Sunday, November 19, 2006

My family is insane. Episode #2159

A couple of months ago, Geekman and I got an invite to a good friend's wedding in New Zealand at the end of January. My mother's birthday is on the 12th of January, and it's a big one this year, so she is planning a huge party. We really can't afford to go out twice in one month, but neither can we really justify taking the necessary time off to stay out there for so long (more than two weeks) right after Christmas/New Year, with me being six months out from my thesis submission date, and when Geekman will have just started his new contract.

So we called my mother and asked her about the possibility of holding her birthday party one week later. And there were tears. And accusations. And we couldn't possibly imagine how important it was to her to celebrate on the actual date and have her family around her for her first birthday since her marriage broke up. So we thought a lot about how important the wedding was to us, and finally decided to bite the bullet and take the two and half week trip. At least it would mean we could spend a nice long time in Christchurch with my mother, and she wouldn't feel abandoned at such a stressful time of the year.

A couple of weeks ago, my mother announced she would be going away a few days after her birthday. She has been invited to a cousin's wedding up North (which Geekman and I am not invited to), and although she usually can't stand that side of the family, she would like to go. Turns out my father is going on holiday around then too. So our extra couple of weeks in New Zealand are going to be useless in the sense of accruing family brownie points to be redeemed next time we don't want to come over.

This made us grumpy for a while. When you are traveling in from overseas for an inconvenient period of time at someone else's insistence, you expect them to make an effort to be in town. But we got over it. Decided instead we will set off a lot earlier than expected to the town where our friend's wedding is being held, and will hang out with all our old friends who will be coming from all over the globe for the event.

So we double-checked dates and arrangements with my mother,* and on the Thursday just gone, we booked our tickets. We got a good deal, but with the corresponding restrictions on date changes or cancellation. Last night I called my mother to tell her I had booked the flights.

"That's wonderful, darling. And the plans for my party are going ahead well too. Except that we've changed it to the 14th, instead."
Stunned silence from my end of the phone.
"Your brother couldn't make it on the Friday night. Something to do with work."


"You really have to hold your birthday party on the 12th?"
"Okay, okay."


Propter Doc said...

woah! Oh! You gotta love her. There is nothing else to do or say because you will go mad. I feel for you, I really do and I know how I'd react in a similar situation (which is just the sort of nonsense my mother would pull). Aw, that sucks!

Helen said...

"Since you were insistent that we be with you on the twelfth to the point that we make considerable personal sacrifice to do so, we will be there on the twelfth, but we will not be available on the fourteenth."

Then get out of town on the fourteenth and go do something fun.

Helen said...

And remember, she jerks you around because it works for her. If you want it to stop, asking nicely is never going to work. The only thing that will work is to stop making it work for her.

Telling her she gets x trips for you to go see her totalling y days over the next z years and there will be no more no matter what may help. Start small if you do that -- "We can do one trip to NZ in the next x months/years. Are you sure you want this one? Because there won't be any more."

StyleyGeek said...

Yeah... You are probably right that that sort of response would make her think twice about doing that sort of thing again. But I don't know if I could do that.

I don't think she acts this way out of malice, but just really, really doesn't know how to put herself in someone else's shoes and think about how irritating her behaviour is.

Plus, she's had a hard year. I am making allowances right now.

Maybe I'm too easy-going, but behaving otherwise is just not me.

post-doc said...

I'm sorry - it must be insanely frustrating. But think of how wonderful you'll be able to cope by episode #2250 or so!

Seriously - it's a skill to deal with icky family stuff that's not particularly sensible or fair. Congrats on doing so well with it - I would have thrown fits and that's rarely helpful. I hope you have an amazing trip!

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Sometimes people don't see how they've been a pain in the butt until someone tells them. I'd be very honest with mom and say that you planned on what she insisted and you feel slighted that she'd change for the borther but not for you.

StyleyGeek said...

I think that's good advice, ITPF. I might just take it.