I can laugh off the broken arm but that paper cut really hurts.
July 22, 2011 11:41 AM   Subscribe

My mom hurt my feelings. I think I handled it right at the time but I don't know what to do next.

Here's the back story:

Earlier this year my parents found out they might be coming into some money. My mom told me that if they did they were going to take all of us to Disneyland. (My sister and I are both married with kids, so in total it would have been 7 adults and 7 kids.) I expressed my excitement and told her how my husband and I were just talking about how now would be a perfect time to go since our kids were the perfect ages, not too old, not too young. I also told my mom to give us enough notice so that my husband could get time off of work.

At a later conversation we talked about the trip and I told my mom that while we did want to go very badly, my husband and I understood that it would be a lot of money for all of us and we would understand if they choose to use their windfall for something else. (We live in a different state so they would have to fly us out.)

That was the last time the Disneyland trip was mentioned. I think it was March. I didn't hear anything else so I thought that the money didn't come.

In June a mutual friend remarked on Facebook that one of the rides at Disneyland was broken and my mom commented that it better be fixed by July because that's her favorite ride. I was startled so I called my sister.

I found out that my parents were taking her entire family but not mine. I wasn't really upset, I just chalked it up to one of those things that happen when your mom is crazy.

Back story over.

Today I got a picture mail on my phone from my mom. It was a picture of my niece after she'd gotten her hair done at the princess salon at Disneyland. At first I thought it was sent by my sister but then I realized it was from my mom.

This picture really hurt me. I know my daughter (my mom's only other granddaughter) would have loved to been there. For some reason that picture really drove home the point that we were being excluded without being given the respect of a reason.

I sent back "AWWW! Adorable!" as a reply and then called my husband and cried a little.

I feel like after no mention of the trip, sending the picture was a slap in the face. I'm upset but I think I handled things okay with my reply.

My question is, now what? Do I just act like nothing happened?

My relationship with my mother has suffered lately due to disagreements over how often we visit (apparently "We can't afford it." isn't good enough) and our differences in political views. I've stopped calling her just to chat but I still send her emails with pictures of the kids and we got her a webcam for Christmas and set up weekly dates for her to talk to the kids on Skype. She stopped remembering to call or be online for us to call though, so the Skype-ing has all but died. (We did use it on Father's Day to talk to my Dad.)

She does call me occasionally and I try to be cheerful and give her the latest news about the kids. If one of them does something really great (gets an award at school or learns to ride two wheels for example) I will give her a call and tell her the good news.

So what do I do? Is this a big enough offense that I should call her out on it? (I'm afraid if she knew I was really hurt she'd call to apologize and then somehow make it my fault.)

Do I just go on acting the way I have been so that my kids have a good relationship with my parents? My own paternal grandparents treated some of my cousins better than me and my siblings, so I know firsthand how it can hurt. Do I let my kids find this out on their own too or should I try and shield them from it?

I know in the scope of things this isn't really a big deal but I would like some advice on how to cope with the sting and what to do next.
posted by TooFewShoes to Human Relations (79 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Not a big deal - well, it is. I guess there's a technicality here where you said you'd understand if they wanted to spend the money on something else. I'm sure you didn't say or imply that it would be okay if they spent the money on some one else. But I do think it would be worth talking to her about it and seeing what she says.

I can see exactly why you feel slighted and neglected here and I'm sure you have good reason to. But there is some chance she doesn't know how she's coming across.
posted by tel3path at 11:48 AM on July 22, 2011

Put yourself in her shoes. Do you think you said "Mom, we understand that it would cost a lot for you to take all of us to Disneyland, and if you'd like to spend the money on something else, that's fine" and she heard "Mom, we're going to bow out of the trip to Disneyland"? I don't know your mother, but I sincerely doubt she is sending you pictures in a malicious attempt to hurt your feelings, and I don't think this is a case of favoring certain grandchildren over others. You should have been more explicit in your intentions re: giving your parents an out from taking you on the trip.
posted by litnerd at 11:48 AM on July 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I disagree with the interpretations above. I think this is a huge deal in terms of omitting to include you, omitting to explain the omission, and in terms of a big old slap in the face.

My response to this would depend on the relationship between Grandma and the kids. I would say you are entitled to take a major step back in terms of initiating contact and putting forth effort, without hindering your kids' relationship with their grandmother.

That assumes that you're looking to reduce the pain this relationship causes you. If you are looking to resolve the cause of the tension, I would say that there's a slim chance that a confrontation would bring things out in the open and present solutions. Might as well give a conversation a go, but I would keep my expectations low.
posted by freshwater at 11:50 AM on July 22, 2011 [32 favorites]

Response by poster: To clarify a few things. The money was coming as a settlement for my dad's disability. When I told her we'd understand if she spent the money on something else, I specifically said a new truck for my dad because his current truck is very old and an automatic which is very tough on his legs and feet (which are the cause of his disability.)

I'm not upset that she just took my sister's family to Disneyland. This isn't the first time they've done that. I'm upset that she didn't have the respect to tell me about it and then sent me pictures. As far as she knows I was still planning on going with her. It's a good thing I didn't mention anything to my kids.

They've taken my sister before and always told me about it. Usually we are invited to come at the same time with the understanding that we'd pay our own way. 5 years ago they did take all of us but there were fewer grandkids. This time we'd been invited as guests and then the subject was dropped.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:59 AM on July 22, 2011

Wow. At best this is a break down in communication (you thought you guys were included, mom didn't). At worst, she's just being downright rude.

First, I wouldn't jump to any conclusions about why your family wasn't included. When they get back from Disney, CALMLY mention that you had thought you guys were going to go too and were kind of sad that you weren't included. At this point, she will either confirm that it was a big misunderstanding or get hedgy about why your family wasn't included and then you have your answer.

I wouldn't make any judgment calls about what her motives were here until you've spoken with her.

I would also ignore anything else from FB for now. It's just going to piss you off.
posted by Leezie at 11:59 AM on July 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh yeah, when my sister asked my mom why she wasn't taking us to DL too Mom told her that it was because "They don't make any effort to see us, why should we make any effort to see them."
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:01 PM on July 22, 2011

Best answer: My father and my stepmother used to make a big deal out of excluding me from A LOT of family get-togethers I could have easily attended. This went on for over 10 years.

Now that I am happily married with a beautiful son, I no longer talk to my family at all. Wanna know why?

It was easy to let the relationships fade out once I had my own family, and honestly, I don't want my husband or son to ever get the impression it is OK for us to treat each other the way my dad and stepmother treat me.

