I spoke my truth.
Also, when I talked to her about MILs behavior at the party (NM FORCES me to drive with her. She loads all of the party shit in her car before I have a chance, and when I, repeatedly tell her no, she argues. Last time, I was able to get my way, this time I could care less.) She told me that all the things I'd told her about MIL (I gave her very factual, concrete examples of her behavior. In the past, I've fluttered around my feelings and have been unable to say WHY MIL bothers me so much.) NM said "maybe I shouldn't be so nice to her tomorrow." (I may have mentioned that NM and MIL like to pretend that they are going to be friends.) In the car going to the party, she told me how much it bothered her to hear I'm treated like that. (Which is crap, she's heard it all before. And while it bothers her and she's said it bothered her before, she still makes 'nicey-nicey' with MIL.) So, at first, NM goes on attack mode with them. Purposely trying to be snarky to them. Then, she tells me at one point MIL was annoying her and going off, so IN ORDER TO TRY AND DEFLECT THAT, NM pulled out her phone and started showing MIL pictures of an accomplishment in which she's being publically recognized (and lord, was I sick of hearing about that). I thought it so messed up that NM's solution to MILs arrogance and intrusions and selfishness is just to talk about herself. I guess she fights "fire" with "fire". MIL, for her part, tolerates NM and politely nods and smiles her phony smile (I wish I could describe it. It's a smile, but there is a hint of smirk in it, along with panic and anxiety and contempt).
I find it interesting to watch how NMs reaction to them treating me badly is to talk about how it upsets HER. But then when she can support me, she doesn't (I did tell MIL she was wrong about the theme of my son's party. NM told MIL she had been calling it the same thing. Thanks for the support NM!) She kept trying to pull me in for a hug, which I resisted. Her hugs feel like a cheap band aid and method for her to feel like she's doing something. She said "it's OK to accept a hug." Um, nope. It's not, from you NM. Because that puts me in a vulnerable position. I can speak my truth, but I will not accept her compassion, as that puts me at risk of being hurt. She offers no verbal support. She offers no validation. She offers lots of "you should just do this". She clearly has no ability to really support someone. I'm glad I did it. I don't worry about retribution. I didn't feel vulnerable to her. Will she use this? Most likely. But I want her to know that she, NSIS, and everyone else aren't the only ones who are dealing with things and working through life.
Other than that, she pulled a couple messed up things with the kids. She brings piles of presents. And she always gives gifts of the "theme" (for example dinosaurs) to the kid who is less interested in that. (So, for example, she'll give some dinosaur stuff to OS - who is very interested - and more to his brother. She feels that "it's not fair for OS" to get all of that stuff -like he's "hogging" the interest or something. Again, assigning negative intentions to harmless behaviors.) This time, when my boys protested in front of her the unfairness (she also managed not to get right something I very specifically told her was necessary to get a specific toy. She asks for tons of ideas but always fucks up one or two. This isn't due to an accident.) I let them. Before, I would've stressed out about her thinking my kids are ungrateful. She's going to think that regardless. So, I let them say how they felt. I reminded my kids later that "Grandma struggles with what is fair and doesn't understand that. I would hope that you would express gratitude, but your feelings are valid and I understand why you would feel that way. And you are always able to tell me how you feel." It pisses me off she disguises these little jabs in presents.
My OS also confronted her for calling him a brat. He said (to DH and me) "Hey mom. We were playing and (little brother) wanted something I didn't want to give him. I heard grandma tell LB that I was being a brat, but she said she called me a (and damn, I can't remember what the word was but it was something that sounded like brat but was less innocuous). NM immediately argued that she was right. And then when she knew she'd been caught and I repeatedly told OS that that was NOT OK. And that Grandma -and everyone -should refrain from calling names. And that I understood why that would bother him. Then she tried to tell me that "brat" wasn't a big deal (she and SD come from people that think calling kids "turds" "brats" "spoiled" or "babies" is OK. MIL and FIL also feel that way. I know some people feel it's not a big deal, but I DO.) I immediately told her YES, it is, don't do it again. I know it sucks -and some people will have judgement- that I allow her around my kids when she says/does this shit. But I am proud that I've taught my sons to stand up, to confront, to call them on the bullshit and that I will support them in that. That I will protect them from that as best I can. (Also, NM is off babysitting duty. She is rarely allowed alone around my kids.) I'm trying to do the best I can (DH insists kids have access to their grandparents and that they will resent me for keeping them from their grandparents. And OS actually really loves NM and likes her to come. So, I sometimes feel stuck. Plus, I can't protect them from every narcissist out there, so I hope this teaches them some tools.) But maybe that's all rationalization and excuses.
So, that's why I called a therapist today. I'm overwhelmed at talking to someone. I feel afraid, for some reason. I worry she will not believe me. I spoke to her, briefly on the phone today. When I said that both my mother and MIL are narcissists she, in disbelief said "BOTH of them?!" I said yup. She quickly regrouped and said "well, you know, that isn't actually that surprising. I can see how that happened." Is that a good sign or a bad sign? I hyperventilated for an hour after making the appointment, pacing and teary-eyed. I'm looking forward to having outside perspective, but I'm terrified of being told I'm wrong. And that it is all me....