Friday, May 14, 2010

The Nana Wars Updated Update: Game Back On!

First, as OMDG noted after my last post, b***jobs was not a reference to boob jobs. (I wouldn’t asterisk out that, for one thing.) It was the other kind of b***jobs Nana was discussing. (And did I mention that the underwear she flashes are Armani thongs?)

So of course mere hours after my last post, TH received the following:
From: Nana
Date: May 13, 2010
To: TH
Subject: HB

I was quite disappointed about your reaction to my visit and HB’s melt down. I keep thinking how to respond to your email, since I want to have a relationship with HB and we love him very much! Just to set the record straight about the sequence of events that morning. [Oh boy, here we go: your wife is a big fat liar. Never a wise battle strategy.] I woke up at 8 A.M. and noticed that there was only 1" of snow on the ground. So, I decided while you were sleeping that I should drive home rather than get completely snowed in for 2-3 days. Not knowing that HB would be so agitated by my quick decision to leave, I walked down the stairs and told DM and HB what I was preparing to do. [Nope—she only told me. Otherwise accurate.]

Then HB went crazy [if you call trying to walk away from her “crazy”] and screamed at me “not to say another word” [quite accurate, except I would say “shouted”] and he was out of control. [Out of Nana’s control.] DM didn’t do anything during his tantrum [quite true—and I’m sure this is what pissed her off the most] and I should have tried to find out the reason he was so upset. [He did tell her: because she kept pestering him.] Now I realize that he gets sad and upset when I leave....and my decision was sudden. [Nice rationalization—he loves me soooo much, that’s what made him mad! Only problem: she hadn’t yet told him she was leaving.]

When I was leaving, and he still was yelling, I said to him, “Your behavior makes me feel not unhappy that I’m leaving.” [Nope. It was definitely “I’m leaving because of you.” Did she look up the “constructive” way to argue, I wonder? You know, “When you do ____, it makes feel ____?”] At least he would hear the consequences of how people feel when he behaves that way towards them. [People = Nana.] These things happen and we deal with it, and then go on - it’s a long road to adulthood! [“These things” being that your grandmother is mean to you? Well, we are dealing with THAT! And TH agrees that it was indeed a LONG road to adulthood with her.]

I do feel that this is was an isolated instance. [Not.] We’ve been with him alone lots when he visits here or we go there and haven’t had that happen. [Not.] The loss in this situation is HB not seeing us more often than his birthday when there are many people there or once every 2 years on Thanksgiving. [Who said we were going for Thanksgiving?] I feel that we have a very special fun time when we are together - whether on our tractor or at the adventure park or at the zoo! [Excellent use of guilt, I must say.] We love him very much and do have an understanding about appropriate behavior when he’s with us. He’s OK with it. [Not!] [Too bad she doesn’t have an understanding of what behavior is appropriate on her part …]

So, we plan to attend his birthday party - wouldn’t miss it for the world! We’ll stay [70 miles away] for the weekend and drive in for the day. [Another excellent use of guilt, no?]

Love, Nana
Let me be clear: HB is not respectful of adults in the sense of obeying them simply because they are adults. This is a battle we have not even tried to win with him, because a) we have had a lot of other things to focus on and b) we don’t really subscribe to that philosophy ourselves. It would be nice sometimes if he could be more actively polite, especially to people he doesn’t know, but trying to get him to say something he doesn’t want to say is unbelievably hard. As I said, we’ve achieved the no name-calling, no swearing, and certainly no hitting limits. It’s not too hard to get him not to do things. He can remain silent when he has nothing nice to say. It’s when someone keeps pressing him to say or do something that trouble ensues.

I’m sure some of our friends and family don’t agree with us about not trying to enforce a Because I Said So policy with HB. (Though not my mother; she raised me the same way.) But most of them are very accepting of this being our child, our family and our decision, and are willing to interact with HB on his terms, i.e., letting him come to them.