Fade on your mom. Let her put effort into keeping up with you, and be wary of her whenever she reaches out. Shield your children from this woman (manage their expectations of her) because she will play these games with them, too. What she did was pointedly malicious, even if she doesn't admit (to herself) that she wanted to hurt you. I don't know why people are sometimes so insecure and petty that they need to act like this, but there you are.

My friend has a saying I use for situations like this.

"Happy people don't do bad things."
posted by jbenben at 12:04 PM on July 22, 2011 [99 favorites]

I think that the charitable-to-Mom interpretations are probably what's actually going on, but it's fucked up for this picture to be the way you found out. I mean...March? Bizarre. Unfortunately, my experience in situations similar to this is that the person doing the offending is simply oblivious and making an issue out of it will be like explaining physics to a cat. Furthermore, one of the unfortunate lessons of adulthood I've had to learn is that the takeaway from this is simply that it happened, and that that's the way it is. You don't get to resolve it, you just have to decide whether it's lame or if it's stupid or if it's just an honest mistake and go on with your life.

On update: Wow, that is brutal. You should ask your sister for advice on this, even if just commiseration on an "I mean...that is uncool, right?" level.
posted by rhizome at 12:04 PM on July 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Not to be rude, but it sounds like your family is toxic and you happen to be the whipping post/black sheep.

At the very least, your parents should have offered to take the kids and give you a break. The fact they didn't is a slap in the face. So your sister's family is good enough, but not you? Let it go, and start looking back on the memories to see if this is a repeating event. Yes, it's hard but ask your other half to see what their take is. Maybe they've seen this behavior in the past with your family and never mentioned anything.

My SO's mother is the same way, and we gave up trying to be anything more then cordial to them. We have been, and always will be, the black sheep family because we don't play their games. It's not worth it.
posted by lpcxa0 at 12:05 PM on July 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

I should say your mom - not your family.
posted by lpcxa0 at 12:06 PM on July 22, 2011

Response by poster: My sister did say that my mom considered taking my older two kids but that Mom didn't think I would trust her with my daughter because of the Celiac Disease issue. It's partially true, but I wouldn't trust my kids more to behave. My daughter has a tendency to wander off.

The offer to take the kids was never made to me. I've talked to my mom plenty since March, just not about the trip. Until the FB post I was under the impression that she was still waiting for the decision about the funds. If I hadn't talked to my sister that would still be my position.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:10 PM on July 22, 2011

Best answer: Do I just go on acting the way I have been so that my kids have a good relationship with my parents? My own paternal grandparents treated some of my cousins better than me and my siblings, so I know firsthand how it can hurt. Do I let my kids find this out on their own too or should I try and shield them from it?

It's actually not clear what you mean by this, but, it's not really up to you whether your kids have a good relationship with your parents -- it's mostly up to your parents. But you should be shielding your kids from your mother's malicious manipulative crap. Putting up with your mother's bs for the sake of your kids' relationship with her is backwards.

Toxic relationships with grandparents are not better than no relationships with grandparents.
posted by endless_forms at 12:12 PM on July 22, 2011 [11 favorites]

Best answer: BTW, confronting her will get you nowhere good. Ditto if it gets back to your mom via your sister that your feelings were hurt.

I'm afraid if it gets back to your mom it will simply compound your disappointment and grief.

Plus, you don't want your mom turning this around on you and creating more drama (which will provide more emotional pay-off for her, I might add.) just let it go. Change your boundaries and expectations of her moving forward.

Love your husband and kids. They are who matter, now.
posted by jbenben at 12:14 PM on July 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Can I just say I'm so sorry that this happened? If I were in your shoes I would be very hurt, so I completely understand your feelings right now.

I guess I simply wanted to send a few empathetic words. Sometimes people do really shitty things, and I'm sorry you're having to deal with this.
posted by Falwless at 12:15 PM on July 22, 2011 [45 favorites]

I don't think this is about the photo, I think it's about the fact they paid for your sister and her kids and not for you and your family. That's totally fair and shitty of your mom. But at this juncture, that horse has already bolted. There is really nothing you can say except about the photo, and then you're going to be having a huge fight about something that isn't even really what you're fighting about.

I'd take this as a wakeup call that your parents are not good at dealing with distance, that there's a lot of fallout that comes from that, and that you need to proceed with caution and self-protection if you want to continue this relationship.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:22 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have no plans to tell my sister that my feelings were hurt. It would only make her feel bad for going and having a good time.

My husband offered to call my mom and tell her how hurt I am but I told him not to.

The sympathy is really helping me! And the anecdotes about other crazy moms... Thank you guys.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:22 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think it would be appropriate to set this aside for now and focus on the positive family relationships and friendships in your life--people who deal with you honestly and who treat you with love. You want your mom to do the right thing, but she's not ready to--and she's probably not even ready to talk about it.

Someone for whom "We can't afford it," isn't a legit reason for your family's decision-making, and for whom, "Oh yeah? Well SHE doesn't..., so why should we...?" informs her own decision-making--that's not a person who's open to changing her mind or considering your perspective. And trying to have a conversation she's not ready to have will just be more pain for you.

And by the way: kids don't need to have a close relationship with petty or difficult grandparents. Some grandparents have difficult relationships with their kids but awesome relationships with their grandkids. Some grandparents have difficult relationships with their kids and let that negativity spill over into their relationships with their grandkids. Hope for the former, but if you see the latter developing, you need to shield your kids from it, even if that means limiting their contact with their grandparents.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:24 PM on July 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

Hmm. This could be a toxic situation, or it could be a misunderstanding, or it could be a broken-down relationship that is still fixable. It sounds like perhaps when you told your mother "don't feel like you have to take us," she heard, "I don't really want to go with you." Given the other problems in your relationship, I wouldn't take this as deliberate slap in the face (with you as the innocent party) so much as a culmination of all the small tensions that have built up to this.

It seems like your mother still really wants a relationship with you, and you with her. If you want to try to repair things, I would say don't make accusations about her deliberately excluding you from the trip. The fact is, the problem in your relationship didn't start with Disneyland. The trip was a symptom or outcome of everything else that's been going on.
posted by yarly at 12:24 PM on July 22, 2011

Best answer: Circle the wagons. Your immediate family - your husband and your kids - are your highest priority already, and you shouldn't beat yourself up about how your mom takes your response to her clearly hurtful behavior. She's a grown woman, and should be responsible for her own actions. Deal with your family's well-being first. Your mom isn't acting the way family is supposed to act, and I'm sorry. You seem much more patient than a lot of people I know.

endless_forms is right, on all counts.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 12:27 PM on July 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

Okay, it seems as though you were deliberately excluded, from your update.

