My relationship with you has always been complicated.
When I was little, I thought you and I were close. I remember Friday nights with you lying down on the couch and me sitting next to you, talking about whatever came to mind. (In retrospect, I realize that it wasn’t closeness, but rather, you trying to live your life vicariously through me, telling me how to behave and act in various places.) But because of that closeness, our apparent “similarities,” Abba included me in his abuse of you, the two of us often the targets of his anger, verbally, and physically. We had a bond, I thought. And all the rest of the siblings were jealous of that relationship I had with you, Imma.
And yet, we didn’t.
As “close” as we were, there were miles between us. You wanted me to be a certain way, forced me to live a life as you chose, even though it hurt me and made me the target of bullying. Even when I tried to fit in and did whatever I could do make friends, you did whatever you could to make sure I stood out, then preached about how fitting in was somehow morally inferior.
And nothing I did was ever good enough. I’d get 104% on a test, and you’d ask me why I didn’t get those last two extra credit points. You’d constantly call me lazy and tell me I wasn’t trying hard enough. You’d put me down, and insist it was from a place of love, because you wanted me to “reach my potential.” And when I finally found happiness, found boyfriends that loved me, you made sure to ask them terrible questions as soon as you met them, so they went screaming the other way and I was left abandoned.
And yet you blamed all the emotional issues I had in my life on the abuse from Abba.
And yes, it’s true, the reason I get so panicky when I see people biting their lips, the reason I am so terrified of peoples anger is because of him.
But the negative reel in my head, the one that always tells me I’m not good enough, will never be good enough, will always suck and will always be a disappointment? That one is your voice, not his.
And that’s the voice that I go to therapy every week to try to get out of my head.
And I can’t.
Because it is so deeply ingrained that it has now become my own.
And then I married someone that gave me more of that same negative reel to add to the track in my head.
I kept trying to heal and figure out why I was so depressed, and it was because I can’t get that voice to shut up, the voice that tells me I’m a worthless human being, the voice that says I’m a pathetic loser and always will be, the voice that you taught me and spoon-fed to me since I was a child.
Fortunately, by the time I became an adult and started parenting my own kids, I realized just how terrible using shaming as a parenting technique is, and I made sure to do the exact opposite of you. The things you thought were important and forced on me, even though they hurt me, are things that I eschewed with my kids. (Though at this point I’ll admit that I went to the opposite extreme in trying to prevent in my kids the hurt you caused me.)
I tried to do the exact opposite with my kids. Showing them unconditional love. Never tell my kids that they’re not good enough. Teach them that they’re lovable by virtue of being them, never needing to do a thing to earn my love.
But you as a grandmother weren’t happy with that. You said that my children were the light of your life and gave you a reason to smile in the morning. You loved every aspect of my children, and yet, you kept on telling me I wasn’t doing a good enough job raising them. You kept on trying to convince me to use the same parenting techniques with them that you used with me. The ones that I stayed far away from because I saw just how damaging they were to myself and my siblings.
When you weren’t able to convince me, you tried to convince my husband. When that only worked partially, when you convinced him to pressure me to do what you wanted me to do with my kids, you decided to take matters into your own hands and “parent” the kids for me. The same horrible awful things you did to me as a kid, you insisted on doing with my kids. When it was mild, I tried saying something, but got nowhere so instead decided to look the other way to avoid a fight.
When even that wasn’t enough for you, because I refused to change my lifestyle to accommodate you, you decided to cut me out of your life because “I was destroying my kids and you couldn’t be part of their/our lives and watch me ruin their lives”. (And in case readers wonder if there’s any truth to what Imma was saying, one of the definitions of my “ruining my kids’ lives” was my non combatant approach to education with them, making learning enjoyable instead of making them hate it.) Eventually you decided to “let me back” into your life but I wish you hadn’t.
You decided to help us financially in a big way, and when you did it, I asked you so many times if this was with strings, but you kept promising that there were no strings attached. And like a sucker I believed you. But I should have known better. There’s always strings attached with you.
Ever since you gave me that money it changed my life in so many ways.
Yes, our family now has things that would never have been possible had you not given me that large financial sum. That sum that you told me was my early inheritance, that I would get nothing more in the future. It made a tremendous positive difference in my life.
But ever since then, all the issues I’ve had with you have multiplied to an nth degree.
If I thought you were controlling before, I met a new mother. You weren’t satisfied with how much you were controlling my life and tried to push it even more. You went bullheaded and did such damaging and forceful things to my kids that my kids asked “Why does Bubby need to come?” They asked why I made them spend time with her.
I tried explaining to my kids that Bubby loves them, but Bubby doesn’t realize how what she is doing is hurting them. And I tried to rationalize your behavior, while at the same time not completely excusing it.
Each time I had an interaction with you it left me so frustrated, in pain, and hurt. But to explain to someone why what you were doing was painful meant explaining my whole history with you, which I didn’t have the energy to do. Because on the surface each action could simply be mistaken as one done by a loving grandmother. But its far more destructive.
Fortunately, some friends saw through the guise. And told me to cut you out of my life. But I kept on telling them why that wasn’t possible, how you lived locally and would just show up at my house unannounced even if I decided to cut you out.