I’m really not getting worked up about this even though the red italics above may suggest otherwise. This can’t even come close to upsetting my bliss. (A few things can, I’m discovering. More on that another time.) Poor TH, on the other hand, keeps having flashbacks from childhood. He’s holding up well, considering. He says this is going to be his response:
Thanks for your email and for the nice anniversary card.
Looking forward to the party!


Anonymous said...

I was about to say from the prior post, just like in medicine after an invasive, painful exam, "no news is good news!" as a metaphor for dealing with Nana. But she did reply. Oh well. At least she took her time thinking about it and coming up with her version of the story and some nice rationalizations along with her emotional strategy (guilt)!

I think TH's response, short, sweet, respectful, but with definite boundaries (I'm not going to discuss this further) is fantastic.

Life in vet school said...

I LOVE TH's response.

Talking to your MIL reminds me of talking to one of my family members (who is completely normal except when we're arguing). The amount of revisionist history he can pull out is truly amazing -- sometimes I think he should write screenplays. But I always wish I'd videotaped the original conversation, because it always just turns into "When you said x - " "I never said x" "Yes, you did, right after you put your plate in the sink and I opened the fridge". "I never said x". And then I walk away because it just isn't worth it!

And I think not having a "because I said so" policy is awesome. I had so little respect (even as a little kid) for relatives who used that on me. People who need to power-trip on a small child are pathetic.

Clare Norcio said...

OT: I find I am developing a "Because I said so" policy with my 6 yr old, and I am trying to break the habit. I swear the boy is going to grow up to be a lawyer (not there's anything wrong with that!), and I only have so much patience for explaining my reasoning that he has to, for example, clear the table. I'll go for one or two or three rounds explaining...I make dinner, you clear the table, papa washes dishes. But finally I just tell him he has to do it because I asked him to.

Obviously I don't want him to grow up into the sort of person who blindly follows authority, but I get really frustrated when he is constantly challenging me. How do you strike a balance between "because I said so" and constant negotiation?

Anonymous said...

WOW! All human beings have fallible memories, and we all have a tendency to be self-serving in what we remember and what we forget, but Nana's ability to rewrite history is astonishing. -victoria

DoctorMama said...

Clare -- oh yes -- HB can filibuster to the death. I think there's a fundamental difference in "Because I say so" and "Because [valid reason, stated once]". "Clear the table because we all have to pitch in" is different from "Give me a good-morning kiss because it makes me feel good" or "Wear the red shirt because I like it better than the blue one," you know?

TH had a veeeeerrry hard time with the negotiating, because he is a Talker. I didn't, because I'm happy stating my reasons once and refusing to revisit a topic. So a really good resource for him was the 1,2,3 Magic book, whereas it didn't do much for me. The Explosive Child was great for me because I'm NOT a Talker, and collaborative problem solving was what I needed.

LIVS - maybe I should install a closed-circuit security camera? A NanaCam!

victoria - I think some rewriting of history is quite healthy. For instance, I never slept with that guy ... anyway ... you'd think a person would have the sense to revise what can't be easily corroborated. I mean, HB has been able to report on his solo visits with Nana for quite a while. I wish I'd stuck up for him earlier.

Beth said...

It's pretty telling that even in her carefully crafted revisionist version, she still comes off looking very badly. I mean, even if that was the full truth, that's pathetic.

Just me said...

My mom has worked in a pre school and day care for almost thirty years. She does not believe in "making" kids say things they do not feel/believe. Not even "I'm sorry". She believes we need to teach kids appropriate behavior, and help them to understand when their behavior hurts other feelings, but she doesn't believe we should make them say "I'm sorry" when they are not.

Lynn Jenness said...