How horrible. I haven't faced this kind of deliberate meanness in the family, so I can only suggest you take the counsel of those who have.
posted by tel3path at 12:33 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would be deeply hurt as well, and I think that sending the picture was highly inconsiderate. And really, if it was a misunderstanding and your mom thought you were bowing out, any reasonable person would have called you up and said "Are you sure you don't want to go?"

It seems like she has some resentment going on and that she deliberately kept you in the dark. It's manipulative and childish behavior.

Concentrate on your own family and kiddos and have your own family adventures. While Disneyland is fun, the most memorable vacations that I had as a child were always the ones that involved things like camping or hitting up the in-state attractions. Do some of that instead and distance yourself from her for a while.
posted by Ostara at 12:42 PM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: She wanted to hurt you as punishment for not "trying hard enough", so I wouldn't give her the satisfaction of knowing it worked. Take it as a warning about the kind of person she is, and try to maintain my distance while remaining civil. That's really hard with family, especially family that are acting childishly, bu just take the high road and say how happy you are for your sister's family. And then, as others have said, share your love with your nuclear family and enjoy those better relationships.
posted by ldthomps at 12:47 PM on July 22, 2011 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Just wanted to add - if your mother truly did not invite you because "They don't make any effort to see us, why should we make any effort to see them?" then you have a very passive-aggressive mother who should be kept at arm's length.

An emotionally healthy adult would have had a discussion with you about her hurt feelings of not seeing you enough. But instead, you're clearly dealing with a grown woman who is still quite immature and would rather act out of spite "to teach you a lesson" rather than having a meaningul, productive discussion with you about her hurt feelings regarding the lack of visits.

I really do feel for you.
posted by Falwless at 12:48 PM on July 22, 2011 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Wow. I'm sorry this happened. It sounds to me like your mother is trying to get a rise out of you on this, and that is a pretty crappy thing for a mother to do to her daughter.

I'm in the camp that thinks it might be better to be wary of this woman continuing to be in your or your family's life, but I also want to say that if at all possible, please try to maintain strong ties to the rest of your and your husband's family, if just for the sake of your kids. When I was young, my mother cut off ties with her family, and because my father's family lived in the same town that mom's did (in another state), that relationship faltered too. Now I'm an adults with some vague idea about of the importance of family, but no experience about what that really means or how to maintain those family ties.
posted by queensissy at 12:52 PM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am so sorry your mother acted so meanly. I agree with you assessment to not tell her you were hurt. You clearly wouldn't get an apology or closure. I would also be wary of letting my children near someone clearly incapable of maintaining normal adult relations. She is clearly happy to gossip about you to your sister; I would worry she would say something inappropriate to your children. By including her in your children's life you will have them repeat the pattern you experienced as a child. I hope you can continue to have a strong relationship with your sister and her family; I would not be surprised if your mother was using triangulation to try to control that relationship too.
posted by saucysault at 12:55 PM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My late dad always made it clear to his children that he and mom had worked their entire lives and gotten themselves into the position they were in so that they could help us out-- no matter how old we were or in whatever position we were in. His relative age and ease of living (money, mobility) made it so that he would be the one to extend himself to help out-- as his relatives had done so when he and mom had seven (seven!) hooligans running around a 3-bedroom and screaming in the station wagon. They were by no means rich, but better established than many of us. When he needed us in the last months of his life, it became our turn, and the lesson of example he provided was the best lesson of his life. We now take care of mom because that is what is done. It just is.

I know you said your father has a disability-- hence the windfall. However, there is no quid pro quo in parental relatinoships when the children themselves have young children. Unless grandma and grandpa are completely destitute and/or immobile, they carry the lionshare burden of vistation and contact. They just do. They have more time, they have more resources in many cases, and they should damn well remember the insanity of what life was like with smaller children in the house.

I am sorry your mom seems to keep tally of how well-behaved you are in keeping contact, and I am sorry that you were denied the trip, not because you seem to have wanted to go to Disney, but because it represents a denial of affection and closeness to your mom.

Take the advice of the others in the thread and fade from your mom. She is setting an example and teaching a lesson you do not want your children to learn. You want a new one, so set it for your children now, and rest easy in the knowledge that you do not have to be upset about this situation. You can be hurt by it, but your children will know from you that love and affection is not meted out because of what they have 'done for you lately'. It is given because it just is.
posted by oflinkey at 12:57 PM on July 22, 2011 [36 favorites]

Best answer: I agree with jbenben. Also, don't let your mom communicate her hateful shit using your sister, who is being conveniently obtuse if she fails to notice the games being played here. Don't ask her for information and don't let her report your mom's criticisms to you. Your mantra in this can be, "If mom wants to discuss something with me, she can do it herself." Protect yourself and your family.

It's okay to feel bad when someone so close is deliberately cruel. Don't compound it by feeling bad about feeling bad. Let your husband/friends give you hugs and sympathy. (You have mine.)
posted by melissa may at 12:59 PM on July 22, 2011 [14 favorites]

I can't help but think that maybe you could talk to your mom about your relationship, rather than accepting that everything is fucked and that she was being mean.

If this were a thread from your mothers point of view "My daughter NEVER visits me and makes no effort to keep our relationship together. I just came into some money and want to go to Disney world, should I feel obligated to bring her and her family?" I have a feeling everyone would be OK with her not inviting you.

Quite possibly, the picture was not meant to be mean, and was just meant to share a nice moment with you. I think everyone is being a little quick to assume she is such a terrible mother will ill intentions, from such little information. I'm sure she is sad that you aren't in her life... possibly not just out to get revenge or something.

...but maybe I have no idea what your mother is like.
posted by LZel at 12:59 PM on July 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

Your mom clearly has issues. But, I think your sister let you down too by not sticking up for you from the get go. If I heard my mom was taking me and my kids and not my brother's, I would say no thanks. All of us or none of us unless they had other plans with my brother.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:02 PM on July 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: After melissa may's comment I just want to say that I had to drag this information out of my little sister. She is an absolute doll who is always on my side and constantly sticks up for me. I had to twist her arm but I wanted the whole story.

We hated each other as kids but she's one of my best friends now.
posted by TooFewShoes at 1:06 PM on July 22, 2011

Response by poster: And my mom had already told my sister's kids about the trip or she would have backed out. Anyone with little kids can understand the awkward position that put my sister in. I don't fault her choice at all.
posted by TooFewShoes at 1:07 PM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

You mentioned that stories of other crappy mom behavior were helpful to you, so I'll mention one of the things my mother did to me that for some reason I was reminded of by your story. I was 19 and living in another country from my mother. It was up to me to visit because my mom's afraid of flying, so I spent months and months working at a fast food restaurant 7 days a week in order to scrape up enough money for a cheap flight on top of my rent and other bills. The day finally came, I arrived and my grandmother picked me up from the airport and drove me over to my mother's house. When she opened the door and say me, she said "oh, good, you're here, now you can go to the laundromat for me and do my laundry."

