Money from crazy parent, accept or reject?
December 29, 2008 7:16 PM   Subscribe

I received a check for $3,000 from my mother who I have not spoken to for nearly seven years. Should I cash the check?

My mother has a history of depression, physical abuse, manipulative, controlling behavior, generally border personality diagnosis. She and my father have been divorced for around ten years and do not communicate. My sister has went through periods of not communicating with her, up to years. I have not attempted nor received communication from her for nearly seven years. I could ramble endlessly about why we've not communicated but I'll only note: 1) we have BOTH had means to initiate and only recently has she extended this particular holiday correspondence 2) It's often impossible to distinguish between her and her sickness and I'm unsure if she's made effort to self-improve beyond tons of medication and some therapy 3) I've been working through my own issues and need the time/space.

I recently received a holiday card from her, enclosed is a note which says some loving things in addition to "a check is enclosed to use how you'd like, to help get through this recent unemployment." The check is for the amount of $3,000, a great deal of money for me right now as I've been out of work, on unemployment and living in an expensive city. Actually I'm having a financial crisis at the moment but that may be beside the point. That is, even if I were swimming in disposable income I'd still have an ethical / emotional issue on my hands.

I've discussed this matter with others, to include a close sibling, and have been given mostly reasons why I should take the money. I'm reminded that if I cash it I still have no obligation to communicate.

My trouble is this: We are due, perhaps overdue, for at minimum, written correspondence yet I must feel ready and not enticed or manipulated --I want no artificial influence to hasten this process. I've been torn between holding my ground, trying to just accept this relationship, and feeling like an angry little child. And lastly, this is a person who is an absolute master in mind-fuck and manipulation... as if it needs mention. I don't trust her so much.

WWHMD? temp email (if preferred, functional only until 1/31/09): momma.loves.you@mogwai.ath.cx
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
That money is not given freely. I would not be surprised if the cost for accepting it is mentally and emotionally high. If you are smart, you can slowly but steadily take steps to get out financial trouble. However, the stress your mother can cause you can never be measured or anticipated.
posted by spec80 at 7:20 PM on December 29, 2008


My mother and I haven't spoken in about the same amount of time for the same reasons. If she were to send me a check like that, I absolutely would NOT cash it out of fear that she would use it against me later. My mom did stuff like that all the time when we still talked. "Here's some [whatever] because I love you, and I want to help you." A series of abusive behaviors from her would inevitably follow, and if I defended myself, I got the ol' "Remember the time I did such-and-such for you, you ungrateful child?" speech. No way. Never again.

The fact that your mother has broken the lack of contact with something as huge as a check out of the blue like that looks like just the other end of the spectrum of extremes. She's doing it to reach out to you, though. If you don't want to communicate with her right now, don't take her money. Just tell her you aren't ready for this and need more time; then close the book.
posted by katillathehun at 7:27 PM on December 29, 2008


I would like to say that if you assume people do things with good intentions, it makes life a lot easier. After three years, she may have done some introspection, or at least gotten lonely. She might have done this to somehow manipulate you, but she might have done it as a way of apologizing & re-establishing contact. If you assume the latter, give her the benefit of the doubt, you'll probably be happier in the long run. Give her a chance.

Don't let her manipulate you, set boundaries, etc., but you can still accept the gift graciously. Write her a letter of thanks. If you want to keep an emotional distance, pretend she's a wealthy but distant uncle.
posted by alexei at 7:29 PM on December 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


I wonder how she knows you are unemployed? Since you mention a sister and a close sibling, I assume you have several brothers/sisters, and at least one of them has kept in contact with her? If that's the case, why not ask that person if she's getting better?

Can you do both? That is, tuck the check in a safe place. Then, write her a letter. Read her response. Write another letter, and so on until you can gauge how you feel about her (whether she is being manipulative or if she's getting better).

Then, if she's being manipulative, go tear up the check. If she's getting better, deposit the check.

It might just be me, but I suggest that you do not deposit the check if she's being manipulative, or if you've decided not to continue a relationship with her, despite needing the money. If she's not worth sharing your life with, then to me it seems greedy to take the money (even if she's done pretty bad things, it still doesn't seem right to do that to her).
posted by Houstonian at 7:42 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


If you cash the check, there is a chance that your mother will see this is as an opening through which she can reestablish contact and leverage herself over you. She could think that you now "owe" her something.

Given her previous history of mental illness, there is a chance that even if she sent the check with 100% non-manipulative goodwill, she may later, during the throws of some depressive episode act upon you taking her "gift."

