Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Frustration, Thy Name is FIL.

As you probably know, I have a great relationship with my parents. While my mom wasn't thrilled that I'd applied for a job while I have only one year left with the boys before they go to school full-time, she knew that it was a job I was really interested in, and that I'm really not actively pursuing any other opportunities at this time. She also knows that if this job doesn't pan out for me, I'll go right on living my life.

They've also been enormously helpful as we've been trying to clean up our financial situation over the last several years. When Beebie was three, R got laid off from his job and then I got laid off from my job four months later (both due to the Dot Com implosion). We lived on unemployment, WIC, public assistance, food pantries, and my parents' generousity. They helped pay our rent, COBRA and paid for various other things, including a car since between us we did not have reliable transportation. And they encouraged us, never making us feel that we were at fault for the situation we were in.

R didn't let on to his parents that we were in as bad a situation as we were. I think eventually he told them that were weren't working, but I'm never privy to their conversations. And they would never have known that my parents were helping us at all except that we showed up at the Aldis' house for something in the new car and they asked us about it. R reluctantly stammered that it was a gift from my parents. Shortly thereafter, his parents gave us a check for $500. Not to be outdone or anything.

A few weeks later was Easter. Beeb was still potty training and sometime before we all sat down to eat a fancy expensive brunch, she had a lil bitty poopy accident in her pants. I had forgotten to bring a change of panties for her since I really didn't think she'd need it, but I spent about 30 minutes in the restaurant bathroom trying to wash her panties out in the sink and dry them with the dryer on the wall. It was horrible.

When I got back to the table, I decided that I had earned myself a Mimosa for all my trouble, so, in accordance with the "go ahead and order your drinks" directive given by MIL. I talked R into ordering one with me. When FIL got the bill, he demanded to know who had ordered a $4 Mimosa. I confessed that R and I did.


Very, VERY loudly. Totally making a scene.

R apologized and offered to pay him back.


My brother in law Mr. Lexus offered to pay it.


This went on for hours after we left the restaurant, and he even brought it up the next time R spoke to him a week later. I'm not kidding.

So how could we make this right? We couldn't. We had to sit and listen and take his wrath until he felt like we'd suffered enough, and there was no telling how long that might be.

It was without question one of the absolute worst moments of my entire life. No question. Frankly, I'm still not over it. Especially because every Easter since, I have been reminded in front of the entire family NOT to order an alcoholic beverage with brunch, like I need reminding.

Cut to last night, when R made his weekly phone call home to tell them the filtered version of what we've done for the previous week. Everything he tells them passes through a filter based on What We Think FIL Will Freak Out About. This filter, I should mention, is not 100% foolproof. Sometimes FIL freaks out about shit we wouldn't expect him to.

We expected him to ask us, once again, if we'd had a chance to look at all of the home loan information he "happened upon" a few weeks ago and forwarded to us. In fact, he told R "Oh, Sarah can take care of it." which R then passed on to me with the spin of it being a compliment to my ability to handle financial matters. Riiiiight. I'm starting to see that R also uses a filter to decide how he's going to relay to me the various things that his dad has said.

R told FIL that it had been a particularly busy week for me and I'd not had a chance to sit down with all the info FIL wanted us to read over. I'd had a job interview Wednesday and had to take Pie to his urologist immediately afterwards which took the entire day, and then Friday I had to work in the library. And I have the boys home with me all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays which makes doing anything productive close to impossible.

According to R, FIL is concerned that I am "focusing too much on one thing", meaning that I am foolish to look for a job as it would make more sense for us to buy a house and THEN allow me to look for a job. R explained that I'm not "looking for a job" per se, but this particular opportunity came up and it was something that I was really interested in, so I went ahead and applied. Well, FIL thinks that this is a huge mistake, especially since the various home loan programs he told us about have an income cap which would be in jeopardy if I happened to get this job.

This REALLY pissed me off. Really a lot. Suddenly I saw FIL's earlier "compliment" as a completely disrespectful comment on how I can take care of this home loan bullshit because I have nothing better to do and I obviously sit around the house eating bonbons all day. And I can't really vent to R about it because I hate that he's in the middle of FIL and me as it is.

R keeps trying to assure me that FIL means well, and I guess I know that he does, but I can't seem to get past the fact that we didn't ASK for his help. And if he was making a suggestion, let it be that, and if we choose not to take it, then back the fuck off and shut up about it. But he NEVER does. It's never a suggestion, it's a thinly-veiled edict.