I think you apply your "Because (valid reason, stated once)" to Nana as well. respond, short and sweet, with your boundaries defined from here on out, and see her at the birthday party. its guaranteed that she will misinterpret/rewrite history to twist what you've laid out, but it's a matter of distance and consistently sticking to your convictions.

i like your methods, as opposed to the "because i said so" philosophy. much easier to treat kids like rational, intelligent human beings quicker, since they don't stay mindless little diaper-wearing slugs for very long at all...

Ozzie said...

Jiminey cricket! Nana sounds like she's got a mighty case of the crazypants. 70 miles is a sneeze to drive- I hope no one feels actual guilt over that.

Poor TH and HB (and poor DoctorMama!)- hope they get through this ok!

Anonymous said...

I'm dealing with a passive aggressive person who does things similar to that letter. TH response is spot on.

Specifically -- DISENGAGE. Do not respond as if they pushed the buttons they pushed. That's what venting to friends is all about. Then you take a deep breath and write a breezy reply that ignores all the attempts to suck you back into that dark hole.

Anonymous said...

I was somewhat on Nana's side before (she did seem hurt about HBs response and I was thinking she was simply not used to children at this point), but now I totally see why TH and you have to, as one commenter states, disengage. Best of luck with the birthday party.
On a different note, I wanted to write and tell you that I RAN for the first time in my adult life yesterday (ran, as in ran to run, not ran to get away or to something quickly). I'm 52. I have a neighbor who is willing to be my coach, and I have your words in my head: run maggot, run! LD

Artemisia said...

Awesome response on TH's part.

The only thing I wish he'd added was "While fictionalizing the account of what happened may make you feel better, it makes us even less comfortable about your presence in HB's life." But that's just me being snotty.


heather g said...

Wow what a woman. I agree with a commentator that even her sanitised version still makes her sound like a bitch. He's only a child for goodness sake.
What I can't understand is why she hasn't said sorry in that e-mail. Even if it was only "sorry that you/HB/TH were upset by what happened" ie not a real apology but at least holding out an olive branch. I hate confrontation and would be mortified to have recieved the first e-mail but to not even offer some apology... I just can't imagine.
I wonder if bliss is partly hormonal. I live in hope that menopause will bring me the serenity that I experienced from pregnancy hormones.
Heather G

winecat said...

OMG, crazy nana actually makes me feel ok that my beloved and I never had kids. His mother would be EXACTLY the same way with a little OCD thrown in.

Every day I thank God that she lives in Cleveland and we live in Healdsburg, CA

Steph said...

Oy. So similar to my MIL situation, guilt and rationalization included.
TH's response is really all you can say! The older my husband and I get the more distance we keep, because distance promotes (relative) sanity (ours).

It's just not easy.

Anonymous said...

You know, one thing that social scientists and psychiatric professionals are (now) starting to emphasize more is the neglected/abused child's capacity for "resilience and recuperation."

I would be FASCINATED to know how TH survived Nana to become the decent, honest, smart, high-functioning, intact adult he is.

But at the smae time I respect the fact that this is your blog, not his, and that there are some details about his life that you just wouldn't feel comfortable disclosing here.

God, DM, I wish you all well. I hope TH's younger brother is ok and sober. I hope Nana's self-serving, revisionist version gives her whatever it is she needs. I hope HB just continues to get happier and happier as he matures. I hope that Nana never inflicts her insanity upon any of you again. I hope TH never has to relive another moment of her crulety to him as a child. And I hope I figure out how to achieve your bliss.

Thank you for writing about this.


Jennifer said...

I wonder how long it took her to compose that gem. In any case, TH's reply is perfect!

I hope the party goes smoothly.

ozma said...

I'm not sure if I should put this on the internet but...

My family is seriously messed up and I find it interesting to read this because I realize that some of the obedience and insincerity and other things I drill into my kid is because I'm afraid of my parents.

God, this is quite a revelation to read. But I've probably already said too much!

8,000 years of therapy to go! And then this problem will be solved.

OMDG said...

Please tell me that Nana at least waxes if she's flashing you her Armani thong.