So what?

You need the money. If you take it, you have to accept that there may be strings attached. That said, it sounds like you have experience handling your mother, and you have successfully cut her out of your life when you needed. You know that, and so does she, so hopefully if some contact does come out this it may be productive.
posted by wfrgms at 7:44 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Whatever may be between you, she is your mother. She knows you are out of work and she wants to help you. She cares about you, that's why she sent the check. She may go nuts about it later, but you can remember the mom that helped you.
posted by lee at 7:45 PM on December 29, 2008 [6 favorites]


Oh Christ, this one is right up my alley. Don't do it. It's basically going to be blood money that's going to cause you nothing but angst.

I was in a somewhat critical financial situation and a different family member stepped up and helped out. I had full knowledge that the money was coming with *VERY* hefty strings, and boy did it ever. NEVER AGAIN. It's probably one of the worst, most humiliating feelings - having somebody rub your nose in the fact that they bailed you out of a financial situation and you're now 'beholden' to them. Especially when that person is already big on mind fucks and manipulation.

I'm so sorry that you are dealing with this. I truly am. From somebody that's walked the mile, duck this one as fast as you can. Memail me if you want to talk more.

Big hugs to you.
posted by dancinglamb at 7:47 PM on December 29, 2008


If you accept the money, your thank you note can explain how you intend to repay her after you are able to. This could give you an out if need be if she either declines repayment or you are able to pay it off.
posted by Pants! at 7:51 PM on December 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


unless you have more than 1 mother, bury the hatchet and work to fix the relationship... you'll regret it later...
posted by dawdle at 8:01 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't cash it. Consider endorsing it over to a charity or some other worthwhile cause, or just send it back to her. I'm in the same situation. To my mother, the check itself would be a means of communication when I want none. Cashing it is communication itself. It's very manipulative. If my mother did that, it would push me farther away. Any hope I had that she was growing saner would be extinguished.

Then again, if I really didn't give a damn, lived far enough away, and was desperate enough, I might cash it without any further communication. I'd still see it as attempted manipulation, but if I'm feeling cold hearted enough, I'd say Whatever. Why suffer when some fool is so willing to throw their money at you?

There's no way to accept it graciously when you're dealing with a manipulative parent. That's just giving them exactly what they want.
posted by ick at 8:04 PM on December 29, 2008


Oh, I forgot to add. You need think back and determine whether money is a common tactic for her. In my case, it definitely, absolutely, positively is something my mother uses to add strings, build guilt, establish relationships, barter, eliminate boundaries, and manipulate the hell out of people.
posted by ick at 8:08 PM on December 29, 2008


Should I cash the check?

What will enable you to sleep at night?

If you can take the money and not feel as though she's owed something or feel terrible about spending it, then take it. Key to this is being able to brush off any comments from her about "bailing you out" or "you owe me" That's her issue, not yours and frankly $3k after the crap she's put you through seems cheap on her part.

Basically, you have to able to the money and not play into any and I mean ANY of her games. If you can't, just tear up the check and move on.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:12 PM on December 29, 2008


With all due respect to dawdle, this sort of well-intentioned blanket advice regarding "family" can really make people who are already struggling with the guilt associated with going against societal grain and childhood loyalty in cutting off a toxic family member feel even more alienated and judged. Many people do not have a real understanding of what it is like to deal with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, particularly when that person is a parent, and fewer still what is is to be physically abused.

If you feel that at some point that you will be ready to have a relationship with this woman, and are perhaps ready to open that door in the near future, then feel free to cash the check. My personal reading of the situation is that it can and will be used against you in the future, and certainly to open up correspondence at this point. Be very, very careful of the emotional strings attached to such a gift, particularly when it comes from someone with a behavioral history like that of your mother. Consider whether the price that this gift demands is one you are ready to pay.
posted by tigerbelly at 8:13 PM on December 29, 2008 [15 favorites]


Oh, man, do I ever hate it when someone trots out the "you'll regret it if you don't make up with XXX" stuff. Newsflash: just because someone's related to you by blood (yes, even if it's your mom), it doesn't automagically make them worthy of your respect and friendship. Especially if there's a long history of manipulative, abusive behavior.

