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Need to be civil to my mum but still stewing from last time I saw her.

(18 Posts)
wem Fri 17-Jun-11 22:09:13

I need to get my head out of the fug I've got into over the last visit to my parents, as they're meant to be babysitting for us next weekend. Sorry, this has got unbelievably long.

I can cope with my mum in short bursts but we made the mistake of going to visit them at half term for a few days. It started with a big family meal with all of my siblings, which is always a tense and horrible affair, with various sly digs and occasional direct insults. From that point I was probably over sensitive to my mum's behaviour. Normally I can laugh at her, but it got to me in a big way.

I'm not sure I can describe it in any sensible way. She's a very negative person, very rarely compliments or congratulates anyone, and if she does it's always followed up by self pity that she isn't as good at whatever it is she's complimented. As an extreme example she once was discussing a child prodigy pianist who had accomplished something or other, instead of marvelling that someone so talented existed she immediately started with the 'woe is me, why aren't I talented like that, doesn't it just make you sick'.

So, very negative, wouldn't go out of her way to make you feel good about yourself, ever. That's just the background really though. The whole trip she questioned every decision or suggestion I made about my daughters, what clothes they should wear, what time they should sleep, where we should go. In the end my annoyance must have been clear as she every time she did it she added, 'it's your decision, you're the mum'. Didn't stop her questioning me in the first place though, and how patronising is that, to say that out loud? Rather than realising what she was doing and letting me get on with it.

What finally did it though was her attitude to dd1's eating. She's a fairly typical fussy toddler, and we try to take the attitude that cajoling her and bargaining with her to eat will only cause stress and bad feelings around mealtimes, which will be counterproductive in the long term. At home it's easy to make sure that her overall diet is ok, perhaps a little heavy on carbs and light on protein, but not too bad.

At my parents it went a bit wrong, unfamiliar place, unfamiliar food, and not eating with us (wasn't an option, mum doesn't do lunch before 1 or dinner before 7.30). All this I could have coped with, but mum tutted and sighed at every meal, and used increasingly stern tactics to try to get her to eat more, even Dad started commenting.

Eventually one evening I asked to talk to them both. I explained our approach was a deliberate policy, not just fecklessness. I said I knew they were just concerned because all they saw was DD1 not eating much, but I tried to reassure them that it wasn't always like that. Mum got defensive and said she would just make sure she wasn't around when DD1 was eating. Which is fair enough I suppose.

But, this is the thing, and sorry for taking so long to get to it. Mum seems obsessed with how small DD1 is. She was born between the 9th and 25th centile and she's stayed there, but mum seems horrified that at 2 and half she's still wearing 18-24month clothes, and comments about how small she is all the time. So I asked her, is your concern about her eating in any way connected to her size? She dodged the direct question and started blathering about malnutrition leading to stunted growth, that 'they' need protein, calcium etc. etc.

So basically yes, my mother believes I have stunted my darling girl's growth by not forcing her to eat. Argh, I've got all angry about it again. DD1 is a healthy happy girl, I hope I don't need to reassure any of you that she is not in any way unwell.

I didn't challenge her any further at the time as I had only meant to make sure they backed off from commenting, and it didn't sink in quite what she had said until later that night. I barely spoke to her for the rest of the visit and we left a day earlier than planned.

Normally when she's upset me, I spend some time away from her, calm down, and it's all swept under the carpet. But this time I can't let it go. It's ticked along in the background and now I can't think of her even fleetingly without the phrase 'I hate you' popping into my head unbidden.

Having written this all out I imagine I'm going to be told I'm over reacting. Ho hum, I wish I could say it's helped to get it all out there, but I'm all wound up about it again. Well, I'm going to post. Then I'll try to go get a grip.

wem Fri 17-Jun-11 22:09:44

Crap, what a fecking essay.

thisisyesterday Fri 17-Jun-11 22:16:41

I don't think you're over-reacting although i'm not sure your mum really thinks that you are stunting your child's growth

you know, she grew up in an era (i expect) when it was the done thing to make kids finish food, and not have any waste, and it must be hard to get out of that kind of a habit when it's been instilled into you.
PLUS, she is concerned about her grand-daughter. this concern may be unnecessary and misplaced, but to her I guess it's very real.

so... i suppose it's a combination of things? she needs some lessons in tact, yes and she needs to realise that you make the decisions regarding your own daughters. but i'm sure she doesn't mean all of the things she said nastily

can you tlk to your dad about it?

FakePlasticTrees Fri 17-Jun-11 22:23:18

You are upset because she's targetting something you're not comfortable with - although you have a 'plan' in place for your DD's eating issues, it's obviously a cause of stress for you so you can't defend yourself in the same way as you might if it was something else she was being negative about.

