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I have to vent for sanity (family stuff)...

(29 Posts)
Acinonyx Sun 27-Jul-08 23:08:37

My birth parents are visiting me from over seas. It's complicated. My adoptive parents died 4 and 6 years ago. My dd is 3.

My bmom is, er, quite a strong flavour. she speaks at length but without thought. My bfather is in the early stages of dimentia. I have a bsis and bro - the whole lot are a package - you can't pick and choose really and I especially want to maintain good relations with my bsis.

But they do drive me crazy. My bmom has strong views on parenting e.g. she wonders why parents these days have such problems getting their kids to sleep. After all - I slept very easily. But perhpas that is not surprising as I was left alone, in my cot, i while she worked, until I was adopted at about 9 mo. I think it's not rocket science, to see that a baby that is left alone for at least 8 hours a day will probably not cry very much - it's the ultimate cry it out tactic with bells on.

I feel that there is thinly veiled critism of my pandering to dd. And I am trying not to say that I maybe go a bit the other way with dd because I don't want her to be as meessed up as her mother which I think is due to a) my bmom's lousey genes and b) her lousey parenting (she never interacts with dd - hasn't a clue). I have diluted the lousey genes and hopefuly I can be a different parent.

I'm going to go mad listening to this - from the poster woman for parenting. Now I know she has had a very hard life in many ways and I am sympathetic. But I want my dd to be secure and loved, and maybe I baby her a bit more than I should and maybe we pay her more attention than is absolutely necessary but she is with a CM 3 days/week too.

It's pointless to get worked up about it I know and I want this visit to go smoothly. They are old now, I want us to end, whenver that is, on easy terms. I dont' want to fall out - and that would be easy as she is that kind of person who can say a lot of the kind of thing she would not want to hear.

I just get so frustrated.

stitch Sun 27-Jul-08 23:24:15

how long is she staying for?
i think the way to go is to think of her as being an extremely trying mil. just nod, smile, listen, and ignore.
take some kalms, or some vodka, depending on what youfeel will work best, during her trip.
nod , smile, and ignore.

bellabelly Sun 27-Jul-08 23:33:41

Can you just say somethin along the lines of "isn't it funny how everyone has their own ideas about all this parenting stuff?" ? And then nod and smile.

thisisyesterday Sun 27-Jul-08 23:39:23

you eityher have to brush over it, as the others say, just smile and ignore and do things how you want.

OR, you can be honest with her. tell her you love her, and you want a good relationship with her.
but that this is YOUR dd, and you will bring her up how you want and you don't appreciate being told how to do it.

Acinonyx Sun 27-Jul-08 23:41:58

stitch - dh just keep telling me to imagine they're his parents. I just wish they were...

3 weeks. Longest visit ever. They used to run around a lot but nowadays they need to be where they will be taken care on hmm

bella - I do try and I am generally succeeding but today I did slip up and after hearing that today's parents spend too much time playing with their children replied' well, it's nice to have a good relationship with your children - it's hardly a crime...'.

And fortunately it didn't register, which is usual. But of couse one of these days it will, so should just smile......

Acinonyx Sun 27-Jul-08 23:43:34

Yes thisyesterday - and I don't think it's worth being honest at this stage in the game. I couldn't honestly say I love her either. I'd choke.

ObsidianBlackbirdMcNight Mon 28-Jul-08 08:28:19

OMG how dare she criticise your or anyone's parenting???? She had one of her kids adopted FGS!!!
I really don't know what you can say without crushing her but honestly I don't think I could bite my tongue. xxx

NotQuiteCockney Mon 28-Jul-08 08:49:06

Oh, please don't worry about genes - the problems you have (whatever they are) can be easily explained by the multi-faceted abandonment you suffered as a baby. I'm sure you're doing your best with your DD, and she's getting such a better start than you did.

(Have you had/considered therapy for what you went through?)

Acinonyx Mon 28-Jul-08 10:22:38

kat - i know her circumstances were difficult, but the irony of being giving parenting advice is rather hard to swallow!

notquite - I relaly hope that's true. I have indeed had therapy. money well spent wink

I know she really does not understand how this looks from my position. Just hope I don't bite my tongue clean off...!!

