Sunday, November 12, 2006

I really need to stop picking on my mom. Maybe later.

My mother called a few weeks ago and invited us to dinner at their house on the weekend. I wasn’t home so she left a message on the answering machine.

At the invitation this feeling of incredible dread came over me. I avoided calling her back for a few days while i thought about it. In those days, i came to the realization that one of the main reasons that i dread going over there is because they are so nasty to each other. Or more specifically, my mother is nasty to my father and he occasionally retaliates.

We all know couples who fight in front of us. I don’t think i’ve ever talked to anyone who enjoys being around these people. It’s uncomfortable, and it’s difficult for me to watch someone i love (my dad) being treated like shit.

I know that the relationship between my parents is not really any of my business and for some reason, unknown to me, it must somehow work for them. But it affects me such that i don’t want to be around them.

So i called my parents and got them both on the phone and told them that i didn’t like spending time with them because of the way they treat each other. Told them it made me really uncomfortable to be around them and it was sad because i didn’t want to see them. Said that i wasn’t going to come and visit unless they cut it out.

My dad’s response was to thank me for calling and letting them know, and that he thought it was neat of me to tell them. He said that they would try and watch it. My mom’s response was to say that she didn’t think they fought that much.

The call ended like this:

Dad: “I love you”
Me: “I love you too”
Mom: “Ummm, yeah.”

After i hung up i cried and bit, and then had a good laugh at my mom’s expense. The woman is almost 80, and she just isn’t going to change, ever. But now i have given them notice, and if they (she) is nasty, then i can and will ask her to knock that crap off.

They were both on their best behavior when we went over for dinner.


SUEB0B said...

My parents aren't THAT nasty, but they do pick on each other. My dad loves to tell stories - which may or may not be true, and almost all have SOME element of exaggeration - but Mom loves to burst his bubble with her questions and comments.

"Last time you told the story you said it was 105 degrees that day, not 110."

"That was on Highway 16, not 44."

Shit like that. It drags on the stories and doesn't do anything but give her some sense of moral superiority because she is the keeper of the facts...argh.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I know that situation only too well. And it hurts to watch.

Very brave of you to confront them. I'm glad they were on their best behavior. I bet your dad appreciated it even more than you did.

Mrs. Chili said...


It takes a lot of chutzpah (is that how you spell that?!) to stand up to your parents. TRUST me - I know. I haven't spoken to my biological parents in nearly seven years. It got to the point where I realized they were utterly incapable of a healthy relationship with me, and I refused - simply REFUSED - to expose my children to that.

I'm grateful that your parents could suck it up and behave for you. Mine couldn't - or wouldn't. Smart of you to recognize that your mother likely won't change, too. Try to NOT take that shit personally, though - her "ummm, yeah" had NOTHING to do with you and everything to do with her.

Stiff upper lip and all that rot

-Mrs. Chili

Anonymous said...

Meno. Goddamn it,it seems these last few says, every time you write something I feel like you have peered into my life , my soul. I pretty much go through the same with my mom. My step-dad is to be 86 this year and sometimes my mom treats him like crap. But, I know that one of the reasons this bothers me is because I have a hard time establishing and voicing my limits.I mean, honestly, what do I really know about their relationship? So I do the same thing you do , when things get a little rocky, I tell her how that makes me feel. And am always dumbfounded at how much power being authentic and real can yield.
Again,( not that I want to be sappy or anything but I really mean it)thanks. BTW, would you be interested in hearing a couple of tunes I recorded with the man? Something tells me you'd dig them...

Lucia said...

You're very brave! Good for you! Unfortunately, in my case it's my in-laws, and I don't think I'll be saying anything anytime soon.

"Why are you wearing your good shoes?"

"You better not have lost that sock."

And me? I think, so what? Buy another pair of socks.

Maya's Granny said...