If you really feel this way about your mum you need to have more time away from her, in the short term, you need to cancel what you are doing next weekend or find alternative childcare. You need to have some time away from her.

I feel for you, it's hard to feel you have to constaintly justify yourself. You need to cut her out for a while, just deal with her when you are feeling strong and only for a maximum 1 day - no over night stays. You know she winds you up and hurts you, surround yourself with people who support you, limit time with people who cause you heart ache.

wem Fri 17-Jun-11 22:24:36

You're right, she can't bear waste at all. I've lied to her that we'll keep ridiculously small amounts of leftovers when they've been for meals with us, just so that she doesn't roll her eyes and show horror at us throwing any tiny morsel of food away.

I've tried to believe that she didn't mean it. But it was the look in her eye as she said it, this earnest, urgent look, like she really thought I didn't know the importance of a balanced diet, and now was her chance to educate me.

FakePlasticTrees Fri 17-Jun-11 22:29:14

She might also find it hard to accept your an adult, not her child who needs to be taught. I know my parents are convinced they know best when it comes to DS. I tend to 'blind them with science' - start whittering on about books/articles etc, not because i think they are interested, but to show them this is something I've thought about and isn't just something we've made up. Also, when DH tells them anything about what we're doing, they listen and do seem to be less likely to argue with him. I think that's because he's not their child and the general attitude that DH is someone who can be trusted to be a sensible grown up (which I can't, it seems)

gethelp Fri 17-Jun-11 22:30:51

Whatever anyone else says you have my complete and utter 100% sympathy. I have no advice to offer as I have done almost exactly the same as you -swept it under the carpet and carried on. Having a bitch with my sister and living miles away helps.

wem Fri 17-Jun-11 22:32:46

You're right too, FakePlasticTrees, about why I'm upset. Hmmm, I was hoping to get away with spending as little time with them as possible while they're up here (won't be staying with us, thank god). Though I suppose a bit rude to 'use' them for babysitting like that. They only come up to see the granddaughters anyway.

wem Fri 17-Jun-11 22:36:44

I've tried to blind her with science too, but my carefully thought out speech always seems to wither into nonsense witterings under her gaze.

She has form on trying to educate me too. When I first had dd1 she gave me a leaflet on budgeting from HomeStart which including the gem that in order to save up £100 I would need to save £10 a week for 10 weeks. We weren't in any financial difficulty.

wem Fri 17-Jun-11 22:38:35

I've bitched with my sister too, and moved hundreds of miles away. But then I made the mistake of producing their only grandchildren, and they went and bought a house 30 mins away.

thisisyesterday Fri 17-Jun-11 22:39:21

god, this has just made me think about my own babies growing up and having babies.... i'm going to turn into your mum!!!! argh

thisisyesterday Fri 17-Jun-11 22:39:42

then the only solution is to make your sister have some babies too!

gethelp Fri 17-Jun-11 22:43:05

Ahahahah! Gransnet! Do's and Don'ts for Grannies (which all boil down to think before you speak, and don't be a cow when you do) Its all there, go and see for yourself if you don't believe me - buy her an ipad! And then your dd's can skype her.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee Fri 17-Jun-11 22:43:20

If she is feeding your child when she comes to babysit watch out because she cant help herself . She will force the issue onto your child .

atswimtwolengths Fri 17-Jun-11 23:37:59

My son was tiny, OP. He was 5 lb 6 oz at birth and quite long but really, really thin. When he was 2-6 we could put our hands underneath his ribs (if we wanted to!!) When he started school at 4.5 years he was wearing a uniform aged 3 years that absolutely swamped him - at home he was wearing clothes for a 2 year old and they fitted him.

Now? He's 19 and over 6 ft tall. He's still thin, but has muscles and looks kind of lanky, a look I like in teenage boys, luckily. He doesn't eat anything he doesn't want to eat - won't eat leftovers, no matter how nice - he'll stop halfway through a biscuit if he's had enough. God knows where he inherited that from!

The most important thing about your daughter is that she shouldn't associate food with concern of any kind. If it's any help, I used to give my son 'treat plates' which was a plate with bits of things - a few grapes, a chunk of cheese or a Dairylea, a slice of bread cut up into ribbon sized pieces, a little fromage frais and a couple of chocolate fingers, that kind of thing. If we were somewhere where eating was a problem, I'd take a plate like that with me. He ate it all, though he wouldn't have eaten the same quantity of a cooked meal, if the circumstances weren't right.

Be kind to your mum, frustrating though she is. She hasn't got to the point where she sees you as an adult and although that can drive you mad, I think it's something a lot of mums can identify with. She is acting out of love for your child, which can't be all bad, can it?

