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Wednesday, February 22, 2006 

Please Advise

Something serious tonight.

I almost posted something in my blog tonight that gives away a whole mess of my personal life -- stuff I've managed to keep out of the blog so far, like my parents' recent break-up, and my mother's increasingly psychopathic behavior.

It would be hurtful. It would be disastrous. But it needs to be said to my mother, and -- sas she has increasingly come to treat the minds of others as if they were merely tenuous constructs of 2 dimensional devil's advocacy, and since she has gone into her own world much more than ever, I fear that saying it publically is the only way to make sure she hears it.

I have put the post-I-didn't-send in the comments.

Please discuss.

Please.

Because I don't trust therapists, because she is one.
Entry By boyhowdy

Yo Mama So Disorganized, She's Putting Your Kids In Danger...


Quick dispatch from my mother's house, where I'm staying with Willow while spouse and baby spend the night on Martha's Vineyard (see previous entry).

Quick, but not gentle. And as such, perhaps a caveat is in order before we go any further.

See, in the last few years as my family and friends have become readers, I've made it a general policy to avoid blogging about other people's problems or inner thoughts.

This is my blog; I have no right to bare the innards of others.

As such, usually I avoid blogging about my parents, since they are readers.

But sometimes you just have to put your foot down, you know?

See, when things hit intervention level, the usual lines of appropriate protectiveness change. Then, as in a real intervention, I suppose you cross the line carefully, and out of love. But you cross the line nonetheless.

And I'm about to cross it. On my mother's computer, no less. God help me.

So, mom, if you're reading this, I'm making this public in the hopes that, in doing so, you'll truly understand the gravity of this situation.

See, my mother has two copies of this book called It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys: The seven-step path to becoming truly organized.

Two copies.

For exactly the reason you'd expect.

She didn't remember she already had a copy of the book because, upon purchase, it immediately got lost in the disastrous mess that is her entire house.

The same disastrous mess which just cost my daughter a freaking huge bump on the chin.

Yes, kids are resilient, but they're not indestructable: Willow inhereted my gene for low limbic awareness; Cassia learned to walk this week, and I'm hoping she'll have a chance to learn sociology, too.

Yes, accidents happen, but you don't leave sharp objects around, or tempt fate.

Our house isn't childproof either, but it isn't actively dangerous to kids.

So this time, I'm putting my foot down. I just can't put politeness ahead of my family's safety any longer.

Dear mom,

Clean up your act, and your house. Make it safe for my kids, and for us.

Or we're not coming to visit again.

Sorry, mom. It's for your own good. And for my family's.

Love you,

#1 Son.

Wow. This is tough, and knowing nothing of your family's inner workings, I'm tempted not to touch it. But, well, you asked.

So.

This situation actually hits pretty close to home (Willow & Cassia and all others not wishing to be hit on the head by falling books & other detritus are advised stay out of my dad’s study. And the hallway outside it). It's serious and tricky, and it really sucks that you’re stuck choosing between your mother’s feelings and your children’s safety.

I’m wondering, though, why you want to have this confrontation in public. I know that you’re hoping it’ll jar your mom more than a private confrontation would, but the ‘we won’t come over unless you make this place more safe’ ultimatum -- carried out, that is -- might accomplish that by itself.

But it also sounds like your mother isn’t listening. It sounds like she might already be defensive about this, like she’s been deflecting and dismissing this confrontation for years now by pointing out how resilient kids are, or how un-childproof your house is. And if she’s not listening, you and Darcie must be getting incredibly frustrated, and it must be getting harder and harder to censor yourselves, both at home and on the internets.

But the thing about public confrontations (in my experience) is that the person being confronted often feels accused and shamed and reacts defensively, rather than reflecting on or changing their behaviour. Particularly when, as sounds like might be the case here, the person playing defense has already built their own bubble of ‘everything I’m doing is perfectly right and fine’ and is refusing to come out.

I know that this must be an especially hard time family-politics wise, but I think the ultimatum is the best option here. Make it clear to your mom that she’s always welcome to visit your house, but until you can bring your kids there without worrying that they’ll be smothered under copies of It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys, you won’t be visiting her at home.

And maybe start keeping a private slam book until this situation blows over.

Anyway, regardless of what road you take, good luck with this. And let me know how it turns out -- I might be needing the wisdom of your experience when my (future) children and I go to visit les grandparents.

My thoughts, based only on what's written here -- there may well be more that I can't glean.

1) Obviously, your first obligation is to take care of your kids, including from lesser bumps and bruises as you see necessary. If Grammy's house is too hazardous for small children, or if you can't literally supervize them the entire time you're there, then grandkids need to see her somewhere else. Full points for being a good daddy.

2) It sounds to me -- and I can say this from some extensive personal experience -- that it's not so much your mom's house that's a mess as her life. I'm assuming the mess pre-dated the break-up, maybe contributed to it. But regardless, whether because of the break-up with your father or some other trauma, it's entirely possible that she's living through a chaotic kind of hell right now, and that her house is merely a manifestation of that. The messy house, then, is a symptom of another problem -- in which case, it might be helpful to consider whether an analogy ( a sick person who keeps coughing during the movie is annoying, but do they deserve your anger?) might help you find a way through. If this is the case, condemning her for it (especially publically) isn't going to help one bit; the house will improve when she finds a way to better cope with her life, and not a minute sooner.

3) The only thing that really bothers me about the unposted post is that you sound as though you take this messiness to be a personal affront against you and your kids -- you sound insulted. "If she cared about us, she wouldn't let this happen." I would encourage you to step well away from this line of reasoning, as it's quite likely to lead to unnecessary emotional estrangement all around. What's happening may have nothing whatever to do with you and your kids; you just happen to be involved. It may be that on some level she's just trying to live through something, and that the house has fallen by the wayside along with whatever else she can't handle right now. That doesn't change the practical situation, of course, but it might alter what you do about it.

My instincts (again, not knowing anything about the situation you're living beyond what you've said here) tell me that this is about something bigger than the messy house -- both to you and to your mother (although that might be a different thing for each of you.) If that's true, then you and she have got to deal with the real problem, and getting angry about the symptom only stands to make things worse.

So, maybe first figure out a way that your children can see their grandmother without risking their lives; and then try to figure out what's gone wrong with your mom. And until you can find a way through, try not to take it personally.

(On the other hand, I could be completely deluded and wrong about all of that.)

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