And why is he persecuting me for going after a job that might possibly offer me the sense of personal fulfillment that I'm NOT getting from being a stay-at-home mom. And part of the reason why I'm not getting it is because I feel like a complete failure as a parent. Why? Because that is how he makes me feel ALL THE TIME.

I have spent the last ten years of my life trying to earn his respect. And I've exhausted myself both physically and emotionally doing so. I honestly don't believe that having his respect would even really make me happy, so I don't know why I try so hard, but I guess I just assume that that's the reason why our relationship is so hurtful to me and so, conversely, if he did respect me maybe it would be better. In my heart I know that it's impossible to please him. He finds fault with everyone, even those that he is supposed to love most.

He criticizes his highly-favored daughter, a very successful surgeon who has Valedictorian of her high school class, and even his own wife's cooking after she's been slaving in the kitchen all day - the pie's crust isn't flaky enough or the meat is dry or whatever. MIL's dealt with it for so long, she criticizes herself unfairly before he can do it. I remember that clearly from the first time I met his parents - I complimented her on the dinner and she commented that it should have been better. FIL wholeheartedly agreed. I remember being kinda shocked by that. My dad would NEVER do that to my mom, and R would NEVER do it to me.

I do try to convince myself that he means well and that his way of showing love is by telling you how you can achieve excellence because he assumes that's what we all want. But the reality of it is that to him, excellence means pefection, and he's telling you every single thing that you've done wrong in a completely unloving manner. It's extremely hurtful. I see the damage it's done to R after an entire lifetime of it, and I'm feeling how it's crushed so much of my spirit and confidence after a relatively short time. I was a much stronger person before I began reporting to FIL. I never needed meds before I married into his kingdom.

The thing that pisses me off the most is that every single time we try to do something THAT IS NONE OF HIS FUCKING BUSINESS, we have to make extra special sure that he doesn't find out about it or else we'll get a fucking earful. And any joy we may have felt in attempting to do something on our own is quickly annihilated.

When Beeb was about a year old, we actually signed a contract on a house that was in an area of town that FIL didn't approve of (despite the fact that R had grown up there). At the time, we'd only been married a little while and I didn't understand why R didn't want to tell FIL. Wouldn't he be happy for us? Then WHY did R allow me to go ahead and be happy and excited about it when he knew FIL was going to undermine it? And FIL did - we got out of the contract to stay in FIL's good graces. And look at all the good it did.

I've talked at length about FIL to my therapist Penny, and she actually suggested that the next time he hurts my feelings, I should very cautiously let him know. What harm could it do? Maybe I'll try it. But nobody ever really knows exactly what harm crossing FIL can do because nobody's ever done it.

If he dropped straight dead tomorrow, I wouldn't shed one single tear. No one would. What a tragic legacy to leave behind.


Libi said...

You must really love your husband, to put up with this crap!

That male needs to be told that he's out of line and soon. Dear, remember, your children are watching how this male treats you. They are learning. What do you want them to learn.

Your husband needs to decide...you or his father. And if you want to get Biblical, the Bible has clear instructions on what his choice should be!

This male (I'm sorry, but he doesn't deserve the title of man) is affecting your health and your children's upbringing!

Don't do Easter with them. Start your own holiday tradtion alone.

Argh! Personally, now I want to go tell him off for you!

Elizabeth said...

Wow. What an asshole. My mom has spent her entire married life with in-law issues (since 1959!) and it's awful. It's easy for me to say, but you and R need to find a way not to let this man run your lives. Hang up on him when he rants at you. Leave when he turns on you during a social visit. It finally came to that with my dad and his mom, when I was a kid. My dad just packed us all in the car and we drove off two days ahead of schedule and didn't go back for 4 years. My grandmother backed off some for a while, until extreme old age made her crotchedy again.

You know yourself that this tyrant will never be pleased. It's costing you too much to keep trying to please him.

And feeling like a failure as a stay-at-home mom? I completely get that. Some kids are just harder to parent than others. It's really true. No one can judge who hasn't walked in your shoes.

Hang in there! You are loved by a whole world of internet devotees! The opinion of one petty imperious asshole isn't enough to offset that.

LilKnitter said...

