Tuesday, March 23, 2010

TH's Question

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?


Becky said...

We had a somewhat similar situation. The specific details were different but the upshot was basically the same and my husband found it the most helpful to start seeing a therapist to help him through the process. It was very helpful to have someone who could be fairly objective and had professional training in how to most productively deal with people with psychological problems and took a lot of burden off me since I was able to be in a role solely as supportive wife and not as some sort of quasi coach, etc. He also had someone to talk with about his feelings of guilt and whatnot who didn't have a knee jerk reaction to all discussion of his mother- it took me a very long time to get to "neutral" about his mom so the sympathy was not flowing on my part. He didn't go for long but it was very helpful for the short time he needed the help.

Anonymous said...

Out tactic so far is that when she says, "we can take shortstack for a few days" (after 8,243 subtle comments about families with 2 working parents) we say, "Thanks for the offer, but no thanks". She's distractable so we can change subjects fairly quickly if she follows up, but we try not to offer a toehold for following up.

Rach said...

This is so hard and sounds so much like what we deal with. I have found I have to be brutally honest with my MIL, sometimes in a way that doesn't feel polite to me (because she's crazy and doesn't really adhere to social norms) and say things like, "Please do not tell my kids what the rules are. We have different rules than you do." Both my husband and I have told each of his parents independently and together that we make the rule as far as our kids are concerned, and they can either abide by them or leave, but they seem to forget an awful lot. I don't leave my kids alone with them and won't for a very long time.

Anonymous said...

I can't offer any advice, and I just feel bad for you folk who have parents who aren't a gift to your children. My parents (and even my in-laws, who are not quite the same level of gift) are simply a joy to my children. My kids benefit so much for their presence in their lives, that it's completely worth dealing with the conflicts in rules that will happen whenever multiple adults are around the same children (i.e. ice cream given when it shouldn't be, on our case, not serious stuff).

When the stuff you have to deal with is serious and the relationship can't be salvaged, well, it's just sad.

Is HB at an age/level of maturity where he can talk to you about his desires? One thing that's clear with my kids is that they *want* to be with their grandparents, even when their grandparents annoy me about something. Stuff can roll of kids backs that disturbs us.

Liane said...

My husband's mother has borderline personality disorder. Everyone was always walking on egg shells around her because there was no way to predict her behavior. When I was pregnant, we decided that our life was going to be crazy enough with twin newborns, and we couldn't handle taking care of her needs too. My husband and his sisters did a lot of research and got up the nerve to do an intervention. My husband told her that until she got (and stuck with) therapy and showed improvement, she wouldn't be able to see the girls.

It's two years later, and she still hasn't met them. It's hard on him sometimes because he wonders why the girls aren't important enough for her to seek help. However, he also aknowledges how much easier his life is because he doesn't have to babysit her or worry about her behaviors or actions. He decided with his therapist to limit his contact to calling her on Mother's Day and sending her photos on her birthday.

Anonymous said...

I'm agog! The idea that someone could be so emotionally stunted, as to make a child think it's his fault she is leaving. The manipulation, the turning a child against his mother!

When my father behaves inappropriately (like teasing my Asperger's child beyond his limited ability to control his negative emotions) I articulate my son's limits, and clearly show disapproval of my father's actions. And he looks duly ashamed. I imagine someone like your m-i-l doesn't have the maturity to respond like that. But you never know. Articulating the manipulation and how it damages a child, and conflicts with your goal of having him be secure in his family's love -- it might just teach her something new. Although showing disapproval would touch her own insecurities, pushing her out of equilibrium, and likely causing her to freak out.

In other words, I have no advice on how to cope, except to steel you for what you have to do, and to second the short-term therapy idea.

Bon courage.

Liane said...

I also want to mention that I have an 11 year old stepson who often spent time with my mother in law. She's very loving with him (almost overboard with tons of I love yous so she could hear it said back to her). We also cut off mother in law's interaction with him because he was starting to tiptoe around her, and that wasn't okay. He's a kid and isn't responsible for taking care of her emotional needs.

Rory said...

