Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Nana Wars Continue (Continued)

Looks like TH is going to have to gird himself for battle. Gah! Will let you know how it goes.
From: Nana
Date: April 15, 2010
To: TrophyHusband
Subject: HB's b'day

Hi TH:

We can do whatever you're comfortable with that birthday weekend. We can also pay for our own room! It's not possible for us to visit before then? Baba hasn't seen HB since November and I since Dec. I'm feeling that you/HB/DM aren't comfortable around us.....why is that? I know that HB had that outburst when I was there, and it was very upsetting for everyone. Am I the only one he throws tantrums to?

I just don't understand what's going on? Enlighten me, please!

UPDATE: here's TH's email back:
From: TH
Date: April 17, 2010
To: Nana
Subject: Re: HB's b'day

Yes, HB does act up when you’re around, and after you leave. You and I disagree on how this should be handled, but as his father I decide what’s best for him.

What made me upset about the last visit was not his behavior when you were leaving, but that you told him you were leaving because of him. You were actually leaving to beat the weather, but even if it was because of him, that’s not okay to say to a child.

But that incident is beside the point. The problem is that these visits in general have not been good for HB.

Right now, the best thing is to not have one on one visits.

We love you and HB knows that you love him. It would be great if you can come for the birthday party.

He's prepared for just about any response including total shunning. He said the only thing she definitely won't respond with is to say "you're right, and I'll be going for a year of dialectical behavioral therapy!" (Loved that comment, victoria.)

So far, no response at all.


Erica Rose said...

As much as this situation sucks for you and yours, can I just say how relieved I am to know that someone else has a MIL that is batshit crazy!?! No one believes me when I tell them the stories! Good luck w/ this one, sounds like it'll be a doozy!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Mom is asking all the right questions. And the answer is:

Mom, yes, we feel uncomfortable around you. If you'd like to discuss it rationally and calmly, we can pick a time to talk on the phone. Or, we can simply not discuss it and we will see you at HB's birthday party.

Your Son, the Father of HB.

Jul said...

Aw, man. Why is it that the people you'd most like to pick up on social hints are the WORST at picking up on social hints?! Someone needs to do a study on how peoples' ability to comprehend "Gee, I'd Better Back the Hell Off" signals is inversely proportional to the likelihood of other people aiming said signals in their direction.

SEB said...

You've gotten so many great comments in the original thread, but I'll add my experience on the off chance it is of use: My father's father was also a somewhat toxic person, to the extent that my parents felt the need to protect us from him to some extent. As it happened, he got a bit mellower with advancing age, and by the time we were adults, we were able to decide how much relationship we wanted to have with him (which was some, not a lot) at a time that we were equipped to deal with it. Bonus: by that point the only grandfather-related baggage we had was secondhand, as it were (knowing how obnoxious he'd been to people we loved, especially our father, rather than having been the butt ourselves). I would say that protecting HB, as you are doing, is important and in your power, while the question of what kind of relationship he may be able to have with his grandmother in the future is not only secondary, but also out of your hands. Who knows. It might actually be easier for him when the time comes, as it was for us.

Nora said...

Yes - good that you are protecting HB.

Is there any hopes that she will make changes? Or are you just trying to keep her at a distance?

If the first - wow, it's hard to know what to say to communicate to her how ugly and unacceptable and inappropriate she's been, and in such a way that she hears and might act on what your say. You might want to ask her to spend some time around preschoolers other than HB for some perspective on his behavior. And some more time around a therapist...

If the second? Tell her HB has TB and is under quarantine.

Lynn Jenness said...

my blood pressure is going up just reading this, and it's not even MY mother-in-law....

i am still estranged from my own mother since her Thanksgiving tantrum last fall, in the interests of my self defense. Speaking from my own experiences, i can tell you that responding to her inquiries/statements about your comfort levels and HB's last outburst is a fruitless endeavor that will only feed the fire. She has no interest in the answers from you, no matter how truthful or guarded they are, because she'll manipulate them to her own devices and make you out to be the bad guy, no matter what.

Politely responding with birthday weekend plans and nothing else is the best option, i think. If she replies back, pushing for more about HB's tantrums.... well, then you should think about drawing a real line in the sand. Evading/placating her for the rest of your lives isn't fair to you and your family, and i can guarantee that TH has had more than enough of that. My estrangement was a little easier to transition to, because i had distanced myself from my mother for a while prior-- we spoke on the phone maybe twice in a month, and exchanged infrequent emails. If you're in the habit of communicating with her frequently, the tactic of ignoring her invasive commentary will be impossible, and defining true boundaries is certainly in order.

Good luck.

DoctorMama said...

You know I'm so wanting to say, "As I recall, it was YOU who had the outburst/tantrum, not him." But I won't.

Anonymous said...

Oh, wow. I feel for her.

She knows, on some level, that she is the problem. She is scared to confront her own behavior, but she knows, deep down, that she owes you an apology.

This is hard for her, too.