MsDemeanor Mon 28-Jul-08 10:26:01

How she has the nerve to criticise you I cannot even begin to imagine. I can understand why you want to keep your sister in your life, but my god, the temptation to tell your bio-mother the truth must be overwhelming...
I admire your restraint.

NotQuiteCockney Mon 28-Jul-08 10:26:42

Ah, it sounded like you were fairly clear about the whole thing.

The damage that can be done by the sort of thing you went through is extensive. I hope your adoptive parents were good? Having them both die relatively recently can't have been pleasant.

Acinonyx Mon 28-Jul-08 13:17:30

My relationship with my adoptive mum was very difficult, unfortunately. I had been very upset that it was not my adoptive parents visiting but now that my bparents are actually here I don't dwell on that thank goodness.

My bfather is actually a child psycologist. It's a bizarre situation - you just couldn't make this stuff up.

Thanks for listening smile

dolliusbirdius1 Mon 28-Jul-08 14:04:57

I can't believe she left you alone like that as a baby - it's terribly cruel. You would have been crying and crying for someone, and what if you had choked or stopped breathing or something? I am finding that very disturbing.

It must be terribly hard for you to have to revisit those feelings when they visit, particularly as you have a child of your own and no doubt couldn't imagine for a moment leaving her alone like that.

You need to accept that your birth mother's actions then and now say an awful lot about her, and nothing at all about you. She has no idea about you or about what is right for your child. Personally I think you shouldn't be subjecting yourself or your child to this. Do you really need a close relationship with your sister?

Sorry, I know this is not helpful, but I don't see how you can end a visit with these people on easy terms after what you went through as a baby.

As a child psychologist, how could your birth father have justified leaving you alone like that day-in-day-out? I am amazed.

ActingNormal Mon 28-Jul-08 14:21:25

Acinonyx, I feel SO angry on your behalf that your BM thinks she has any right to criticise your parenting after what she did to you! (I was adopted too so this is an emotive subject).

And she is WRONG about you giving your DD too much attention. You are letting your DD know she is loved and wanted and you are being strong to actively change your parenting style so that you don't automatically carry on your parents' ways. Do NOT listen to her, what does she know!

I admire you for managing to have a relationship with your birth family to this extent. I can only cope with an email only relationship with my BM and BF. Face to face, little things they do/say trigger my feelings of rejection and anger.

You sound like a very strong person. I don't think you should feel guilty if you speak your mind when your BM says something unhelpful. Is it mainly the fact that you want to preserve the relationship that stops you? Or are you fearful of saying what you think?

I was fearful so I put everything I wanted to say in an email. We had an argument/discussion via email, which was much less scary for me than face to face, and sorted things out. I didn't have much to lose though because I didn't care if the relationship ended because of what I said. It seems it would be harder for you because you do care. I do believe in letters/emails though because you have time to find the right words to explain how you feel so that she will understand and say it in a way that doesn't seem like you are attacking her. Would writing a letter be an option for you?

Acinonyx Mon 28-Jul-08 16:19:12

dollius - the really shocking thing is she was working in a nursing home and there were 3 single mothers with babies and all of the babies were left alone. The mothers were actually not allowed to return to them during working hours, apart from a lunch feed. It boggles my mind how the authorities in charge of a nursing home of all places could possibly have thought this was OK. By 9 mo I was almost walking and that was when it became untenable.

Acting - I totally understand what you are saying there. I still get those feelings after 25 years of contact. I have had occaisions where I have tried to put my feelings and thoughts across in letters and later emails. I can't say that this has been very sucessful and I'm generally just considered to be over-sensitive. I have considered whether it's really worth it and sometimes I am not convinced. But I do want ongoing contact with bsis and bbro, and for my daughter to have contact with her young cousins.

Well, we're just 2 days into the visit. It's roasting and we're stuck in the house.

I'm just so fed up of not being 'heard'. I think my bmother is a very damaged person and I have a lot of sympathy for her - but not much feeling for her as my actual bmom.

