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Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Gma2MH, Mar 23, 2019.

  1. Gma2MH

    Gma2MH New Member

    Stumbled across this forum and happy to be here. My husband and I have three kids in their 20’s, a daughter and two sons. Also have four young grandkids who we are crazy about. Our daughter is our oldest and she’s been extremely challenging since she was very young. As a teenager she spent about 2.5 years in what amounted to adolescent prison for a multitude of shoplifting charges, assault, running away twice, and drug possession. While incarcerated she was diagnosed with ODD and ADD. A therapist once seemed pretty convinced she has a personality disorder.

    She completed high school while locked up and after release went to college near where we live and eventually graduated. Things seemed fine for awhile but then the lying, shoplifting, and the seeming inability to get along with anyone ramped up again. Ended up in several auto accidents and has at least one DUI. Has a history of volatile relationships with men.

    Fast forward to current, she is married to a recovered (white knuckles it, never received actual treatment) drug addict, has two stepkids, and they have two kids together. Her marriage tends to be what she has described as a hot mess and there’s almost constant drama.

    We barely have a relationship with her and it’s holding on by a thread and if she didn’t have children I’m sure we’d be permanently estranged by now. The grandkids are the only thing keeping the lines of communication barely open. As recent as a week ago she essentially stole from me again and it would appear she has little to no empathy for much of anyone but herself. There are so many things I could describe but it would take forever.

    To be frank, I love her but I don’t like her at all and her father feels the same way. I’ve felt guilty about that for a long time but it is what it is. We are not perfect parents by any means and I know there’s things we could have done better. She and her brothers have no relationship but she isn’t entirely to blame for that. Our sons are not saints but they do not experience the same issues she does. Our sons both resent us for all the time their sister took up when they were kids and I can’t say I blame them. Things between us and all three of our kids are not in the best place right now and we all hold some blame for that.

    There are days when I wish we’d not had children and then feel terrible about feeling that way. I’m just so mentally exhausted from all of it. Almost 30 years of an uphill battle is how it feels. Our daughter has cut us all off yet again and some days I hope she doesn’t reach out again. I live day to day with the fear her marriage will end and she’ll want to move home. Her behavior hasn’t changed from when she was a kid and it really just morphed into a more manipulative version of the same.

    I don’t even wonder anymore if this will ever get better because I’m convinced it won’t. Her father isn’t as convinced of that but he’s not too far behind me. When she recently lied to us and refused to pay me back several hundred dollars despite having more than enough money to do so, something just broke inside me; I think mostly the motivation to keep trying to have a relationship with her. But, our grandkids.

    For the record it isn’t so much the money but the overwhelming lack of respect and regard pisses me off more than anything. But it doesn’t surprise me at all.

    If you made it this far, thanks for listening (reading).
  2. SeekingStrength

    SeekingStrength Well-Known Member

    Hey there, Gma,

    Welcome to this forum; you will find it incredibly helpful and soothing. I found it years ago while trying to figure out how to stop enabling our eldest son.

    These wise folks will help you see the forest for the trees. This is such a difficult road to walk.

    Off the cuff, my advice is to totally stop enabling the daughter. That is what husband and I did with our difficult son (after years of enabling him because he guilted us and we fell for it). It was horrible at first. He reacted just as the members of this forum told me he would - ramped it up, became more hateful than ever, badmouthed us to everyone, etc.

    Years later, we have no communication. Hopefully, that will all improve some day. For right now, husband and I are in a better place than we have been in several years.

    Like you, we have two younger children (now 20 and 34) who had to put up with way too much while we tried to "normalize" life with our eldest in the house. (That never happened.)

    There are no grandchildren involved. That is a whole other ballgame, but folks in the same sad situation will chime in before too long.

    Hang with us.

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  3. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Welcome GMA.

    I am sorry you find yourselves in this tough, tough spot. The rest of us are right here with you.

    What comes to mind is something a wise member here told me about the second arrow described by Buddha. This is when we get hurt by somebody, and the pain was unavoidable and sharp. This is the kind of gut punch that comes from, say, an adult daughter stealing money, and then denying it, or basically saying :censored2: you, when you discover the theft. The second arrow is the AVOIDABLE pain that comes after this. Such as ruminating about whether or not it is our fault; or blaming ourselves for the conflict between our children; or worrying about what will come in the future, or comparing our kids with those of our sister who are doing oh so well (I do that), worrying things will never get better, or beating ourselves up because things have not changed.

    Each of these below are examples of the second arrow:
    The second arrow is a product of our own mind. It is not a gut punch. It is avoidable. It is destructive. It does not help. We can learn to curb it to a very large degree.

    There is a third arrow too. That is the compulsive behavior that serves to insulate us self-destructively from the first and second arrows, by retreating to addictive and compulsive behaviors such as shopping, substance abuse, etc. (Unfortunately I have done this.)