I wish you the best of luck. I know you'll figure this out.


OMDG said...

"Thanks for asking! We'd be most comfortable if you didn't come, since we'd hate for you to ruin his birthday with one of your tantrums. They make HB, and the rest of us, very uncomfortable. I must applaud you on your perceptiveness."

Anonymous said...

I'd go something along the lines of "his tantrums are entirely age appropriate: yours, on the other hand, are not".



E. said...

I must say I have to disagree with Lynn J. I think you have to make an attempt to tell her in as forthright and kind manner as you can why you are indeed uncomfortable with her. (Esp. now that she's basically invited such a revelation.) 1st of all, then the bullshit is all in her court. If that's going to feed the fire, so be it. But you have to give it shot, because 2nd of all, you don't want to have to reduce yourself to playing games and being evasive if you can help it.

And if she pushes it and you *do* have to be evasive and keep her at a distance with some amount of disingenuousness, at least you tried.

I speak from the experience of dealing with a dad with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which has a lot in common with HPD. He can't have a normal relationship with me or my kids, just can't. But I've learned that if I'm assertive enough, he will sometimes hear and absorb bits of reason (when it's in his interest to do so). And when he refuses, I just draw the line (which helps him see why it is indeed in his interest to try to be reasonable, because he knows at this point that it's the only way he can have a relationship with us at all, even a limited one).

When I've tried to manage him by being evasive and pretending there's nothing going on, he just gets really aggressive about pushing the issue of contact (in a "nice" way, but still aggressive) and it's tiresome to deal with. Plus I don't feel like I'm acting like me, a straightforward person who stands up for myself.

Lynn Jenness said...

E.-- totally agree with your dad-wrangling technique: be honest and firm, and clear about boundaries. My prior comment stems from my own soul-weary frustration with my mother, since no amount of honesty or candor ever seems to get us anywhere but round and round in argumentative circles-- hence the estrangement!

this makes me think i should go back to therapy... i'm taking the easy road, washing my hands of her, yes-- but in all my tortured soul-searching, i can't see much benefit to having a relationship with my mother, or enough benefit to outweigh all the effort required on my part to make it work. We have nothing in common but shared DNA and a hot temper, and while society makes me feel irrationally guilty about cutting off my own mother, i have a hard time justifying all that heartache just "because she's your mother!" I don't respect her, and while i understand why she is the way she is, that doesn't make it okay for her to be so emotionally abusive...

I won't say E. has a better/easier scenario with her dad vs a mom, but i'm envious and respectful of her strength in dealing with it. I'm terrified of BECOMING my mother, and the less influence she has on me as i raise my kids, the better.

Anonymous said...

OMG it just came to me!

OK, here's the thing: honesty won't work. You cannot say to her,

"Nana, you have Histrionic Personality Disorder, and we will have no contact with you until you have completed at least one year of dialectical behavior therapy. That's you're only hope of getting better, and our only chance for having a real relationship."

That is the truth, but it won't work. She won't accept the truth.

But you CAN say this:

"Nana, you're right, we are feeling uncomfortable with how things are going.

"We love you very much and really want to continue to have a relationship with you.

"We agree, HB can be quite a handful! He's hard to control sometimes, and can be moody.

"So his discipline is an ongoing issue for us. We want to discipline him consistently, and gently. Dr. Mama and I have agreed on a method that works for us.

"Sometimes you discipline him in a way that's inconsistent with our method. This makes it harder for us to correct his behavior in a way that's consistent with our approach.

"Consistency is key to his discipline, and you sometimes interrupt it.

"So, what we'd like to ask of you is that you not punish or correct him at all. Leave that to us. If he does something that you think needs correction, tell us, outside his hearing, what you think he did that was inappropriate and we'll address it.

"But we need you to step out of his discipline. That's up to us. You can tell us what you think, but not in HB's presence.

"Our approach may be different from yours, and you may not agree with our approach, but it's what we've chosen and we are determined to do it consistently.

"If you're not willing to leave HB's discipline completely in our hands, then we are not comfortable leaving him with you.

"We love you and we really want this to work. Let me know what you think.

"Love, TH."


Anonymous said...

She sounds so manipulative that I doubt any attempts to be rational with her will succeed. Be prepared to take a fair amount of shit if/when you tell her that you're going to limit contact, but if you parents can handle it out of hearing of your son, he'll be much better off. I think the main object to keep in mind is that you are protecting him from abusive behavior, no matter what it takes to do so. Wishing you the best of luck in a difficult situation, my kids had a couple of crazy grandparents too.

Jennifer said...

It is very, very, difficult to tell a parent to step back. As upsetting as it must be for T.H., he did the right thing by not ignoring the situation and telling her the way he feels and what his limits are. Good for you T.H. and D.M. I'm proud of you both.

Anonymous said...

I think TH's first sentence is BEAUTIFUL, but he buries the lede a bit--I would have been abrupt and just said: As HB's father I decide what's right for him.