Acting - did you feel like you bparents really 'got it'?

NotQuiteCockney Mon 28-Jul-08 16:23:07

Your mother is deffo very damaged.

I wonder what her childhood was like?

Is it possible that seeing you caring for your DD properly, and lovingly, stirs up a lot of unpleasant feelings in her, either about her mistreatment of you, or the way she was treated as a baby, or both? (Not that that makes her criticising you OK!)

ActingNormal Mon 28-Jul-08 21:23:10

Acinonyx, did my BM really 'get it' (haven't had a lot of contact with BF - his wife won't allow it) - Yes, I'm lucky in that I do feel my BM understands what I have said. She admitted this more, the more I asked her about her stuff and her feelings and showed I understood what it was like for her. Before that, a lot of what stopped her communicating with me truthfully I think was her shame and guilt about what she had done. She avoided telling me the truth about things by telling half truths, leaving things out and completely fabricating events as well.

I don't know if this is useful to you or not, just answering your question. It might make you feel angry to listen to her go on about how bad it all was for her (mine made me angry for a long time til I stopped really caring). It might work similar to with my BM and make her more open to listening to you. It is hard to tell, different people are different and this whole adoption thing seems complicated and it is hard for you all to know how you should act with each other and what the correct 'procedure' is when you reunite.

Acinonyx Mon 28-Jul-08 22:54:37

not quite - she was in various forms of care as far as I know - it's difficult to get the whole story. She tends to be very opinionated and likely to make remarks another person would consider too tactless.

Acting - in all honesty it does get wearing - that there appears to be a medal for grief and suffering that she claims and no-one else can ever share. I would like to have just got it all out but OTOH she does go on about how awful it was (which I don't doubt) but is deliberately vague and refuses to discuss a lot of it. Unfortunately she has a serious problem with listening to anyone about anything. It's not the facts I have a problem with i.e. that she gave me up for adoption - I can see how that came about - but I have a serious problem with her attitude about it and to issues arising since we got in touch.

One of the biggest problems with 'reunion' is that you are thrown into this intense relationship with people who are basically strangers. I don't think either of us would win any awards for our ability to handle the issues in the early years.

ActingNormal Mon 28-Jul-08 23:11:35

She does sound a bit similar to my BM. Mine doesn't listen, she talks and talks and talks over you if you try to speak. She doesn't ask you anything about yourself, just shows off about what she has done etc and goes on about her problems. This is why I can't see her face to face. Her lack of interest in me right from the beginning felt like a second rejection (you would think a mother would want to know things about her baby she gave up 25 years ago wouldn't you?).

She finds it hard to show emotion around me because she won't allow herself to feel too much in case she loses me again and has to go through the pain of it again. So she has often come accross as cold and uncaring.

She has felt very defensive over what she did so has made up different stories and when she found out my adoptive parents were pretty crap she made up a load of bad things she had done and said it like she was showing off about how outrageous she was, because, she says, she wanted me to think she had made the right decision to give me away because she would have been a crap parent.

Not sure whether any of this is useful, I'm just going on about it really. It's nice to talk to someone in the same sort of position

Acinonyx Tue 29-Jul-08 09:32:28

Wow Acting - that is exactly how my bmom is too! Talking over me in great long monologues and hardly asking anything. No interest in the 21 years in between. Really did not want to hear anything negative about my life which was tricky as I was recovering from a breakdown and relations with my aparents were rock bottom when we first met (I was 25). I just wanted us BOTH to be honest with each other - warts and all. I didn't want another set of parents who refused to face the fact that I had 'issues' that were sending my life down the toilet.

Anyway, 25 years later, my life is much better and more settled. That makes it much more comfortable for them to be around me! Difficult to know exactly what to tell dd - she's only 3. But she often asks me about when I was a little girl and things about my mummy - I don't want her to think this is that mummy so I said I had a new mummy. Now she wants to know where my new mummy is hmm and I don't want to get into the whole 'death' thing just yet.

