With apologies to non-christians reading this blog, phew we have survived Christmas, just about, without having to see the MIL.
Because we are low-to-no-contact with the evil MIL Christmas hijacking this year was confined to the presents, as always. It has got so bad that my husband has started opening the presents she sends us before Christmas to check that she has not done the exact opposite of what we have asked and sent the children something wholly unsuitable or vindictive. She likes to send “messages” via her gifts. Like badly trained dogs leave little brown “messages” all over the local public playing field.
A quick recap – MIL sends gifts with strings attached like money with instructions on what to spend it on (here’s a good article on dealing with this http://andthenwesaved.com/accepting-money/#more-10710), she wants you to have certain hobbies (which chime with hers, obviously) or she has a set view of the type of person you are (which is narrow, inaccurate and never changes, obviously) and sends you the items she thinks you should want to fit in with her image of you, she uses the monetary value of gifts to indicate her level of approval with you, or her total lack of empathy means gift buying is bordering on impossible so she gets someone else to tell her what to buy, where to buy it and ideally to just go get it for her so she doesn’t have to bother. All of this comes with long winded sob stories about how incredibly hard it is to find the things she asked you to tell her about.
So this year, as we did last year, we asked family to send one present to each child so we are not swamped with toys. She ignored this. Obviously. Not just one book and a toy and a shared gift, no four books, each. And the toy we had to tell her to get and where to buy it. MIL present foray number 1: I know what’s best for your kids.
Then there was the way she has repeatedly tried to get my husband to accept money from her to buy new clothes as she says he looks shabby, and for her to buy the girls all the clothes they might need for spring/summer. We have refused this demeaning and controlling imposition with the implication that we are incapable of providing for ourselves. And that is how she means it, accepting money from her is like opening the door to a vampire. The blood sucking and horror will begin if she gets a foot across the threshold. My husband unwraps the presents she sent and peaks in each one to see and finds a present addressed to all of us. Curious and slightly dreading what’s inside he looks and finds a load of kids toy money wrapped up just to prove she can send us money after all. MIL present volley number 2: ha ha I’ll do whatever I want, here’s your money.
Lastly is the disparity in the amount of money she spends. One year We all got a small gift and then she included some cheques, £100 for husband, £50 for each of the kids, nothing for me. This year she gave £350 to husband and £35 gift voucher and a plastic box to me. A transparent 10 inch by 8 inch plastic box for storing beads. I do not make jewellery or have any beads that need storing. MIL likes jewellery and beads though. MIL present attack number 3: that’s what I think of you, got the message?
Now I refuse to see her (are you surprised?) but the husband feels obliged to see her so the kids can have some sort of relationship with her. I’m not sure why as in my mind if she is so unpleasant I can’t be around her so why should the children? But you know it’s his feeling that his family should not be excluded because that is unfair to him somehow. This recurring issue of balancing up everything so it is equal, as opposed to right or just or appropriate, is something we are working on. Thus a trip to meet Grandma has been mooted for New Years’ Eve, to meet her half way between her house and ours, somewhere near Bristol (UK). But she is having issues with the weather reports. She won’t drive if it is sunny because the sun on the motorway is too bright, she won’t drive if it is wet and windy as it is too dangerous, she won’t drive in fog, frost, snow…you get the picture. Calm, overcast and mild are the only conditions she is OK with. But not too late as she won’t drive if it’s dark.
I’m not sure what she thinks she gains by being so difficult. She has driven for years, never crashed, has a modern car, the roads are all major roads or motorways, well lit with various service stations. We are talking about 1.5-2 hours driving tops here. I don’t know if she thinks that the husband will relent and say “oh well we’ll drive all the way to see you then” if she complains like this, she will never come out and say what she wants. The more likely scenario is that he gets so pissed off by her antics he cancels the trip.
I am uncomfortable with the children spending time with her. I don’t believe children should have contact with adults who are dangerous, unstable, mean and nasty just because they are blood relatives. Family bonds only mean something if the family members mark that bond, that tie by ensuring the enhanced safety, security and comfort of those they are bonded with. That’s what the bond is – I am one with you, you are precious to me. Precious to MIL is more like Gollum clinging greedily to the One Ring muttering “my precious, my precious”.
Anyway please take the opportunity to relive your holiday rants and MIL moments and fill the comments below with the bullshit you’ve experienced over the last week of enforced family get-togethers. And can I just award this medal to anyone who had to have MIL over for Christmas lunch.