question regarding the upcoming holidays

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rileygirl

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question regarding the upcoming holidays
« on: September 21, 2017, 04:22:18 PM »
Hi everyone,
I'm new to this group, but not new to personality disorders.  We were low contact with my BPD mom and enabling father for the past ten years, until my mom disowned me for the third time, and told me she would never talk to me again in this life, so we're pretty much no contact now. We are no contact with my golden child sibling and his family over a stupid argument that we apologized for, but as is so often the case in these families, just goes on and on and on.  I have two grown sons, both from a previous marriage, and both showing traits like their father, who I think, looking back was most likely a narcissist. He died when they were in pre-school, but it is scary how much they used the same tactics on me that their father did, especially the main one which is to want me to come to family functions so they can ignore me, stand me up on holidays, etc.  I have tried everything I know of to 'keep us together', and am finally really getting it that the only person I can 'fix' is me. I am finding peace in no contact, but it has been years in the doing.

 Youngest adult son has married into a family with a MIL who calls them several times a day, and tries to run everyone, including us. An example of what she is like: adult son and his family (he has small children) will come to our town to visit. They will stay for months at a time, at her house. Adult son and DIL will be 'allowed' to visit us once during that long visit, and MIL will call in the middle of our dinner.  This kind of stuff has been going on for well over a decade, and we have tried to be the 'hands-off' parents, and just be available when they need us, to our detriment, both emotionally and physically.

This MIL also has another tactic that finally brought everything to the brink. You see, while she demands that the only get-togethers be at her house, and she demands all the time and activities be her way, she also informs us that we are neglectful grandparents. It's really ingeniously cruel. We finally got to spend an actual day with our grandchildren recently, despite the fact that the adult son and wife had been here for months. They made it clear that they were only doing this because they needed a babysitter.  After having a marvelous day, MIL came to pick up the kids and again, in our house, told us that we would see them more, if we cared to have a relationship with their parents. (The irony of this is that even though they had been in a stable relationship for years, my adult son and his wife were afraid to tell MIL that they were even having kids,...because they were afraid she would have some sort of tantrum...so they called us first. They also were afraid to tell her they were even getting married.That's the kind of woman she is.)

Adult son completely does what this woman wants, and this time, called me to demand we apologize to her. We refused, and I am someone who will apologize for things I didn't do, just to keep everyone happy, but I couldn't do it this time. I am putting more pieces together all the time, and realizing that he is a grown man and that it is his choice to see me or not, whether MIL is domineering or not. I am glad that I got to raise him, but I am starting to realize that I want to live my life happily, and that I'm so very tired of all this.

So, enough back story...But here is what I am wondering.  Christmas will be here before we know it, and I am already stressing about how no contact will work in this situation. Every year, hubby wants me to send cards and gift certificates to our nieces, even though we have not seen them since they were in elementary school and they are heading towards high school now.  Every year, just thinking about the process of picking out a card and figuring out what I think these girls would like, remembering that they live in the same town and we don't know each other anymore, trying to figure out what to write in a card...all of it fills me with dread and such sorrow.  I haven't enjoyed a holiday in well over a decade.  And now, with the issues with my son's family, I will be facing this dilemma with grandchildren as well. Husband believes that no matter what we should reinforce to the kids that we still love them and that there is still a connection.  Despite it all, we have been close to the children in our family, and we have had very good relationships.  But the process of buying even something small for the children in the midst of estrangement fills me with anxiety, unbelievable guilt that we can't have a more cohesive, understanding family, the compulsion to want to make it work even though I can't, anger that I am discarded, and underneath it all, I know all those feelings really don't matter because the grandchildren are growing up around so much narcissism that the gift probably doesn't matter anyway....the list goes on and on.

I welcome your advice on how you handle estrangement and gift giving. It's good to join this group.
Thank you
 

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Hikercymru

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Re: question regarding the upcoming holidays
« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2017, 06:50:51 AM »
This sounds so painful. I am sorry read this sad story of manipulation which carries on through the generations. Hugs and blessings to you.
Reading your question about Christmas, one thing struck me. You write that your husband wants to carry on buying gifts and writing cards. And the you write how YOU find it so very painful to choose gifts and find the words. Could you explore whether you could tackle this together, or whether he could do it on his own with minimal support of you?
I think in principle it is the right thing to reach out, but why put it all on you?
This must be so painful.
My upd ? daughter stopped speaking to me three years ago. She lives close by and is expecting her first child in november. She will keep the baby away from me and i can only imagine the pain I will feel...
Poor us.

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rileygirl

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Re: question regarding the upcoming holidays
« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2017, 10:55:48 AM »
Thank you, HIkercymru, for your insights. If someone would have told me when I was raising those boys on my own, and believing that we were so close and had such good memories, that there would come a day when I would be so worn down by the games and the passive aggression that I would not want to even send cards to my own grandchildren (who are just starting first grade), I would have been horrified, and I wouldn't have been able to even fathom it. There were signs of this coming when I look back, even in the kids' childhoods, signs I didn't want to see. I thought they were just being teen-agers.

 I adore my grandchildren, but how does one stay connected when you know that they are just being used as pawns, and that every time they show that they love you, the parents will yank them away again? I almost wonder if it is better for them if we stay away, because there is no longer the up and down, pull-push game...but then I know that kids need their grandparents, and we need them, too. Thank heavens we have been able to skype for many years and have had such fun...but who knows if we will be able to do that anymore now.  I don't want to see those lovely kids who used to stretch their little arms out as wide as they could and say that that was not enough of how much they loved us... I don't want to see them become cold and distant as the parental alienation starts to set in. But I cannot imagine just turning our backs on them either. 