Now, you would think after something like that I would have to cut off contact with such a nasty and selfish person. The funny thing is, though, that over the years my mother has really chilled to the point where we're fairly close now, twenty years later. So I guess what I'm telling you is that it's probably for the best that you pull back and distance yourself now, but you don't need to burn any bridges. People change and the cliche that they tend to mellow with age is sometimes very true. So a break with your mother doesn't have to be permanent but, yeah, for now I'd back off and give the relationship a bit of a break.
posted by hazyjane at 1:18 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Financial realities are financial realities. If you live in a different state and it is too costly to visit more frequently, then that is a very real situation that your Mom needs to get a grip on and stop blaming you for it. She does have options. She can use Skype more because it does count as making an effort. She can also come visit you more and be happy to have you visit when you can realistically afford it.

I live over 2,000 miles away from my Mom. She has weekly Skype conversations with my children. Mom spends at least a week with us and we spend at least a week with her each year. It works well for us. While I know that the kids would love to hug Grandma more and that Grandma would love to be close enough to babysit, it is just not possible currently. So, we make the weekly calls work for us. Your Mom could be doing that too. It really does make a HUGE difference in how the kids interact with the grandparents. My in-laws have never taken us up on the offers for Skype conversations and they don't call just to talk to the kids. As a result, the kids have a much less close connection with them than they do with my Mom.

I'm sorry your Mom is making decisions that will negatively impact her relationships with your children.
posted by onhazier at 1:20 PM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

If I'm reading this right, it sounds like you haven't said anything at all to your mom about this? I'm sorry if this is an obtuse question, but is there a reason that you can't just discuss this with your mom in a really straight way?

Can you just call her up, tell her you'd like to talk about the Disneyland trip, and ask her what happened there? Ask her why she told you what she did (that she would be taking you all to Disneyland if that money came through) and then ended up not doing so without telling you? And then, after all that, why she sent you the picture?

You say: I'm afraid if she knew I was really hurt she'd call to apologize and then somehow make it my fault.

Why are you afraid of that? Not a rhetorical question. Why would that be any worse than the situation as it stands now? The only thing I can think of to explain it is, you feel that if you don't say anything, she is in the wrong, but if you do say something she will make it that you are in the wrong and so it's better to keep the status quo to keep the moral high ground?

She can't "make" anything your fault. If she comes up with something like, "Well, I'm sorry that you were hurt, but I was hurt that you don't make an effort to see me." Then you can deal with that. You can tell her it's not okay with you for her to retaliate against you like that when she feels slighted.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:22 PM on July 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

I agree with Ashley801 that you need to have a straight conversation about this, if only for closure. This will turn into the huge elephant in the room and color all your future interactions with mom. At least get it out into the open.
posted by desjardins at 1:26 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

FWIW, the *only* thing that has worked for me with my own crazy/manipulative/somewhat sadistic mom is to bluntly call her out on it each and every single time and repeat the reality in the face of her attempts to skew it, which is why I recommend doing that. Like: "Mom, I feel like you are trying to deliberately embarrass me right now." "You're so sensitive!" "No, you are deliberately trying to embarrass me." "Well, you SHOULD be embarrassed and you deserve it!" "Mom, you need to stop trying to deliberately embarrass me." "Oh, leave me alone and stop trying to bully me. You are a bully." "Mom, don't call me names." "*sigh* Just leave me alone." And that's the end of it and we can be normal after that usually. Even though each episode can be trying, when they are always called out like that, they become less frequent.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:28 PM on July 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm glad you have a good sister. I really encourage you not to try to pry these things from her and only have these conversations with your mother, remembering you have a lot of power here. You have grandkids, youth, a loving marriage, and a caring sister. What manipulation like this is designed to do is make you feel small enough to give up this power voluntarily. Yet this is your family, and you decide her access to it. Set whatever conditions you please in order to grant your mother access again. Or don't. This is rank meanness, and you don't have to appease it to be a good person.
posted by melissa may at 1:29 PM on July 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Ashley801 you make a great point and ask valid questions.

If my mom was sane I would have had a frank conversation with her in the beginning.

Unfortunately I have serious questions about my mom's mental health. From past experience I can tell you that what would start as a normal conversation would soon turn in to a monologue about all the bad things I've ever done and how horrible I treat her. She might just throw in some Tea Party rhetoric and end of the world paranoia for good measure. There would be lots of attempts at guilt tripping me on her side and much teeth gritting on mine.
posted by TooFewShoes at 1:31 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh honey, I'm so sorry. This sucks. Nthing everyone else who says fade, fade, fade.
posted by cyndigo at 1:35 PM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds like she's abusive and mean. That may or may not be a diagnosable mental health issue but that's not really the point. Try lowering your expectations of her as much as possible for increased sanity, and try laughing at her when she's particularly wacky.

My mother loves to offer to pay my way for cruises, trips, etc. but I know from hard experience that this will never happen. I will be rude, ungrateful and/or greedy if I even ask about it, and I'll only want to talk to her for her money, and something about communists (seriously), and I should go talk to my psychiatrist...it goes on and on.

I don't even thank her for the offer at this point. I completely ignore it. She is perfectly competent and intelligent. She's just a nasty, abusive person and she loves to be manipulative and suspicious about her money.

So, you are not alone. I generally don't speak to my mother and this kind of crap is why.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:39 PM on July 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: There's no point in confronting her. For one thing, she'll "win" because she'll know she hurt your feelings. For another thing, it's not like it'll change her behavior in the future because there won't be another financial windfall to take you to Disneyland instead. For a third thing, she'll just act all snotty and shitty and righteous at you if you call her on her shit, and then you'll hate yourself for having said anything. Don't go there.

Like everyone else, I say to fade. Do the bare amount of token contact. As far as she's concerned you do that anyway, so you might as well. And being exposed to a favoriting grandma won't do your kids any favors since they are the black sheep too.

Geez, what a bitch of a mom. I am so sorry this happened to you. I'd be fuming too.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:45 PM on July 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Your mom choose another set of grandkids over your kids, not just with the Disney thing, but the "stopped calling, stopped skyping" thing. If I were you I would not feel guilty at all about cutting her out of my kids lives.
posted by katypickle at 1:48 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: All I can suggest, and I know this is small comfort, is that you start a fund to take your family to Disneyland yourself someday. I know you aren't exactly rolling in it, but you do deserve a trip.
posted by tel3path at 1:51 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Wow, in order to make a passive-aggressive point to you, your mom deliberately hurt her grandchildren (your kids). I mean, how did she know you wouldn't mention the possibility of a trip to them? Or that their cousins won't refer back to "Disneyland with Grandma & Grandpa" in front of them? That's low.

