Releasing the past in order to find myself

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Another Long Weekend

When my mother came for my son's birthday in May, it ended horribly.  She picked fights with me until I final stood up to her and stopped her.   I told her that if she wanted any kind of relationship with me, she needed to stop condescending me and treat me as an adult.  She even tried to rope my husband into the situation, telling him (after I left the room but could still her here) that what I was "doing wasn't right".  I'm assuming "what (I) was doing" was being NC with my sister and that most of the reason she was picking the fight with me was so that she could yell at me about being NC with my (forever-in-chaos) sister.  I'm not so sure she really cares that I'm NC with my sister, other than dealing with my sisters drama falls mostly on her.  Oh, and it looks bad.  Oh, and it probably leaves her at a disadvantage when trying to triangulate.  Among other things.
After she left, she "reached out" to me several times trying to get me to mend the relationship to "what it used to be".  (She clearly is trying to label our relationship as good "before", but she knows damn well, it's never been good.  I just kept myself quite and never fought back, so it was "good" for her.  Not me.)  I finally responded that our relationship needed some serious work and that it would take time and effort.  She agreed.  And then I didn't hear from her again for three months (except once, when she caught wind that I was on vacation and demanded to know where I was).  She started playing games again with me about a month ago.  NM is a very tit for tat kind of person, so because she believes I am withholding or ignoring her or not "reaching out", she behaves the same way to me.  So, she would ask me questions and then not respond for awhile.  She pulled out a fabricated story that she uses every. single. time, she comes to visit.  She demands to know what the plans are, as she claims that work is "so busy" (and she's always about to be "let go" so she has to be careful.  She's worked for the same company for 35 years) and that "other coworkers are looking to take time off".  You'd think she'd remember the bullshit she tells me every time, but no.  Anyway, she went back and forth, telling me she would get a hotel (which I had hoped) but then asked at the last moment to stay here.
Now, before anyone criticizes, I know, I know.  I know that was a bad decision to allow her here.  I know I should (probably) be NC.  I know all of the things I should be doing.  However, I did it because my kids already know something is up.  They also know that grandma has been less than welcome and we've had very limited contact.  They have been upset by this.  They also miss my step father, who is (mostly) a very nice man and grandfather to them.   I feel that I have gone into extreme LC with her and that I could handle a day and a half of her being here, especially with SD (step dad) here (he tends to keep her in check a bit.  One of the problems with the last trip was that he didn't come.  So, she got drunk and started picking fights.  Also, my husband does not want to go NC, with either my FOO or his NFOO.  He feels my kids will resent not having grandparents and I struggle with that thought.

I have done a lot of work and I did feel a whole lot less anxious about the whole thing (in addition to NM, I also have to deal with NMIL during this weekend.  She also likes to stir up drama.  I also have a SIL who likes to create drama too and always "complicates" the birthday parties.  She is always late, or doesn't show, or one time, stomped off in a fit because she was angry with my BIL.)  My husband's been gone a lot for work and life has been hectic, and so I was surprised at how calm I was remaining.

And then, NM showed up over an hour earlier than she normally would.  And the weekend started.  So, here are some highlights:

*As I said, she should up early.  This is typical NM, to try and throw me off balance.  I've had her sneak around my home and knock on my living room windows (as I was nursing my baby-openly- and with SD in tow) in order to "surprise me".  She thinks it's funny to throw people curve balls and laughs gleefully.  She knows my son doesn't get home from school until later in the afternoon and my husband works, but she showed up at 3:30.  I was not done cleaning (and was upset) so I said a breezy hello and said "oops!  I was just finishing vacuuming! I'll be with you in a minute."  I hadn't had a chance to get my son settled from school, I hadn't had a moment to do some calming exercises, like I'd hoped.  And I know she did it on purpose.  She always at least calls when she gets into town, but not this time.  So, it doesn't start well.

