Sunday, May 13, 2007

A Mom's Lament

Today is Mother’s Day.

I awoke this morning to watch a pastor on television discuss how it’s unfair to judge people from what’s on the outside, and I immediately think of my husband’s sister, who has a terrible habit of doing just this. Although we used to be like true sisters, there was never a time when I left her presence that I wasn’t wondering what she would find about me on that day to knit-pick on. She, of course, is perfect. Perfect face, perfect teeth, perfect body. She lives in a perfectly decorated house in a perfectly expensive neighborhood. After my husband and I had a falling-out with her husband (who in my opinion is the farthest thing from perfect, except for maybe being a perfect sociopath), she outwardly decided to tell me whatever she was feeling at any given moment, no matter where we were. A comment was made by her husband and backed up by her that my house was disgusting, and we should clean it up. Now, I admit; I am not the world’s best housekeeper, but there is never a time when anyone is invited here that this house is not as perfect as it’s going to get. It may not be big, but it is charming and cute, and more importantly—it’s happy. When people come over, they never leave. I’d rather visit a comfortable small house and feel welcomed than walk into a museum and not be allowed to sit in the living room. But I digress.

After watching the pastor, I went to church with my kids. This is a new church that they attend with their dad and his wife, and after visiting it on Easter, I found that I enjoyed the general atmosphere and message, and decided to start going on a more regular basis. My ex and his wife were there, as expected. We all kissed hello, and my kids and I sat next to them three rows back from the pulpit. The pastor spoke of prayer and of faith, and toward the end of the service, we were directed to either sit in our seats or go to one of the four stations that they had set up for specific prayer, something they don’t usually do. I walked with my kids over to the “relationship” station, and listened to one of the women of the church as she led a prayer. “Dear Lord, help us to give this problem to You once and for all. Let us understand that we no longer have to carry the burden of it on our shoulders; that You are there to carry it for us and see us through. And dear Lord, if we need to forgive someone, please help us to do so.” I immediately thought of the relationship with my sister-in-law, and prayed to God once more to take this encumbrance from me and to give me the strength and grace to behave like a Christian when I saw her later today for Mother’s Day.

To make a long story short, we all had a pleasant brunch at a local restaurant. My sister-in-law and I sat across from each other, sipping casually on mimosas and making innocuous chatter throughout our meal. As we were all leaving, we stood in a small group by the bar and chatted about upcoming dates and events. My sister-in-law got a look of horror on her face, and said, “We never had a cake for Al today! That’s not right; we were told that we’d have a cake for his birthday on Mother’s Day!”

Okay, I admit it. My house was a mess on May 2nd, my husband Al’s birthday. There is no way on God's green earth that I would've had someone who once told me my house was "disgusting" over in the state that it was in, not to mention the fact that we all had work and school the next day. We decided to keep our celebration to just us and the kids that night, at my husband’s request. After not being able to come up with an alternative date to have a cake for the rest of his family (who were very insulted that they weren’t invited to our little ceremony), we had settled on just bringing one to the restaurant on Mother’s Day. But alas, that was almost two weeks ago, and I suffer from a terrible brain cloud.

Yes, it was my fault. I forgot the cake. I forgot we were even supposed to have a cake. In my mind, we had already had a cake, and his birthday was over and done with. But in my husband’s family, this is some sort of mortal sin. You just don’t forget the cake. Period.

My sister-in-law turned to her mother to continue her rant. “The person who said that they would have a cake for him on Mother’s Day should’ve made sure that they brought a cake for us to sing to him with!” She then turned and glared at me with pursed lips and chevron eyebrows. I stammered a reply, shrugging my shoulders and forcing a giggle as “…I can’t believe I forgot!” dribbled out of my mouth. She rolled her eyes, turned to her other brother and shook her head.

…I decided to leave before behaving like a good Christian was not an option.

Later in the evening, my stepdaughter came home from spending the day with her mom. I was in the kitchen when she came in; she made no effort to come in and say hello to me, so when I saw her sitting at her computer, I offered a greeting. Without turning around, she said, “Oh, hi! Happy Mother’s Day.”

That was it.