My experience with passive-aggressive family members is to not let them know they are getting to you. You are right on track with that. If they know they hurt you, they win.

My own motto is "living well is the best revenge." If I were you, I'd start saving up for a fun trip of my own (if not Disneyland, some cheaper and closer theme trip) so you can show your kids a good time and enjoy your family without having to deal with Grandma. (And, let's face it, Grandpa - 'cause it doesn't sound like he came to your defense.)
posted by Knowyournuts at 1:55 PM on July 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: One other thing: unless your dad is completely incapacitated, mentally, he shares 50% of the blame. And your sister could (and should) have said, "I'll tell my kids that the trip is off because Grandma doesn't want Auntie to come."

It's easy to let your mom be the bad guy but really, fuck this noise all the way around.
posted by cyndigo at 1:56 PM on July 22, 2011 [13 favorites]

Best answer: I think everyone is being a little quick to assume she is such a terrible mother will ill intentions, from such little information. I'm sure she is sad that you aren't in her life... possibly not just out to get revenge or something.

...but maybe I have no idea what your mother is like.

This was my thought, too, at the beginning of the thread -- that we don't know the full story, and that it was at least possible that the mother was also trying her best to maintain a relationship, and perhaps even that the OP was primarily interested in affirmation or drama. The more that the OP has posted followups, the less plausible that interpretation has come to seem.

OP, I'm glad you have such a strong relationship with your sister, who sounds great. In my experience a sane and unchildish sibling is the best possible bulwark against an insane or childish parent -- she can provide sanity checks when your mother's sick system has begun Stockholming you or Gaslighting you and starting to sound reasonable; she will understand, better than basically anybody else, the difficult-to-articulate nuances of your mother's various neuroses.

People don't change after age 20 or so -- and not everyone winds up becoming an emotionally or interpersonally mature person -- and these principles apply to one's parents, although they're sometimes harder to identify in the people on whom we modeled our own respective senses of normality.
posted by foursentences at 1:58 PM on July 22, 2011

Best answer: Yeah, after reading more... I agree with everyone else. Ignore her. Don't let her get to you and live your life happily.

When I was wring my post earlier I was thinking "Moms are people too" and that is still true... but sometimes, people are crazy.
posted by LZel at 2:04 PM on July 22, 2011

Best answer: If you're wondering how normal it is to feel bad (as I know firsthand what it can be like to wonder that because someone is manipulating my feelings), let me tell you about the functional side of my family. It's a his/hers/ours situation where I have lots of siblings. Sometimes my stepparent will, with no ill intent whatsoever, plan an amazing trip with the "ours" and leave me out. And my feelings are hurt. And I cry a little to my husband. And it feels like someone stepped on my chest. I know. It hurts so much to be left out. That's from the folks who don't mean to hurt me. I think you are handling this incredibly well, especially considering that your mom intended to slight you.
posted by Knowyournuts at 2:11 PM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You need a plan for what to say if she sends another picture / brags about the trip / etc.
You know your mom best but how about "how nice. Oh, gotta go, the doorbell rang!" If she texts sbout the trip, don't text back. Disengage from the topic.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:12 PM on July 22, 2011

...because she may escalate her comments to get the desired reaction.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:13 PM on July 22, 2011

Best answer: Omnomnom is right. Decent chance that she sent the picture because she wants to unleash a torrent of abuse and vitriol. The best way to irk her (and save your sanity) is to just ignore it. If she escalates, hang up the phone or simply don't respond.

My mother does this with "oops" forwards, like she accidentally forwards me something she sent to my sister about how she paid this bill for her or whatever. I ignore it completely, although sometimes I send it on to my partner like "wow, so subtle"
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:18 PM on July 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Grab a copy of the Deborah Tannen book about Mothers and Daughters in conversation. There's also one about sisters.

I promise, this will all make more sense if you read those books.

(not saying your mom is behaving well, just that it tlfits into some documented mother/daughter dynamics.)
posted by bilabial at 2:31 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: You guys are really awesome. Hugs to everyone.

After reading all your comments I've come to realize that this all comes down to a matter of respect. From this and past experiences I now realize that my mom has no respect for me as an adult and no respect for my decisions.

I've discussed this with my husband and I really think that my relationship with my mom needs to be civil but with no expectations. I will continue to have respect for my parents as the people who gave me life and leave it as that. I will no longer initiate contact and if my mom calls me I will be civil but not chatty.

Luckily for me I have really great in-laws who treat my kids just as well as their other grandkids. They won't miss out.

For the people who say my dad is partially to blame, I agree somewhat. My dad came from an abusive, controlling, crazy mother so having a controlling, crazy wife is probably his idea of normal. He tends to keep his head down and go with the flow to avoid confrontation with my mom because otherwise she throws tantrums and then nobody is happy.

It is also very possible that my mom told him that we didn't want to or weren't able to come and he didn't question her.

When I talked to my husband we also agreed that we're going to start socking away money for our own family trip somewhere. We're usually the kind of people who'd prefer to spend the money on something we need for the family instead of just blowing it on a vacation but I think it's important to have at least one big family vacation for the kids to look back on. We go camping a lot but there's something fun about sleeping in a hotel and visiting new places.
posted by TooFewShoes at 2:34 PM on July 22, 2011 [9 favorites]

I'm so sorry that happened to you and your kids. I know exactly how you feel.

My parents adopted a little (actually their great nephew) and he's now 6. I have two of my own now (2&4) and my mom rarely does any thing with them. She barely calls to see how they are and we live 15 mins from her.

When my parents were married my kids never went over. The one time my son did my mother exclaimed to my dad, "what's he doing here?". Now this is her grandson, the one she has been waiting for since I was little. She wouldn't babysit or nothing. But she had NO problem taking my cousins son or getting up all night with him. She had no problem adjusting her whole life around him when my meth head cousin finally dumped him off at her house for good, but she can't take 2 hrs to watch my babes.

Finally after putting a huge strain on our relationship, which wasn't that good to begin with, I confronted her about it. I told her exactly how it makes me feel to see her neglect her own flesh and blood. How it hurts that she never thinks about them for little presents, but her son always gets something new. How she promised to help me with my first child and how she promised to help me when my second was born, but never found the time. You know what she told me? It was my fault, because when I was 16 I said I was never having kids. So the adoption and all this was MY fault. It changed little but it did make me feel better that she knew how angry I was. Maybe that could work for you. It might not make your mom wake up and treat you an yours any better, but it could be the little release you need from it all.