* I continue vacuuming, calming myself and regrouping.  When I go to say hello (she and SD huddled back into my kids rooms, which I wasn't happy about.  I had also hoped to have my son straighten his room after school, but no such luck.)  she was gone.  It had been, maybe, 10 minutes.  I talked briefly to stepdad, apologizing for not being ready and not expecting them early.  His reaction told me he also knew she was trying to screw with me.  (NM's vengeful side and her get-even-nature, are well known to both me and SD.)  Because I couldn't find her, I went out into the garage to go outside and gather some tarps I'd had out, but hadn't had a chance to put away.  As I came around the corner, she jumped.  There she was, on the phone.....with my sister.  I was pissed immediately.  She used to do this to me, before we went NC.  She'd have my sister on the phone as she walked in the door of my house, describing me, my home, what I had going on....before she even said hello.  She used to claim my sister was "jealous" of her spending time with me and "always" called right as she was pulling in.  I didn't believe it then and I don't believe it now.  I think it is so ridiculous that she needed to be on the phone with my sister.  I'm sure she was crying about how I hadn't greeted her like she wanted.  (Also, in May when she was here, she also used this phone trick to stir up drama.  She kept jumping up to check her phone -making a big scene - or checking her iphone watch.  Then, tons of huffing and blowing and sighing.  Every time we went to do anything, there was a "sudden" emergency text.  She claimed my aunt was having some problem with my cousin and was demanding support.  I ended up peeking at her phone....which she left open to the messages....when she set it down and found out SHE was texting my aunt and asking how it was all going.  My aunt kept telling her not to worry and enjoy her weekend.)

*NM spends several minutes talking on the phone to my sister, going around the corner of the garage so I can't here her.  She then comes in, but I'm now starting to cook cupcakes (which I had needed to do and since she was busy....).  She hasn't come to say hello at all.  When I go looking for her (again, another 10 minutes later), she's got my older son outside.  I watch from the window as he tries to show her some of his soccer footwork.  She's scrolling on her fucking phone.  I'm annoyed that, this boy whom she claims is so damn important is trying to show her something and she's ignoring him.  And she's only been here 20 minutes.  So, I open the door and tell him he needs to come do his homework.  She starts paying attention.  He comes in (after smarting off.  He tends to smart off, mostly, when she is around) and I ask him who grandma was talking to (I know, I shouldn't put him in the middle, but I wanted to know if he knew).  Of course he knew.  "Auntie Drama.  (NM) said my moves were so good that she videotaped her and sent them to auntie."  Now I'm really pissed.  My sister has only marginally (at best) paid any attention to my kids.  She forgets their birthdays.  She rarely sends gifts or spent time with them before NC.  I had to take both of my kids to meet HER, not the other way around.  She is jealous of the attention they receive from me.  She is a horrible influence around them and sets bad examples (swearing profusely, drinking, complaining endlessly if she has to do too many "kid" centered thing, being vulgar and exposing them to vulgar things, along with her abusive boyfriend.  She wanted to bring her abusive boyfriend to meet me for the first time....and stay in my home for days...immediately after my C-section with my second son.  When I said no, she refused to come).  She few times she saw my kids, she paid attention to them for a limited amount of time and then grew bored and went back to drawing attention to herself.  She has never expressed any genuine interest in my kids (my youngest, 5, she's only met once at 2 months.  He was a year and a half old when I went NC).  I felt it was such a violation that NM would send a video of my kids to her.  I felt that it crossed big boundaries.  I felt that NM was placing my sister's wants over mine.  I felt she was using my son and manipulating him into thinking my sister actually gives a shit about him.  (NM wants everyone to think well of my sister).

