Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The MIL Saga: Part 5 – The (Somewhat Anticlimactic) Conclusion

Yay, I am finally wrapping up my MIL Saga. Click here for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Okay, where the heck were we? Ah yes. Justin and MIL fought around Thanksgiving due to the unfinished floors, the good dog had tried to bite off Adriana’s face, and MIL “passed” on an overnight opportunity since it wasn’t at her house. This brings us to Christmas.

This was a rough month for the Diniwilks, as my grandmother passed away December 15 after a series of ups and downs during a five month stay in a nursing home. Let’s pause for some grandma stories and a quick photo of grandma with Adriana before she got sick (which is how I like to remember her).

My grandma was awesome – she was a real life Rosie the Riveter who worked on Corsair planes during the war. I take after her in many ways, the most notably being my outgoingness and my “unique” face shape. One time I hopped in one of those aging photo booths, and, I shit you not, it popped out a pic that could have been grandma. Crazy. Oh, and I should also mention that I found out I was pregnant with Kid B on the day she died. I pretty much knew since I get sick so early, and I wanted a little happy moment to end a shitty, sad day, so I took the test. I'm really sad that grandma never got to hear the news. Maybe Kid B will be a little pistol, just like her Gigi.

Anyway, I was not exactly in the mood for MIL monkey business with everything else that was going on. When she texted near Christmas to say that she wasn’t able to host us “for a variety of reasons”, I had Justin reply that we would have her and SFIL over January 2, to give us some time to get the house in order since I had been dealing with family / funeral / finishing my MBA / morning sickness stuff and had hardly been there to clean. Unfortunately, Adriana got the evil barfing + diarrhea sickness around that time, and Justin and I both had bad colds as well. We gave over 24 hours notice, and MIL said we could do it the following weekend. I take full responsibility for OUR cancellation, but nothing that happened afterwards.

On the day of the (rescheduled) Christmas celebration, MIL sent a cancellation text to Justin TWO HOURS before they were scheduled to arrive. He texted back “Why?”, and she replied “It’s personal, how rude to ask.”

SHE called US rude. That, um, did not go over well. Keep in mind, this was like the millionth cancellation on her part over the four years I had known her. I had spent something like 12 hours cleaning and cooking, which is not easy for someone who gets as sick as I do during first trimester. We shampooed the carpets, for fuck’s sake. I baked a ham and made a bunch of side dishes and desserts (and we spent $100+ on the meal and fresh flowers). I still don’t know her reason for cancelling, but I honestly think it was retaliation for us cancelling the week before.

On top of the whole inconvenience factor, we were also disappointed because one of her gifts was a picture frame with a pregnancy announcement inside. Despite all of the tension between us, we really were excited to tell her that she was going to be a grandma again.

Over the next few weeks, we made multiple calls and sent multiple texts trying to reschedule. They went unanswered, for the most part. When Justin finally did get ahold of her (late January), they had this really weird conversation in which they both acted like everything was hunky dory, and that it wasn’t AT ALL weird that it was almost February and we still hadn’t celebrated Christmas.

After chatting it up for a while, MIL suggested that, instead of getting together, she would just “drop our presents off in the breezeway, and have us leave hers out there – do a little switcheroo.” At that point, I signed for Justin to go ahead and just tell her the baby news on the phone, since that was clearly as “in person” as this was going to get. He did, and she seemed excited(ish). He mentioned that her gift included perishable items, so she should come soon since we had been worried about it ever since Christmas. She assured us that she would do the exchange the next day.

Does anyone think she showed?

MIL texted that she had a flat tire, and would pick the gifts up later. This was the second time she’s used that excuse with us - perhaps we should have gotten her a AAA membership instead?

As of today, April 20, 2011, their gift is STILL IN THE BREEZEWAY. It’s kind of like a fun game at this point, to see how long we can keep it there. We have tried calling and texting to no avail; she officially cut off all communications shortly after the flat tire text. However, a family member has kids in the school where she works, and told us that her workspace is still plastered with pics of Adriana that she stole off facebook. BEST GRANDMA EVAH.

So yeah. I think Swistle and Lawyerish were worried this was going to end in a kidnapping (and OMG Swistle, I am STILL THINKING about your creepy ass story with the doctor and the twins). I actually left some stuff out of past posts just to try to alleviate some of those suspicions. For example – MIL was trying to set up visits with a family member who babysat Adriana once a week so she could see her when we weren’t around. This family member is on Justin’s DAD’s side, not MIL’s. WEIRD!

What I’d really like is for you to tell me what YOU would do in this situation. Justin is actually pretty okay with how things are. I am the one who is a mess. My mom cut off contact with her real dad around the time I was born, and I have ALWAYS thought it was super weird. I am one of those “family is family, no matter what” kind of people. Maybe it’s a middle child thing, but I would so much rather have everyone get along and be able to discuss their problems openly than all of this weird tension and passive aggressiveness. So I mean, it’s NICE that we don’t have to deal with her anymore, but that doesn’t mean I think that it’s OKAY.

To be honest, I think what I worry about the most is that Justin and MIL will never make up, and she will get really sick or (ugh) die (I mentioned before she has an illness), and he will totally regret how he left things. I almost wrote “and he will blame me”, but I would hate it just as much if that happened and he would blame himself. So yeah, there’s that too.



d e v a n said...

Oh geez. I can't believe we're very nearly into MAY and the Christmas gifts are still not exchanged. I hope she didn't get you a calendar. hee

What would I do? Well, what can you do if she won't even return a phone call or text? We live FAR from our family so if they cut off communication we would be stuck calling until they finally would answer.
It sounds like you live fairly close, so you could show up unannounced I suppose, if you really want to make contact. You could drop the gifts off I guess?
I would probably do nothing, honestly.

lawyerish said...

Shew. What a SITUATION.

There's a part of me that thinks, well, this is your husband's mother, so it's his relationship to manage, and in a sense you can't force that relationship to be something that it's not.

On the other hand, I am like you in that (1) I abhor conflict, especially within families and (2) I would worry about the future and all that stuff too (AND about someone blaming ME if things fell apart, even if it wasn't my fault at all). So I can see the side of "being the bigger person" and making the effort to repair things. Are you supposed to write her a heartfelt letter and apologize for something (I don't even know what)? But what if her comeback is that it would mend fences if she could just have that overnight with your baby? (OMG.) It seems like she's unwilling to do anything that isn't on her terms, and I really don't know how you get past that except to sort of offer things that are acceptable to YOU (visits at your home, etc) and if she doesn't take them (or respond at all, jeez), then at least you can feel like you tried.

Swistle said...

Uh. Muh. Guh.

Normally in such situations, I at least have some STARTING ideas of what COULD be tried---things that probably the participants have already considered, but hey, maybe not, so worth mentioning. In this case, I have nothing. NOTHING. The whole thing is bizarre. I feel like I can't get a grip on what's happening with her. To me it sounds like mental illness, and not early-stage, either.

Certainly at this point, her behavior is far too erratic for me to consider leaving a child with her on her own. I don't know what I'd DO about this, because...I mean, it's not like that's something you could just SAY.

I think I would...leave it. I'd leave the gifts where they are, and next year I'd mail her the gifts so that I didn't have to deal with that again.

I think I would also make sure I said periodically to my husband that I wished this rift was healed, and I'd ask him if there was something he thought I could do. That would continually assert my good intentions and good will, in case his memory banks were tempted to record anything else.

Navigating the Mothership said...

What a mess. Like the other commenters I don't even know exactly what I'd do/say - the whole situation is so miserable and yuck - but here are my thoughts.

1. Mail the Christmas gifts and just get them out of your sight so they don't remind you of the drama each time you see them.

2. Keep in mind that you are trying to find a rational approach in dealing with a irrational person. Your MIL does sound very mentally ill and quite incapable of a normal response so it's a bit of a lose/lose no matter which tactic you take with her. You can't change her behavior, but you can change how you respond/react, which leads me to...

3. I would actually do nothing to further or promote this relationship, at least until your children are older. Right now they are so young that even visits to her very unsafe house are out of the question. At least in a few years they will not be babies/little toddlers and it will be safer to have more communication. Certainly not ideal, but probably the least stressful for you.

Sorry you have this terrible situation in your life! :( Good luck deciding what to do.

Navigating the Mothership said...

Uh..just read over my response and wanted to note that I realize you just currently have only ONE baby on the outside. But in a matter of months you will have two young children. So that's what I meant. Haha. Oops.

Kathy said...

I'm really glad you decided to post all these occurrences (?) as a series of posts rather than all-in-one. I've not commented before, because I wanted to hear the whole story first.


I think I would do nothing. Maybe mail the gifts, maybe not. But definitely no more phone calls/texts. I probably would even stop introducing the subject to my husband.

What a difficult situation. I can't imagine what could cause your MIL to think this behavior is appropriate/normal. Because it isn't.

lifeofadoctorswife said...

Wow. I just read through the whole series and I want to give you a hug. Because... wow. I agree with Swistle - she sounds like there is something wrong. Because this is not normal, logical behavior.

Oh how I HATE family drama. Because it is so awkward and so stressful to try to make the "injured" parties happy. And it sometimes requires compromising on things that shouldn't have to be compromised on.

I hope this resolves one way or the other!

(BTW, my husband does the same thing of tuning out things in his family that he is accustomed to and capable of ignoring - things that drive me batty. It's IRRITATING. But understandable, as a coping mechanism.)

rsngphoenix8 said...

My mom loves to play the victim. Also, she lies about everything. Growing up she had absolutely zero interest in my sister and me after the age of 6. Like your MIL she uses Facebook to make herself appear to be a great mother and my sister and I are the horrible daughters. For instance my husband and I bought our first house this past April (which needless to say was a momentous event in our lives)and when we had gotten together for her birthday in March she didn't ask one question about the house even though my sister tried to move the conversation in that direction. Then a couple months later my husband had posted a picture of our house and all of our family was commenting on it and she comments saying that she's never gotten to see it and she wishes we would just invite her over for a minute so she could see the house. Keeping in mind that she didn't care one iota at her birthday and hadn't even attempted contact since then, I was quite angry. When she did come over she had nothing positive to say. My sister (lol we always make sure to never have to endure time with mom alone) was really upset over that and my husband was furious that neither she nor my step-dad said nothing about the cake that I had made specifically for them. I on the other hand had turned a deaf ear to most of their visit so I was in a perfectly content mood.

We don't have children yet, but I can see us going through the same things you have gone through. The only way that I have found to make drama go away is to limit contact to whenever she seeks us out and to never push for a good relationship, because it's not in her to care about anyone other than herself. We also don't allow ourselves to be pulled into a situation of drama by either saying "hmm" whenever she tries to spread gossip or changing the subject. She doesn't ask to see us much so we will have to figure out something when it comes to future kids. Her house is a hazard zone also. She never cleans. The carpet should be a cream but is a dirt brown and I'm not entirely sure what color the linoleum is supposed to be. I've had a mouse scratch at my neck in the middle of the night, dead lady bugs fall on me after taking a shower, seen droppings in her silverware drawer, and roaches crawling the walls while over there.

It sounds like you grew up in a great home for which I'm glad and I hate that I can sympathize with your husband because I really hope no one has to go through what my sister and I did. The only advice I can give you--and I thought giving some of my background would help you understand my perspective--is to try to adopt the same defense mechanism your husband has. Talk to her when she reaches out to you, but to save yourself heartache don't expect a great relationship and turn a deaf ear toward her negative comments.