Yay for him and for you, though! I hope it simply shuts her up and makes her think twice of being an ass around HB and y'all.

Anonymous said...

His response was fantastic. Lou

E. said...

Bravo, TH. Great response.

And Lynn Jenness, I totally appreciate your situation. When you have a crazy parent, you have to deal with it in whatever way you can. The main thing is saving your own sanity.

I was out of touch with my dad for almost three years, and it was not easy. (Though it was partly his choice - I said "I can't talk to you on the phone, but we can write," and he got pissed and stopped talking to me altogether, which was actually a huge blessing at the time.) It was easier to be out of touch with him, but the guilt was intense. It's really hard having a dysfunctional relationship with a parent, and for me it's much harder because we were close when I was a kid.

Good luck with your mom. I spent some time in therapy before I got up the nerve to say "No more phone calls 'til you stop emotionally abusing me." It was the best thing I ever did for my relationship with my dad. If you can find a good therapist, I'd say go for it.

And DM, good luck to you, TH, and HB. Keep us posted.

(My word verification is "hot shiv." Yow! Hope I never need one of those.)

Diane Evans said...

Damn! So much for deflection. I guess I had assumed she would be as oblivious to the conflict as my MIL.

Well done though. Simple, direct and to the point without blaming per se (which is likely to inflame).

Good luck.

Amy said...

Anyone else slightly embarrassed about how eager they are to see this play out? Totally voyeuristic, sorry DoctorMama. I think your TH is amazing for writing that letter. Takes major courage.

Anonymous said...

How does TH feel? -victoria

Kim said...

Oh wow - I think her response will depend upon the extent of her personality disorder. Like is she the type who is never in the wrong? or never to blame for anything - because if she can't take the blame for anything TH will be in the wrong of course and how dare he. Also, how well can she hold a resentment - like how many people does she have nothing to do with any more?

DoctorMama said...

Soooo ... utter silence thus far (five days).

TH feels exceedingly relieved to have gotten it out in the open, and says he really doesn't care how she reacts at this point.

Yes, Kim, she is exactly the sort of person who can never, ever be to blame for anything. My guess is that I will be the fall girl in the end, in her mind, but so be it. She doesn't really hold grudges, though -- just rewrites history (e.g., she refused to speak to TH's sister for four months because she went on a trip Nana thought was a bad idea. But in Nana's world, this never occurred).

The question in my mind is: will she come to the birthday party or not?

Steph said...

Chiming in late here! Nana sounds just like my mother-in-law: the rewriting history, the histrionic personality, the inability to ever admit fault, the continuous assigning of blame and random 'punishing' of the offenders.
It's definitely taken a toll on my husband his entire life, and recently he's started to set boundaries (hate that expression, btw, but it fits) and limits on his/our interaction with her.
She is just a toxic human being, and makes every little thing about her.
We are entering into a new phase now as I am pregnant. You can bet I will be even more guarded with my son than I am already.

It actually became easier once we recognized that she is who she is and will never change. Now we just severely limit our interactions with her. It's sad in a way, but it's the only option!

Kudos to you and your husband for doing what is not always the easiest thing to do! Love TH's reasponse.

I'm a long-time reader and fan of your blog, btw...

Kim said...

It will definitely be interesting to see if she does turn up. If she's not a resentful type she may turn up and act like nothing was said. But to be told that she is the problem and is not allowed one on one time with HB - well, surely she will be a little hurt/offended so it is hard to say. Maybe she will just send a present instead and not come.

Anonymous said...

I applaud you both for sticking up for a child against a crazy relative. I so wished that my parents would have done that for me, but my mom stuck up for the alcoholic who liked to terrify children into hysterical crying in corners, and my dad is and was terrified of my mom.

You two rock.

winecat said...

Cudos to TH, great response. Of course she's going to try to place the blame on you "my son never spoke to me before he married you" - just been through that ourselves.
Let it roll off your back like water
You and TH are doing what's best for HB and he is the most important player here.

Yes I do find it somewhat creepy that we're awaiting every salacious detail but being humans...

Anonymous said...

To Winecat and Amy,

No I'm not awaiting every salacious detail, but I am anxious and hopeful that this aspect of DoctorMama's life will get better--soon.

DM has been posting about "Nana" for a long time and I feel emotionally invested in this issue.

[Note to DM, not so invested that it affects my life, I have my own complex challenges and a rich life, but I like you and your blog, your thinking resonates with me, and dang, your MIL is one tough nut.]

Amy said...

My comment about being "voyeuristic" was mostly in jest, but c'mon, this IS structured like a classic cliffhanger! The letter goes out, and . . . ?

I didn't mean to make light of a serious situation and I was sincere in my kudos to TH (and DoctorMama, for sure!).

DoctorMama said...

Have I mentioned how much better you all have made me feel about this? Thank you. And I promise I'll let you in on the next missile strike. I expect it will have something to do with HB's birthday party. There is also a 70 percent chance that an attempt will be made (by Nana) to drag TH's sister into this.