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Hi. I'd like to know if I'm handling this right, or if I am in some way failing to stand up for myself. My husband is fine with any decision I make, which is wonderful but also of no help! I still am on speaking terms with my mom and even sometimes enjoy talking to her even though I know I can't ever trust her. I've cut off contact with one of my sisters although since she lives with mom and dad, I might get some grief from them if I send a holiday card to them and don't include her name.

Here is the relevant background info and reasons why things are strained:

When growing up, dad was physically abusive, whipping us with belts on the basis of whether or not he had a bad day. We could get away with all sorts of things on a good day, but minor things we were whipped for if he had a bad day at work. He hit my mom, too, and supposedly she tried to get help but had to come home when she ran out of money. I still think she could have taken us to her parents house, and she did finally call the police and force him to get help when he gave her a black eye. He was forced into an anger management program, admitted what he did was wrong and stopped his violent behavior, although he's still a control freak. But by then I was 19, so it was a bit late. (I should also mention that around the same time my mom was in and out of psychiatric hospitals for trying to kill herself a few times.)

When my younger sister was 15 (the one I still talk to) she either ran away or was kicked out, depending on whose story you believe, and social services let her stay with my grandparents because my parents were deemed to be dysfunctional.

My parents threw a fit when I decided (at age 27) to marry an older man. We've been married 11 years now, but three years after we got married my youngest sister (the one I'm not talking to) teamed up with my mom to make a phony phone call to social services on my husband because they still didn't like us being married. Social services in that state conducted a very short investigation, said the accusations were both unfounded and "embellished" and that was that. After a long while I eventually forgave them both.

About 7 years later, different state, same thing happens. This was last New Years Day. Only this time there is only a single visit. No investigation opened, and the social worker is very apologetic. She even said "I know this is going to sound silly, but". I don't blame any of the social workers. By law they have to check things out - that's their job.

Because of an email I sent to one of my brothers who forwarded it, my mom knows how I feel and although she didn't address it directly I think she knows she messed up. I will of course never trust her again, but I have kids and these are their grandparents so I keep in touch. But if it weren't for my kids, I wouldn't have anything to do with her.

My (youngest) sister is just an aunt to my kids, and hasn't expressed any remorse or tried to contact me in any way since this happened. To be fair, I should mention that she is utterly and totally dependent on my parents for everything because she dropped out of high school and has never worked for more than a few days. So she's a single mom, with no education, no job history and on welfare now in addition to getting handouts from mom and dad. She's in her 30's but as a result of this dependence she has never formed an independent mind of her own. She and my mom are of one mind about nearly everything except when they feel like screaming at each other. So it seems unfair to put all the blame for what happened on her, but on the other hand mom is my kids grandmother and she's not.

So now I have to figure out what to do about holiday cards and because of that I'm getting depressed and don't even want to celebrate anything. I just wish I could forget I even have an extended family and focus on my real one. But I've got nieces and nephews so I don't really want to do that either.

And the other thing is, sometimes I like talking to my mom but when I'm alone I feel like I must have Stockholm syndrome or something to even consider having anything to do with her. I really don't know what's the difference between being the bigger person and being a doormat?

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Have you ever sat down and talked to your mom about what happened, what she did?

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catperson, No. She gets upset at any amount of criticism and most likely would just start yelling and bad-mouthing my husband or me. Then most likely she'd get other family members to pile on. I don't need the grief. The only way I've ever been able to have a rational conversation with her is when we keep the conversation superficial.

My other sister (the one I do talk to who was raised by my grandparents) has observed the same thing with her and keeps the conversation superficial as well. At one time she tried to talk to mom about their problems getting along but mom blames everything on her and refuses to take responsibility for her own behavior. What makes it worse is that unlike in my case, my sister was just a teenager at the time and my mom was the adult - yet nothing is ever my mom's fault.

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A, in my family, some years things get overwhelming and cards don't get sent out at all. And some folks don't send cards any year. What do you think about just not sending a card at all, and sending your holiday cheer to your parents over the phone? Have you tried brainstorming options with your H? There may be hundreds of ways to handle this that you may be enthusiastic about.


Me 40, OD 18 and YD 13
Married 15 years, Divorced 10/2010
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Let me first say that I excommunicated my father and his wife because of her actions toward me and my H (she basically tried to get my H arrested for fabricated child endangerment charges, to get rid of my H). It was terrifying to defy him at the time, but it was the best decision for MY family. For the 15 years before that, my evil Step Mother had nearly ruined my marriage every chance she got. Once we no longer dealt with them, well, a huge weight was lifted. Even though my brother tried to guilt me into capitulating and apologizing (!) for daring to do that to them!

And my H's mother is schizophrenic and has done MASSIVE damage to my H. He has written her off nearly completely. We see her at Christmas, but only because she's already there at my SIL's house. She missed out on most of her only granddaughter's life because of what she did to us.

But we chose to write off those people, as they were toxic to our family.

So, it is possible for you to do so, too. Just because they are family doesn't mean you're obligated to communicate with them. If you feel guilty for not sending a card, and a card is such an emotional issue for you, why not just send her a flower arrangement?

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Quote:
So now I have to figure out what to do about holiday cards and because of that I'm getting depressed and don't even want to celebrate anything.


Do you see the power you are giving your mom and sis? They can actually ruin your holiday without being around. Cat is correct in that when family members are toxic to you and your family you have to consider what is best for your mental health and happiness. If that means excluding them, then that is what you need to do. What do you want your children to learn - that if someone mentally abuses you it is okay? I don't think so.

Gg


D-Day #1 Aug/2007.
D-Day #2 1/27/12
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Okay, thanks guys. I talked it over with my husband again too. I think what I'll do is this:

For people who live at my parents house: parents get a card, brother gets his own card, teen-aged niece gets a gift and my sister gets nothing. If anyone has a problem with it, it's their problem. I can always hang up the phone if need be. Living several states away has its advantages.

I realize that I would be justified in cutting off my mom, but it would be difficult to do without it affecting the relationship she has with my kids/her grandkids. So I think it's better for my kids to leave things as they are.

But gg615, you are right I'm not going to tolerate any mental abuse. First sign of yelling or criticizing and I'm hanging up my phone and turning it off.

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It's been recommended before in situations like yours that a study of "Boundaries" by Cloud and Townsend is a must-do.

I find it interesting that you don't want to send anything to your sister, but what you describe is that she's just a pawn of your mother. Yet you will have contact with your mother??

That doesn't make sense. You're still kissing up to the power figure, and cutting off the weak one. You blame her for being weak?

I went through 3 years of little or no contact with my mother. It gave me the strength that when I was a new mother to stand up to "parental guidance" when she attempted to parent my son. I drew the boundary and simply told her, "you got to make your mistakes as a mother and learn from them; I'm asking the same privilege. Just enjoy being a grandmother and letting go of that parental responsibility."

The conflict actually was over my mother trying to dictate my feelings about my knowledge of her affair (over 19 years before I confronted her about my feelings) and my unwillingness to "keep it secret".

So pretty big/huge/hairy conflict.

I cut the umbilical cord and barely talked with her for three years. Any time that old relationship dynamic erupted, I'd cut off contact.

I'm not my mother's puppet, nor am I her accessory, nor will I willingly be her target for unhappiness. Her angst is hers to own.

We have a good relationship now; so long as I keep my boundaries about what I will and will not tolerate in treatment toward me, my husband or my son.

The reality check for her came when I realized that curse that some parents throw around sometimes - "I hope you get a child just like you!" was real - only what she thought was a curse on me was a curse on her. I did get a child who is just like me - only she missed out on experiencing that child (me) and for the most part - my son.

Her loss. I won't feel guilty. I feel sad for her when I think about it, but I am happy and grateful I live the life I live.

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KaylaAndy,

I will get the study - or is it a book? I'll look it up, thanks! My mom knows how I feel from an email that I sent to my brother that he forwarded to her. Instead of addressing the main complaint, she apologized for a lesser complaint mentioned in the same email. The tone of her voice told me she knew she messed up. I can never really forgive her in the sense of trusting her again, and I will certainly never set foot in her house again.

But you need to understand that I grew up not talking to my paternal grandparents for over a decade because of a feud between my mother and my grandmother. So I'd like my kids to be able to keep in contact with their grandparents, and it would be rather difficult to do that if I cut off all contact with my mom.

About my sister...in some ways she's my mother's pawn but she also eggs on my mom's worst behavior as well. It's a sick feedback loop. I blame my parents for not raising her to be independent, but on the other hand lots of people have offered to help her study for the GED but she just makes excuses. I figure it's bad enough to have to be cordial to my mom, both of them is just too much and there's nothing in it for me to keep in touch with my sister. Plus, the other difference is that my sister has not contacted me since Jan. 1 of this year, so clearly she's fine with things as they are.

