[B/G] My maternal grandmother has four children – of whom my mother is the oldest and the youngest is actually my older half-brother. My aunt, uncle and uncle/brother all live within half an hour's drive of her. My parents and my family live some four hours drive away.
My uncle and uncle/brother refuse point blank to have anything to do with my grandmother. My uncle cut all ties with her following the death of my grandfather some 14 years ago because of the way she behaved towards him. He also cut all ties with my mother, aunt and uncle/brother for similar reasons. I and my children are the only members of the family he will communicate with. He was only 14 when I was born and has always been more of an older brother to me than my actual (10 years older) uncle/brother has been... and I have never pressed him to “make amends” with the rest of the family. He's an adult, he makes his own choices, he's the one who has to live with them. My uncle/brother cut all ties with my grandmother approximately two years ago – partly because she threw the information that he wasn't actually her son at him and she was glad she was “just” his grandmother (not even during a row... she just came out with it and then told him “oh, and everyone else knows it, too!” - which we did. To this day I don't understand why they told a 5 year old me and not him, unless it was an attempt to get me to tell him for them!), and partly because he was tired of always being the one who was expected to do every little thing around her house for her. I suspect, but don't know (we're not actually close at all), that it also had a lot to do with – understandably – wanting to spend time with his new wife (whom he “ran away” to Vegas to marry and didn't tell anyone until almost three months later that he'd married my aunt/SIL).
My grandmother is, putting it politely, completely toxic. She is passive-aggressive, mean-spirited, vindictive and self-absorbed to the point where when my grandfather was put in hospital with an aneurysm many years ago, and told by his doctors that it wasn't safe for him to drive, lest he die at the wheel and endanger the lives of others, she turned around – in front of both my parents – and said “oh, (grandfather) will have to continue driving - how else am I supposed to get around?”. When I was a child, she insisted on repeating nasty, malicious gossip about my other set of grandparents and was physically as well as emotionally abusive to me. I have never liked her – and I don't really mind who knows it. I know that she taught my mother everything that *she knows about similar behaviour, because when the two of them are together? It is glaringly apparent who taught my mother the not so subtle art of being snide and passive-aggressive to get her own way. (Interestingly enough, my great-grandmother - whom I was fortunate enough to know -, was nothing like my grandmother and mother. My great-grandmother raised my mother from birth until the age of 7 years and was, by all accounts, the epitome of kindness and graciousness to everyone. Her other daughter, my great-aunt, is also one of the kindest people going... and also refuses to have anything to do with my grandmother).
When my daughter was born, oh-so-many years ago, I was on my own. My grandmother had faced a similar situation when my mother was born – but if you're expecting there to have been any hint of “you can do this!” or “it gets easier” or any other show of emotional support from her? You're mistaken. My grandmother spent the next four years sniping at me for having kept my daughter, for not having farmed her off to my mother for raising (which tells you why my great-grandmother raised my mother for her more formative years), and when I stood my ground, she informed everyone in the extended family that I was an ungrateful female dog who didn't know what “tough” actually was (at the time I was paying my own way through university, with a toddler in tow, I had no emotional, financial or even “let me babysit for a while so that you can finish that essay/get some sleep!” support from *anyone. My daughter was also born with severe sleep aponea and her father was in Thailand, “trying to find himself” whilst I was terrified that she'd go to sleep and never wake up again!). Yes, it was a different era, but my grandmother was able to have a social life when my mother was a baby/very young and then became a stay-at-home-mother when she married my grandfather – who doted on her! [end B/G]
When my son was in hospital actually having surgery a few days ago, and I was anxiously waiting to hear the words “he's in recovery” (even more so than normal, perhaps, because he's allergic to anaesthetics), my mother – who had insisted on stopping by the hospital and simply would not leave – dropped the bombshell in the waiting room: “Oh, by the way, your grandmother's coming for Christmas!”.
I'm not close to my mother, but I adore my Dad and so, the children and I do tend to spend a vast portion of December 25th with them. This has only been a problem twice. Once, five years ago, when my grandmother was last invited to stay – and told my then 3 year old son that Santa Claus doesn't exist and if he didn't “shut up and sit still”, she would take all of his gifts away from him. None of which, incidentally, she had given to him. She said this right in front of me, but whilst my parents were bickering over the turkey in the kitchen. And when I gathered my son and daughter to leave – she played the “I didn't say anything of the sort!” and “oh, they must have misunderstood!” cards. My sobbing 3 year old, his furious 11 year old sister and I stood our ground and left.
We haven't been forgiven yet.
The second time is this December 25th and it isn't even here yet...
I have told my mother point blank that I will not have my children exposed to my grandmother again. We haven't seen her in five years. There hasn't been any communication whatsoever between us. I will not stand by and allow her to do the same to my children as she did to myself and to my cousins. My Dad also can't stand her and doesn't want her in the house – but will do anything for a quiet life and to make my mother happy. My daughter has refused point blank to even set foot in my parents home if my grandmother is there (because she's old enough now to be consulted) and is unhappy that one of her last festive seasons before she spreads her wings and flies off towards adulthood, is – to quote her - “being ruined by someone who doesn't give a monkey's bottom about us!”. I am, I admit, furious about the timing of my mother's dropping of the bombshell... but my response was calm, measured and above all polite.
My mother is playing the martyr card. “Oh, well, in that case, I'll just go and spend Christmas with her, then...” and “If you loved me...” cards have both been played. Repeatedly. To which I told her that she's an adult, she can do whatever she likes, and whilst it's a shame that we won't see her, so be it... She has point blank told me that I've ruined Christmas and that my children both want to see my grandmother (they don't; my daughter has her own issues regarding her and my son simply doesn't know her other than “the lady who lied to me about Santa Claus!” - and in our little family? Lying is a big no-no!). She has also tried going behind my back and guilt-tripping my daughter into talking me “round” - only to discover that my daughter feels just as strongly about this as I do. So then I got the telephone call from her stating that I'm a female dog for turning my daughter “against her own flesh and blood!”. My Dad is miserable because he doesn't even get consulted about who he wants in his house or to spend his festive season in the company of.
I know my mother's tricks. I know that she's trying to get me to back down, to go “oh, well, I suppose what she's done over the duration of my entire life, but more importantly, to my children wasn't so bad after all... of course we'll spend the festive season with her! Heck, why doesn't she come and stay in our house?!”. But she's in for a very long wait. Because that isn't happening. I will protect my children from the toxicity for as long as I possibly can.
I'm just not entirely certain of how to persist in being polite whilst doing so. The moment I lose my patience, they will view it as a victory – as proof that they're right and I'm wrong... and it isn't even about that. It's about the fact that my mother is an adult and can have whoever she wants staying in her house... but I am also an adult, and I don't have to be included if I don't want to be. We don't live together. There are no hard and fast rules that state my little family and I have to be at their beck and call because my mother wants to play four generational happy families...
So please, wise 'e'-hellions – help me polish my spine and be able to politely stand my ground on this.