I've counselled a lot of people tracing and you always explain that they must be prepared for negative consequences - wish someone would explain that to bparents! There are no guarentees as to the life your child will have with their adoptive family - it's not a fairy-tale.

Do your adoptive parents or children know about your bparents? (My parents married each other after I was adopted which is why they are togther.) I knew a woman whose bfather's wife insisted on a DNA test - but even when it was positive, wouldn't accept contact with the daughter. You just don't get to choose your family, eh?

ActingNormal Tue 29-Jul-08 14:41:32

My adoptive parents know that I am in contact with birth parents and they act fine about it (although you never really know what they feel about anything).

I haven't told the children (3 and 5) anything about it. They have met BM and I just referred to her as her first name and they think she is my friend. I don't want to scare them by confusing them and making them think their Mum might not be their Mum and could disappear and be replaced by another one. My bro (adopted from separate parents from me) got confused when he was told, and was scared that his parents were aliens who had taken over his real parents bodies and he thought the whole family were trying to kill him.

My BM used to say she didn't know which my BF was out of two men (even though I look a lot like BF). She traced him for me (well it was supposed to be for me) after I said I wanted to contact him. I asked her to go gently and not disrupt his family. I didn't want to feel responsible for causing trouble in his family. She said she was going to do a DNA test with or without his consent. She wouldn't let me have his details even though he was willing for a time because she "wanted him to herself for a bit". She had an affair with him (both married to other people they had other children with). This is why BF wife doesn't want him to have anything to do with me.

BF says he has always been in love with her. She saw him for a time and then dumped him again and seemed to have contempt for him, what he looked like and his ways. It seems like she used him for a bit of excitement and drama. To me, it seems like meeting me was just another drama for her to get loads of attention for. She never really seemed to focus on me at all.

Both BF and BM then talked loads at me about their problems with each other and used me as their counsellor. I was never the most important one, not since I first met her and she was going on about how hard it had all been for her and problems in her family but not asking me anything about myself. I feel like a byproduct of the dramas they needed to fill their empty lives. I never got the feeling BM had many friends.

I felt like they rejected me all over again by not being interested in me.

It is true what you say about both sides should be prepared for not discovering the fairytale they had in their heads. However much you tell someone though, they still have the fairytale and can be so easily disappointed.

Sorry to go on, it all comes out when I start typing.

If you want to go on and on about yours the same as me I am fascinated to hear about other peoples' stories. I know it is personal though so sorry if I am being too nosy. How did your birth parents compare to what you had thought/hoped they would be? What did they say their reasons were for giving you away?

Acinonyx Tue 29-Jul-08 17:32:26

I can see some similarities there. I always felt that my bf only went along with contacting me to provide marital counselling for bm. I think I deal with it better now because I have lost most of the need or desire to get much from any of this for myself - or have them take a real interest in who I really am. My focus is on collecting information, photos, video etc for dd and possible relationships with cousins. Without my bsis in particular, I would probably have maintained much less contact. Interesting about your brother - I will have to be very careful with dd.

They were'nt married when i was born and bm could not look after me properly. She did not want to go back to her family in her home coutry and she thought it would be better for me to be adopted here. My bf is muslim and would not have family know about me. They married later.

Their relationship is hard to guage. They're still together but there is a lot of tension and baggage. My bf is the one who really didn't shape up when I was born - but actually I am a lot like him and we can get along much better than with bm who drives me really bananas with the incessant talking and lack of awareness about me and my life.

I often think I've invested too much emotional energy into this. I think the problem was that they married and had other children - I just could never quite come to terms with that although it's not as rare as you might expect. It has left me feeling excluded - not that they are a very healthy family. I find I don't deal with loss well...

Do you think you are much like your bparents at all? Do you think there are ways that your aparent have made you different to how you might have been if you had stayed with either/both of them?

ActingNormal Tue 29-Jul-08 18:20:49

I can see how it would be hard to get your head around the fact that they could (after a fashion) cope with looking after subsequent children but not you. Although BF had come back to her by then. Why couldn't she cope on her own, did she have PND? (sorry if being nosey).