*So, I go back to the cupcakes and son goes downstairs to play with his brother, SD, and NM.  I come down a few minutes later and she won't look at me.  She does not say hello or greet me at all.  I had tried to be friendly (but disconnected) as I came down to say hello, but she blatantly wouldn't look at me.  As I watch the game, I notice she is starting to bristle at my older son.  He used to be her "everything" but when he turned 5, she started to lash out at him.  She would do things to put him in his place and often projected negative characteristics onto him (i.e. that he was greedy, or selfish, or mean, or stubborn, or controlling, or rigid).  My son is very independent.  And he can, on occasion, be bossy.  But he's also a good leader (that is the word his teachers repeatedly use).  He is polite, but definitely doesn't allow people to walk on him.  He is not passive and a follower, which bugs the shit out of NM.  He is not obedient ("disrespectful" in her terms) and she hates that she can't control him.  So, she creates situations in which she can then chastise him for being "greedy" or "mean".  But she does it very, very covertly.  She once sent a package loaded with gifts for his little brother and light on gifts for him (after she got in trouble with me for her convincing him to keep a secret from me) and when I pointed it out that he noticed, she snorted and said "figures he'd keep track!" as if he was being petty and ungrateful.  He was 5 at the time.
Anyway, as I watch the game, she clearly has it in his mind that he's trying to win the game and is shifting things in his favor.  (She also favors my little son and so is overprotective).  In reality, he has noticed the shift of her attention and the favoritism, and he's really just trying to get her attention by winning and showing them how smart he is.  Especially since it's "his" birthday weekend (and NM had told him that little son got more attention last time, as it was his birthday) he just wanted to impress them.  But he wasn't playing outside the rules and, I felt, he was actually being pretty kind to his little brother.  But NM started snorting and implying he was cheating giving him a disdainful evil eye.  (Later, when he accused her of changing up the rules to favor his little brother, she retorted with "you're a cheater!!"  I wasn't in the immediate vicinity to intervene, but called my son to come upstairs and help me.)
It really bothers me that she sets my son up like this.  On her last day here, she came up, smuggly laughing that my son "doesn't like that I challenge his way of doing things".  Firstly, she is not "challenging" him.  She's pulling rank, as an adult, and telling him he can't do things as he sees.   She doesn't negotiate or discuss it with him, she just antagonizes him.  Her goal seems to be to "put him in his place" (she loves to put people "in their place") or "take him down a peg" (another phrase she loves).  And even if, even if, she felt his behavior was unacceptable, it is not up to HER to correct his character.  (I will add, she has something negative to say about damn near every one of her grand kids or grand nieces/nephews.  She is highly critical.  It is hard for me, as my son is a very assertive kid and her criticism stings.  But none, NONE, of his variety of teachers or coaches or friends' parents have ever characterized him in such a negative way.  Most have nothing but positive things to say about him.)  I really wish I would have said "why do you feel you need to challenge him?"  I wish I would have stood up for him.  But I didn't.  She was set to leave and wouldn't be around him much anymore (I did try and keep him distanced from her as much as possible, with lots of activities or with alone time with SD, whom my kids love to hang out with.)  I knew she was laying in wait for something to latch on to and pick a fight.  So, I bit my tongue and walked away not saying anything.
Several other times, my son came up crying.  Once, he claimed that they wouldn't let him play (she wouldn't.  When he tried to join in, she grabbed him and held him from playing.)  Another time, she changed the rules on a football game (and is an avid football fan, so she knows the rules) so that he couldn't score or make plays (she was again holding on to him).  I felt so badly for him.  But....and maybe this is horrible....but I thought they were very mild examples showing him that grandma isn't this loving, wonderful woman he convinces himself she is (he gets very upset when I explain that grandma is a bully and can be mean and that's why we don't see her as much or go visit her.  He claims he loves her and seems to forget the nasty things she does in favor of remembering the good.)  Since my DH doesn't see NC as an option, I feel that letting him see bits and pieces of her nasty side and agreeing with him that it's not right and I'm sorry that she acts like that, helps him to protect himself.  It helps him to see that, just because someone buys you off, it doesn't mean they "love" you or are "nice" to you.  But maybe I'm wrong.  I'm just trying to work with what I've got at the moment. Everyone I've talked to says that I can't "control" their relationship or his perceptions of her.  That I can't "disparage" her.  And he repeatedly gets angry with me when I've told him that I am keeping her at a distance for his own well-being because he only had the doting, "loving" grandma for so long.
I don't know, maybe I'm completely wrong.  I struggle with what to do.  In any event, my son distanced himself from her the rest of the weekend.  She tried, the last day, to say "come see me!  I haven't hardly seen you and spent any time with you!"  But by this time, he was over her (and all she wanted was to cuddle him physically, which is not something he enjoys).