Have you ever read anything about Transactional Analysis? It's really useful for dealing with people who treat you as the child in the relationship - although she's the one who should be reading it, I think you'd find it useful.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 18-Jun-11 07:19:52

Hi wem,

You are not over reacting at all actually. This type of scenario is actually typical of those who have been raised within dysfunctional families.

What does your H think of your parents and siblings?.

I would also suggest you read "Toxic Parents" written by Susan Forward because I think that would also help you. Also I would suggest you read the "well we took you to Stately Homes" thread on these pages as well.

Your mother is acting like this partly because she can (this is about power and control); no-one has ever challenged her ever within her family and when you yourself did she got defensive. Notice too she has not apologised for her actions nor take any responsibility for these, such people do not. The "normal" rules do not apply here within such dysfunctional families. Sounds like she has used the "divide and conquer" tactic on your siblings as well. How do you all get along with each other?.

Limit all contact with your parents, you do not need such criticism all the time. It just wears you down.

What about your Dad; what's he like?. He plays a role as well within all this; many of these men act as bystanders and act out of self preservation and want of a quiet life.

You would not tolerate such rubbish treatment from a friend; your mother is truly no different in that regard.

Another poster is correct; this lady does not (and I may add will not) see you as an adult in your own right. She is not however acting out of love for your child if she is happy to treat you as her mother in such a cruel and cavalier fashion. Your mother will never apologise for how she is treating you.

You as an adult probably and subconsciously still seek her approval, many adult children of toxic parents have FOG - fear, obligation and guilt. I would think you are still afraid of her and go back to her over and over to try and seek her approval. All she gives you is abusive comments over how you are raising your DD. Being kind to your mum does not come into it (your mother needs to start being kinder to you but that won't ever happen); you have to limit contact now because she will force indeed such issues onto your DD.

How much do you actually know about your mother's childhood; her own family likely made her this way. It is not, repeat NOT, your fault she is like this.

I would look for alternative childcare and do not let your mother and father go anywhere near your DD; these people are more than happy to pass on their issues to the next generation and use the children to get back at you for your supposed transgressions.

wem Sat 18-Jun-11 11:43:14

Attila, thanks for your post, but I really don't think it's that bad (and I'm aware that a lot of people say that at first, I did have a read of the stately homes threads when they first started). What I've written here is the very worst of her behaviour, and my feelings are a result of spending far too long in their company, a mistake I won't be making again.

A lot in your post rings true:
- noone has ever challenged her
- my siblings haven't had the easiest of relationships, though I get on very well with my younger sister
- my dad is definitely a bystander
- she doesn't seem to see me as an adult
- she won't change, won't ever apologise
- my default setting is seeking her approval

I know it's not my fault she's like this (only a fairly recent realisation, I'll admit). But, you say she's like this because of her childhood, therefore it's not her fault either. She isn't cruel, just like a previous poster said, very tactless, and inconsiderate. She loves her grandchildren.

I would say, in our normal relationship, I tend to feel sorry for her rather than afraid. She seems to be fundementally sad, and bitter. She seems to take very little joy in life. Her grandchildren bring her joy, and I'm not going to take that away from her. She is rarely alone with them (babysitting will be mostly while they're asleep), and I am always primed to jump on any negativity aimed at my children and neutralise it, with an explanation of why I don't want her to say things like that. She is learning, at least in respect of them. I won't let her do to them what she did to me, I promise.

Posting here has helped. I've gained a bit of perspective, and calmed down about the whole thing. I know a bit about Transactional Analysis, and I think it's quite relevant here. A fairly major part of why it all went wrong was because I was back at the family home, and we both regressed into our old roles. On my own turf, I'm stronger with her.

Atswimtwolengths - your post was comforting. DD1 also stops halfway through a biscuit if she's had enough, I am equally baffled by it smile

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 18-Jun-11 16:27:36

Hi wem,

re your comment:-

"But, you say she's like this because of her childhood, therefore it's not her fault either".

Well actually it partly is because she chose as a result of their ill treatment to act as she does now. She could have acted differently. Also many, many people have crappy abusive childhoods but as adults they don't act abusively towards their now adult children by for example putting others down, not seeing their adult children as infact adults and using the divide and conquer strategy on the siblings.

"I won't let her do to them what she did to me, I promise".
Good!!!. You have what she doesn't have; insight.

Be careful re her with regards to your children; she is more than happy to pass on her issues to these young people and perhaps even get back at you through them. She is not always going to listen to what you have to say; you cannot completely protect them from her negative vibes all the time and it can affect them.

Ensure your own boundaries with regards to your mother are crystal clear.
You are not put on this earth to take any crap from her or your bystander dad actually!.

I would read "Toxic Parents" anyway as it could well help you further.

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