PK, I had NO idea he was THAT bad. I have been reading your blog for almost 6 months, but I had no clue. How unbelievably horrible for you!!

My aunt's husband has a truly terrible father as well (though he pales in comparison to your FIL) and he refused to have children with my aunt, simply out of fear that he would become his father. Kudos to you and R for being the SUCCESSFUL parents you are. You're a good mother, I'm sure of it. I hope that you are proud of your accomplishments!

Poops said...

My lovely PK, don't take crap from that bully anymore. That's what he is, plain and simple.

Your therapist suggested cautiously telling him that he hurt your feelings? May I suggest the Denis Leary school of therapy? Tell him to "Shut the Fuck Up".

No one has ever confronted this man about his negativity? I don't care how well meaning he is, he's no better than that kid that calls you fat on the playground or twists your arm until you cry. He gets off on his power trip and I think it's high time he came down a peg. I'd strap on my big girl power panties and let him have it, since just avoiding him altogether is apparently impossible. Though perhaps if you got up in his face, he'd avoid you. Either way, you win.

What a wanker. You deserve better. You're a great mom and a hell of a funny person. I hate how he makes you feel. No wonder you need meds.

Should you decide you wanna give him a wedgie or stick his head in the toilet, I got your back, baby!

The Fluffy Ewe said...

Oh I agree with Poops totally. He is getting off on having you two, and the rest of the family, under his thumb. What ajerk to even tell his wife that dinner could have been better. I know a certain man that would be fixing his own damn dinners if he ever told me that.

If I were in your shoes, I would totally pack up and walk out (or hang up) if he started his crap again. Easier said than done, I know.

Just remember what Elanor Roosevelt said: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." You are a wonderful mom. You are a wonderful wife. And you are hella-funny (yes, I pulled out the hella-funny).

Joel Widdershins said...

Sarah Babe,

You have almost perfectly described my mother's step-father in this blog instalment about FIL. "almost" because I get the sense that FIL may accidentally actually be as fucken great as he wants everybody else to be, and my step-grandfather was a low level flunky accountant who had no reasonable basis whatsoever to mistreat all the people that he mistreated. BUT, all that aside, I learned some lessons in dealing with the son-of-a-bitch that are probably directly applicable to your situation. Number ONE, quit letting R "report" to him about any-damn-thing. Fuck him! You're grown ups, if he doesn't like it he can blow it out his fuckin ass! Nuber TWO immediately stop letting your children ever be in the same house with this man, because you don't want them to catch the "dumb-ass" from him. If he has even e shred of humanity at all, losing contact with his grandchildren will get his attention in one hell of a hurry, and just might make him see that the problem might be with himself and not with you. Please understand, I am not a therapist, licensed or unlicensed, these are only the opinions of a human being, and I do not offer you any guarantees, warrantees, or assurances that anything I have said is correct. (Whew!) (Do you believe that I'm a lawyer yet?)

Bezzie said...

"And part of the reason why I'm not getting it is because I feel like a complete failure as a parent. Why? Because that is how he makes me feel ALL THE TIME."

I think the complete failure as a parent isn't you--it's HIM. Wait, no, I don't think that, I know that!

How old is your husband? He's been putting up with this shit for how long? And FIL just manages to spread the shit. Now it's infected you.

What does he provide you guys? Obviously it's not money, I know you hate going over there, the kids probably don't enjoy it much either, but what is the worse he could do if you stood up to him?

I know, I know, easier said than done, but this man is a cancer and he's metastisized and infected you now too. Is it too late to save the kids???

Bob said...

You need some chocolate. Treat yourself to some yummy Cadbury chocolate eggs. Mmmmmm....

Denice said...

Are you married into my family? You just described my dad almost word for word. About the house, the money, the ordering at the restaurant, etc. And I've never stood up to him. Well, I did once and he didn't talk to me for 8 years.

So I understand where you're coming from on this one. I'm honestly impressed that you're even considering standing up to him. It's terrifying! I'll be living vicariously through you when you finally take a stand! Way to go, PK!

k-good-row said...

Wow! That is some toxic FIL. My thoughts are with you and your family in dealing with him. As someone who is extremely close to my family, I don't know how or if you can cut those types of people out of your life. I just know that you are one amazing woman to deal with this kind of B.S.

amylovie said...

Hey Cuz,

To say that your FIL is an ass is an understatement. He is an abusive husband and father. From what I read, he brings absolutely nothing to y'all's live but misery. Why subject yourselves to that? Will your life be negatively impacted by purging him from your life?