I don't have any advice, but I just wanted to say that wow, your mil sounds like my grandmother. She kept me when I was 2 and my mum was having my brother. I guess when mum came home from the hospital, I was convinced she loved the new baby more than me, that and I was afraid of the dark, when I had neither of these things happening before. She continued to tell me that throughout my childhood until I finally told mum about it.

Anonymous said...

A very good counselor told me about this and my father, "It's sort of like training a dog. You just have to be consistent, they won't change the first time." But if you avoid the scene and leave quietly (without a scene - and she gave me techniques to do this), then eventually they pick up (not necessarily consciously) and stop doing that shit. Or at least do it less, and you feel better and more in control when it's happening. Like, "Oh, she's doing it again, time to pack up..." calmly.

Diane Evans said...

I feel your pain. My suggestion is that you deflect. My MIL wanted to take my daughter to the cottage without us. We had seen her in action (she left her, at age 2, alone at the beachfront to have a cigarette at the cottage!) and would respond to any offer with 'well, let's see if we can fit that in'. And we never followed up.

Its clear that MIL is not going to understand a direct confrontation about her conduct, so deflection is usually the simplest way to address the issue without inciting world war 3.

Good luck.

Rudibeckia said...

I'm really sorry you're dealing with this too. I suspect my MIL has a similar issue, and she's really done a number on my husband. We've never sat down and had a "talk" with his mother, and alas, we don't feel like we have the issue under control or settled. But I do feel like we have a strategy, now, at least. We tend to be reactive rather than proactive, mainly because our attempts to be proactive failed miserably. Some of the things have worked:

Boundaries are really important, setting boundaries between son and mother as well as grandson and grandmother. One of those boundaries is that we do not allow our son or my husband alone with his grandmother without someone else there. She doesn't like it, and she's constantly engineering situations where she will be alone with one of them, but we've stood firm with this boundary and now she at least knows what to expect.

I also agree what anonymous wrote about being consistent and leaving quietly when MIL acts inappropriately. That has worked, and I find it's less scary for our son too.

We also try to maintain a consistent visiting/phone call/communication schedule. I think this predictability helps her deals with whatever it is she needs to deal with in order to have a "good" day when she sees our son.

Annapolitan said...

I have to agree with the commenter who suggested deflecting when Nana issues invitations to have HB visit her or spend time with him one-on-one. "We're not ready for that yet."

And then switch the conversation to something else.

You're not going to change her. And she has a big propensity for misinterpreting your words and making the worst out of what you say or do. So just don't give her that. HB will be old enough someday to be able to deal with her one-on-one. He'll be able to filter out the Nana Crazy and you'll be fine with him spending some time with his Gramma.

But right now, you're not ready for that yet.

Unknown said...

I have personally diagnosed my father with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (not that I am a doctor in any fashion). Basically we used deflection and avoidance with him - he was not allowed to keep our son for years. He would ask, and we would say we would think about it and let it go. But any limits or boundaries we kept to firm and agreed on them prior to being around my dad. We had an agreement to have a united front, otherwise my dad would call us each separately to try to get someone to agree to what he wanted. And sometimes you just give the same answer OVER and OVER - "no we are not comfortable with that yet" or "no thank you not now" so that they realize you are not changing your mind or being bullied. I also find it can help to detach by treating the crazy parents as an anthropological study. ;)

winecat said...

Oh yes, she sounds very similar to my MIL who has OCD (undiagnosed of course). In her case I'm thankful we have no children and to listen to my husband, an only child, talk about his childhood frequently makes me weep.
The woman sucks the air out of a room when she enters. She's big on guilt, you'd think she was a Catholic.
When we threw her an 80th birthday party which I arranged from 3000 miles away she said "why are you doing this to me?"
I cannot stand even talking to her on the phone. I think I better stop now before I totally loose control.
Just know that you are not alone in MIL hell. And what really pisses me off is that MY mother treats my husband better than his own mother.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, it sounds like your MIL is asking for love in all the wrong ways. Does she live alone? Is there any chance that some affection from TH would help to reduce her need to have HB love her more than he loves you? Or is this just a crazy idea?

Anonymous said...

I too have a histrionic MIL. She is Greek and crazy. Upon hearing that her son and I were getting married, she called me up and threatened to kill us both and cried and cried - and it just goes on from there.