Our home is far from your average American household. From what I can tell, we are the only “Brady Bunch” family living in our town. I’m sure that my neighbors have gotten plenty of earfuls and eyefuls when our ex-spouses come to visit the children. Several times a week, my stepdaughter’s mom will come inside my home to spend some time with her. On occasion, she has actually plopped herself down in my stepdaughter’s bed and gone to sleep. More often than not, they just fight as most 14 year old girls will do with their mothers. The only difference is that I’m in the house listening to their argumentative banter, wishing that I was in Bermuda or Belize. Brooklyn will even do on most days.

Recently, when my stepdaughter and her mom came into the house after being in Florida together for five days, the girl stormed right into her room and the mom gave me instructions that she was to be punished until Friday. As I looked at this woman with her new tan, her long blonde hair and her slight body, I felt a twinge of envy. As she left the house to go do whatever in the world it was that she wanted to do with no obligations, I fell into a downright jealous rage. But for the sake of the child and in order to keep the peace, I swallowed my feelings and reminded myself that there were worse problems in the world than me not being able to go wherever I wanted to at the drop of a hat.

Suffice it to say that I am the one who takes care of the motherly duties every day with this child. I pick her up from school. I sign tests. I cook dinner. I fold her clothes. If she needs to be picked up from anywhere, I drop whatever it is that I’m doing and I go pick her up. Yet with all of this, she did not feel the need to get me a card.

I hate to admit it. But I’m hurt…and sad. Her 20 year-old brother called me and told me he loved me. I don't really do much of anything for him. But my stepdaughter didn't even give me a hug.

And so, once again--as I have done so many times--I will take a deep breath and try to reason away why people are the way they are. And with a little luck, I will come to a conclusion that is probably not true, but makes me feel better, anyway.

31 comments:

A Who said...

Wow! Wowwee....See, that's the one and only good thing about our current situation: NO FAMILY DRAMA. I mean, we have a little bit, but not much since there is only "my side' here. Wow. Didn't you just want to jab a fork between your sister-in-laws eyebrows?

Your step daughter needs a big ol' heavy-handed, guilt-trip of a talking to -- from both your husband and you.

(I have no idea if I was supposed to use hyphens or not and I am too tired to check...please pardon!)

Carine said...

Oh Lisa, all family's need at least 1 like this. I'm so sorry you had 2 to contend with at the same time. I too had my lovely mother-in-law who is a real treat. Then there's my daughter's MIL-I've never been anything but nice to her, complimenting whatever she does and in return she's always muttering some nasty thing under her breath. Like I said, I think it's a law that every clan must at least have one royal pain in the neck.
I say,ignore them and move on.

simply me said...

You are such a big person in my eyes, but I do tell you this everyday. Forget being a good Christian - you are by far a better human being than most - but I tell you this too. Not mentioning names,L,,,,,e is a petulant, spoiled brat and her niece needs a good spanking. I love how her mom dishes out the discipline that now you must carry forth....what freaking nerve.
Happy Mothers Day to my beautiful, kind hearted friend. I Love You...

Lisa said...

Patty,

You have "Lisa Syndrome." We're always worried about being judged, even about whether or not we hyphenated!!

...probably because we've felt the sting of judgement one time too many. And we're sensitive.

Thank you for commenting, and I know your situation will work out for the best. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy...

xo
Lisa

Lisa said...

Carine,

The funny thing is, she was never the one I had trouble with...it was her miserable husband (who's, um, "away" for a while, so at least I haven't had to deal with him). It seems that she took over being a butt-head for him when he left!

Hope you had a great Mother's Day!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Maria,

You are my biggest fan, and I love you. You make my world a brighter place, because you remind me on a daily basis that I'm worthwhile. Everyone needs a friend like you.

xo

Helen Burton said...

Hi Lisa:

What a gift you gave yourself by leaving the restraunt. Whenever I am annoyed at either one of my daughters, I compliment them and sure enough they put a smile on their face. The whole envirnment changes. It took my years to figure this out.

Helen

Lisa said...

Helen,

My daughter I could see complimenting. She has a human heart!

This person, however, thrives on compliments and kudos and accolades. I spent years trying to convince her every time her husband put her down that she was worthwhile on the inside, not only the outside. She is too shallow to realize this, and judges everyone on appearances first. If their outward look is acceptable to her, she will then usually go for the jugular if the person shows one ounce of being a decent human being. Bottom line, as beautiful as she is, her husband has kept her insecurity on it's toes all of these years.

I do agree that compliments help to diffuse situations, and I have no problem telling someone something nice about themselves (especially if they are down). But in all honesty, I don't see anything much to complement her on anymore. It's a very sad situation!

