Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Your Momma!

I had to ask permission to write this blog because it is partly about someone else's mom. It is actually about two of my readers' mom but one of those said readers is very far away and so the other got the weighted vote. The vote-caster said, "Go ahead, she won't read it." So, I will...

I got really hacked off at my friend's mother the other night. Normally this is a right I reserve for my own family but I guess this is a special case.

I have known this family since I was in 6th grade. I was in classes with two of the daughters and their mom was one of my teachers. I spent time at their house, got to know the family pretty well and now one of the daughters is one of my closest friends. So, there is 20 years of history there.

The "hacking off" happened a few weeks ago at my friend's surprise party. I had come with the girls sans husband because he was busy dying of some various plague. It was a pretty small party with no one I knew really well in attendance (we were waiting for the birthday girl and her decoy). I went back to the kid's room to get my girls set up playing with them and there was mom (grandma) orchestrating clean up. No big deal. She was kind of....bossy....about how things should be done but a clean room is fine. I set my kids loose and went to attempt "getting to know you" conversations while we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Conversation wore thin. I went to check on the kids. There was grandma, putting them in the back yard, refusing to let my daughters inside even though one was crying. I diverted the situation by suggesting we feed the 6 children present since it was past dinner time. This directed her energy for a while. But then she was back in force, hovering, clucking, nagging.

The final straw was when she told my older daughter (who hates spicy food), that she had to eat all her dinner or she couldn't have dessert because the spicy Indian food we were eating "Isn't that spicy," IN FRONT OF ME! Urg! At that point I sweetly suggested she go visit with the adults since I was there and could handle it. No dice.

Now, to be fair, I get that, of the 6 children present, 4 of them were her grandchildren. But, also to be fair, two of those kids were mine and I spend lots and lots of time around two more of them. I have a pretty good idea of the household rules for that home and a very good idea of what I do and don't ask of my children.

Since there was no tactful way to win the power struggle, I backed off but was...surly. When older daughter came in afraid because grandma had suggested that the lightning in the sky was dangerous I said something along the line of "Don't listen to her, she doesn't know what she's talking about." I know, not so kind. Like I said, I was feeling surly.

My friend finally came, we yelled "Surprise!", the grown-ups ate and, low and behold, mom had to go because she was tired. Well, no wonder!

OK, OK. I have been doing emotional work long enough to know that this situation wasn't so much about my friend's mom as about me. After the fact, I started thinking about why this bugged me so much. This isn't new behavior from this lady. She is always the one in the kitchen doing the host's dishes or cleaning up. What was this about me?

Click...the light bulb went on. I wanted to be the practical person avoiding relationships. I wanted to be the one who appeared helpful and got to stay comfortable. I wanted an excuse to avoid sitting in the living room making chit-chat with strangers. I was mad because she was taking my spot! If my husband had been there or if I had known more people, I probably wouldn't have minded having a parenting break even if it involved rules for my kids I didn't create.

Ooooh. So much for my uber-pious rationalization that I was protecting my children. I was attempting to protect myself. Hmm.

What I take away from this is, even though I am social, relationship is not always easy for me. I need to be aware of feeling uncomfortable and acknowledge it to myself. When I feel self conscious, my tendency is to go to the practical because I do it well and it hides my heart (not to mention gets me praised most of the time). Maybe sometimes I'll still choose to be with my kids as an out but I need to choose it and not use it as a manipulation and hiding technique. Or, I will choose to take the risk and stay present in an uncomfortable situation.

Oh look! There was a gift in there for me. Drat.


Skerrib said...

Aw, man! What about "it's not you, it's her." I'm still at the "it's not her, it's you" stage. The thought of letting go of my power like that feels very scary...guess that's more about me. =)

Karen Reyburn said...

i love your posts sylv. love the honesty, love the 'oh look, there was a gift for me in there! drat' - how often do i do that. i spend all this time getting frustrated at people that don't deserve the treatment i give them. (And many times they are people for whom Christ died.) prayin for you and loving you from here...