Monday, April 6, 2015

An Overstepping Easter

I have to really credit myself these days for my ability to control my anger. I’m amazed I can do it actually. And this Easter was proof of it. I got into a bit of a row with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law.  It began innocently enough. We had a beautiful easter morning. Alex woke up to a basket full of treats, which he breakfasted on a bit. We then had an egg hunt in the yard, which was repeated because he loved it so much (I had to re-hide eggs). I was feeling good. One of the rare days these past weeks when I have.

Easter morning egg hunt. We just put a flannel over his jammies and put on
his shoes. No, he did not dress in the dark. LOL.

I was in my jammies too. Nobody saw.
The next stop was to the family gathering at the SIL’s house.  Let me throw in some background here.  T has never liked me. Ever. It’s been almost twelve years and she still hasn’t bothered to even try. She’s one of those people that celebrates her rudeness; she thinks it’s funny to be obnoxious, and her crappy people-skills earned her a demotion at work because she can’t keep her mouth shut or control her anger. For the duration of my being with my husband, T has made it clear that I am not to her liking. She’s cold and brusque with me. She makes underhanded, snarky, passive-aggressive comments, she invites me to nothing, does nothing with me, will withdraw from things I’m involved in, and has not bothered even once to try and get to know me on any personal level. It’s not for lack of trying. I’ve even done things I hate just to humour her. Laughed at Mexicans, and put up with listening to their ignorant drivel about Obama and their racist jokes. I have smiled, I have nodded, I’ve swallowed my urge to lay it all out for twelve years.  Why? To keep the peace, to let my husband have a good time with his family sans drama.  I’ve put up with this caustic woman and her  loaf of a husband for long enough.

Shortly before our wedding, I noticed that Loaf-in-law hadn't gone to the tux store to pick up his tux. So my husband called him to ask what the deal was. The loaf-in-law then proceeded to tell hubby that he wanted nothing to do with our wedding in that capacity and began listing the reasons why my husband shouldn’t marry me. I don’t know the exact words; I just remember the terse reply my husband gave him.  It was the one thing my mom got right on my wedding day. She walked up to Loaf and said: “Oh, hello. I didn’t recognize you without your tuxedo.”

It has always been a delicate dance. They criticize me, I suck it up and smile. I hug them hello; I engage them in conversation, I compliment whatever I can compliment, and I keep the peace. The only time she really engaged me in conversation was to complain about people. She bitches a lot about people. Every event that involved them is an event I approach with a pit in my stomach. It’s not pleasant being around family members who don’t like you—and you know if you say something to defend yourself or retaliate, you can earn the ire of others, including your husband. It’s emotional blackmail.

Dude, what's wrong with you? You're all weird looking.

You have something stuck in your teeth too.

He likes pretty girls. So much so,
he will get his face painted for some
face time.

Yeah, I'm cute. So what?
Yesterday, we arrived in high-spirits to their home. We got inside and Alex, being a normal child of two-years old, bee-lined for their cat. Their cat is an asshole. Of the worst kind. T even laughingly called him that when he spat and swiped at my child.  I did not get up in arms about it, I dismissed her ‘embarrassment’ and moved on.  I could tell from the get-go that Loaf was antsy and irritated. The TV was off for one. Usually, Loaf spends entire family gatherings in front of the boob-tube and then has the audacity to nitpick me if I choose to stay home from their get-togethers sometimes. He doesn’t participate, he’s just present, and not even really present.  But hey, I digress.

Alex proceeded to collect the eggs that T had sweetly set around the house for him; and he LOoooooved egg hunting.  Everyone was fussing about him, so I moved to the dining table and sat down, and the family then got him his easter baskets and oohed and aahhhed. Since he’s the only little one, that is the attention he gets. I just sat in the corner and let it happen. I love it when he is surrounded by  his family. He loves his grandpa and grandma and his cousin B.

During this fussing interlude, I heard a peppering of “Alex, No!”s coming from the cluster of 3-4 adults hovering near him.  I called out from the corner because I could not see, “What happened?” My husband replied: “He threw Easter eggs at the cat.”  My response was to the like of: “Oh, maybe he’s taking revenge for being swiped at by the cat.”  I did not see the incident, I figured there are four adults there, including his father, it’s covered. No biggie.

Daddy and Alex colouring some eggs.

Sweetest father on earth.
Then a few minutes later, I felt a bit removed from the hullabaloo, so I came out of the corner and sat down nearer to them, in one of the bottomless pit armchairs they have.  It’s the kind where you sit down and wonder if you’ll ever be able to get up. And Alex came crawling around the corner pushing a little Thomas train he got along the carpet. He chugged it along towards what turned out to be Scratchy the Asshole cat who should have been put away, and then paused, and chucked the train at the cat (and missed by far). I tried to extricate my fat butt from the sofa and was telling him no, but Dan actually got to him before I could actually get to my feet, and he turned him away from the cat.