Anyway, I don't know if my solution is relevant to you, but since we spend more than a month living with my ILs every year in Greece, I just had to be extremely firm about boundaries, up to the point of rudeness and unpleasant truths.

One thing my MIL does is: if my dd is upset about something I am doing, if she doesn't like her hair to be brushed, for example, MIL goes on about "poor dd. You are so mean to her!! How can you not see, she doesn't want her hair brushed, poor thing" etc. However if dd is behaving in a way SHE doesn't like, she says "why doesn't she behave herself, you need to DO something." So there is no way to win. I finally just had to point out that SHE BEAT HER KIDS so there is no way I am going to listen to her on parenting topics, that I AM THE MOM, that she HAS NO RIGHT to tell me how to parent, and that if she wants to see dd she has to respect me.

She is (thankfully) the type of neurotic person who just needed someone to show *her* the boundaries, and she is much easier to deal with now. But I don't necessarily recommend this approach b/c it can cause more drama than it solves.

leslie said...

2 suggestions:

1) Let the inheritance go. Just accept that it won't be yours. If, somehow, down the road, you do get it, it will be a lovely surprise. However, if you spend the next 15 years sucking up to this woman or biting your tongue because you want a piece of property, you will never truly be able to enjoy it. You will always remember what a high price you paid in terms of your sanity.

2) I agree with the above about deflection. You are unlikely to get her to change her behavior until you are ready to say, "Start acting nice or you will never see your grandchild again," and mean it. It doesn't sound like you're at that place yet, and, until you are, her behavior is not going to change. That said, the leaving was so egregious that it might not be a bad idea for TH to say, "Do that again and you won't see HB again."

Good luck. She sounds like quite a piece of work. And make sure to give TH some heartfelt gratitude that he is defending you and your son. Not all men will do that.

Anonymous said...

I'd deflect, deflect, deflect. Also, that "I'm leaving because of you" story is one of the more effed up things I've ever heard. That's really just... disgusting.

DoctorMama said...

leslie -- oh, no, we have ZERO interest in any inheritance. We just think HB might want to vacation there in a few years.

leslie said...

Oh good. I misread that. I know people who have put up with horribly dysfunctional relatives to try to inherit family land or money, and it's always a mistake.

Anonymous said...

I think your husband is well within his rights to tell her if she manipulates your child (or him) in that way again that she will be cut out of their lives. Cutting her out for a while is the only thing that got my mom (who isn't nearly so bad as this, but who has her moments) to change at all. And this woman sounds like she is a really damaging person who probably deserves to be cut off, for everyone's sake. If he is for whatever reason unwilling to do this, I would confront her every time it happens, calmly, clearly. I would talk to HB about it, too, keep him in the loop. He's old enough for that. Good luck!

Mary_Flashlight said...

My husband simply cut his mother out of our lives. And that was it. We had not seen her in about 3 years until last month, when out of the blue, she showed up at my husband's grandmother's funeral. (Husband's parents have been divorced for over 20 years, and MIL and grandmother absolutely despised each other - partly because MIL was a fall-down drunk AND mentally unwell and refused to get treatment for either.) She had not ever even seen our younger son before.

We won't see her again. It helps that we live 7 hours away.

My mother had several conversations with my grandmother about her treatment of us. We were definitely old enough to call to come home (and we only lived 3 miles from her) before my parents ever let us even stay alone with my grandmother for an hour.

Jenn Gruden said...

Does he have to, just now?

What I mean by that is - if you're taking action on the "only in large groups" boundary, it may not be necessary to tell her. You can just say no to individual events and yes to group ones.

I have experience with narcissists and have had to maintain a similar boundary (ours was 'no being with our kid unless a parent is present') and it worked really well - because on some level I think the individual sensed that if s/he asked, s/he would get an answer.

And frankly, with this person it wouldn't have mattered what the conversation was - we would still have ended up physically enforcing the boundary.

Anonymous said...

i never had a medical term for my mother's insane behavior, but now i do, thanks to this post...

