So the other thing that I have done recently is confront my mom with the way she crossed boundaries with my kids. I was really dreading it so last week when I saw her number on the caller id, I did the complete immature thing of letting it go to voice mail so I could know what she wanted before I had to talk to her. She wanted to pick up my youngest from school, have lunch with him and then hang out with him until the older kids got out of school and then pick them up and bring everyone home.
I called her back and told her she could pick up the little guy and have lunch. I said we had some errands to run so I would just swing by on my way and pick him up. I could hear her disappointment when she said, "But I was going to just hang out with him this afternoon and then take him with me to pick up the big kids." From somewhere deep inside of me, I heard a voice that I know is mine but sure sounded a lot more sure of herself than I felt, say, "Well, I have to ask the middle child if he is ok with that. I don't know if he will want you to pick him up."
I heard her exasperation when she said, "Is that boy really still holding a grudge?" And then my floodgate opened. I never yelled. I didn't even cry. I stood my ground. And still sounding a whole lot more confident than I felt I told her everything I had experienced for the previous 2 weeks in regards to the kids and their feelings toward her. "Mom, when I got home, no sooner had hellos been said, I had a sobbing child sitting in my lap wanting to know why his grandma doesn't like him. And I didn't just hear it from him. All the kids have said you yelled all weekend long. The oldest informed me that he got tired of listening to you yell and so he went and hung out with grandpa for the rest of the weekend. The consensus was that there was a lot of raised voices and interrupting and harshness. I have to talk to them and see if they want you to pick them up because I'm not going to have them surprised by it and feel like I didn't look out for them emotionally."
There was quite a bit more said, it was over a half hour of being on the phone. Man did it feel good to lay it all out there. It felt good to know I was protecting my kids and no longer being manipulated by my mother. Hey, maybe that is the cure to mother manipulation. Wait till she messes with your kids, suddenly you don't care anymore if she is happy or not! Sorry, tangent. :)
She had been completely oblivious to how her words and actions had affected my kids. She actually felt remorseful. She insisted that she had to talk to them and let them know she was wrong. Say what? My mom actually admitting that she was wrong? That is like getting a good burger at McDonald's, it just doesn't happen! Now I happened to be already at the kids school when this conversation took place. Don't worry, the kids were at lunch and I stepped outside when they came back in. So I asked my middle child if grandma could pick him up. First he said no.
"I think I'd rather you pick me up, Mom."
"Ok, but it would be Dad because I work tonight."
"Welllllllllllllll, I guess it would be ok for grandma to pick me up then."
I called her and told her she could pick up the boys. We talked for over an hour. She completely doesn't understand my middle child. She doesn't understand why he takes everything so personally. She wants to help toughen him up so he doesn't carry a victim mentality. I told her when dealing with him, to think of me as a child. She actually groaned! Thanks, Mom, glad to know I was that hard to parent. "Oh, yeah. Over emotional about everything. Feelings so easily hurt that you didn't know what was ok to say...." She kept on like that for about a minute. All of that time I wanted to revoke the privilege of being able to pick him up from school from her. She always felt, without ever hiding it, that the way I was was wrong and it was her job to make me right. My emotions were wrong, I should be logical like her. I shouldn't be intuitive or sensitive because it was different from her and therefore wrong. I had to keep a tight reign on my emotions when we were talking about his temperament being so similar to mine. I wanted so desperately to shield him from feeling like his emotions are wrong or that he needs to be "fixed", as if he were broken!
In the end, she did pick up the kids. She took them to a park. She apologized. Well, my youngest is convinced that she didn't, which is kinda funny story. He told me that grandma did something wrong and didn't say sorry but he forgave her anyway. I, shocked, said, "She didn't say sorry?" I had to stifle a laugh when he very solemnly looked at me and said, "No, Mommy. She said she was wrong and asked if I would forgive her. I did forgive her, even though she didn't say sorry. Was that nice of me?"
The kids are young enough that sorry still makes things better. I wish I had gotten one too. After all, I am the one who held my crying son and comforted him. What mother could do that and not be hurt too? But I am grateful that she apologized to my kids. Even that is a huge step further along the road than she was when I was growing up. Sorry is not a word in her vocabulary when it comes to me and my brother or even my dad. I'm thankful that it has become a word in her vocabulary for her grandkids.
It's not all better, but it is better. I still feel very guarded with her. I still feel very protective about my boys, especially my middle child. But I do think it was eye opening to her to realize that she has a chance of damaging her relationship with them permanently if she isn't careful with her actions. I think it shocked her to realize that I won't force them to see her alone if they are uncomfortable. I think she may think a little bit before she lashes out, at least I hope so. I hope that this will, in the long run, make all of our lives a little easier. It is a lot easier to cross a line before one has been drawn and now one has been clearly drawn.