Then Loaf says from the peanut gallery: “I would have spanked him twice already if he was my kid,” he mutters. Then he proceeds to say: “He needs to be disciplined. He needs just a little discipline.” You could tell by his red face that he was grossly irritated by my kid.  I looked over at Dan who said in a low voice: “Do you want to leave?” I shook my head and said no. I wasn’t willing to make waves at that point, even if I just had to endure having my parenting criticized by someone who thinks parenting is using the back of your hand.  But then the next ten minutes or so, Loaf did nothing but eyeball Alex, and make comments under his breath whenever the kid even moved.  He stood too close to the screen window. He walked too close to the cat treehouse.  My annoyance with him was building so I put on my shoes and decided to take Alex outside where he and I could be outside without irritating the Loaf.

They all followed, because it turns out the ‘adult’ egg hunt was set up out there.  I roamed about, letting Alex find eggs. I resolved to have a talk to T, and establish that what Loaf did was not okay. So when the eggs were all found, and we were counting them out at the picnic table, I said:

“For the sake of maintaining good feelings, I’d like to talk about what said.  It isn’t his business to tell us how to parent our child. I grew up in abusive home, so spanking is just not going to happen. If Alex is too rambunctious for him, then we can just not bring him here anymore.”

At first, T was claiming it was about the cat’s safety. You see, our kid could have harmed Scratchy the Asshole Cat who wouldn’t let my kid within four feet of himself without baring everything sharp on its small furry being. I accepted that, but as she spoke, she just got nastier and nastier. And then the setoff happened. She looked at me and said: “Telling me that you won’t bring Alex here anymore was a shitty thing to do,” her face contorted into the twisted ugly expression that can only be remotely be described by posting this picture:

She then repeated it in a low, gravely voice: “IT WAS A SHITTY THING TO DOOOOOOOOO STEPHANIE….” It took every fibre of my being, god help me, not to just burst out laughing right at that moment. It was sadly comical how she was blowing everything out of proportion.

I replied as I felt. I honestly felt that Alex wasn’t welcome by Loaf. That my crappy parenting made him intolerable to him. So that’s what I said. “If is uncomfortable with our undisciplined child, then we don’t need to bring him here.” In my head, I was thinking; you are welcome to visit him at our home, where we allow him to freely abuse and imperil his own cat without consequences :::snark:::.  The eyeroll was wanting to happen so bad, but I kept calm, meanwhile, T was starting to spool up even more.  Her husband loafed over, and my husband, who is a taciturn, quiet guy by nature, was also bristling.

She got in my face and started claiming that I laughed at his throwing toys at the cat. I did not.  “IT’S NOT CUTE, STEPHANIE! IT’S NOT CUTE!” she spat like some sort of possessed freak. She had decided to turn me into the enemy. This is the point where I realized this wasn’t about the cat. This was a venting of resentment that has been waiting for twelve years. T doesn’t like me, so I was about to feel the brunt of it.  Miss Anger Management then went off.

“Nobody said it was cute, T,” I muttered calmly.  Her reply was a furious growl: “Stop speaking to me like a CHILD, Stephanie…” At that point, I think I totally did roll my eyes. Then Loaf put in his two cents, which I don’t recall what he said; and my reply was: “Look, I would NEVER, EVER PRESUME to tell you how to parent YOUR child. It was uncalled for.  You do not get to tell us to spank our child. Period.”

My husband said “Let’s just go.” So I got up and we went into the house. T ran in front of us, and declared to everyone else as we walked in, in a loud, berating tone: “WELL THEY’RE THROWING A TANTRUM AND LEAVING…” She then began to repeat her accusations of my laughing, and then told everyone that I THREATENED her.  And she said threatened exactly as you would imagine it, In this dooming, horrified tone. I told her she was interpreting what I did and said to suit what she wanted, and that I am none of those things. But I can’t control how she feels. I called her defensive, and she blew up again. I started gathering up our stuff and Alex’s things. Dan, who is the quietest, sweetest, calmest person hollered at her to shut up, and shouted at Loaf that he had no businesses telling us how to parent Alex. Loaf then listed how great they are as parents, and how successful they were at raising their kid. B is a great kid. But they are far from perfect. 

T is a helicopter mom. She hovers over her kid like some kind of carrion bird over a carcass. She dresses in matching track suits with her kid. They don’t do anything socially, they really don’t have any friends, their lives revolve around their kid’s sports. They coach, they do booster stuff, they are their kid.  She has been overprotective of him since his birth as a preemie. I get it, I don’t have any issue with that, but that brand of parenting is not for us. We want Alex to not be a narcissist who thinks the world revolves around his needs and wants. I have never once, in all my time with this family, made any comments. I never asked them them if they had college plans for him. I never made any backhanded comments about what a momma’s boy he is—and how rarely I see him with other kids his age. I never snarked about how many hours the kid spends with his headphones on in front his array of gaming consoles every day, and during family gatherings. He’s like a ghost. He comes and goes and rarely speaks. If he’s not gaming, he’s watching TV with grandpa who spends at least 5 hours a day himself in front of Fox News getting angrier and angrier.