My dad said when he brought my son home and she asked what he was doing there, he knew in that moment he wanted a divorce. His grandkids and his adopted son are his whole world. Bless him.
Btw, sorry you have to put up with her teaparty talk. I have one of those loons in my family too.
posted by Sweetmag at 2:55 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

TooFewShoes, it sounds like you have a good, healthy approach to what is going on with your Mom.

I could offer you a less healthy solution, which is to now bug your Mom about why she is not visiting you. She's the one with the windfall, right? It would have to cost less for her to fly out to see you than for you and the kids to see her, after all.

So, because I can sometimes be just a bit immature, I'd probably call and say, "Mom, loved the pics from Disneyland. So, you saved some of the money to come see us, too, right? We're really looking forward to seeing you. When are you planning to come visit. What? Why not? Mom, you make it sound like it's too much trouble to come see us."
posted by misha at 2:59 PM on July 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

I almost think we have the same mother!

I live 2,000 miles away from my family and I get the same sort of crap. Here's a good example...

Parents: "Make sure you bring your video camera when you come visit."
Us: "We don't own a video camera..."
Parents: "Sure you do! We bought them for all of you kids." (I have three siblings.)
Us: "No... We never got one."
Parents: "Oh. Well we spend a ton of money flying out to visit you, so that's why we never got you one."

Gee, thanks.

Also, my family gets mad when I don't have the time/money/means to visit them. My dad and brother own their own businesses, so they can get off work whenever they want. But when I say "I can't come because I don't have any vacation time left" it's not a valid excuse. They don't comprehend that I have limited time off and my workplace won't allow for any exceptions.

So I feel for you.
posted by tacodave at 3:27 PM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Greetings from toofewshoes's cousin, on the maternal side...

Ironically enough the same type of behavior she was hurt by her paternal grandparents, the same things were done to my sister and I on the maternal side... so I know exactly how much it sucks to be the lesser cousin always getting the cool stuff, always being the obvious favorites. Only in the case of my branch of the family, no pretense was made. For example, if my sister and I asked for my little ponies for christmas, toofewshoes and her sister would get them instead.

In fact, this exact scenario has happened before. Multiple times. A big family vacation was planned, my sister and I led to believe that we were invited, only to find out after the fact (when we were gifted a cheap seat of mickey ears) that we'd been left behind. Or, my favorite, the time that I called begging for a little help because my roommate skipped town with the rent money and I was about to be evicted with nowhere to go. Verbatim response "Thats nice, we're going to Disney Land!" it is a testament to my sense of honor that I didn't give in to rob their empty house out of spite.

Toofewshoe's mother is a giant, overflowing bucket of Crazy, descended from our grandmother who is an even bigger, overflowing bucket of Crazy. Between the two, they could drown a small town in a flood of Crazy. I say this as the black sheep of the family who is looked down on as a failure because I choose not to reproduce, walked away from religion, and do my best to live an independent life... Even my drug addicted ex convict sister is above me on the list of family failures. This because I was closest to my Dad, who they chose to hate over a misunderstanding between himself and his brother (Aunt and Grandmother felt the need to take sides and punish Dad and his offspring over said misunderstanding).

Our family loves the drama, especially Aunt and Grandmother... and I can tell you from experience that 3/4 of the time these cuts, jabs, and slights are intentional.

This is, after all, the same woman who tried to prevent me from finding out that my grandfather was on his deathbed begging them to get me to come say goodbye. Who for 2 years answered my queries onto the health of a favorite great-aunt saying that was all well... after the woman had already passed.. and who went to he morgue to identify a body of a girl who committed suicide drowning herself in the canal, instead of calling to ask if I was alive.

Dysfunctional family is putting it lightly.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the whole thing was intentional, a passive aggressive backhanded way of letting toofewshoes know that she somehow offended her crazy mother (probably by disagreeing with her on the political bs).. and if confronted not only will she deny it, she'll turn it around so that its all about her being the victim.

The woman needs serious medication, the years that I spent living in her home were a nightmare of being constantly reminded that I was not her daughter and would always be less important, no matter what I did. I wasn't even allowed to get my drivers permit until I was already 18, because she wanted her oldest daughter to drive first.

I'm gonna stop now before I spill my hate all over the place, its a pain to clean up you know.
posted by myShanon at 3:42 PM on July 22, 2011 [18 favorites]

no edit button :(

sucks being the lesser cousin to those getting the cool stuff, being treated as favorites, etc.
posted by myShanon at 3:43 PM on July 22, 2011

It sounds like perhaps when you told your mother "don't feel like you have to take us," she heard, "I don't really want to go with you." Given the other problems in your relationship, I wouldn't take this as deliberate slap in the face (with you as the innocent party) so much as a culmination of all the small tensions that have built up to this.

I guess I'm in the minority here, but in some circles the way you bowed out is a polite way of declining and telling someone you don't want to go.

And yes, but the whole line of communication seemed like it was fraught with potential misunderstandings:

Mom has idea. She thinks her daughters would love to go to Disneyland. Invites them.

Daughter says: "I'd love to go, but we understand you if you use money for something else." Daughter is sensitive to money issues, and feels like she is being considerate of mother's money.

Mom is confused. The message sounds like "I don't want to go, but don't know how to tell you." Does daughter really want to go or not? If daughter really wanted to go but was worried about money, maybe daughter would offer to pay her share? Mom assumes daughter does not really want to go. Invites other daughter.

There is no more mention of it.

Daughter is upset because she is sent Disneyland photos.
Mom has no idea of this because she assumed daughter did not really want to go.

This is my reading of it. Am I wrong?
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:47 PM on July 22, 2011

This is my reading of it. Am I wrong?

Oh my dear god. Never mind. MyShanon's comments on the background of the situation answers my question.

Sorry you have to deal with crazy. You're handling it just fine.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:50 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. As part of your fading away, you might want to think about hiding her on Facebook.
posted by ambrosia at 4:08 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

MyShanon, by adding a favorite (which sounds like an odd way to put it) I just wanted to thank you for sharing that with us. I am so sorry.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:25 PM on July 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

All this game playing can only work if everyone goes along with it, and it can't work if nobody is willing to go along with it. If all the family members, including the favored ones,
are willing to hold a firm line on it, she will have to reign her behavior in.

If the favored family members enjoy their favored status and aren't willing to part with the benefits that come with that status, or if your dad isn't willing to go against her, then it will be really hard. But it sounds like if your sister had really known what was happening, she wouldn't have gone along with it. If even the favored family members get mad when the unfavored family members are treated badly, then your mom's machinations backfire on her.