BTW, I can relate to your frustration at your parents criticizing your parenting. My parents do a lousy job then argue I should take their advice because they raised five kids...even though one was raised by my grandparents and another two still haven't grown up emotionally. Ironically this sister is touted as the good parent, even though she's setting such a lousy example for her own daughter by the way she lives. Why she thinks she's even qualified to give me advice on my kids I'll never understand. She cried her eyes out when she found out her 12-year-old was entering puberty for crying out loud! Isn't growing up what kids are supposed to do? And she can't even handle THAT?

Those of you who have large families - please don't be one of THOSE parents who brags about how much they know about parenting because of how many kids they have. It's quality that's important, not quantity.

Okay, done ranting for now. I was actually in a much better mood today as I just finished buying holiday gifts for my nieces and nephews.

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Whoa..sorry, I spoke too soon. This book preaches Christianity (which is fine if you are Christian, but I am not) promotes spanking of children (not fine) and cites as a source that nutbar child-abuse promoter and friend of serial killers, James why-don't-you-focus-on-your-own-family Dobson. Maybe the book only mentions him in passing, but that's just too much ick factor for me. Plus the author is an inspirational speaker and those people just annoy me.

Maybe I'll look for something with more of a cognitive-behavioral psychology approach.

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A, I'm shocked to read you say that. I'm doing a small group study with Boundaries for Kids, and we're only in chapter 2, but so far they mention consequences, but no spanking.


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My mom was raised in an abusive household. Physical, mental, and emotional.

She let her parents have complete access to me.

As a child, it was fine. I didn't know any better.

As an adult and a parent myself, I question her decision making with regards to me making sure I had a relationship with my grandparents.

Honestly, as a young adult, I was not interested in hanging around with people who beat my mother. No matter how nice they were to me. I was not interested in a relationship with people who started dysfunction and passed it down through the family, through mom and then to me. I'm the only one who stopped to think that this dysfunction has to stop with me. I don't want my daughter paying for the dysfunction of me, her grandmother, and her great grandmother. I'd rather not give my chidren that sort of inheritance.

I think my mom made sure I had a relationship with her parents because it served her needs at the time. She tried to prove to her parents she was worthy because of how well she was raising me. She could also triangulate me between her parents. This was a system mom hated when she experienced, but she still used it. I also think that my mom was able to keep putting her needs of her parents before her own nuclear family (myself and my dad) with her instistance of me having a relationship with my grandparents. Mom was comfortable in that role and unwilling to change.

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And I know this is a t/j. But thank you, KA for sharing your story with your mom. It really helped me at a time that I needed it the most.

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inrecoverynow, thanks for your perspective. Mostly I don't want my kids to suffer because of this, and I want them to be able to make up their own minds. It's possible the decision might be made for me and soon...see my update here:

Update: My mom had the nerve to ask me if I thought she should friend my husband on Facebook. Good gravy! It was a text message so I ignored it, hoping she'd either get the point or drop it. But then she called me and I told her she said some awful things about my husband to social services and it was hard enough for me to get to the point of being cordial for the kids' sake. I told her she should leave well enough alone. First she tried to say she was just concerned about the kids, when I called her out on that (she was just mad I stayed married to who I married) she said, "well if he had just shown us a little respect" - I said since when have you shown him any respect? You were disrespectful from day one and have done nothing but criticize us both. She continued arguing but I just said leave well enough alone and stop trying to cause trouble, and hung up the phone.

I turned off the phone and when I turned it back on again I got a voicemail. She went on about something I never said (re-direction, gaslighting) and claimed that of course she supports our marriage or she wouldn't have done x, y and z. So then I sent a text and said something like:

I never said that, and that's not the point. The point is what you and (youngest sister) said to ss (social services) were lies and could have put your grandkids in foster care. All because you were mad. I can't trust you. You betrayed me twice in the same way. How dumb was I to have forgiven you the first time?

And then I turned off the phone because I just can't deal with any more of this, at least not until my husband gets home and I can talk to him.

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I'm sorry. But I'll repeat, you do NOT have to keep them in your lives. Out of 5 possible grandparents, D19 only really knows 1. And she's fine with it. I've given her plenty of chances to see her dad's mom over the years, and she declines. Just not interested.

IMO, one quality grandparent far outweighs 2 or 3 toxic grandparents plus one quality grandparent.

Please make sure you are not putting YOUR wishes and dreams - what YOU wished you had - on your kids' heads.

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thanks, catperson

My kids only other grandparents (my inlaws) are deceased, and I didn't really have time to get to know them before they died. But I get your point.


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