Every week in therapy I try to fix my life, try to learn to feel better about myself, try to learn to validate my feelings and respect my opinions. Each session I try to quell the shaming, nasty voice you put in my head, but I realized that I couldn’t do that as long as I was married to a man that contributed to all this shame talk. That I’d never be able to heal from you so long as I was living with someone whose voice echoed yours. And so (after much debating and getting advice from multiple people) I filed for divorce.
You told me that I am making the biggest mistake of my life. Because all the problems in the marriage are my fault, and I have bad communication skills, and I’m just running away from my problems instead of dealing with them. I tried talking with you, reasoning with you, but you were blaming me for all the abuse in my marriage.
And when I told my husband that I filed for divorce, he told me that I will regret it. Because you’ve vowed that if I insist on divorcing him, you’ll do whatever you could to hurt me to get me to stay with him. He wouldn’t tell me what, but alluded that it would cause my to lose the house and the kids. He said that he didn’t want to let you do that, but he wasn’t able to say no to you.
I also found out that the same things you were trying to force on my kids and I wouldn’t let you, you were trying to convince him to put into the divorce agreement with me.
One day you took the kids on a trip and because they didn’t do what you wanted them to do, you threatened to abandon them on the beach. So the next time you wanted to take them on a trip I was wary. Then you gave stipulations to the children, that you’d only take them on the trip if they did something that I wasn’t ok with them doing. So you said that if they wouldn’t do that, they can’t come on the trip, and we were ok with that. But then while on the trip you sent picture after picture to my kids telling them that it’s a shame that they weren’t on the trip. Why? Why were you trying to get my kids upset for missing out on a trip when I was the one who decided they couldn’t go on it?
That was the final straw for me. I told the kids not to answer phone calls from you. I blocked your number on their phone. I told them if you show up at the door to not let you in. And I told you why.
Then one day, my husband told me that you were coming to take the kids on a trip, and I said I didn’t allow. He said that you’re coming anyhow, and he lets. I called up the police and asked them whether you’d be allowed to take them on a trip if I didn’t allow it or if it’s considered kidnapping, and the police told me that as long as we don’t have custody worked out as part of the divorce process, if I don’t allow the kids to go and he does, you aren’t allowed to take the kids or it’s considered kidnapping.
I messaged you saying that you aren’t welcome. Then I said that if you do insist on coming, I’d call the police on you for attempted kidnapping, and there will be a show down, so don’t do that.
You came anyhow. I quickly took the kids to the next door neighbor so I wouldn’t have to expose them to what was going on, but as we passed you and my husband conspiring, you started shouting things at them that you just want them to have a nice time, and Mommy never lets them have a good time, and you only want good things for them. As soon as the kids were out of earshot, I called the police as I was instructed, and reported the kidnapping attempt, and you screamed so the police could hear “I’m just trying to take the kids out of the cages you’re keeping them in” and eventually you agreed to leave so the police didn’t need to send a squad car.
And then the fun started.
You reported me to child welfare services, telling them that I’m an abusive neglectful mom. (Meanwhile, when I was a kid and child welfare services showed up, I protected you and Abba and told them everything was ok in the house and it wasn’t.) Everyone who actually knows me knows that that is as far from the truth as possible, but since my husband and you both said the same about me, I was fighting an uphill battle to get them to believe that I actually was a good mom (and fortunately they finally realized that).
Then when child services’ involvement didn’t yield the results you’d hoped for, you tried to get your coworker at the health services to pay a surprise home visit to “make sure everything was ok” and then lie about the fact that you sent him.
When my husband went violent enough that police came and he was arrested, I sent you a message and said “Just wanted to let you know that your favorite son in law was arrested last night for x. I guess this is all because I don’t have good communication skills.” You didn’t bother responding.
Not only did that not change your opinion about whether my getting divorced was a good decision or not, you kept on supporting him, inviting him for Shabbos, giving him furniture for his new place, supporting him financially, bringing him meals, etc. You’ve supported your abusive soon to be son in law more than his own family has. At this point, I’m not even shocked at your betrayal. You’ve always loved him more than your own kids. And you didn’t want me to divorce him because you knew that the only way you were able to maintain any control over my life was through convincing him to control me into doing what you want.
The only time I heard from you since that time I called the police on you was when you sent me an email asking me to put aside my anger at you and advertise your new website for free. I could only laugh at the absurdity of it.
I’ve long since stopped being surprised by your actions.
When I got a call today by the court mediator, telling me that you’ve submitted a request to the court for visitation with my children, and asking me if I wanted to go to mediation together with you or just go straight to court to fight it out, I just couldn’t anymore.
Imma, I don’t even know why I am calling you that. (Your name in my phone is saved under your given name, not with any title connoting motherhood.) You wrecked my life. I am spending thousands and thousands of dollars to try to fix my brain from all that you did to fuck it up. I tried giving you a chance with my children, but you want to fuck up their life the way you did mine, and I won’t let you do that anymore.
Why? Why? Why?
I have no idea what to do.
Maybe I’ll bring this Neshamas piece with me to court.
I just don’t have the energy to fight anymore.
And I’m so worried that the courts will see you as a loving grandmother who just wants to spend time with her adorable grandchildren and force me to let you into their life. Force me to allow you to destroy them emotionally the way you did me. Because you are a covert narcissist, someone who on the outside looks like a caring person, but destroys your soul from the inside out.
I just can’t anymore.
Why do you do this to me?
I wish you were dead.