*As far as my younger son (who is 5 and a lot more cuddly), she took every opportunity to cuddle him (even running up to put him back in bed over and over.  She knows I do not like this, but she did it anyway.  And by the last time, I was sick of arguing with her.  She made a big deal the next day about how she slept with him and how much that made him happy and go to sleep.  BLECH.)  She likes to put on this cartoon-ish personality around little kids.  It's not a pleasant personality, but is cloying and ridiculous.  She often likes to dance around, squeak and make little stupid noises that drive me crazy, but gets a little kids attention.  She likes to see them think she is funny and pay attention to her "performances".  It is obnoxious, at the least.  However, my son does see through her a bit and tends to stick with SD.   But she revels in any attention he gives her.

*She can't stand to be told what to do and acts like a child if I ask her to be on time for anything.  We had to be to the kids' soccer games on time and she suddenly couldn't get herself together to get in the car (despite being told what time we were leaving).  When we got there, she spends time dawdling, putting on her coat and then sllllloooowwwwly walking to the game while holding youngest's hand (I wanted to smack her).

*She basically kept her distance from me.  We both seemed to be practicing "medium chill" or "grey rock".  She only asked me ONE question about myself and that was right before she left.  She works in human resources, so she puts on her "human resources" persona around me.  When I tried to tell her bits about the vacation that she demanded to know I was on (and demanded pictures), she gave only vague, blah responses.  I could see her simmering, but she remained cool and aloof. She left without saying "I love your" or any of the other responses she usually says, which is fine with me.

*My husband got a new job.  She asked him tons of questions about it and it was clear she wanted him to like his new job.  Not for his sake, but because she thinks it's prestigious and will make him more money.  When I told her, back in May, that I was struggling and things were hard for me (as my husband was traveling a ton more and it was upsetting to the kids) she said "I'm sure, but I'm really excited for DH."  I guess her excitement trumps my struggles.  Not once, all summer, nor on this visit, did she ask how me or the kids are handling this.

*While she was here, she asked to post on photo on FB.  I said fine (she kept trying to shove all of the photos she took in my face, but I responded distantly).  She posted not one, but THREE.  She asked if she could post photos from soccer.   I said no.  I also said it's against league policy, as there are other kids there.  She said "OK" and then sent me the same photos....twice.  When I didn't respond, she made up a cloying post about "missing" the kids and posted the photos (although she did crop out the other kids, so she was "technically" following my direction.).

For my part, I felt that I handled her reasonably well.  She did not rile me up.  She did not get to me.  Sure she hurt me at times, but it didn't cut me that deeply and I was able to recover.  Anytime she tried to direct things to herself, I ignored her.  I spent a lot of time talking to SD (who was very nice).  I maintained grey rock.

But it still wore me completely out.  I've had an emotional hangover for two days now.  I am ruminating about the situation with my older son, wishing I'd said something, but not wanting to give her fuel to start an argument.  I feel very alone and without support, as my husband doesn't seem to get how difficult this is for me.  (He is very contradictory about how I should deal with difficult situations and I find that frustrating).  I am very sad and have been grieving a lot.  I'm feeling a bit depressed.  But I'm trying to find my way through it.  I don't know if any of this is progress or not.  I guess we'll see.


  1. No criticism here for not being NC. I get it. It's really difficult. I should be NC, too, but life happens. It's baffling how they can tear you apart and then think everything should go back to normal simply because they want it that way. You can't make up this kind of insanity. I keep thinking of one of my favorite stickers on social media of a person banging their head against the wall. Keep fighting for you.