If everyone stood up to this and refused to accept it, your mom would probably redouble all of her old behaviors that worked so well in the past, for a while. But I really do think she'd simmer down and only lash out occasionally if she saw that it NEVER worked, with anyone, and it only resulted in her isolating herself from everyone including her favored ones.

You know, she might be crazy, but even crazy people can manipulate, can plan things, can know very well what they're doing, and understand consequences.

I say this only because I see a lot of suggestions to fade, and while I completely agree that is a very valid suggestion, it's also very hard. At least it's hard and a gray area for me; I've faded before, and just felt really sad and miserable that everyone else had a mom and I didn't. I, at the moment, personally feel better managing my mom's crazy than totally fading, so I mention this just in case it's the same for you.
posted by Ashley801 at 5:33 PM on July 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think you have more cousins than you know. I am SURE we are related.
My sister and I laugh about and comment (and get mad and frustrated beyond belief) about the crazy town mayor we call mom.
I have been in your shoes (though I do have enough - unlike you who has too few)~
same situation as you, not liking my sister until a few years ago,
now we are great friends instead of enemies.

You are lucky to have your sister, cousin and husband supporting you.
Use the family history you have lived with your mother as the guide book of how not to be for you and your kids in the future.

We have tried to organize our contact with our mother, each calling every few days, not every day as she might like, maintaining control of how we are treated (if it goes badly, we call each other and vent about it) We call conversations with mom, "The Book According to (insert moms name here)" We know her version is not the truth and stay well aware of that. She is the eye of the storm that surrounds her and we say, "Huh?-to ourselves" often while talking with her. It might sound disrespectful, but it helps us keep our sanity.

Like Ashley801 wrote, managing the crazy is what we try to do.
posted by jennstra at 5:52 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

TooFewShoes, just wanted to say that if you find your way to Southern California then I will happily walk your family into Disneyland free of charge. Seriously.
posted by last night a dj saved my life at 9:09 PM on July 22, 2011 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: Once again I just want to tell you all how awesome you are. I'll try not to fling schmoopy everywhere but I just have to thank you all.

I have really severe anxiety and depression. After my darling cousin (who I think of as more of a sister) myShanon posted about the family dynamic I think you can see that it's kind of unavoidable.

Anyway, when I got that picture today my heart dropped to somewhere in the area of my gut and I was fighting all sorts of demons. I called my husband and I called my cousin and I felt a little bit better. Then I decided to come to you guys and see how I could have done things better and what to do in the future.

When I posted my question I was really expecting a bunch of "quit being a baby" and "my family is so much more messed up than yours" and "you should be happy your mom is even still alive". So when I got nothing but support and sympathy I was really taken aback.

Due to my depression and anxiety issues something like this could have set me back for weeks. I have had conversations with my mom that left me physically ill for days. This was a big one and you guys helped me through it. Not only did I avoid illness, I didn't even have a panic attack. Heck, I didn't even have to raid my emergency chocolate.

I took the good advice above and spent this afternoon watching my kids play in the sprinklers and laughing at my giant dog trying to fit her entire body into an 8 inch irrigation pipe where some small animal made a den. All this while sipping ice water, laying in my hammock and reading P.G. Wodehouse. You guys helped me turn a nightmare into little more than a new story to tell friends when we're comparing crazy families.

Thank you so very, very much.

P.S. myShanon did get an account just so she could get in on the action. Now that she's here I know you'll all love her. She's awesome.

P.P.S. last night a dj saved my life: I might just take you up on that offer! Only if you stay and ride Space Mountain with me though. Mr. Shoes hates that ride.

P.P.P.S. Feel free to continue with your own personal stories of crazy moms. They make me feel so much better to know I'm not alone.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:39 PM on July 22, 2011 [11 favorites]

I'll take you up on the personal stories of crazy moms offer. :) I've written about her in other AskMes too. (It's my own way of going, "hey mom? Y'know all that crap you put me through? Well, I'm using it to relate to other people. It's pretty cool! I'm meeting so many neat children of abusive moms! If only the moms knew how awesome their kids are... but they don't want to. It's such a shame. But they're such neat people now!")

You really do sound like a neat mom :) I can really relate to myShanon, I'm one of the two black sheep in my mother's side of the family – the other is my gay cousin (family being fundamentalist evangelicals, you can imagine how his childhood went :-/ ). We were the first two grandkids, our younger cousins were doted on and there was constant manipulation. My mother and our childless uncle, my mother's brother, would do things like, "I'm getting all of my nieces and nephews a new camera!" Then my younger brother and younger cousins would get these amazing pieces of technology, they'd send us gorgeous photos they'd taken with them (because they are genuinely talented photographers)... and my gay cousin and I were sitting there wondering if/when ours would come. It never did, of course. I being the "outspoken" one would ask when ours was coming so we too could share photos (for instance, continuing with the camera example – there were countless others, whether it be tuition, a car, a book, art supplies, trip to a museum, you name it, we were breathlessly offered it only to find out that my gay cousin and I were NOT included). I would then be accused – by the entire family, because my mother or uncle would write/phone tirades to everyone behind our backs before ganging up on me – that I was an ungrateful, demanding, jealous child who deserved all the pain coming to me in life and everything awful that might happen to me was God's judgment of my character and they would make CERTAIN that they would never "give in to my greed".

So yeah I just stopped calling them out on it. But they continued. My gay cousin and I have entirely cut off that side of our family. And you know what? They still go off on us. We're still touted as the godawful examples not to follow while they reward each other for their self-declared saintly patience and generosity.

My cousin is such an awesome person. He got married a couple years ago :) He and his husband have adorable cats, one gave birth to kittens recently. Every time I see him in photos, he has this huge smile that I so rarely got to see growing up... The others? I have no idea. I was always the one trying to keep in touch with them and finally let it drop after the latest "I'm getting DSLRs with HD video for all the nieces and nephews!" and they happily complied, now so used to the game that they preempted our non-inclusion by telling us "it was none of their business, they got theirs."

What can you do with crazy like that? Eh. I look at my cousin's eyes, bright with the love he feels for his sweet hubby, and I see the kittens being all fluffy and cuddly and the mother hangin' out, so clearly loved and cared for, and I think, this is what life is about. Joy, love, mutual support, laughing at dumb in-jokes, petting kittehs and knowing that someone you love has your back and you have theirs. The twits stoking the drama fires? Whatever! My own cat just trilled at me and went limp belly-up in my lap. My boyfriend belly-laughed at one of my jokey purple prose thangs. He loves his kids and whenever I see them, they all have sparks in their eyes and genuinely giggly smiles on their faces. That's life. That's what's worth spending precious time on :)
posted by fraula at 2:44 AM on July 23, 2011 [14 favorites]

I was used as a pawn in power struggles between my mother and my grandmother when I was a child. It was terrible, with the cancelled invitations, guilt trips, passive aggressive postcards etc, etc. It really hurt and confused me. I have no siblings and I was an only grandchild so I can only imagine how much worse it would be if there were more people involved.