My BM was 17, got pregnant accidentally with long term boyfriend (19). He had a steady job. She was at college. Her family wanted them to get married and keep the baby. His family didn't really want their son to marry 'beneath' him. BF didn't want to stay in the relationship (pressure from his parents?). BM thought it would be difficult bringing up a baby while living with her family, in squalid conditions. Her family were a bit messed up, with the father abusing some of the sisters, the mother turning a blind eye and the sisters not getting along.

I think BM was a bit emotionally messed up herself and young. She denied to herself she was pregnant for a long time and was scared about going to the doctor. She did go to 2 different ones who intimidated her a bit so she didn't really explain and they didn't actually realise she was pregnant. She left it til it was too late to do anything about it. Her family were against her for giving the baby away. It was hard for her. This is what I've pieced together from the different stories she has told me over the years.

I hardly know BF but he is a bit soft (like me) and quieter than her.

I really don't want to be like BM but I think our brains are wired similarly. We email about our emotional/psychological issues and understand each other well. I don't talk incessantly or make things up like her. We are both a bit attention seeking, but I think it is more to do with our experiences than genetics. She is very competitive, I don't think I am.

I think I would have turned out more like her if she had brought me up as my half brother has turned out competitive and talks a lot from being in a house where they all talk at the same time and compete about who is cleverest, more knowledgeable, more outrageous etc, but don't appear to listen to each other.

I'm glad I didn't turn out like this as they seem a bit closed off from other people. On the other hand my adoptive parents were completely unexpressive emotionally, my grandfather sexually abused me and my brother physically and emotionally abused me and my parents chose not to notice. I told AM and she basically told me to put up with it and not cause a scene. ABro was abused outside the family (which is why he turned it on me), grew up messed up, is now in prison. I am in therapy. Wrote letters to them all with details of what happened and how I felt. Bro is sorry and we are helping each other. AParents haven't reacted as they can't handle it. AM hasn't even acknowledged that she read the letter. The relationship is very damaged, irreparable.

How were your adoptive parents?

Acinonyx Tue 29-Jul-08 23:02:57

I didn't have the kind of abuse you describe. My amom was volatile, depressive and angry. She was violent - but not dangerously so - I was terrified of her though. I could not get a rational discussion about our problems - it would get emotional and out of hand. I'm sorry things were difficult and I worry that I could have made it easier but didn't/couldn't/whatever.

I can see that I am like bm in some ways - mainly ways I don't like. I am moody, sometimes aggressive but also inclined to put up with too much, stoic but perhaps not when it would be most useful. I talk a lot but heaven forbid not as much! I like attention and I can be quite competitive. We have some tastes in common - and some habits. She's addicted to the internet shock

But the things I value I get from my bfather (if anyone). And now he has Alzheimer's and is disappearing.

My aparents were overly humble inverted snobs and dampened down the arrogance and self-aggrandisement that seems to run riot in my bfamily - too much in fact when I was growing up. I don't have the sense of entitlement that they all seem to have. And they talk much more than me.

How is therapy going? I have been in and out of therapy for donkey's years. But the one that worked for me was a private therpist I had for about 4 year. The NHS people either came and went too fast or didn't click. When you go private - you can shop around for a good fit.

With dd I made a decision that if I was going to make a mistake it would be to give too much rather than too little. I just think the consequences are better.

How do you think your experience has affected your parenting?

ActingNormal Wed 30-Jul-08 09:42:04

It is so good to talk to someone who understands the whole adoption thing, thank you.

It is interesting about the snobbery vs reverse snobbery thing. My BM thought her family lived in squalor but didn't want to appear snobby so wouldn't tell me for a long time that this was part of the reason she didn't want to bring up a baby in their house. My AParents were very concerned with a respectable image and I rebelled against that. So when me and BM met, she was struck by my inverse snobbery.

