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Is it me? Or her? Or both of us? I just don't know.

(6 Posts)
WaterBiscuit Mon 19-Nov-12 19:11:22

I've posted before about my DM's intensely irritating behaviour, in a more light-hearted way, but something has just occurred to me today and I can't think why I couldn't figure it out before. We've never had a good relationship, not at all close, but since DD was born she seems to want to rewrite history, and I decided to be receptive to this as I think it would help to build bridges, and also because I feel a bit sorry for her TBH. So she came to stay with us for a week (we live quite far away).
Anyway - my realisation - just about everything she says is somehow negative or critical. E.g, this morning, we were leaving the house and I said to DD 'where are my keys?' Just silly chat to the baby, as you do. Well DM says, pretending she's the baby, 'I haven't got them, you can't blame me, Mum'. Eh? I didn't say anything about blame, what d'you mean? 2 minutes later I checked the mailbox on the way out and said to DD cheerfully 'No mail today!' DM replies 'Oooh, no mail, nobody wants to write to Mummy!'. Still later, after the supermarket where I bought a couple of bottles of wine for me and DH to enjoy, she hears them clanking in the trolley and says to DD 'Oooh, your Mummy sounds like a brewery'.
There's also the way she speaks to DD. and I know she's trying to be funny but I just don't like it. Expressions like 'Shall we just punch Mummy in the nose?' and 'Oh don't be a nuisance now'. She's only a baby, she doesn't understand, but I don't feel comfortable with this sort of negative language and the fact that she'll understand it before too long.
Finally (apologies and thanks if you're still with me) I've also noticed that she finds it unreasonably amusing every time I drop something, or have a minor bump, or DD pokes me in the eye or whatever. DD sneezed lunch right in my face today, no harm done, but I thought my DM was going to piss herself laughing.
What is going on here? Is it me, am I being ridiculous? Does this sound normal to you? The rest of the time, I should say, we don't actually TALK about anything. She talks to me through the baby, pretending to actually BE DD (irritating in the extreme and the subject of another thread!). I have not spent this length of time with her for many years and I really am struggling to understand what the hell is going on and what I should do about it. At the moment I am just shut down and barely engaging with her other than basic pleasantries and nodding and smiling.
God, sorry this is soooo long. Any thoughts welcome.

Charbon Mon 19-Nov-12 19:32:03

Chanelling criticism through a third party is a common behaviour in those with passive-aggressive tendencies. It is no different to the person who claims that 'others' have found fault with your behaviour and that person is just giving you a kindly heads-up hmm.

Unfortunately, challenging this behaviour head-on usually results in further passive-aggressive behaviour i.e a victim-like stance, tears and guilt inducement and you have to be a fairly robust and assertive character not to fall for it.

It's worth trying though, as long as you resolve not to give in to the guilt trip that follows. So you can suggest very calmly 'please don't talk through DD. If you've got something on your mind that you want to say, speak your mind.' or every time she uses DD as her mouthpiece, ask her directly 'do you have that opinion yourself?'

It's worth at least attempting to have this out before she gains too much influence over your daughter's reactions and behaviour.

WaterBiscuit Mon 19-Nov-12 19:45:07

Charbon absolutely, precisely - on the rare occasions I do say anything she does exactly that - a hurt 'oh I was only joking' followed by huffy silence if I push it further, making me feel like a prize bitch. Thing is, it is SO constant and I think almost unconscious on her part that I would be picking her up on just about everything she said. I did ask her today to give DD space to make noise back at me when I talk to her instead of jumping straight in with an answer pretending to be DD (I know this sounds weird, example: me: do you want some more yogurt honey? DM: Yes please Mummy) - she sort of tutted and said 'sorry', went quiet for about 10 mins and carried on doing it. If it's deliberate, WHY?

carlywurly Mon 19-Nov-12 19:49:53

OMG, you could be describing DP's mother. It drives me absolutely batshit crazy, yet sounds so trivial if you try and explain it to others. It's a general pervasive negativity which gets to you like a dripping tap, I really, really do empathise.

I remember checking my shopping out in a supermarket when she was staying, and her finding it utterly hilarious that the carrier bag I was trying to pack in had a hole in it. Rather than helping, she stood there sniggering. That really is the level we operate at. She criticises everything from the height of the seats in my car, to the food we cook for her, but always with a silly little smirk as if she's joking, and sometimes even in a baby voice. She's mid sixties ffs.

I generally get on with most people I meet, but really can't bear his DM, to the point that I choose (and fortunately distance gives me the choice) not to see her more than is absolutely necessary.

Anyway, now I've got that off my chest grin I really don't know how you can and should deal with this kind of person. I think it's inevitable that you do shut down a bit. Breezing it off is hard work long term. Personally, I'd avoid her as far as possible, or if it gets too bad, employ the MN failsafe "did you mean to sound so negative/rude?" and see if that has any effect. When your DD is old enough, she'll realise for herself that she's nuts.

Charbon Mon 19-Nov-12 19:54:53

It might be worth writing down some examples (like you're doing today) and then have a 'clear the air' chat. This however presumes quite an equal relationship and you've alluded to a previously strained relationship with her in the past. Unfortunately women with difficult mothers often feel guilted into providing a grandmother relationship, even though they've given up all hope of a mother-daughter one and in a sense, it is both women's attempt to re-write the story of their own relationship and hope for a different outcome. Your mother might not have been able to manipulate you into compliance and so your daughter represents another opportunity to do that.

Passive-aggressive behaviour has as its core a desire to punish or remonstrate someone, without them realising you're doing it.

Unless someone admits their passive-aggression and seeks help for it, the people with whom they interact must manage the interactions and protect those who are vulnerable to its influence i.e. your DD. This either takes the form of constant challenge which can be exhausting, fewer interactions or sometimes no contact at all.

WaterBiscuit Mon 19-Nov-12 20:03:20

Unfortunately women with difficult mothers often feel guilted into providing a grandmother relationship, even though they've given up all hope of a mother-daughter one and in a sense, it is both women's attempt to re-write the story of their own relationship and hope for a different outcome.
Charbon, you are wise indeed. Please tell me you are a professional therapist, you would be wasted as a tax accountant grin

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