Author Topic: Raising good ILs  (Read 1652 times)

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Offline Pen

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Raising good ILs
« on: April 18, 2010, 08:46:31 AM »
I wasn't sure what category to put this under; didn't want to put it in Grab Bag because Luise's important post may not have been seen by everyone yet. It's a cautionary tale for DILs and MILs, perhaps...

I've been thinking about my narcissistic father and his mother (my grandmother) who was the woman who turned out to be a very horrid MIL to my mother. When DGM was raising DF, she insisted that her son fawn all over her constantly and exclusively. She cut off all ties to her family (to this day we don't know anything about them) and also to her husband's family (luckily we have lots of documented info on his side.) She wanted to control who her son talked to and spent time with, and she felt like everyone but her nuclear, immediate family was a threat. She didn't want her son to get physically hurt, so she limited activities with his outdoorsman dad; she hovered and controlled; she was inconsolable if he went off on his own for an afternoon as a teen (he says he just needed to get away from her grasping neediness and would take his dog for a walk in the woods or some other boy thing.)

Not everything was bad; they travelled and gave dad a lot of wonderful experiences, but being the focus of his mother's attention and having to cater to her whims and needs made him want to leave as soon as he could and to stay away. It's no wonder he was a narcissist. And it's no wonder that his very needy, clingy, demanding mother became a needy, clingy, demanding MIL.

Because my grandmother wanted to keep her little family away from all relatives (we never knew why) the present generation has no clue about medical history, genealogy on her side, or a sense of where we came from. Her selfishiness, or fear, or need for control has made her disappear from family stories because we don't have anywhere to place her historically. She wanted to be the center of attention - now she's forgotten. If she's thought of at all it's not with fondness, that's for sure.
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb

Offline luise.volta

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Re: Raising good ILs
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2010, 10:35:52 AM »

Pen - Thank you. What an interesting commentary on "what goes around, comes around." When we try to manipulate others (and our environment as well) in the hopes of bringing about some level of security and identity, we crush those we lpve and drive them away. We damage them in the process and end up in exactly the place we most feared...alone.

There is a lot to ponder and re-read in your thoughtful and insightful post. Sending love...
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

Offline Pen

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Re: Raising good ILs
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2010, 11:05:17 AM »
Thanks, Luise, for your thoughts and for this site. I'm learning so much from everyone. Best wishes for your journey, too. It's quite a ride, isn't it? {{{hugs}}}
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb

cremebrulee

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Re: Raising good ILs
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2010, 11:12:45 AM »
I wasn't sure what category to put this under; didn't want to put it in Grab Bag because Luise's important post may not have been seen by everyone yet. It's a cautionary tale for DILs and MILs, perhaps...

I've been thinking about my narcissistic father and his mother (my grandmother) who was the woman who turned out to be a very horrid MIL to my mother. When DGM was raising DF, she insisted that her son fawn all over her constantly and exclusively. She cut off all ties to her family (to this day we don't know anything about them) and also to her husband's family (luckily we have lots of documented info on his side.) She wanted to control who her son talked to and spent time with, and she felt like everyone but her nuclear, immediate family was a threat. She didn't want her son to get physically hurt, so she limited activities with his outdoorsman dad; she hovered and controlled; she was inconsolable if he went off on his own for an afternoon as a teen (he says he just needed to get away from her grasping neediness and would take his dog for a walk in the woods or some other boy thing.)

Not everything was bad; they travelled and gave dad a lot of wonderful experiences, but being the focus of his mother's attention and having to cater to her whims and needs made him want to leave as soon as he could and to stay away. It's no wonder he was a narcissist. And it's no wonder that his very needy, clingy, demanding mother became a needy, clingy, demanding MIL.

Because my grandmother wanted to keep her little family away from all relatives (we never knew why) the present generation has no clue about medical history, genealogy on her side, or a sense of where we came from. Her selfishiness, or fear, or need for control has made her disappear from family stories because we don't have anywhere to place her historically. She wanted to be the center of attention - now she's forgotten. If she's thought of at all it's not with fondness, that's for sure.

an amazing story Pen...makes you wonder...and I feel so sad for her and for the lives she affected...akes you wonder about all the what if's doesn't it...thank you for sharing...


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Re: Raising good ILs
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2010, 02:19:41 PM »
Pen my father had a similar story, he was an only child.  My grandmother (who is bordering on 100 now) was very clingy, overbearing and exclusive.  To the point where she somewhat thoughtlessly never said things like Daddy will be home soon, take that to Daddy, instead she referred to my grandfather always by the name she called him "Rob", my dad therefore grew up calling his father "Rob".  His paternal grandparents lived just down the road, but he was very rarely allowed to see them as a child.

This resulted in my father becoming quite rebellious and fiercely independent, at 15 he left school and took up a trade, smoked, drank beer and got a convertible.  She still will not believe some of the escapades my father got up to, she excuses every naughty or bad thing he did by blaming someone else.  She was a horrible Mother in law, she was horrid to my mother and to my stepmother.  In fact for nearly a decade, she referred to my stepmother as a mix of my mother and stepmothers names.

As a result, my father taught his children to be as fiercely independent as he is, we all (without exception) work in management roles. 