An anonymous commenter said it's a bit like training a dog-- consistency-- and it is. Before you even consider visits with her in person, you and TH have to "train" her on the phone: "I'm very hurt by that comment you just made, and i'm not comfortable continuing this conversation now." CLICK. Be firm and polite, and always explain your concerns with her in terms of how it makes YOU feel-- cuz no one can argue with your feelings. and the minute she acts out of like, calmly and politely sever the phone call. When you do decide to see her again in person, the same rules apply-- the minute she behaves inappropriately, you politely excuse yourselves and leave. finito. This is likely going to be a pain in the ass the first few visits, as she won't be able to go more than 10 minutes without being offensive or rude, but look on the bright side-- quick visit! consistency and persistence will eventually teach her your boundaries-- it's not about changing her or her behavior, but about having her respect your limits when she's around you.

This worked fairly well for me with my own mother until last Thanksgiving... too far too fast, alas. They came to visit and she threw a tantrum in the waiting room of a crowded upscale restaurant, and my husband and i had to simply drive away. They spent the remaining day and a half of their trip by themselves, as we didn't speak to them afterwards.

A week later we sent them a letter, explaining how we will not have contact with them until she decides to visit a counselor and work on her unhappiness. We're thinking of having kids soon, and i refuse to subject my children to her as a grandparent-- she's shaping up to be a female version of her father, and i have horrific memories of him. At this point, i can't afford to care about an inheritance-- i have MY family to worry about, and whether she's related to me or not, she is a hazard to our mental health and i won't allow her to repeat her father's errors with MY children. It's unfortunate and sickening, but it's the healthiest choice i can make right now.

Anonymous said...

I have no advice, just, Wow. Wow.

What an awful, manipulative, selfish, childish, mean, dishonest woman.

I know people with personality disorders behave so badly because of their own deep pain. TH's mom never learned basic emotional coping skills. She must be in agony.

So, I want to have compassion for her, but my god, I wouldn't leave my kid alone with her, either.

Again, I have no advice, but the other thing I have a strong urge to say in your comments section is this: How did TH grow up to be the successful, well-adjusted, nice, responible, honest, kind person that he is today?

I assume (or hope) his dad is sane, got primary custody of TH when TH was v. young, and promptly married a sane woman who was a good stepmother.

My god, though, my heart goes out to TH, and to you. I try to have compassion for grandma, too, but it's really hard.


Coral said...

A friend of mine was having family problems with the way one of her family members was treating her. She went to a therapist who said to her, practise your speech, and one day you will be ready to say it to her, and you will be free of this burden (of carrying around the resentment etc). One morning she woke up, got dressed, drove to her sister's home said her piece and left. She said she was so relieved afterwards. (And it worked, he sister now treats her with respect). Maybe this is a tip you can use. The only problem is - will she hear it?

Stacey said...

I think that you cannot present a rational argument (or make reasonable statements) to an irrational person and expect those arguments/statements to make a difference. The woman sounds like a loon! Unless she gets some kind of professional help/goes on meds, I think you should do your best to just avoid her.

Anonymous said...

I find it really interesting that EVERYONE on this forum has that relative with some undiagnosed psychiatric malady who is just AWFUL to everyone around them. I wonder how many of the relatives are saying the same things about them.

stayathomemd said...

I don't think there's much that you and your husband can do to make a person with a personality disorder see reason unless you all go to therapy together. Would that be an option? Otherwise I would a good therapist should be able to provide you and your husband with some coping techniques, even if MIL doesn't attend.
Your blog is great, by the way. I've been reading it for a while.

E. said...

God, I don't have any advice, uncharacteristically. But definitely you are in the right. That's chilling.

I have my own personality disorder parent I'm trying to limit my kids' contact with, but it's easier b/c I drew the line with him shortly before my first kid was born. In a way, I'm grateful he forced my hand that early.

E. said...

God, I don't have any advice, uncharacteristically. But definitely you are in the right. That's chilling.

I have my own personality disorder parent I'm trying to limit my kids' contact with, but it's easier b/c I drew the line with him shortly before my first kid was born. In a way, I'm grateful he forced my hand that early.

Katie said...

We lived through something similar in my family. My grandmother once did something abusive to my sister and that was just...it. The end. We were not unsupervised around her again, we did not see her except in large groups, etc.

