Update: TH is reading all of your comments with interest and gratitude. They are surprisingly (to me) consistent. You are right: it is easier to deal with the whole thing if we keep our eyes on the prize, i.e., what is best for HB — and clearly protecting him is best. Also that you can’t argue with a crazy person. (And to be very clear: we are not in the least interested in any money or inheritance from Nana. We just think HB might like to hang out at her place once he’s old enough to ignore the craziness.) So thank you.
So here’s the deal with TH’s mother, Nana of the Histrionic Personality Disorder (and I don’t mean just aspects of it — all of it). (Pardon the wordiness; I’m putting this out as fast as I can since I shouldn't be on here at all!) I’ve discussed some of my (our) struggles with Nana in the past here and there, but there’s of course a lot more. For instance, when HB was around two, after he’d spent any time alone with her, the next time I said “I love you!” to him, he would answer, “No you DON’T.” She frequently talks about some scene in Steel Magnolias (I think? never saw it) where one of the grandmothers pulls a child aside and tells her that the other grandmother is evil, and I suspect that’s what Nana was doing to HB about me. Nice, right? And the time we let her babysit one evening and HB told me that when he cried because he missed us she got mad and told him he would get a time-out if he didn’t stop crying.
TH has awful stories from childhood about how she pretty much lied to him every day to get him to do what she wanted—constantly shifting the rules, telling him it was later than it was, that there were laws against this or that, that he wouldn’t get any presents for his birthday if he didn’t whatever, and, what he found worst of all, making all sorts of promises that she never kept. Then really, really crazy stuff when his parents got divorced. So it really pushes his buttons when she does any of this with HB.
So the final straw happened about two months ago she came down for a grandparent visit to HB’s class – which went fine by all accounts. What I didn’t know was that she kept pestering my husband to let her take HB back to her house with her for a “few days” (she lives six or seven hours’ drive away) — to teach him how to behave. Because “he’s polite when you two aren’t around.” (The only non-polite thing he’d done with her is to prefer us to her — e.g., to sit on my lap instead of hers and to get annoyed when she pressed him on it.) TH said no, of course, to which she said, “Why not? Didn’t you have a wonderful childhood?”
Several times during this visit, any time HB was paying attention to me and not to her, she’d say, “You’re NICE to me when your mama’s not around ... You’re in LOVE with your mama.”
Friday night we hear that a big storm is coming, and that she’ll probably be stuck until Monday earliest. But Saturday morning she realizes the storm hasn’t hit yet and she can drive away from it. So she packs up her car. HB was just waking up and unaware of any of this.
Then HB gets up. He’s not a morning person; it takes him a few minutes to even start speaking. She starts pestering him in her baby-talk way and he’s doing his it’s too early, get the fuck away from me thing that he does to anyone who gets in his face in the morning—nothing serious, no swearing or hitting or name calling, just saying “stop talking to me!” and walking away. So she follows him and says, “It hurts people’s feelings when you’re so rude to them. And you know what? It has consequences. It makes me want to leave. So I’m leaving RIGHT NOW. Because of YOU.”
And she went out the door, jumped into her Porsche Cayenne, and peeled rubber out of here.
TH called her later to see if she’d survived the drive and she started lighting into him about how he has to crack down on HB now or “he’s going to be the kind of eight-year-old who says ‘fuck you’ to his parents!!!” (I will add here that HB is considered one of the best-behaved and politest child in his kindergarten.) (I will also add that TH’s younger brother got into trouble non-stop as a child and was in drug rehab by the time he was fifteen …)
I know that it’s an old, old story, the grandparents who interfere/disapprove with how the grandkids are being raised, and whatever, I’m fine with that, I can agree to disagree. What I’m not fine with is her deliberately trying to bully/frighten HB, tell him lies, or turn him against me. And TH, well, this makes him CRAZY. It brings back so many ugly memories of childhood, plus he’s very protective of HB.
The short-term goal is: only let her see HB in a large group. For instance, we usually have a huge party on his birthday weekend and last year we put her and Baba up in a hotel for a night and that was fine. His birthday is in June. But aside from that, we just don’t want her around him.
The long-term goal is not to start a family feud, and to leave open the possibility of a relationship once HB’s old enough to not be so hurt and confused by her. There are some benefits to having a relationship with her (not least of which is that she lives on 50 acres in a resort area in a house that could be a B&B with no renovations required …)
I’ve offered to let TH use me as a scapegoat. She likes me for my fancy credentials, but personally, well … so no big loss there if he tells her it’s my doing. But he doesn’t want that, in part because he’s noble and because HE doesn’t want her around either. What TH really wants to do is to get her to understand how her behavior is unacceptable—even though he knows that’s useless.
So his question to you all is, what should he actually SAY to her? Anyone have any experience with something like this?