The worst characteristic of PDs is that they never tell us what we did wrong...or they make up something so preposterous that it is obviously a lie. During this last prolonged visit/episode, my son 'confronted' me with our supposed 'faults' as grandparents. First of all, son is upset that we don't have air-conditioning, just electric fans. We live in a northern state. Secondly, he is furious that we are breaking their rule about giving sugar to the kids. Hubby has bought them 2 small Hershey bars in the span of 6 years. I am kind of a health nut myself, and believe in lots of good fruit, veggies, cheese, meats, protein, milk for kids. My kids even grew up semi-vegan, not because I had some big stance about it, but because beans and rice and vegetables are wholesome and cheap, and I was a struggling college student on a budget.  The last time they dropped the kids off, MIL brought a grocery bag filled with potato chips, which in my view is not exactly stellar health food. The crazy thing about this...the kids have photos taken all the time of them eating ice cream, cake, and chocolate smores...but all at MIL's house.  They are also claiming that the kids are 'unruly' at our house. I used to have a daycare back in the day, and believe firmly in organized activities...and because we have the kids so seldom, we really try to have planned things to do. Like a formal tea party (which they loved so much it has become something we do almost every time they come over) board games, painting in my studio, etc. And they are so out-of-control...heavy sarcasm and eye rolling here. Yep, these are my son's complaints about us. Clutching at straws and gaslighting...if not outright lying.

Somewhere in my mother's heart, there is still hope and always will be. Hope that we cannot know the future, and that sometimes people have shake-ups in life that cause them to change course, to reconsider who they are.  I can only hope that your daughter's pregnancy will bring some sort of resolution.  Whatever happens, I believe that somehow we are given the strength to get through it.  Thank you again for your response.

« Last Edit: September 22, 2017, 11:02:45 AM by rileygirl »

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momnthefog

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Re: question regarding the upcoming holidays
« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2017, 01:37:55 PM »
rileygirl,

I agree that this should not fall entirely on your shoulders as well. 

I have a BPDd and grandchild.  This is the way I handle it.  It may (or may not) work for you.

I send a card/gift/gift card.  Even in years when my BPDd is giving me the silent treatment.  Even in years where she ignores mother's day and my birthday.

And when I put it in the mail, I tell myself I want nothing in return.  Not even an acknowledgement.  It's the purest form of gift giving I've experienced.

For me, it's the right thing to do.  Despite the way I'm treated I love both my daughter and grand daughter and I chose to remember their birthdays and mother's day (for my daughter).  I'm sure there are those who will disagree, but for me, it's the right thing to do.  Despite how my daughter may chose to treat me or her siblings, I will demonstrate to her what maternal love is.....in hopes that at some point she will get it.

There is no wrong or right answer....sadly for most of us....it doesn't matter how we handle this, the PD will determine we were wrong.

momnthefog
"She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible.  She walked with the universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings."

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Vi

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Re: question regarding the upcoming holidays
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2017, 11:19:01 AM »
I have been dealing with this type of situation for over 30 years.  I do not believe there is a pat answer.  I do think letting your husband do the gifting might ease your pain.

In my case my oldest granddaughter is reaching out to me, after many years of my not being able to be a part of her life.  She is about to graduate from college, and I think she realizes we have much in common.  In her absence in my life as well as that of my other four grandchildren, I have formed close relationships with what I call my spiritual children and grandchildren.  I am busy much of the time doing for them what I might have done for my own.  That fact has made me feel excited about holidays and such. 

My holidays are sweet now because I can detach from family members with love, something I learned in Al Anon.  Don't get me wrong,; the absence of children and grandchildren in a life will always hurt; however, I feel it is up to me  to fill that part of my empty glass with love for others.  When I worked, I was a high school English teacher.  One of my 9th grade students had lost her mother just before entering my class.  She was being raised by her brothers.  I took her under my wing and took her to museums, plays and the like.  I had her again in class as a senior in high school and then again as a college student.  I was there to hear about her sweetheart and later her precancerous condition that might have kept her from having children.  When her oldest child (she has two little girls), was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I told her that she was going to need a mother to help her deal with things and that I guessed I was it.  She has become my daughter in an unbelievable way.  I know I am blessed.  Were I struggling to have relationships with children who are incapable of them, I know I would know only frustration.  With this young woman, all I get is love.

I am here for each child of mine and each grandchild and would welcome them with open arms, but I take no abuse or manipulation from anyone.  I think that attitude rather puts the off.  However, I have found through experience that it is the healthiest way for me to live.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2017, 11:21:07 AM by Vi »

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momnthefog

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Re: question regarding the upcoming holidays
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2017, 04:28:57 PM »
Vi,

Thank you for sharing your story. This is beautiful and encouraging.

It's so wonderful rhat your granddaughter is reaching out. And what a blessing to have a young mother to love and mother.

As I've grown, many different women were there for me at different times. They all hold a special place in my heart.

Hugs,

Momnthefog



"She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible.  She walked with the universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings."

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Vi

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Re: question regarding the upcoming holidays
« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2017, 06:05:16 PM »
Thanks for your kind words, momnthefog.  When the holidays approach, I now look forward to the traditions my spiritual families have started with me.  The mother with the two girls goes to a pumpkin patch each October and along with her selection of a pumpkin, she and her daughters select a loaf of pumpkin bread for me.  I look forward to it ever so much each year.  It always seems to taste better than all other pumpkin breads.

Another family has me over Christmas morning for breakfast with their three sons, two now approaching manhood.  There are hugs and kisses galore.  The youngest boy always tells me you always need another hug at Christmas.  I bring presents and cookies and bask in their love as we eat and enjoy the tree.

I believe we have the power to turn tragic circumstances into powerful, positive experiences. 

I believe we can rise in flame like phoenix.