Through the years I've had several attempts at reconciliation with my mother, and you know what? She never changed. She always found a way to turn things around so that I'm the bad uncaring child who just doesn't understand.

I do not have contact with her any longer and that helps very much with my mental health. I hope your situation works out well for you. At least you have a nice sister and cousin!
posted by Melsky at 5:01 AM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

dang, what a good thread! My mom is not the crazy one - we're actually pretty copacetic these days - but my DAD'S extended family are the ones that I had to cut loose, years ago. And I say this as the kid that WAS the favorite - my dad died when I was young and I was "all they had left of him" so I got special treatment up the wazoo. I saw how effed up that was even when I was eight years old, and by the time I was an adult I saw how manipulative and crazy the whole gang was/is.

Lately one of the aunts is stalking me on facebook, and I'm like, I haven't talked to ANY of you in ten years, do you really think that's an accident?? It makes me crazy when people say things like "blood is thicker than water" and "family matters more than anything else in the world" because some of us truly, truly do not have that experience.

As a fader (from a whole half of the family) I also give you permission to hit the eject button - worry about yourself and your children, and let the Crazy One do her own thing... after awhile it will become humorous, as opposed to stressful - that's the goal.
posted by polly_dactyl at 5:43 AM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

OMG, I would be devastated. Granted, it seems I have a closer relationship with my mother, but I still the your hurt is validated. Even if it was a casual acquanitance who at one time mentioned a trip to me, but didn't update me on it and I found out from a third party, I would still feel slighted.

That said, I wholly disagree with those who tell you to cut all ties. I am not for cutting ties with family, especially when you have kids. Yes your mom sounds kind of immature, but she still your mother and your kids' grandmother. I would suggest a long sit-down. Maybe even gather some money and fly out just by yourself to spend a day with your mother and let her know what you truly feel. She is your mother and there should be no holding back. I think she will appreciate your honesty. And based on what you say was her explanation, I think she would very much love to feel needed in your life.

Good luck. Again, please reconsider cutting your family off. Not the way to go in my opinion.
posted by GeniPalm at 9:41 AM on July 23, 2011

Best answer: Also, it may make you feel good to hear other people bash your mother, but that's a no-no. She's the only mother you will ever have. And one day, your kids will be in your shoes. You don't want them intepreting your anxiety/depression as "crazy" when a cousin or friend decides to start bashing you years from now. I think a litle more empathy may be in order. (Btw, not excusing your mom, just saying don't help other people bash her. In my neck of the woods, that's like unheard of!)
posted by GeniPalm at 9:49 AM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: GeniPalm, you are absolutely right. I try very hard not to let my kids see the negativity about my extended family. When my husband are discussing things we always wait until after they've gone to bed or send them outside to play. I am honest with them about the things that I think they can understand, like why we can't go visit them more, and try to gloss over the things that might paint my mom in a bad light.

Sometimes my kids want to call Grandma or Grandpa on the phone and talk and I always allow them to. I won't stop doing that. I also won't let them leave the room and I keep the conversation on speaker so I know what's said and can counteract my mom's propaganda.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:25 PM on July 23, 2011

Ya know...saving up for a big trip of your own for your kids is an excellent idea. Good luck with that.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:38 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

TooFewShoes, sneaking off somewhere comfy, drinking a cold iced tea and reading some PG Wodehouse, Terry Pratchett or even just Calvin and Hobbes are my go-to coping strategies!

Also: chocolate in any form.

And you do sound like a really cool mom.
posted by misha at 8:05 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another note from me: there is a difference between bashing your parents in front of your kids (the grandkids) and pointing out to them how ridiculous Grandma and Grandpa are acting.

My parents came to visit a few months ago and my mom got in a fight with my wife while I was at the grocery store. My wife left for her night shift at work and I went out to dinner with my parents and my four kids.

My mom refused to talk to anyone. She ordered a salad at dinner, but refused to eat it - just sat there staring down at her plate with a look of disgust on her face. I tried to talk to her and I tried to get her to interact with my kids (she flew 2,000 miles to visit them, after all!) but she refused to interact. She pouted the entire time like a spoiled child.

As I was getting the kids ready for bed, I talked with them about the events of the evening. "Did you see how Grannie was acting? She sure was pouting like a baby, huh? It would have been more fun for everyone if she had a better attitude, wouldn't it?"

I needed to make sure the kids knew that the displayed behavior was crap. I don't consider what I did bashing, either.
posted by tacodave at 2:53 PM on July 25, 2011 [5 favorites]

@Fraula I was accused of being greedy as well... because our grandpa gave my sister and I all the affection the rest of the family denied, going out of his way to pick up little treats when he was on the road (truck driver type guy)... anything from a candy bar to a coin flattened on railroad tracks, just some little thing to let us know he thought of us... So the "what'd you bring me what'd you bring me" mugging at the door was deemed greedy, with all the hugs 'n kisses being ignored.

@GeniPalm There's a difference between bashing and commiserating with someone who understands how difficult it can get at times. The cousins were fed a lot of negative bs about what a horrible person I was, and treated me accordingly because they didn't know any better... toofewshoes and I only became friends in the last few years, after a long talk about family difficulties and "Now that I realize something was wrong, whats the truth behind this story they told?" type things. It was how we bonded, acknowledging that the past was screwy and we're glad to be adults on our own, aware of the need to make our own judgments and decisions.
posted by myShanon at 3:40 PM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: For those of you still tuning in I thought I'd show you what my kids came up with all by themselves. My eight year old made the sign and put it on an old tin bank of mine that has cartoons of a bank robbery. He's the one in the advanced class but still can't quite spell "vacation".
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:14 PM on July 27, 2011

Nice sign. My kids do similar things all the time and I love it. :-)
posted by tacodave at 11:07 AM on July 28, 2011

Response by poster: Update:

One of you delightful MeFites sent me a private message with a link to Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers.

That site has changed my life. Not only am I now able to recognize and deal with my mother and grandmother as what they are, I can also post questions on the forum and hear from other people who are going through the same things (or worse!)

Since this incident my mother has tried to manipulate me again and cause more drama. Now I have the tools and strength to deal with it. I am less anxious, I feel less guilt, and I am happier.

I mourn that I didn't have a stable, strong female to look up to when I was younger but I have a unique perspective because of it. I'm also double sure to see that my daughter doesn't have the same troubles to deal with. I've learned a lot the last few months and I think I'm a better person because of it.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:30 AM on September 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

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