My therapist suggested something I hadn’t considered: my children are now my mother’s purpose in life, and as such, they will be the ones to change her, if it is ever to happen. Nothing that I have ever done has elicited change in her behavior or character; but, every time she leaves our house she thanks me for “letting” her come. My therapist has pointed out that this insinuates that the ball is in my court—I have the power to decide whether she comes to visit or doesn’t. I think she somehow understands that once the kids don’t want to see her—either as much or at all—she won’t be invited.
My son (age 6) has started advocating for himself in a way I’m really proud of. He lets my mom know when he wants her to stop, when she’s being too much to handle. He has asked her to be quiet and told her he doesn’t want to play or do a certain thing. She, in turn, usually gets defensive or gives him the silent treatment she used to give me. It hurts me to see that, and I have occasionally had to intervene.
I make a big deal of telling my son (in front of her) that I’m proud of him for saying “Stop!” and remind him that when someone says that, we stop, right away, no matter what. I have reminded my mom that my kids do better when they have some quiet time, some alone time in the day to decompress. I talk in a normal, “indoor” voice around my mother in hopes that she will mirror.
But, as I was feeling guilty in a therapy session last week for not speaking up enough, for not being my own and his advocate more earnestly, she reminded me that maybe it’s OK. Maybe it’s OK for my son to be the one to speak up–she listens to him in a way she doesn’t listen to me. I think my mom understands that she’s a guest in my family and that we could decide not to “let” her come–I didn’t have that choice as a child in her home. Maybe things are slowly changing. Or, maybe not. But there’s a small possibility that my kids mean enough to her to make some adjustments.