    I am not minimizing the pain of having an adult child such as your daughter, and my own child. But we can limit how much we dwell in the chaos and the pain and the frustration that their lives engender. I am not taking a stand about withdrawing, because we do not have to cut off contact if we learn to insulate ourselves mentally and to not turn the arrows onto ourselves.

    Posting really, really helps. You'll get support and counsel, yes. But you will also discharge a lot of painful emotion and by reading what you write, and seeing it in black and white, you will be able to take stock and to evolve.

    There are a lot of pluses in your story. Really. Your daughter has a difficult personality and seems to have sought out somebody like her who thrives in chaos. There are many, many people like this. Yes. They do not usually morph into people who are laid back, tranquil and thoughtful. But why should she? She is who she is. She has a marriage and children, a college degree, loving parents, etc. This is way more than most other people have. Really. The issue here may be boundaries. Yours. Letting her in close so that she can hurt and betray you, when experience over time has shown that she does not warrant that kind of trust.

    Wishing that she were different is the second arrow. It is self-inflicted pain. She is who she is. (I do this too.)

    I hope you do not find my words to be harsh, or too direct. If we see that we have power over the situation (which is us, our own choices and expectations) we can act to help ourselves, and let go of the burden of focusing upon our children, who for the most part, at this point are beyond our reach.

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    Last edited: Mar 23, 2019
  4. Gma2MH

    Gma2MH New Member

    Thanks for your response and yes, our daughter is extremely hateful to us when we don’t do what she wants and bad mouths us and the whole bit. Before she had kids I was much better at detaching from her and the situation.

    The g-kids came along and now she thinks I have ‘sucker’ tattooed on my forehead and to a certain extent I have proven her right. With all of our kids grown and gone and many of our bills paid off we have a bit more to spend as we please. While I don’t share our financial information with her, she is by no means stupid and is very observant while pretending not to be. We’ve spent some on our g-kids and instead of just saying thank you she finds ways to use it against us.

    Every interaction with her seems to come with some underlying agenda. It would come as no surprise to anyone she attempts to punish us by not letting us see the g-kids and enjoys coming up with infractions, so to speak, to use as reasons why we are ruining any relationship we could have with the little ones. For instance, the youngest g-kid recently had their first birthday and because I didn’t call him to wish him a happy birthday, we were 86’d from his b-day party which is taking place as I type. She moved the location to ensure we wouldn’t show up uninvited, which is something we’d never be inclined to do, and never have done, as it is too much drama.

    I am certain she will use our absence to bad mouth us to her in-laws as so far they seem pretty fooled by her.

    I used to try to explain things to her (in this case, one year olds don’t use the telephone so you’re overreacting) but I don’t do or say anything anymore. I don’t argue with her nor give her any emotional reaction she might be looking for. Yet she persists.

    If it weren’t for the g-kids my inclination would be to just walk away. However, as my own mother has mentioned, the reality may be that we will never be allowed a consistent relationship with their kids. Totally within her rights but it would be hugely disappointing for us.

    The upside to all this is since all of our kids have moved out, our marriage is better than it’s ever been. We don’t focus on our kids but there are days where that’s more difficult to do than others.
  5. Gma2MH

    Gma2MH New Member

    No, not too harsh at all and you’re right especially about the boundaries issue, my boundaries. That really resonated with me and that’s one of my biggest issues I need to deal with, especially since becoming a grandparent. I was way better about it pre grandkids and I allowed their arrival to blow that to bits.

    You’ve made a lot of great points and I appreciate it, very helpful.
  6. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    I have a hard enough time, just being a parent. I would be tortured as a grandmother. Not only would I worry about the children, I would want them with me as much as possible, and be vulnerable to all kinds of pressure and manipulation to keep them close.

    My son is not mean. I think he would be a loving and caring father, and he would not withhold the kids. But he is nowhere near parenthood, if ever.

    But so many of the parents here deal with adult children who subject their kids to all manner of things, and use their kids as pawns. It all boils down for them to a choice. Do I protect myself or do I decide to bear exposure to my adult child's manipulation and abuse, to protect the kids and to be with them. The thing with that is the grandparents are forever vulnerable to having the rug pulled out from their heart, so to speak. My own mother had to deal with this with my sister and her kids. My sister would withhold the kids, whenever she was mad at my mother. My mother was so upset and hurt for many, many years.

    The thing to know is that you are not alone. This is a problem that so many people deal with. It does not make it easier, but it may help you to understand and to accept that it is not you, and it is not your fault.

    I just now read your response to seeking, and see that unfortunately you are already dealing with this hard reality. I am sorry.
  7. Gma2MH

    Gma2MH New Member

    Definitely yes, to that hard reality. When the g-kids aren’t being withheld she is constantly comparing us to the g-kids other grandparents who are, of course, the best out there and not “neglectful” like we are lol. Their other grandparents are just fine and we don’t have a problem with them, it’s only our daughter who creates and apparently believes in these issues.