I remember having a brief period in my childhood where it bothered me to not see this grandmother, especially since I was very, very close to the other one, but as I got older, I started to see some of the more subtle garbage she engaged in and I realized my parents absolutely made the right choice.

You can do this, and you can do it in a relatively polite way. The other commenters are right that deflection and avoidance of direct conflict are just fine. No one wants to start a family feud, and even though she sounds NUTS, there's not a whole lot she can legitimately complain about if all she gets from you are gentle but firm "no thank you"s.

You don't need me to tell you that what she's doing is totally out of line, but...it is. Speaking from my perspective as the grandchild, I feel lucky that my parents tried hard to keep a negative influence out of my life; I suspect your son will feel the same way someday.

Anonymous said...

Laughing my head off at Anon at 9 am who thinks we're all the nutters here. Hello, Earth to Anonymous - there are nutty relatives out there! You are so sensitive about the subject that I'm pretty sure you are one of them!!

Deflection and boundaries, deflection and boundaries. I have a HPD in my family, and she's a pretty enjoyable person NOW - after we all took a lot of "I hope you're all happy that you're killing my Daddy!" tantrums [I'm a lung cancer cell? Really????] and theatrical hair tossing, nose sniffing, plate smashing rages (usually she'd start the problem, then when called on bad behavior go into a rage until everyone backed off...).

But she's a nicer person NOW because 1) her own parents were egging her on, and they are dead now and 2) a few of us called her on it hard and fast - a la "knock it off or we're never, ever getting together again in your lifetime and we mean it." We were serious, she sensed it, and is now relatively normal.

I really cannot respect someone who only behaves decently after beaten back - so, if no one ever stood up, you'd just act like that forever? Lovely. Really lovely.

Slim said...

"You are frequently unkind to HB, and as his parents it is our job to protect him. You may see him at large gatherings, but we will be doing everything we can to minimize opportunities for you to judge him, and us, especially within his earshot. He has a right to know that the people who love him are looking out for his best interests."

My verification word is "defie"

ozma said...

In a weird and indirect way this hits too close to home.

One way it does is that I can't have any conversation of this type with anyone ever. Also, I just jump through hoops to protect my kid but it is all very indirect.

It's kind of amazing your husband has it so together.

This is very sad and I wish I had better resources to know how to handle such situations. But I will be hoping things turn out well for all of you, and with minimum unhappiness and discomfort for your husband especially because he probably is the most affected. And HB.

Unknown said...

About saying what you need to say to an emotionally abusive relative: say it when you can do it calmly and it will be wonderful for your self esteem. Schedule time with a friend for immediately afterward so that if your get a hostile reaction you know you have someplace to go and someone to support you when you leave. DON'T have the talk in order to fix the relationship - some people will come around after having a talk but many, like my father, will not and you will have to decide whether to end the relationship. I have had to end the relationship with both my mom and my dad for my mental health and i didn't do it in anger, i did it with sadness because it was just too damaging trying to interact with them.

If you have to end the relationship with MIL to protect your child don't question yourself later - just know that you did your best and moved on to protect him.

Vic said...

Ostracize: To exclude someone from society or from a community, by not communicating with or even noticing them, similar to shunning.

Sorry for being direct but I have no tolerance for anyone who poses an undesirable influence on my children. No negotiating.

Anonymous said...

Please do everything you can to protect your child. I am an adult now (in med schoool!) and I know my parents didn't do enough to stand up for their children. There is no reason for this behavior.

Jb said...

ok, so did not read all the other comments but you and TH do not have to 'say" anything. Really. Simply invite her to the events that "qualify" -- ie, there is enough interference. If she pushes it and wants more invites, then TH can tell her what behavior (exactly) is ok, and what is not. At that point, its her decision. ANd you know what, the house & 50 acres is not worth the trauma. At all.

Anonymous said...

Obviously, crazy relatives are a common problem, wow! My father was abusive and my brother and I never never never allowed him unsupervised contact with our respective kids. My mother-in-law is bizarre and sarcastic so my husband and I just kept the kids away until they were old enough to not take it personally, it helped that she lives 2000 miles away.
Your first responsibility is to your kid! Your MiL has demonstrated that she will mess with his head. You're justified completely in keeping severe limits on her contact with him. You have to decide whether to tell her directly or just keep making excuses. Good luck!

Jessica Mae said...

Below is a story by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of "Women Who Run With the Wolves." I came across it today and after reading it, your issue with your MIL sparked in my mind.
(link: http://themoderatevoice.com/65026/the-gorgon-auntie-a-lost-story/)

She has a midget husband. They lived in a clone trailer. She notices things. Like, she thinks every person has a different color mouth, and her words come out accordingly.

She acts like she is bestowing highnesses and knighthoods as she shuffles to and from every silver shovel event, to fourth-rate art show, in her very pointy high heels, with her penciled on clown brows, her dusty white face powder over her skin five times darker, and her uneven lips, sometimes so chapped there is dried blood.

Some loathe to hear her hoof beats galloping down the hallway. Aside from her condescending and insincere and cruel comments, we have seen people nearly die of asphyxiation from her excessive face powder.

though she is mean as spit.
We love her anyway.
She is our gorgon
She is our very own faulted
family dragon.

We feed her,
clean her
shelter her
as we have for years.

Why? Because we once saw at least two
fabulous flashes of her true
soul which is still completely
pure and loving and living

We consider her enchanted
by some whiskered, wicked fairy king.
It is we who have failed
thus far to find
the magic key
to break the spell,
but we have learned
to break her spell on us.
We are still searching for
the spell breaker for her.

We believe she is still
in there,
completely whole
and beautiful,
like a tender child
inside a new rose.

Anonymous said...

Doctor Mama,
I have a totally unrelated running question.

This weekend I was rear-ended by someone who didn't think you had to yield to oncoming traffic. My lower back and neck are killing me. I'm treating with Motrin and ice, ice baby. Would you advise against jogging? I know, this sounds like a really dumb question, but dang it, the flowers are blooming and the skies are blue and the open road is calling me. I know you cannot dispense medical advice, but what would you do in similar circumstances?


An achy maggot.

DoctorMama said...

Anon -- if jogging makes it hurt MORE, don't; if it just hurts the same, go for it.

Anonymous said...

Oh that's right. Now I remember that advice. Sadly, it's the former but I have high pain tolerance. I'll chill anyway.

Anonymous said...

you know what's TRULY horrible? I looked back at your previous post about Nana and I relized that, had I been your MIL, I too would have been capable of suggesting some sort of therapy or other intervention (HB really does sound like a handful). If it were I, I wouldn't have intended to insult or belittle you; rather, my natural bossiness and codependent tendencies would prompt me to make "helpful" suggestions like Nana's. I have never been diagnosed with anything like histrionic personality disorder, but it alarms me that I'm completely capable of saying something that could hurt someone so much. -victoria

Anonymous said...

To Victoria:

Don't feel bad.

1) Context is EVERYTHING.

2) Everybody is somebody else's weirdo.---Dilbert.

DoctorMama said...

Indeed -- context. There are plenty of people who could have said the same thing to me and it would have been totally different.

Jennifer said...

Umm, I'm going to venture out on a limb here and say I don't see your son EVER wanting to vacation at his grandmother's digs, no matter how palatial they are. She is a wreck and at this point, no one's going to change her. How stressful would it be to have her around, even when he's 15? A grandmother who is constantly trying to turn his mother against him? In addition all her other crazy antics?

If you and your husband want to continue to have a relationship with her, I wouldn't say anything. You could just continue to ignore it, or seek help from a therapist on how to manager her.

Steve B. said...

Contemplating what TH could say to her.. one angle I would think about approaching it from would be:

"We're not happy about you lying to HB." ("When did I lie??")
"When you told him you were leaving because of him. That wasn't true, you know it and we know it.

"Trying to make him feel horrible over a made-up issue is really nasty and we absolutely do not want HB treated that way.

"We've already told him why you were really leaving, and that he shouldn't let what you said get to him."

...and you could set down an ultimatum at this point ("if anything like this happens again..."), or just see how things proceed with some pushback having been applied.

My instinct is to focus on something narrow/factual/indisputable - she lied, right in front of you - and not try to make it a bigger discussion than that (which could easily derail). It might trigger some kind of useful change. Or might not.

Good luck. My parents are crazy in their way, but not remotely like this.