So, yesterday afternoon it occurs to me - if my husband and I are in this together, presenting a united front, protecting our family, we should call his parents on speaker phone, with me on the call too.
I hate this idea, but it's the right thing to do. So we called last night at 9. And talked/argued for over 2 hours. Told them the baby news at an hour and 45 minutes in.
Let's see, there were probably two money quotes.
First, after hearing the baby news, my MIL says, why didn't you tell us this at the beginning of the phone call? It solves everything!
Second money quote, from his dad - you have only one set of parents. I have three kids, so I have two other kids to lavish attention on if you turn away.
The whole conversation was unbelievable. His mother refused to acknowledge anything. Flat out denied telling our daughter her daddy sucked. Absolutely denied putting our daughter into the conflict. Said we did. Did say that she treated daughter differently, but we caused it, and it killed her to do so. She would never hurt our daughter. Said she took our daughter's pictures down from her house because they hurt her too much too look at.
Proudly, and with no irony, said she had handled the conflict far better than we did. After all, they sent cards to acknowledge milestones over the past year, while we had ignored them.
And the conflict? Was 100%, in her mind, about how on holidays we always choose my family over her. How last year - in the midst of the shitstorm of our marriage, trying to put things back together, we decided we would not spend 24 hours with them on Christmas - never mind our plan was we'd go up a few days early, have all Christmas prep with them and Christmas morning, it was leaving Christmas Day.
She wanted - she insisted - on making nearly 80% of our conversation over the issue of Christmas Day. My husband actually did a great job of trying to rise above the specific issue and talk about how to best resolve conflict without involving the kids. But each and every time, his mom brought it back to how could we have not spent all of Christmas Day with her.
At one point, I sputtered - I just have no response to you saying you haven't talked to us, you took daughter's pictures off the wall, that this is all about dinner.
And she engaged in revisionist history like you would not believe. I said to my husband after - I did not do a great job of rising above the details to get at the heart of the issue. It's too hurtful to me to hear her dismiss our November and December as nothing out of the ordinary. I know dates - hell, I have them chronicled here. And to here her spout nonsense about how we'd prmoised in early December to spend all of Christmas with her, after we'd spent all of last Christmas with my family ,was just over the top. OVER THE TOP. At another point, I said, well, remember, my dad almost DIED last year? And she said, exactly, he shouldn't have been driving all that way to see you.
The only time I think I said something good was when she was gonig on and on about how we could have had a "nice holiday" and I interrupted. Would it make you happier to know we only spent maybe two afternoons with my parents? That they stayed with my brother for the holiday? That we did not have a 'nice holiday?' That there was no such thing as 'nice' last year? NICE was not at our house last year. That we were just struggling to stay afloat? His dad actually got that and acknowledged that. His mother, on the other hand, immediately switched tactics and said well, we shouldn't have come at all then (we had gone to our niece's 3rd birthday party). We should have told them that. WHAT? What planet was she on?
Another of her diversionary tactics was to go on the physcho-babble offensive - why did we have to make things so difficult? Why were we so neurotic? She'd never hurt our daughter, etc etc.
My husband said can't you even acknowledge that we need new ways to handle conflict? Can you acknowledge there could have been a different way to play last holiday? She said no. His dad said yes.
His dad actually tried to end things on a civil, if distant, note - how about we leave it at this - we don't involve the kids, you all do whatever it is you need to do, invite us along when you want, and if it fits into our schedule maybe we'll participate in your life. I was happy with that. My husband, not as much - I think too hurt.
And then, as we were wrapping it up, my husband said, ok, well, there's one more thing. And dropped the baby boy arriving in three weeks news. And, for them, that did solve everything. His mother immediately switched into happy tears and when could she take the baby and we would need a break and maybe in the first few months we should drop the kids off at her house and what did we need and how was I feeling and oh yeah, when were my parents coming, and when was my next doctor's appointment and they'd call that day and why didn't we tell them earlier and she could have spent part of the summer with us helping us get ready, and she was going to kill my husband's brother because he had known and hadn't told her so on and so on
in the run on way she has.
I have the sinking feeling she's going to cram 9 months of preparation into the next three weeks. God help me.
As one of my friends said to me this morning as I was relaying the saga - you're right back at square 1. And yeah. I am. When we plotted this all out in advance my husband and I had agreed that we would limit post-baby time with them. Not have them waiting in the waiting room with my parents (my parents know most of the story, and know they've been badly maligned by this crazy woman), not have them visit. After we hung up, of course, I said, shit, we shouldn’t have told them the exact date and time of the C section. And my husband just utterly and completely caved. Said, well, we can’t hide it from them, you heard how excited they were, I’ll just have them wait separately, we can’t have your parents there and not mine, that’ll just make things worse, etc etc etc.
In our one hour post phone call decompress, my husband kept saying, I just don’t know what to say to get through to her. And I kept replying, nothing is ever going to get through to her. She’s 60+ years old. She is not changing. All we can do is set our limits and live our life.
The women in her family - with the exception of her own mother - have all lived into their mid-90s. That means 30 + years of this craziness. I'm not up for that job. I'll just flat out admit it.
The good news is my husband joked, well, you won't see us at Thanksgiving or Christmas and they both said oh no, of course not. Whew - at least we have cover this holiday season. But it all starts back up again.
I walked the dog this morning and thought more about this all - not like I hadn't tossed and turned all night replaying it all. And it's depressing. We are exactly where I feared we'd be. All is forgotten, swept under the rug, the slate is clear as far as they're concerned. No acknowledgment of bad behavior. No understanding of our concerns. No respect for resolving conflict in a way that might lead to better relations in the future. Just them, as usual, thinking of themselves.
OK, all you folks with bad in-laws and successful boundaries drawn - what now?
2 days ago