I think Houstonian's got it right: if you're inclined, hang onto the check for now without depositing it, and contact your mom in whatever fashion you're most comfortable with (phone, email, letter, whatev) and get a feel for what's going on with her. Or, talk to whoever is in contact with you both and find out what they know -- since your mom knows you're unemployed but you haven't been in contact with her, obviously she's getting info from someone. Maybe that person has a better idea of your mom's current mental health and could advise you a bit.
posted by palomar at 8:18 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'd suggest you take the money and send her back a nice note thanking her for it, and giving her whatever bits of news you feel comfortable sharing with her.

Your mother will not be around forever. Yes, she will probably let you down in the future. But the note and the money seem like loving gestures on her part. If you accept them in that spirit, you can chalk up this incident as one of your good memories of your mum, regardless of what may follow.
posted by orange swan at 8:24 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I had a grandmother do something like this once- similar personality, definitely for manipulative-slash-communicative purposes. She did nothing but try to come between my siblings and I and our mom, so I just cashed the damn thing without saying a word. It would take a book to cover how this creature tried to mess with our family before moving away and vanishing for a decade.

I was broke at the time and justified the behavior by hoping it would come off as completely rude, ensuring she never spoke to me again. Guess what? It worked great! No regrets, no drama, no inheritance later.
posted by clango at 8:25 PM on December 29, 2008


I think the most important thing in this story is that you've not spoken to her in seven years. You've already successfully broken ties to her and gotten out of her influence once; you can do it again if needs be.

Cash the check*.

Then, if she does something manipulative or bitchy or that you otherwise don't like, go back to not communicating with her. But with $3K more than you had, and at a time when $3K makes a big difference. You shouldn't feel bad about taking it -- she didn't ask your consent to bring you into the world, so she owes a responsibility for your welfare throughout your life.

*Unless she's the sort of crazy or mean to intentionally send you a bad check just to cost you fees when you deposit it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:39 PM on December 29, 2008


I don't mean to sound like I'm made of money or insensitive to your tight finances, but please do put things in perspective and realize that $3000 is peanuts. With some guidance and advice it should be very feasible to get what money you need by other means. Yes, even in this economy.

Imagine it were a $300 or even $30 cheque, and base your decision on that.
posted by randomstriker at 8:59 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Mr. F says "Cha-ching!"

I advise proceeding with caution, whatever you decide to do, in case she's going to fuck with the check to try to screw you over.

You can tell which one of us had the shitty childhood.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:19 PM on December 29, 2008


Dwadle, when you have a family member who has treated you cruelly, physically and perhaps sexually abused you, treated you with hatred and contempt, manipulated you (even as an adult), used you, pitted other family members against you, lied, betrayed your trust and successfully destroyed your self-esteem, it's often best for your own sanity and well being to cut ties. If your own mother brutally abused you as a child and young adult, would you want her to be in your life to do the same to your children?

I don't think the original poster is talking about a mere personality clash or minor conflict with their parent.

The moral degradation of western society is due to a whole lot more than disrespect of elders.
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:32 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Cash the check*. Then, if she does something manipulative or bitchy or that you otherwise don't like, go back to not communicating with her.

Actually, cash the check, but be very frugal in how you spend it -- use it only for urgent needs like food and electricity. If she starts any shit, immediately send her back the unused portion with a note saying you are disappointed the gift was not given honestly, that the remaining balance will be paid back to her on a $10/month schedule, and that she should never contact you again. It's worth a shot, right?
posted by Rock Steady at 9:32 PM on December 29, 2008 [12 favorites]


Only you can decide if you want a relationship with your Mom again, and if so, to what level. I definitely understand that Master Manipulator role in the maternal unit. And while it might feel good termporarily to do something defiant to 'show her', it just reinforces your current situation. I think the struggle for you is to feel like you can initiate a conversation while maintaining your rights, your dignity and autonomy, something you absolutely can do in your position.

Yes, you have financial need right now. Yes, the check is convenient. Yes, you can cash the check and walk away as she indicated that it was a gift.

But you feel like some soft of exchange is 'due', and I assume that you have been feeling that way for a while? Not just when the check arrived. If it were me, I would verify her mental state to see if she is not in some sort of crisis, and most importantly, that she wrote the check without harming herself. This will allow you to make the next step.

The only way you will not be beholden to her in any way is to send the check back. That would definitely be one way of communicating with her. That said, if you decide to cash it, you should state your intent to repay every penny, even if it just in a brief, civil note of thanks. This enables you to define the boundaries of this transaction (Remember, she told you to do with it as you wish). If she gives you any grief, or views this as an means to start in with her old behaviors, you can cut ties again. Continue to pay it back but let her know that this money is not currency for your relationship.