I think if there was no such thing as public school, he’d probably socially stunted. The closest thing to criticism I ever shared was asking them on the event of his thirteenth birthday, if he was going to do anything with his friends.  The answer was no.  I feel sorry for the kid. He’s a nice, sweet, passive kid with a good heart. But then I hear him parroting the hateful, racist shit his parents and step-grandfather like to say and I feel immediate and profound pity.  I’ve known him since he was three. He had only just begun talking at three. He was the polar opposite of Alex. Alex is independent and spunky, he runs and climbs and jumps. B is reflexive and clingy. He plays sweetly with both his mom and dad, and they have a good relationship, and I genuinely like the kid. I feel bad that he had to be spanked at all. How they raise him is their fucking business. Bottom line, and it’s none of my damned business to tell them how to parent.

But the T and Loaf seem to be under the impression that they have all the answers, and that they have the right to impose their methods on our kid. T was shouting at this point how she’d have been all over the kid if he’d thrown toys at the cat. I told her Dan handled it. She then implied that Dan would always handle it, making sure to leave me absent from that. I looked at my husband, whose face was beet red, and he retorted that she was full of crap and that we both handle the kid quite well. The irony is, I’m much tougher on Alex than Dan is. He’s the good cop. But T seems to be under the impression that I’m some sort of marshmallow/doormat. Of course, the three times a year she actually sees me is all the evidence she needs to come to that conclusion. Never mind that Alex is with me pretty much 24/7 and is really a good boy for a two year old. I then realized that maybe the reason why Loaf was so irritated when we came in, and why everyone looked so uncomfortable (aside from being exposed to this shouting match), was that maybe they were discussing our parenting before we arrived; possibly anticipating with a dash of dread spending time with the Tasmanian devil we are raising.  I dunno, it’s speculation at best, but I can’t account for the reason why Loaf was being such a douche, unless it was because the TV was off, which as I said, is a first in all the years I’ve been married and with my husband. The TV is usually the most valued guest at these gatherings.

Either way, hubby and I gathered up the stuff, and the kid and we left. My hands were shaking, but my temper was under control.  I don’t do well with confrontation most of the time. Just letting a tiny bit of my anger leak out usually just leads to the inevitable explosion of every resentment I’m feeling at the moment, including personal insults, attacks and any other nastiness I’ve swallowed over the years. I did not do that.

I’m not sure if this is fixable. I truly believe that these people owe us an apology.  I truly believe that the cat should have been put away. If they brought a kid into my home with my bitey, scratchy pet, I would put the pet into a room. Alex is two years old. You don’t reason with two year olds yet. And I sure as hell won’t hit him and take the lazy parenting way out.  Too many people do.  I won’t be spoken to like that again. So there’s a crossroads here. Hubby is angry as hell at his sister and brother-in-law. How can I trust Alex in their care at all now? If they think that it’s permissible to lay a hand on him when he does something as trivial as touching the cat’s tree? They obviously don’t respect the guidelines we have for our boy, and they think what is normal (giggling, running, jumping, being curious, touching things) for us, is intolerable for them; that kids should be cowering in quiet intimidation. Not going to happen. I love my child’s inquisitive nature, and if he was mad that the cat tried to attack him, then he had a right to be. That cat should not be around toddlers. My child’s comfort and safety is more important than their dickwad cat. You can’t expect a two-year old to leave a cat alone. At least, if you don’t hit them to make sure they do.  I don’t have any desire to continue swallowing anything when it comes to this anger-management nutcase of a sister in law or her lurch husband. I’m tired of their shit. And Dan is finally with me on that. It took them turning their attention to his son for it to smart enough for him to actually react.  It’s funny how one sibling is all reflection; Dan… and the other is all reaction. Good luck getting that demon woman to listen to anything. Yikes.

The saddest part was that she was projecting so much nastiness on me, I can’t help but understand her dislike for me. Because all that spitefulness towards me, the projection she makes onto me, just reflects her own dislike and unhappiness with herself. Of course, her drawn, face, dark circles, her baggy clothes, her defensive, embittered nature; that is already pretty obvious. She isn’t happy. Dan said she’s always been this way, which is even sadder.  How long can someone function just being a ball of resentment? It’s so sad.  I do have some measure of relief over all this. I don’t have to smile and fake it anymore.  If I see her again, I won’t hold any bars. And if I don’t, oh well. 

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