Good for you! This stuff is so hard to do, and then it usually works pretty well. I have never regretted times I've been honest with my family, but it was years before I could do it and the first 25 times I had to work myself up to it.

karmic said...

Reminded me a bit about my folks. And they are in their 80s too. It's hard seeing them fight with each other. But it seems to have cooled down these days.

I am glad the dinner worked out ok though.

urban-urchin said...

My parents bicker really. Or I should say my mom picks on my dad about everything. I feel bad for him. I tell her to cut it out but it still continues. I figure he's a grownup and he chooses to not deal with it or it wouldn't be happening (he's one of those put your foot down and that's it.)

meno said...

suebob, my mom does that too. And with such a tone of disgust. The issue is that she can't bear to have someone else be the center of attention even for a minute. Your line about the moral superiority is perfect.

nancy, hard to say about my dad. Why hasn't he stood up for himself for all these years? Like i said, something about it must work for him too.

mrs.chili, you do what you have to to protect your self and your family. Good for you too. My mom is really emotionally stunted. has never once said she loves me.

caro, i had to find a way to put it in terms of myself. To tell them that it made me not want to be around them. That's the only thing they would listen to as they do want to see me. Send the tunes, however you can. But i don't have an ipod, but i can burn them onto a CD.

lucia, not anything you can do about the in-laws, that's the hubby's job. I learned this well and truly. Why do adults feel like it's ok to talk to another adult like they were 5? Why do the other adults put up with it?. It's a puzzlement.

maya's granny, We'll see how long it lasts, but i have at least put them on notice!

sanjay, it is hard to watch. Yuck. I think of it as a "How Not to Be" primer.

u-u, you can't tell her to cut it out unless the consequences are something she cares about. Like you.

QT said...

Bravo for you! I have a similar family dynamic, only with my sis and the way she treats my parents.

My mom and dad do the same song and dance with each other, but it is a bit more comical. Mostly becuase at some point they say something so petty that one of us will giggle and the whole thing falls apart.

Still, I admire you for having a tough conversation. Hope the rain has let up for you on that side of the country...

lu said...

My Grandparents used to bicker constantly about silly things, and yet in nearly ever visit they claimed that they never argued. As kids I remember being confused about the definition of an argument. I suppose this is why my parents never fought in front of us. Oh, but there were and still are little passive aggressive behaviors that rear up and make one take notice.

Mother of Invention said...

I can see what you mean as I notice this about my parents too. They have gotten worse with age and especially my mom is more cutting. We try to referee and rally to my dad's defence when it's really bad, but it does make us feel uncomfortable. You were right to tell them and it had a positive outcome. Good for you. I should be more assertive that way.

Anonymous said...

Brave, brave meno.

thailandchani said...

It's an interesting dynamic with parents. My parents never argued or bickered. They just fumed and the tension was always so thick, it could be cut. Not sure which is worse! Good on you though for telling them how it affects you. Just the fact that they behaved shows they are capable of it.


Thailand Gal

Gretchen said...

Good for you. Really, I'm sure now that they're "on notice" maybe, just maybe, it will get better.

Like with my MIL, she's been who she is for 60ish years - I can't change her, just how I react/respond to her...

Been enjoying your blog!

Lynnea said...

You rock!

Once again I am astounded at the fact that you are living my life. But then, I noticed that so many other people have much the same problems. One of the things I love so much about your blog, I keep finding out I have the same parents as everybody else. What a relief I'm not alone!

Josephine said...

This was one of the reasons I was relieved when my parents got divorced.

It's brave of you to be honest with them. I'm glad it worked for the evening. Here's to hopin'.

meno said...

qt, welcome. that's always a good way to end an argument, by laughing. And as for the rain, letting up is not what it has done.

lu, my grandparents make my parents look the the love boat. But there was lots of alcohol involved there.