Dan said...

What does FIL do for a living? Sounds like he is miserable and likely his parents were this way. Do not be an enabler. Like someone else said start your own traditions. Do not give him your self respect. Let him rant but do not surrender your dignity and self respect to him. Also on the part of being a stay at home parent, I do not know when society decided that this was not an important job, but it is still THE most important job today, bar none.
\I understand the frustration, but do not lower yourself to his standards. Be respectful, but firm and let him know you appreciate that he is so interested in your family's well being but the decisions to be made are for you and R to make and unless you ask for his advice you do not needed it. Your readers are here to give you all the advice and support you need :)

Batty said...

That's just awful. How dare he publicly humiliate you? A gift isn't a gift if you have to make up for it by letting him walk all over you. A gift is something given from the heart and never mentioned again.

This person is negative, intrusive, and toxic. He needs to be told to play nice, mind his own business, and shut his trap if he doesn't have anything nice to say. You're a wonderful person with an amazing sense of humor and a strong woman to boot. Why do you think we read your blog?

Cindy in Happy Valley said...

What Poops said...in spades!

This guy is a critical, self-important JACKASS and the only person who could make him happy is him. He should be married to himself.

I feel for you, but the only way to "get out from under" is to be as directly rude as he is. Of course, that will cause all kinds of trouble in the family, but isn't it worth it? My mom sometimes gets out of hand this way, though never to that extent. I've found that my best defense is the little hanger up button on the phone. (I do politely say "goodby" first. "OK, goodby (click)"

One last thing...he doesn't mean well. He is completely insecure, and has "control" issues and bullies his family to feel better about himself. I would spend as little time around him as I could get away with.

Mamma said...

Oh PK,

Family relationships are so complex, and its worse when you marry into a bad situation. Our situations have been very similar, down to the WIC and help from my family, but hiding it from his. Only my situation it's my MIL. She is so self-involved she has no idea how she is pushing her sons away. and talking to her about it wouldn't change anything. I've thought about confronting her, telling her how her thoughtless ego-centric behavior is hurting her son. But I know she wouldn't care. It wouldn't change anything, and dh would be even more hurt by her knowing disregard for him. Atleast now he can pretend she doesn't know how it makes him feel.

Strap on those power panties. Eat lots of chocolate, and have a terrible migraine the morning of the Easter Brunch ;)

P.S. and it goes without saying that you are an amazing mother. You approach life with wit and humor and love and honesty. Those things are more important than money, or a home in the right neighborhood. Your FIL is a complete idiot to not realize how special you truly are. R sees its. And so do we.

SiressYorkie said...

Wow. You know, change FIL to MIL, and you've just described the last 11 years of my life with my own Smother In Law. It is soo similar: she doesn't make suggestions to be helpful...she makes them to control and bully. Reading this really made me want to beam over and hug you, drink some wine, and compare miseries.

She actually told us one day (when we were driving her ass all over Scotland) that if we didn't change how we were treating Max, we'd "walk in one day and find him dead". Yeah, she really said that. I've decided that after 11 years, I'm tired of always trying to win her approval, much like you, because obviously it can't be done. So it's war now, and I really don't care what the fall out is.

We should chat sometime...I bet we could come up with some coping strategies. Let's share notes on your Wanker in Law and my Sea Hag In Law and see what we can do to survive...

adrienne said...

Maybe your FIL is related to my dad. If not, they'd probably get along well. You know, thinking of great new ways to be miserable and make people feel awful and stuff. :(

ZantiMissKnit said...

I don't even know what to say to this, besides (((((((hugs)))))))).

Lucinda said...

Life is too short to waste even one minute on that "male" (Love the "he doesn't deserve the title of man" comment!)

Drop him from your life like a hot potato & don't let him back in unless he changes his tune. You sure don't need your kids having him make them feel about themselves the same way that he makes you feel.

Yarnit said...

You and R shouldn't even worry about staying in his good graces anymore. R should tell him that you are preggers again (pineapple for a boy, peace for a girl) and tito finally got his tattoo, beebes got her belly button pierced and there's a llama in the backyard too.
Seriously, be cordial if anything. Stop filtering the info, make stuff up or give them no info. Just focus on your own family, they weren't there for you when it counted.
You are a great mom!