My parents would never just give me money, so I only borrowed from them one time. That was all it took to help me to understand how destructive money can be in a relationship. I set myself up with a complete payment schedule and kep them off my back. They would even lend to me again, if I ever needed it. They gave quite freely to my little fuck-up of a sister (knowing they would never see a penny back), and they lord it over her at every turn - no one will ever hear the end of it.

The point is that you can take advantage of the opportunity during your time of need. And if you feel like re-establishing contact, do, but don't until you are ready. And you can do so without feeling like she is controlling you - Just steele yourself for the very real possibility that this situation may not end well. But at least you can say you did it your way...
posted by inquisitrix at 10:01 PM on December 29, 2008


If she starts any shit, immediately send her back the unused portion with a note saying you are disappointed the gift was not given honestly, that the remaining balance will be paid back to her on a $10/month schedule, and that she should never contact you again.

I think that "If she starts any shit, immediately send her back absolutely nothing whatsoever with a note saying you're disappointed the gift was not given honestly, that you're going to treat it as if it were nonetheless, and that she should never contact you again" is better in every way.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:10 PM on December 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Dwadle, when you have a family member who has treated you cruelly, physically and perhaps sexually abused you, treated you with hatred and contempt, manipulated you (even as an adult), used you, pitted other family members against you, lied, betrayed your trust and successfully destroyed your self-esteem, it's often best for your own sanity and well being to cut ties. If your own mother brutally abused you as a child and young adult, would you want her to be in your life to do the same to your children?

I don't think the original poster is talking about a mere personality clash or minor conflict with their parent.

The moral degradation of western society is due to a whole lot more than disrespect of elders.


Where is all that in the question?

Lots of really negative, pessimistic advice here. Since when can the internet predict the future?

The asker's mother specifically put no strings on the money. Will she change her mind in the future? Maybe. Maybe not. The point is, right now, there's nothing to say that the asker's mom isn't just trying to be helpful.
posted by gjc at 10:12 PM on December 29, 2008


gjc, pluckysparrow is referring to a deleted comment by dawdle.
posted by palomar at 10:17 PM on December 29, 2008


The only way you will not be beholden to her in any way is to send the check back.

I don't fully understand this. The only way to not be beholden to her is to just not act like you are. Depositing the check doesn't make you beholden, as it was not given in payment for future services.

That said, if you decide to cash it, you should state your intent to repay every penny, even if it just in a brief, civil note of thanks.

I don't see why anonymous can't just deposit it and do nothing. Stating an intent to repay in writing seems dumb.

If she gives you any grief, or views this as an means to start in with her old behaviors, you can cut ties again. Continue to pay it back but let her know that this money is not currency for your relationship.

This seems bizarrely self-defeating behavior to me. If she starts shit, just cut ties again. No need to repay what was clearly stated was a gift. If she didn't mean it to be a true gift, that's her problem, not yours.

they lord it over her at every turn - no one will ever hear the end of it.

Hearing the end of it is simple. Block her calls, don't open physical mail from her, blacklist all her known email addresses.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:19 PM on December 29, 2008


clango has it—cash the check, and don't look back. just because she's probably making rules doesn't mean you have to play by them.
posted by lia at 10:51 PM on December 29, 2008


It's a gift. The only strings attached are the ones you put on them.
Send a card thanking her for her generosity during this difficult time.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 11:09 PM on December 29, 2008


I would cash it. Sometimes mental issues improve with age. This, and/or better medication, etc., could mean that your mom is actually doing better, and this gesture could be one kind thing she can do for you that would really help you out when you need it and give you a good memory to associate with her.

But I said I would cash it. And if she ever dared to suggest anything about being beholding to her, I would say, "by my reckoning, it would take at least $20,000-$30,000 of therapy for me to even begin to undo the damage you did to me as a kid, so get back to me when you've paid me that, plus at least 18 years of non-abusive behavior to make up for my childhood. Then we'll talk."

The thing is, though, if this is going to make you fearful and uneasy, it's just not worth it. If, on the other hand, you can use the money, and if your mom starts up with her old tricks, you can just sigh and acknowledge that unfortunately, no, she hasn't changed, and carry on as before with no contact, then it's fine. Take it, use it, hope for the best. But no amount of money, none, will buy anyone the right to abuse you further. Not by one word, not by one arched eyebrow or curled lip. This is a given. This is absolute.
posted by taz at 11:46 PM on December 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


If she's being manipulative, it would be a bad idea to cash the check. Money comes between families very quickly indeed.