MOI, i sure hope this is not just a result of aging, the constant nastiness.

holly, some braveness was required, but they want to see me more than i want to see them, so i have the power on this one.

tg, oh boy! underlying hosility. Yuck. I don't know which one is worse either. It's hard to tell people to quit being hostile when it's hidden because they can always deny it.

gretchen, i remain skeptical, it's just to ingrained of a habit, but now i can call them on it. And thank you. :)

d-man, that took balls huh?

hi maggie, Thanks! You are not alone, as you can see from the comments.

josephine, i've often wondered why my parents have stayed together.

Anonymous said...

Good for you! That was a brave/mature thing to do. You deserve their best behavior. I hope you feel good about it now.

I have found that when I confront my mother with her behavior, she gets (more) argumentative. Then she'll call repeatedly trying to win her point. So, sometimes it's a tough call, deciding whether it's worth opening the can of worms.

(I'm very bad at the word verification too - I get them wrong about 50% of the time! )

amusing said...

Why you grown up you!

Imez said...

dang it I'm always last.

Do you worry your mom will unleash some revenge at you for laying down your rules like you did?

Wait, I can almost see you shrugging at that.

Bob said...

I started to write a missive, but wrote a blog post instead.

It just goes to show that your relationship with your parents can change at any age, not just when you become an adult.

Julie Q. said...

I would never have the guts to be this honest. But what a relief it must be to have acknowledged the elephant in the room. Not that I'm calling your mother an elephant or anything. I think elephants are nicer on the phone.

Bobealia... said...

That was brave of you.

Girlplustwo said...

oh, brava you. setting limits and sticking to them...the art of self preservation that many of us never learn.

impressed all to pieces, sister.

meno said...

hi de, it did feel good, when it was over. And what is wrong with all of our parents? Sheesh.

amusing, someone has to be!

esereth, as you can see, you are not last, ever! No, i'm not worried, she's a bit afraid of me ever since i outgrew her power. She so wants me to like her and be her friend. And i'm to damn mean to do it.

bob, and it is a great story too.

julie, Hmmm, my mom IS kinda big. I just realized that i wasn't up for another evening of sniping. I'd rather stay home and clean the toilet.

ss, equal opportunity nastiness, that must be fun, or not. I'll let you know if it lasts.

hi bo, (i smile everytime i see your cat's ass picture.) Thanks! It felt a little brave, but i'd had enough.

jen, well, it's not as impressive as enduring an evening of gunfire at a shelter, but thanks. :)

Ginnie said...

It takes a lot of guts to stand up for your rights. Your Dad sounds like it's a relief to him, but I think you'll just have to accept that your Mom (at age 80) isn't about to change. It's really sad because it's her loss.

Dick said...

My parents never did anything like that, nor did Annie and I. I must have lived in kind of an Ozzie & Harriet type world. It is easy to be critical of others but in reality there is a lot more good than bad to notice and comment on. Maybe it is like the tank is half full or half empty approach to life. Different strokes for different folks.

Anonymous said...

"some braveness was required, but they want to see me more than i want to see them, so i have the power on this one."

Ain't that the truth. The one who loves more is controlled by the one who loves less.

Andrea Frazer said...

Whether they're with parents or comment spam, boundaries are important. Good for you!

egan said...

...."I know that the relationship between my parents is not really any of my business..."

How is their relationship not your business? Look at the time and energy you put into this post. I'm happy you brought up the topic. This should provide some good talking points in future discussions.

meno said...

mombat, i did eventually get over being an adolescent, most of the time. But it took me until i had a baby to defend.

ginnie, it is so her loss, and it always has been.

dick, and your kids thank you for that, believe me.

holly, and i didn't have that power as a child, and so i was left wondering what was wrong with me.

mamap, thank you! Maybe i'll put word verification on my mom.

egan, i guess i mean that i can't change how they treat each other, except in front of me, because then it IS my business.

egan said...

I figured that's what you meant. I have a bad habit of playing devil's advocate. Now you've been warned. Have a good night.