You know, you folks have gotten me in a lot of trouble with my mother-in-law. Some astute persons might argue that it's no one's fault but my own. And they would be 100% correct. But, since I have too many things to fret about these days and know that just one more thing to feel bad about might send me over the edge, I'm going to blame you instead. You're good with that, right?
Yes, I DID create a publicly viewable blog and put my life on the world wide web. And I did create Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts for it. I suppose I might also have linked some of my posts to those accounts as well. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I guess I did write a somewhat negative post about my mother-in-law. (I also have an uber- private group on Facebook called "She Who Must Not Be Named on Facebook Support Group". Yeah...I know.)
Here is where it's your fault. Some of you went and had the nerve to actually read that post. And then went and forwarded and re-tweeted it. So it's all your fault that I now can't go and take it back. It's out there. Such is the nature of our digital world.
My publishing such a post might lead some to think I'm a really nervy person. Some people might even think that I am a very direct and uncompromising defender of my psyche. Sadly, that is not the case. I am actually one of those people who is really nice to people who don't like me. I put up with a lot of crap -- out of some irrational dread of confrontation. I actually cry when overwhelmed by anger - which isn't very often, as I spend a lot of time smoothing things out and trying to make certain everyone likes me.
Some of you are disappointed in me. Some of you are those wonderfully brave sorts of people who say what you mean and mean what you say. My sister-in-law is one of those types. She and I have joked for years that that I always say what she should have said and that she always says what I wished I'd have said. She thinks I'm wise. I admire her chutzpah. It's a relationship that works.
So, when I started this blog, I hadn't given a great deal of thought to content that might come back to haunt me. This is an important lesson for those of you interested in blogging. Just remember ole' [Insert autism blogger you suspect] and act accordingly. Don't post anything about your mother-in-law unless your blog identity is protected by the CIA.
Having said that, I have accepted that I have made my proverbial bed. Clearly, there is nothing left to do but lie in it, right?
Here is the part where I'm going to tell you all about my mother-in-law. You were waiting for that. Admit it. We'll just chalk it up to a minor character deficiency in us all and keep going, shall we?
The woman made me insane. I use the past tense because, several months ago, I gave myself a gift. I cut her off. And let me tell you that, at ___ years old, she is the very first person I have ever cut off in my entire life. I don't mean that she is the first individual I've been a little estranged from. We've all had relationships grow a little distant. I mean that she is the only person, to date, that I have refused to continue speaking to.
Let me state for the record that she isn't actually evil. She loves her children and grandchildren and does buy them things and take them places and call almost every day. She pops in to my daughter's preschool to have lunch with her and loves to do craft projects with all of the children. I would never, without cause, refuse to allow her to have a relationship with them.
For a very long time, I believed that I must continue to play nice for the sake of my kids. For some reason, I was convinced that if I didn't go to her house for Thanksgiving that neither could my children. So, I went -- and had a horrible time.
The first clue that I should have had was when I returned from my honeymoon. We were gone only three days. In that three days, she let herself in to our home and cleaned our house because she thought we didn't go a good enough of a job. She actually entered her married son's bedroom and cleaned the whole bedroom - including under the bed and in drawers. And, no, I don't have anything interesting to tell you about that detail. It's just the principle, you know?
The second clue I should have gotten was when I was giving birth to my daughter. She had actually pressured my son about letting her be in the delivery room. Being a somewhat modest person, this didn't fly with me. So, there I am, being assessed when, in my peripheral vision, I see my wonderful godsend of a sister-in-law snatching her back from the door the woman had just opened -- sneaking in to watch me give birth. No, I'm not kidding.
By the time I had my first child, I understood a truth about my mother-in-law. The woman has no concept of lines one doesn't cross. She doesn't respect boundaries. She just sneaks right on past them and violates them ten ways to Sunday.
Before my son showed signs of being on the spectrum, I endured her. The problem is that having a special-needs child erects all sorts of boundaries. Boundaries such as not unloading all her fears on us. We're already worried enough. Boundaries such as refraining from making constant comparisons between grandchildren. We're all too aware already. Boundaries such as not offering advice based upon the rearing of two typical children. My son isn't typical. It doesn't apply. Boundaries such as not criticizing our decisions for his care. There are pros and cons to everything, and we're doing the best we can. Boundaries such as talking about him negatively to all and sundry in order to de-stress. Now we have to spend time de-bunking inaccuracies and patiently explaining that there is hope. Boundaries such as not talking about something you know nothing about. Not when you have refused to educate yourself on the subject of autism and have ignored all requests to read and learn. Boundaries such as making negative predictions of his future. Not when he is only two years old.
That's a lot of boundary violations. That's a lot of being hurt by thoughtless comments and adding them to my pile of Stuff to Keep Me Up at Night. It was yet another sleepless night when I woke during the witching hours of parental worry that I realized that the woman was depriving me of sleep, health, and sanity. It was three o'clock in the morning, standing in a hot shower (in the hopes it would lull me into drowsiness) that I had The Epiphany.
I realized that I was a moving target for this woman. Furthermore, I realized that it no longer mattered whether it was intentional or merely stupidity. The effect on me was the same. I was exhausted. I was overly emotional. I was catching every cold that random sick people can dish out. And passing them on to my children and hubby. In short, her making me sick was affecting every aspect of our lives. Intentionally or not. I realized that removing her from my list of things to worry about wasn't about defending myself. It was about defending my family.
That was the day this moving target decided to stand up, dust herself off, and get the heck out of range.
I wrote her a letter explaining my decision. I was as kind as I could be under the circumstances. I promised to never humiliate her in public by refusing to speak. I promised to never exclude her from birthday parties, etc. And I promised to never interfere with her relationship with my children. Unless...
Unless, as they got older, she ever made them feel the way she made me feel. Unless she began to make my son feel unworthy. Unless she begins to undermine and negate me as a mother to them. I did give her fair warning about that. So, I'm waiting to see what happens. I sincerely hope that she does right by them. I adored my grandmother. And I want the same for them.
De-cluttering my life of her phone calls, lengthy visits, and opinions has given me peace. Yes, I still have to see her for a minute or two when she picks up or drops off the kids. Yes, I had to answer her question about what the kids wanted for Christmas. I say hello and goodbye and acknowledge her presence. That's about it. And I have loads more peace.
So let me add this situation with my mother-in-law to my List of Things Learned Since Being Affected by ASD. This one is called Remove What Mental Clutter You Can. We all have it. Maybe it is a person. Perhaps it is something you are being pressured to do - like host a shower or organize a fundraiser. Maybe it is some task you've been avoiding taking care of. The point is - if it can be done and would help un-clutter your mind -by all means DO IT.
And if it involves your mother-in-law? Refrain from doing it on the internet. Seriously. I think this is going to come back to haunt me.
Again, I'm blaming you.