If she's being nice, she's probably still being manipulative. She might just be trying to buy her way back into your life. Is the drama that could ensue worth $3000?
posted by Solomon at 12:54 AM on December 30, 2008


I don't have any advice to add to the above, except to note that you should keep the letter that came with it to protect yourself if she claims later that this was a loan instead of a gift.
posted by kprincehouse at 1:20 AM on December 30, 2008


Your mother sounds eerily like my own.

If years of experience have taught me anything: if you have any intention of ever resuming a relationship with your mother, do not cash that check.

That money will only be held over your head every time she perceives you've failed her in some way. "I was there when you were unemployed! I gave you three thousand of my hard-earned dollars..." "Why can't you help me do unreasonable request x? I gave you three thousand dollars..."

It's drama you don't need, and you cannot predict how it will come back to bite you later (especially if your mother is as unpredictable and illogical as my own). The safest thing to do is send it back uncashed, perhaps (if you are so inclined) with a note explaining why you do not feel comfortable accepting it.

Of course, if like me you have no intention of ever speaking to you mother again, then, in the immortal words of Steve Miller "take the money and run"
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:15 AM on December 30, 2008


Of course, if like me you have no intention of ever speaking to you mother again, then, in the immortal words of Steve Miller "take the money and run"

What nww said. Just because you cash it, doesn't mean you have to talk to her.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:20 AM on December 30, 2008


You have no control over what your mother does, you only have control over what you do. You have no information about what your mother is thinking, you only have information on what you are thinking.

So here you are, faced with a gift. You have need (unemployment) and you have manners (refusing a gift is rude). You also have knowledge of your mother's past behaviour, and a framework of how best to deal with her.

The economy is very, very bad. Sending a cheque like that is something that a normal person would do as much as a person with a mental illness would do.

You can talk to her or not, set boundaries one way or set them another way. None of these things have anything to do with the gift. The gift may have made you think about these things, but you can make these choices in whatever way is best, irregardless of the gift.

So cash the cheque, be gracious and thankful, and then separately (maybe even in a separate note) state your plans to have a relationship with your mother. Or, if you think it's best to continue the silence, then write a note stating your plan to do that and why, and then continue the silence.

The gift is the gift. You didn't ask for it - she chose to send it. Use it, act with good manners and good intentions.
posted by By The Grace of God at 6:31 AM on December 30, 2008


Given your mother's mental instability, are you sure that the check won't bounce?


If you think the money's actually in her checking account, I'd cash it and use the money to get my mother some psychiatric help, myself. She sounds like she needs it.
posted by magstheaxe at 6:39 AM on December 30, 2008


I'm with the folks who say cash it and send a thank you note. It is a gift- you are not obligated to do anything in return. If she later attempts to use this gesture against you- that is her own crazy-making. You do not have to participate, respond, or internalize any of it.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 6:39 AM on December 30, 2008


If you are ready to re-establish contact, a short, kind note, with the check enclosed, would be an extremely powerful gesture
posted by amtho at 6:46 AM on December 30, 2008


don't cash it. no matter how crazy she may get, if you accept this "gift" there is the possiblity of later her saying "remember how i helped you when you down and out?"

money is a very strange thing.

you can send it back with a note saying "thanks for your generosity, but i cannot accept this. the thought is appreciated." or something.

you can acknowledge the gesture without having to accept it.

i have my own family background of weirdness where this is coming from. my SO would be able to take money from his momma, but then again, she isn't manipulative and crazy and someone he hasn't talked to in a number of years and blocked from from being able to call his home phone.

she's just trying to find a way back in. you can forgive her for what she did in the past but you don't have to let her back in your life. it's hard, it feels wrong, but your sanity will be the better for it.
posted by sio42 at 7:43 AM on December 30, 2008


ROU_Xenophobe, when I look at your judgement of my response (calling my suggestion 'dumb' is not exactly constructive), it's clear that you didn't exactly grasp anything that I commented on. You completely missed the point that he/she is considering contact with his/her mother. My point was that relationships like that are difficult to manage, but it can be done.

Anonymous took the time to write a very heart-felt, thoughtful question - This is clearly something that he/she needs assistance with and snarky, careless, or thoughtless comments aren't even in the realm of helpful.

I won't go so far as to call your suggestions dumb, but what I will say is that it's not as black or white as you make it out to be, and it definitely was not just about the money. But again, from your 'responses', it doesn't appear that is something that you care to grasp.
posted by inquisitrix at 7:54 AM on December 30, 2008


My family dynamic doesn't even come close to yours, but yet, when I was in a similar circumstance and I accepted money, the drama it caused lasted so long and so far that I'd never, ever do it again.