  2. I think it's progress, FWIW. You maintained Grey Rock despite numerous provocations starting with her ambush arrival. She was unable to draw you into any open "warfare" while she continued her campaign of offense/retribution towards you. Sure, internally you felt anxious but externally you simply carried on and used distraction/diversion with the kiddos. In the past you would likely have been reacting instead of responding so please, give yourself credit here!
    I was one of those people pushing NC at you Jessie and I am very sorry. I was wrong to be so aggressive with my own "solution" which was not helpful to you at all. I will not engage in this behavior again. It's inappropriate, disrespectful and unhelpful. Not to mention obnoxious. I know I would have been initially shocked at the suggestion and really annoyed if I kept hearing it after indicating I'm not even considering that option at this stage and maybe never-so back off. I've got my hands full with here and now. So NC goes on the shelf. I know where to find it when and if I need to "look" at it in the future. I'm sorry, Jessie.
    During the Sword Fighting Stage some of the underlying beliefs I had to deeply examine was "what is a family? What do these people mean to me? What if any are the responsibilities of each member?" And place these against the bedrock of my own morals, values and ethics. In the end I would have to live with me no matter what the outcome. Effectively this became a deep expedition into who I was-and where I was and-where I wanted to be. To the extent there wasn't all this technology I was at a genuine advantage I feel because I really could limit contact by hiding behind being a "poor college student." So their ability to reach out and poke me by phone-as well as the benefit of geographic distance-was pretty slim. I didn't do well at all in person or phone because their proficiency at pulling out tactic after tactic was just overwhelming to me. As you said, you wished you had said or done something different-and here I am, in awe of your skills!
    It would be easier to have home-grown support, to feel you're not out there on the wire alone without a net. This was where I found out who I was and the unvarnished truth of me, wrestled with the pain of my experience, of what was my responsibility in this world and what wasn't. After awhile, the constant breeze or wind was my constant friend, not my deadly nemesis. I could use it to help me fly.
    You're not as alone as you think, Jessie but feeling alone is what opens doors to you and your Truth.
    IMO, you're doing just what you need to do and pulling it off masterfully.

    1. You are right, I didn't respond to her baiting. That's a huge shift. I didn't even acknowledge it (I can usually resist, but my behavior sometimes gives away my annoyance). I didn't give her anything to prey on (although I'm sure she slandered the shit out of me behind my back).
      I actually wasn't thinking of you when I put in the part of NC :). I talk on a forum (for more "immediate" issues) and often the response is "why aren't you NC?" So, the real point of what I was trying to discuss often gets lost in me explaining my position on NC (that it is a LAST resort. I don't even like to say I'm NM really with my sister. I'm just not in contact at the moment. I have a hard time completely closing that door. I see too many people rush to NC, without doing the work first and I think the work is super important to making NC work.) Anyway, I was trying to not get sucked into that rabbit hole of explaining when I wrote this. So, really, no need to apologize, but I appreciate it. :)
      And NC is not off the table. I've slowly been moving more and more away from NM. I went from talking to her (or more listening to her drone on) for over an hour a time, three or more times a week, to not talking on the phone at all. I don't respond to her "bait" texts or feel the need to respond immediately to any of her texts. Which has caused her to cut down. Sure, she's seething (I can feel it), but she leaves me alone a lot more. I put a stop to her texting or talking on the phone to my son (she managed to "catch" him one time and proceeded to text him for TWO hours. Most of the texts were pictures of HER and discussions about a 7 year old. :P). She only visits twice a year (for a limited time) and I haven't been to her home in two years (despite her moving to her fancy new home and demanding I show up to admire it). So, I'm getting there. :) I hope as my boys get older, she will fade from importance and she will be a footnote. Luckily, we live six hours away from her too.
      I do miss the good old days, pre-cellphone, when she couldn't get a hold of me all of the time. In college, she didn't want to talk much....but she also couldn't get a hold of me easily either. Sometimes, technology is crippling in these situations. The day she found my FB page (and started monitoring me) was miserable. (I've since tightened up my privacy.
      I do think too, that I am finding the truth of who I am. I feel like I'm working so many moving parts when it comes to all of this....but I think finding "me" is definitely a positive part.
      Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. After reading this and reading how she shows up either late or early, I was thinking why not give her an entirely different time to arrive so you can get what you need done. Like delay her for several hours or plan the party the day of her arrival when she might think it's the next day.....just something to mess her up instead. Thanks for the update helps more than you know.