    As was pointed out to me earlier, I do need to strengthen my boundaries with our daughter. I let that all go to hell when our grandkids arrived. If I’m honest that probably went to hell when we met and developed a relationship with our daughter’s young stepkids who we think of the same as our bio grandkids. Thinking back to that time, our daughter ramped up her demanding behavior with me when she saw that her stepkids (who live full time with my daughter and son in law, their bio mom is not in the picture) liked us ...she was immediately insistent that we take on the role of grandparents instead of just letting it happen organically. I knew that was a red flag even then.

    I’m frustrated with myself that I let my boundaries unravel with her a few years back but at least that part is fixable. I know what to do and just have to do it.
  8. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Your daughter may have built-in and rigid personality traits that skew her thinking and behavior. Some people have this to the degree that their behavior is seriously problematic for others and for themselves. Some negative characteristics can be highly advantageous in certain circumstances. For example, narcissism is very common among presidents. And most successful academics have obsessive-compulsive traits.

    When we have these traits, we are usually unaware of them. Which makes it hard to correct something that we cannot see. We perceive instead that the problems are in others. That they are the ones who need to change. Not us. (For example, I think that my issues with my sister are because SHE has personality problems....lol.)

    If you were to approach your daughter from this stance, that she may have personality issues of which she is unaware, that cause problems for her, and for others, you may begin to see that while her behavior affects you, it has nothing to do with you. She does this cookie cutter stuff over and over again because she has a mindset that sees the world this way. And when her behavior causes problems for others and herself, she blames others, not herself. She would treat ANY mother this way. It is not that you deserve it, or caused it. And as you know, you certainly cannot cure it. She has little or no insight, because she cannot see herself.
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    Last edited: Mar 24, 2019
  9. elizabrary

    elizabrary Active Member

    Hi Gma- Glad you're here, but wish you didn't have to be. I'm a grandma too, and extremely close to my granddaughter, whose father is not involved. My daughter and I joke that I'm her baby daddy, but basically I function in that role. It is extremely difficult and painful sometimes. Fortunately my daughter, who has at times been horrible to me, does not keep my granddaughter from me as she knows it is a good relationship for both of us. I did kick her out of my house when my granddaughter was an infant and it was horrible, but I will never let her live with me again. I encourage you to learn about healthy boundaries and start working on them. Realize that your daughter will likely ramp up her negative behavior when you do, as these adult kids are used to functioning by manipulation. When I started enforcing boundaries with my daughter including no financial help other than buying things for my granddaughter, hanging up the phone or walking away when she was disrespectful and doing nothing to enable her immature behavior (enabling=doing something for an adult they are capable of doing for themselves) she lost her freaking mind. She would call over and over and leave screaming messages, etc. I learned to shut off my phones and focus on myself and my health and well-being. I've learned to do things to keep myself busy when she's in a bad place. I walk with my dogs in nature, go to a movie, go shopping, color, whatever to keep my focus on me and not her and her disasters. Her behavior is up and down, as is her alcoholism. But I manage to maintain my peace of mind a majority of the time, but I surely understand your worry over your grandchildren. Sending peace to you on this difficult journey.
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  10. Gma2MH

    Gma2MH New Member

    I am determined this time that I’m not going to return to the same cycle with my daughter when and if she comes back around. She will try but I can’t do this with her anymore.

    During this last stunt she pulled I didn’t allow myself to argue with her. In the past there were many times I would give as good as I got from her and the arguments would get ugly. It’s not worth the time or the elevated blood pressure and clearly arguing has never solved anything. I’ve been able to disengage from her chaos in the past and I know that’s what I need to do now.

    I also have to accept the fact there’s a very good chance she will use our grandkids against us. I will be very disappointed if she does but they’re her kids and she can do as she pleases with them. As it is she already makes it difficult for us to see the kids and that’s pretty easy for her to do living a couple hours away. There’s always a plausible or plausible sounding excuse when you have a houseful of kids and all their extracurricular activities.

    Thankfully the weather is turning nice(r) and both my husband and I have plenty of hobbies to keep us busy, in addition to working full-time.

    The biggest thing for me maintaining my boundaries with her, and for that matter our two sons who are also disruptive on occasion, is flat out remembering to not get sucked in by the pity party money requests and the continual disasters our daughter generates. I can’t operate on auto pilot anymore.
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  11. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Gma. There's no way that it is not sad and hard to be separated from your grandchildren, who are used in an instrumental way.

    I agree that there may be no way to stop this, except to not succumb, and fall into the vat which is her drama and chaos.

    But there may be ways to take control. Assuming that your daughter works from her own self-interest, and assuming that she likes her free time and to have an easier life, is it possible that you can provide day trips or overnights for the kids, or vacations, on your terms--that she would cooperate with because this benefits her?

    The key, I think, would not only be your willingness and ability to do this, but also your willingness to tolerate initially, for her to say "no," cutting off her nose to spite her face. I think if you did not react to her "no" she would most likely eventually succumb to what would be in her own self-interest, and that of the kids, visits with you on your own terms.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2019