However, I understand broke. The question is, where are YOU right now and are you strong enough to take the money and not look back? If you aren't ready to deal with the ensuing fallout (if there is some, and you are probably right that there will be), then don't cash the check. If you are, then cash it.

Either way is not an easy choice.
posted by micawber at 8:28 AM on December 30, 2008


Just cash the check. Taking money from someone doesn't mean anything unless you make it mean something (or have a specific written agreement of some sort).
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 8:54 AM on December 30, 2008


Artificial influence has already forced the issue, because right now you are deciding whether or not to let her back in. So cashing the check isn't much of a further step in terms of resolving your feelings.

My gut instinct was to say don't cash it, if there's any way you can make it on your own. You won't enjoy having the money, or enjoy the relief it gives you from financial issues, in no small part because you might just be scared about the other shoe dropping with her. Maybe she means it as an honest gift, maybe she doesn't, but if you can't trust her then you will feel like it's a gift with big fat strings, and that's as bad/almost as bad as any strings that do come attached. Forget about her thoughts or intent for the moment, and just think about how you feel, and how you would feel if you took the money.

All that said, if you *do* cash the check, the only power it gives her is what you allow her to have. I really, truly believe that. And I wouldn't give it back if she starts giving you shit about it at some future point. If you decide to accept the gift, then decide to wholly accept it. I feel like if you leave yourself some outs then you're not really handling it. (Believe me, easier said than done. for me anyway.)

(Good thoughts for you~)
posted by KAS at 10:00 AM on December 30, 2008


ROU_Xenophobe, when I look at your judgement of my response (calling my suggestion 'dumb' is not exactly constructive)

Let me restate, then, so you understand why my comment was neither careless nor thoughtless, but just abrupt.

The situation is that there is a mother who has some history of being combative, abusive, or otherwise misbehaving.

In this context, stating in writing that you intend to repay -- that you understand it to be a loan, not a gift -- is a dumb thing to do, because it provides Crazy Evil Mother ammunition in the unlikely event that she goes cuckoo-bananas and hires lawyers to demand its return.

So, yes, your suggestion is a suggestion to do a dumb thing. A smart suggestion would be to retain the original card that clearly states that the $3000 is a gift, Just In Case.

The odds of even a Crazy Evil Mother raising a legal stink because she's pissed that the consequences of sending the $3000 didn't match her fevered fantasies of what would happen seem very remote to me. But there's absolutely no reason at all to hand a Crazy Evil Mother any such ammunition. Any letter or note back should not mention or hint at any prospect of repayment.

Put differently, Anonymous has received a gift from his/her estranged mother. A gift, you can accept and move along. You are suggesting that instead of receiving a gift, Anonymous should accept it as a loan instead, rendering ongoing interactions with his/her mother unavoidable. Can you really not see that this would be a dumb thing to do?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:16 AM on December 30, 2008


You already know that she has a history of "manipulative, controlling behavior." Money is one of the easiest ways to try to control people. Chances are, if she's sending you a gift like this she's either (1) not thinking straight and will regret the decision, in which case there are ethical concerns about taking the check or (2) very unsubtly attempting to literally get you in her debt as a way of asserting power over you at the start of the next phase of your relationship. I know it would be nice to have the extra funds, but in my view, it's only worth it to cash the check if it was given to you after she thought it through lucidly and decided to give you a gift with no strings attached, either financial or emotional. You know your mom well enough to know that the odds of that are vanishingly small. I'd turn it down.

I can say honestly that my wife and I have turned down similar gifts from her manipulative and BPD parents again and again. In our case, they kept offering for a long time, and it was obvious that it was much more about their need to assert control than about our need for extra cash.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:17 AM on December 30, 2008


Eh. I'd cash it. I've dealt with my share of this kind of manipulation attempts from my own family, and you know what, if they're going to try to manipulate you, they're going to do it regardless of whether you take their money. People like that will almost always find something to hold over your head.

My take on it: It's money. She's offering. If there are strings attached, she hasn't specifically stated that, and you can always counter anything she says later with, "Well, I thought you were just being nice when you sent me that wonderful gift, and I wish you wouldn't imply that I was somehow malicious in accepting it."

If she's pretty unpredictable and capricious in general, who knows if you'll ever see more of her money? It's a crapshoot, and I'd say take what you can get now.
posted by limeonaire at 2:35 PM on December 30, 2008


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