BM recently used the word "self-agrandisement" to describe her own behaviour. She thinks she did it to mask other feelings. She has seemed to be detached from other people and this does fit in with her saying after the pain of giving away her baby she wouldn't allow herself to feel much for people any more to protect herself from getting hurt again if she lost them. She only told me this recently and I wish she had told me years ago because it makes me want to forgive her for appearing cold towards me when we met. She had acted like she didn't feel much for me when she gave birth, only about the situation. Now she has said this, I feel like she had some feeling for me which makes me feel better.

You say you weren't abused but what you described does sound abusive to me. I used to think what happened to me wasn't abuse until Therapist used all these type of words for it. At first I used to argue with him and say it wasn't that. I thought because it wasn't at the worst end of what can happen to people then I should only describe it as molesting or extreme bullying. I realise now that my family made me believe it was normal when it wasn't.

I found that really useful what you said about parenting - that the best alternative is to risk giving your children too much than too little! I really struggle with where the boundaries should be with my children. I don't want them to repress their feelings, yet they seem to cry/tantrum about every little thing, then I think surely I should be teaching them some self control. How much should I let them do 'extreme expression'?

I give them lots of cuddles, kisses, praise and encouragement which my AParents never did. It is a conscious decision to give them what I didn't have, so in that way their bad parenting has made me actively think about what I'm doing with my children instead of muddling through thoughtlessly. I'm not very good at saying I love you, but I am practicing saying it quickly each time I kiss them.

With DD I'm thinking I gave her too much attention as a baby/toddler, did too many interactive activities and talked to her too much, because now she is incredibly demanding, talking at me non-stop about drivel and expecting an answer and constantly saying "What are we doing next" and expecting to have back to back activities. I wanted her to feel listened to and wanted as I never did. Did I teach her to be demanding? DS hasn't had so much attention because it is not so easy with two children and he is less demanding and better at playing by himself, yet he is incredibly affectionate. Have they just got different personalities or did I give DD too much?

I was having problems with DD and feeling extreme negative feelings about her and having flashbacks of my brother when she did little things. She seemed like she had everything I didn't but was ungrateful which made me angry. She seemed like she wouldn't leave me alone and I couldn't escape from her, like I couldn't escape from my brother and it seemed to bring back the fear. And I was scared she would hurt her younger brother like my bro hurt me and felt incredibly anxious and angry when she went near DS. She wasn't doing anything wrong but my feelings were extreme so I knew I had to get some (more) therapy.

I don't feel like a very good parent. I feel I give them too much one minute because I'm anxious to make them feel loved and wanted, then they get really naughty/demanding, then I get angry and go the other way and tell them to go away and leave me alone and I don't want to talk. Then I'm angry with myself for feeling like I've acted rejectingly. I don't think they know how I'm going to be from one half day to the next. I also think I try to be too controlling, because if I feel out of control I'm scared something awful will happen to them. When they are running up and down shrieking I want to stop them, 1. because their self expression is alien to me (I never expressed anything) and 2. I feel like I need to control them to keep them safe. I never felt I had any control over what happened to me as a child and now I get scared in situations where I feel someone else has more control than me.

My current therapist is a private one and he is excellent (God-like in my eyes). He has made so many things makes sense to me and made me feel better about myself, reassured, comforted etc. The two I had had previously couldn't really get me to talk about what happened, I just couldn't get the words out.

I'm glad you have found a good one too.

It is not your fault that things were difficult for your AMum, you were a child, she was the adult, it was her responsibility.

You said you tend to put up with far too much. I'm wondering if this is to do with not wanting to make people angry to guard against them rejecting you. Have you read The Primal Wound? It says that babies/children remember the rejection from their BM, even if you think they were too young. They may not remember it in details and words but they develop an instinct from the pain they felt, not to trust adults especially women. They are resistant to bonding with their AParents. They want to control their lives and be independent as a reaction to having no control over being given away. Half of the children make themselves difficult for their AParents to challenge them to reject them and test to see if they will, and half are super-compliant and quiet and repressed and put up with any old crap because they are anxious not to get rejected again. This describes my brother and me (him rebellious, me compliant). Do you fit into this?

Sorry I've typed so much. It really makes me feel better! Please tell me your thoughts as well.

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