I mentioned my grandmother is nearly 100, she currently lives with my father and stepmother.  They look after her although she sometimes drives my parents insane with her demands and inane proclamations.  As a child I remember her as the not fun grandma to visit.  She wouldn't let us play outside, get dirty and in my early teens, when we crossed a road she'd grab my hand so I wouldn't get run over!  Even now, if we walk past her, she'll reach out and grab us, she's surprisingly strong.  There's now a set of 10 great grandchildren who view spending time with her as a duty rather than a pleasure.  A little sad because a person of a 100 years has seen a lot of interesting changes, two world wars, the spread of electricity, the telephone, television, man on the moon....

My thinking is that I want to be an inlaw/grandparent like my father and stepmother, to have people enjoy being with me, rather than seeing it as a duty.  Like my other grandmother, the one who taught me to crochet, sew and cook.  One day I want to be the fun grandma who lets the parents get on with parenting because I am done with it, but am happy to have my children and grandchildren visit, I'll let them play outside and just wash their clothes, I will teach them to crochet, sew and cook if they want to learn.  I've taught my children to be independent, every day they need me less and I love the freedom that gives me.


Offline luise.volta

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Re: Raising good ILs
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2010, 02:50:08 PM »
Your post makes me think of the other end of the pendulum swing and of how Val and I have faced aging independently...so our children can enjoy us and we them without obligation. The trick is to set it all up and move in before you need to.

We found a non-profit CCSC, Continuous Care Senior Community.... www.warmbeach.org...where people can start out living independently and lead very active lives, whether volunteering, being snow-birds, gardening, working in our Thrift Shoppe or Ceramic lab...whatever. Some units are government subsidized for low income people and some are quite grand. There's no "class system" and we all use the same central facilities.

When more care is needed, there is a building that offers three meals a day, cleaning and some minor assistance.  Beyond that is our assisted care building where a nurse is present, medications are given, baths are supervised and more all-round support is available. And the last building is an 81-bed nursing facility.

We make friends here and we keep them as we age. It feels like an extended family and our kids don't have to worry about us when they are leading busy lives. They come for the fun of it and we all enjoy the visits.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2010, 02:52:26 PM by luise.volta »
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

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Re: Raising good ILs
« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2010, 03:03:18 PM »
Luise my grandmother has a "horror" of the idea of retirement homes/villages etc.  Every time she gets sick she begs my father not to put her in one :(  We have places just like you describe here, in fact one of my father's cousins was the director of a well respected village and my grandmother would have had a place reserved for her just from the family connection if she'd desired to.  My grandfather died 40 years ago, leaving her "waiting for God" as the saying goes, she stopped living and just waited to join him.  I know I can't read her mind, but I never saw her as especially loving towards him, he was a very loving man and a lot of fun.  She was always rather cold to him so I can't understand the attitude she took on, other than she has always been appearance driven and mourning your late husband and being a poor widow, gave her a place amongst her friends.  Perhaps I judge her harshly?

I wish she'd been like you and Val, constructively planning a future, instead of stubbornly clinging to my father :( You and Val are so brave and realistic.  I respect you so very much for the way that you handle your lives despite the obstacles and difficulties you face.  You remind me a lot of my other grandmother, she had your kind of outlook, she was fun to be with, even when she was going through radio therapy and chemo, she took wearing a wig to an art form!  When her husband (my maternal grandfather died) I used to visit often, just to sit and knit with her.  I took her out for meals, discussed her soaps and just enjoyed being with her. 


Offline luise.volta

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Re: Raising good ILs
« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2010, 03:26:48 PM »
What you remind me of is that quite often we make our own joy or pain. No one could steer a woman committed to "waiting to die" into a place of fulfillment and happiness.

Val and I called our lives..."happily after after." That whole concept slipped a notch when he went into nursing and we had to be physically separated but we are creating a new relationship and getting back to that connection.

Having early afternoon "dates" when I take the dog over and we walk the halls together, holding hands...and at supper, where we find eating together such a delight because it feels so "normal." And then we "go to the show" (slide show in his room) afterward. We are finding a way to make it work.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

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Re: Raising good ILs
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2010, 03:33:31 PM »
What you remind me of is that quite often we make our own joy or pain. No one could steer a woman committed to "waiting to die" into a place of fulfillment and happiness.

That is very succinct and wise, applicable not only to my grandmother's situation but to everything else in our lives.  Last night at work I was bouncing around with a smile on my face and someone asked me, why are you so happy!  I really didn't know how to answer, I was in a happy mood and I guess I was having fun as a result, despite being at work.

We do create our own joy and our own pain.  Life mirrors reflects back to you what you give out.  If you are hostile or unhappy, you get that reflected back from those whose lives you touch!  Wow revelation!  I always knew it somehow but now I really know it!  Thank you Luise, you've triggered that from my subconscious to my conscious!

Offline luise.volta

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Re: Raising good ILs
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2010, 03:50:17 PM »
True happiness just "is." When it is brought about by something external...it has a shelf-life...can be taken away and is conditional. "Seeking" happiness is an endless process. "Being" happy is natural and comes from within. (Old saying I just made up.)
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama