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Old December 27th, 2016, 06:59 PM
athena0205 athena0205 is offline
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How to deal with my mother?

About a year ago my husband lost his job and when we couldn't keep up with our rent, my parents let us move into the second house on their farm. It seemed like the only option at the time and we were grateful for the help. We don't pay them rent but we do pay our own bills and help them out around the farm. We do owe them a bit of money (which my mother never fails to bring up in passive aggressive ways). We haven't been able to save up enough to leave yet, and my Mom is driving my children and I insane. I homeschool (always have) and we don't have a lot of extra money to get away and go do extra things, so for the most part we stay home. My husband drives into town for work, but he hasn't been able to find a better job (he is making a lot less than he used to) and wasn't able to get a student loan to go back to school. I am attempting to start my own business, but between housework, farm chores, and homeschooling it is slow going.

My sister-in-law brings my nieces and nephew (boy 6, girl 4, girl 2) to stay with my parents every second weekend, sometimes more often. My boys are 12 and 14 years old and they are expected to go over to their grandparents' house 24/7 while their cousins are there and 'play' with them. Which is really them babysitting because they don't really play the same way anymore with the age difference. As soon as they show up I can expect a phone call. But they don't just call me themselves, they have one of the kids call me and ask if my kids can go come over to play. If I don't answer, they will often just send the kids over to my door. Or my Mom will call me to come over and help her or pick something up and then the kids beg me to let them come over to play. Which is difficult when my kids usually don't want to. They have homeschool work, friends that they chat with, games and projects that they like to do, hobbies, etc.. My kids feel like prisoners in their own home. Last time their cousins were at my parents', they really wanted to go for a walk without having to take them along, so they tried to sneak out the back door, but they were spotted and we still get snarky comments about how mean it was to hide from their cousins. Apparently my Mom spent half an hour in tears telling them how their cousins love them so much and just want to be with them.

On top of that, the 6 year old, my nephew, is extremely spoiled and has a ton of attitude. He doesn't share, has to have his way in everything that they do together, and he throws fits when my kids don't want to play. He screamed loud enough in my 12 year old's ear last weekend that he had a headache all night just because my son didn't want to play anymore, then when my son tried to leave he followed him and badgered him for 20 minutes telling him that it is mean to ignore him. If he doesn't get his way he throws things, usually something like a video game controller. He is constantly trying to compete with my kids and brags to them about the things he has that they don't, because my brother makes a lot of money. He wants to win at everything and has a meltdown if he doesn't. I understand letting a six year old win most of the time, especially since he can't beat my kids at anything, but when he wins because they let him, then turns around and laughs and brags and calls them slow and stupid, they lose patience quickly. My boys do their best to be nice, but they only have so much patience. Worst of all, my nephew knows my Mom favors him and he uses it.

My Mom favors my nephew. According to her, he is a perfect angel and nothing that I say can convince her that he needs some discipline. Instead she will change the subject, ignore me completely, point out something that I have done wrong in the past, or find some other way to refuse to listen. She always has to be right and 'win' every conversation. She always has a response to anything. She loves to tell people that they shouldn't 'start with her' because they won't win. Her excuses are that he is only 6 and has been bullied in school and his dad works away from home for weeks at a time to make so much money, all of which adds up to a really difficult life. And so my kids are supposed to just put up with everything and not be 'mean' to him. So they can't stand up for themselves against a 6 year old because it is mean. He followed them outside last weekend and insisted on walking out onto a partially frozen pond, which wasn't safe. My kids pulled him back, kicking and screaming, and then he ran to my Mom who gave my kids heck and told them that they can't tell him what to do. They are so frustrated.

Making everything more complicated, my 12 year old is slightly autistic. He is extremely innocent and sarcasm goes right over his head. If his 6 year old cousin screams in his ear or hurts him in some way, he will get very upset and try to hide anywhere he can while getting in trouble for hiding from his cousin because it is 'mean'. He also forgets all of this very easily and will run back over the next day, happy as ever. The last time this happened I confronted my Mom who told me that my son is overly sensitive, wouldn't survive a day in school so thank goodness I homeschool him (even though she never agreed with homeschooling), and is old enough that a 6 year old shouldn't be able to bully him! Yet if he stands up to his cousin, she gets angry and accuses him of being mean because his cousin is only 6! Because of all of this, my 14 year old is very protective of his younger brother.

My 14 year old was at his Grandma's with me today and she mentioned that my nephew was bullied by someone at his Christmas play yesterday and that he finally snapped and hit the kid, which she understands because no one can put up with that for too*long without snapping. So I pointed out that he does the same thing to my kids and they are expected to put up with it. To which she told me that the kid bullying my nephew is the same age, with my kids there is a 10 year difference, my kids should be old enough to ignore a six year old. I told her that they still shouldn't have to put up with it. And then she told my son that if he can put up with his (real) father for all these years he should be able to ignore a six year old. (His real father, not my husband, has adhd and can get very annoying - gets in these hyper moods and pokes and prods and teases until you snap - and is just really difficult to deal with. So that is what she was referring to there.) I tried to tell her that he should be able to stand up to his nephew and that he shouldn't be allowed to get away with everything. Her only response was to tell my son that he can just stay home, he doesn't have to come over, that she would leave if she could when she got frustrated with [my nephew], but she lives there. She had this joking, condescending tone throughout the entire conversation as if me that I am just being silly and making a big deal out of something small. What my son got out of the entire thing was that if he is going to stand up to his cousin and upset him, that she would rather he stays home.

This is a typical conversation with my mother:
Her [in an extremely positive voice]: Oh, just to let you know, the kids are going to be here today. But I understand how busy your boys are and they don't have to come over if they don't want. I know they just got a new game and they want to spend some time playing it.
Me [foolishly assuming that she is being honest]: Okay thank you for letting me know. That's great, they have a lot of school work to get done and they really want to play their game.
Her [gets very quiet]: Okay bye.

I am impressed, thinking that maybe for once she has actually heard me, but then later in the day, my kids go over to her house:
Nephew: Did you come to play with us?
12 Year Old: Yes!
14 Year Old: Not me right now, I just need to pick something up, but maybe later.
Her [directed at my nephew in a happy tone of voice while smiling sweetly]: Oh he's (my 12 year old) here to play for now, but only until he gets annoyed at something you do, then he will leave.
14 Year Old [annoyed and protecting his brother]: Well we do get annoyed and tired of 'playing' and we have things to do at home.
Her [in a hurt voice]: But they are your little cousins and they love you and they want to spend time with you and they will only be little for so long. You need to enjoy this time with them.
14 Year Old: I don't want to be here all of the time though.
Her [again with a smile in a joking tone]: You are going to be one of those 'moody' 14 year olds aren't you?
He comes home in a rage because she KNOWS how much he hates it when his feelings are belittled and blamed on hormones or adolescence.

Of course most of this happens while I am not there. When I am around she is always happy and positive. If I bring any of this up then my kids are exaggerating, took something the wrong way, overly sensitive, etc..

I am getting so stressed out with all of this. I have no idea what to do.
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Old December 27th, 2016, 07:15 PM
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Re: How to deal with my mother?

Your mother said the boys could stay home. Keep them home when the younger cousins are there. Keep your life and their life as separated as possible so there would be no reason to go to grandma's house except to visit.
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Old December 27th, 2016, 08:49 PM
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Re: How to deal with my mother?

How do your kids feel about "grandma"?
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Old December 27th, 2016, 08:51 PM
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Re: How to deal with my mother?

The word you are looking for is "no."

When you get the call to come over, send the kids over, whatever, the answer is "Sorry, but no. We're working on homework/bathing the cat/about to go meet friends." And stick to it.

Start bringing your husband to work on weekends when they'll be there so you have a car. Save your errands up, then when your brother's kids get there, be going out for haircuts, to movies, whatever you can think of that are places that a 6yo wouldn't want to go. Invite your kids' friends over. Save up the farm chores to do while they are there - my guess is that the 6yo wouldn't want to help with any of them.

It sounds like you already have had the conversation with your mom, but have it again, that the boys are simply at different stages of life and you don't think they should be forced on each other with such frequency. The old "but the 6yo just LOVES his cousins" line should be met with "That's because his peers don't put up with him, hence the bullying. He will be better off socially if he develops relationships with peers, not with teenagers." You can even express that to your SIL in a concerned way... you wonder if your DS's are the appropriate playmates for her son given the huge age difference? Tell your kids to stop letting the 6yo win at everything, but to be gracious about their victories. If the 6yo stops wanting them around, that'll help with the problem.

The truth is that your mom just doesn't want to have to deal with the 6yo herself. She knows his issues, she's just in denial and her life is easier when she makes it your sons' problem, not hers.

Your mom is really mean to your son, by the way. I wouldn't tolerate those comments from her. She is being very manipulative and selfish, and your son is suffering. Time to grow a backbone and protect him from her bullying. I know you said she won't let anyone "win" so to let you in on the secret, the way to "win" with those people is to not engage. She doesn't need reasons or excuses or rational arguments about why you are right. None of those matter. All she needs is "no." If you're feeling generous, you can say "No, I don't want to do that."

How soon before you can move out? The price of the free rent seems too high to me.
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Old December 28th, 2016, 01:08 AM
athena0205 athena0205 is offline
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Re: How to deal with my mother?

My children love their grandma. She hasn't always been this bad. When they were younger my parents took them every weekend (their choice, I never asked). This was before my brother had his kids. So my children were her first grandchildren and she was amazing with them. They have grown up around her.

My kids want to go over. Especially my 12 year old, who, like I mentioned, is so innocent and forgets. They want to see their grandparents and cousins. They just want the grandma they had before. She has always been this way, but never towards them in the past. Actually I didn't even realize she did this to me until a while after we moved here and my husband pointed it out to me. But now that I am paying more attention, she does it with everything. She gardens and I don't have time so she tells me to come and take whatever I want. So I go and take some beans and then I get three weeks worth of passive aggressive comments about how she was planning on pickling those ones. Or I take potatoes and she mutters under her breath about how nice it must be to get potatoes without having to do most of the work for them. So I stop taking anything and then two weeks later she is tearfully asking me why I don't take anything - that it makes her sad that I would go and buy what she has so much of to share. It is driving me nuts. No matter what I do it is the wrong thing to do for her.

Saying no isn't that simple, she gets around it. She will have my nephew call instead, knowing it is harder for me to tell him no. Or she has actually sent him across the yard to knock on the door. And I know he has issues, but her behavior really isn't his fault and I feel bad for him. Getting away every single time or having an excuse isn't that simple either. There isn't really an entire weekends worth of excuses every single time. I just get told to make sure that we don't plan anything for the next day or the next weekend or whatever.

I don't want to tolerate the comments from my Mom, I just don't hear them in person and bringing it up later feels pointless. It is hard to stand up to someone who doesn't listen. Clams up, changes the subject, denies that my son really understood or heard her correctly, etc..

There have been quite a few times that I have wondered if we wouldn't be better off living in our vehicle, even with three dogs and three cats. But considering that the current temperature outside is -24C, I don't think we'd make it very long. But if I could come up with any real way to move, we would.
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Old December 28th, 2016, 07:44 AM
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Re: How to deal with my mother?

Your mother's help comes with a price. You want "free" veggies? You have to pay an emotional cost for them. You want her to be close to your kids? You have to pay an emotional cost for them-- and now that cost is being transferred to your children.

No isn't easy, but it is necessary. When your mother has a child call-- it should be easy to say no to a 6 year old. Why are you allowing him to dictate your life? No means no.

And before anyone mentions "Honor thy mother..." Honor means to show the respect due them but it does not mean you have to be obedient to them once you've become an adult.

It's time to decide: Are you going to be the daughter trying to get mother's approval for your life decisions or are you going to be an independent adult mother to your own children? Your duties are to your children, but as long as you live on your mother's farm, she will expect you to be her dutiful daughter first.

Quite frankly, I would cut all unnecessary expenses, rehome the pets, enroll the kids in public school where your son may be eligible for additional services, and get a job so I can be independent.
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Old December 28th, 2016, 10:46 AM
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Re: How to deal with my mother?

athena, I can't really figure out what it is that you want?

You say that your kids want to go over, but your op said
Quote:
Originally Posted by athena0205 View Post
Or my Mom will call me to come over and help her or pick something up and then the kids beg me to let them come over to play. Which is difficult when my kids usually don't want to. They have homeschool work, friends that they chat with, games and projects that they like to do, hobbies, etc.. My kids feel like prisoners in their own home.
Quote:
Originally Posted by athena0205 View Post
he throws fits when my kids don't want to play. He screamed loud enough in my 12 year old's ear last weekend that he had a headache all night just because my son didn't want to play anymore, then when my son tried to leave he followed him and badgered him for 20 minutes telling him that it is mean to ignore him.
Quote:
Originally Posted by athena0205 View Post
My boys do their best to be nice, but they only have so much patience.
Quote:
Originally Posted by athena0205 View Post
Making everything more complicated, my 12 year old is slightly autistic. He is extremely innocent and sarcasm goes right over his head. If his 6 year old cousin screams in his ear or hurts him in some way, he will get very upset and try to hide anywhere he can while getting in trouble for hiding from his cousin because it is 'mean'.
Quote:
Originally Posted by athena0205 View Post
He comes home in a rage because she KNOWS how much he hates it when his feelings are belittled and blamed on hormones or adolescence.
That doesn't sound to me like your boys WANT to go over. What a very confusing life you all live! You must be so tense from having to constantly walk on eggshells.

You can not change your mother, and you can never win with your mother. You have three choices.

(1) Tolerate it
(2) Change how you react to your mother so she'll stop tying you in knots
(3) Figure out a way to move.

I'm going to be brutally honest, and this comes from a place of wanting to help you. Based on what you wrote in your op and then what you followed up with in your second post, it seems to me that you feel powerless and are afraid to rock the boat with people. It could be that you are kind and submissive, but all of the conflict that comes from being kind and submissive and surrounded by people who keep you on tenterhooks (your mom) is internalized. That is not a way to live. Your boys need to be given permission to speak up for themselves, and to avoid people like your mom (and their cousin). I worry what kind of women they will marry!

What about your father and your husband? What do they say?
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