Mark said...

The world of step children as well as our own children is very interesting. I think that we are sometimes more sensitive to some things that they do or not do because they are our step children. We may even catch ourselves saying, "well ... things would be different if that was my child", maybe they would, maybe they would be worse, who knows? Anyway, Happy Mothers Day! I am sure that she loves you even though she dosen't always show it at the appropriate times.

simply me said...

You are worthwhile - You don't need me to tell you this...because everyone who is lucky to know you, knows it too

Big Dave T said...

I think Mother's Day often mirrors motherhood itself. Great expectations, but reality is so often different. I've seen that in Mother's Day blogs I've been reading, your's among them.

Had a sad experience myself on Mother's Day. Some stupid robin built a nest in a corner of our porch overhang that overlooks our patio. Not the best spot, especially since she fled the nest anytime we went out into the backyard.

Still, I was looking forward to baby robins. (I counted two eggs) The mother sat diligently morning and night, sometimes standing over the eggs and checking them. Then on Mother's Day, the nest for some reason collapsed to the ground. I guess there will be more nests, and more eggs for this bird, but I felt a little sad nonetheless.

Matty said...

Awww! Poor Lisa...what a miserable day you had!
You mean to tell me your husband has a sister who's 'Little Miss Perfect'...do they come from the same parents??
She sounds like someone I would just love to meet when I'm having a bad day. That woman needs an attitude adjustment big-time.
A lot of people who want to look perfect to the world are trying to cover up their imperfections.

I heard Kacey has a sister-in-law just like that.
I don't think that woman has any idea what disgusting is! You can't have a perfect home when you have children and a busy lifestyle.

Good God! If she came to visit me she would think my house is a write-off! I'm organized, clean and like a certain amount of order in my house, but it's lived in, comfortable......and yes,,people drop by and don't want to leave....sometimes for weeks!
People are not afraid to kick off their shoes and curl up on the couch..and I get my share of spilled everything.
Our home is comfy and happy and loud......but alas, it wouldn't pass Martha Stewart's test.
The grandkids have friends over almost every day and they don't want to leave. They are always calling their parents to ask if they can stay for dinner or an over-night.

You really must blog about the husband.....we need to know more about this sociopath...and why you call him that.
Someone said...'Let them eat cake!' well guess who would wear the cake?
I know..I should control my temper a bit...but that is abuse. You're not a door mat.

Lisa...about your stepdaughter. I've been through the teen years with my sons..and its not an easy time.
She's 14, thats a very selfish age, the 'me' time of their lives. I don't think she was even aware that she hurt your feelings. On top of that arguing with her mom..peer pressure...kids today have more stress than we ever did..combined families...hormones...maybe she had a bad day.
Don't take it so hard. Remember your teen years..when nobody understood us...we were trying to find our own identity?
Just let it go!
Easy for me to say...I know what I'm like. I'd wait for a quiet time...girl-time...ask her about her life...and quietly tell her that my feelings were hurt and she has to pay the price. A big,back-breaking bear hug! Sometimes thats all it takes.
Right now I think you need that hug!
(((hug)))Have a great week!

Lisa said...

Mark,

I do know that my stepdaughter loves me. My kids usually complain because they say I favor the stepkids! They say I never yell at them. Which is probably true, I do walk on eggshells. But I don't ever allow myself to think, "Things would be different if..." on basically anything in my life (okay, well maybe I say that about money), because it is what it is right now! She's a stunningly beautiful girl who has the world at her feet (and probably half the boys in school). But she is in 8th grade, which is an amazingly selfish time of life (I remember from my own daughter)!

I'll have to blog about something positive, because there is so much in our family that I am thankful for. I was just having a bad day! ;)

Lisa said...

Maria,

I love you. I know your Mother's Day was right up there with mine! You are so gracious and understanding. I need to have some of that rub off on me sometimes!

xo

Lisa said...

Dave,

UGH. I hate sad animal stories. Now I'm going to be thinking of that poor robin all morning. Thanks a lot. (just kidding...although I did let out a big "AWWWWwwww!" when I read it--that really is a sad story)!

I have come to believe that most animals do feel some kind of emotion (if they feel angry enough to fight with each other, they must feel affection, too), even birds. We all know that dogs do!

I hope that she learned her lesson and builds elsewhere...maybe it's not too late in the season for some more eggs!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Matty,

The story of my brother-in-law would take two days to write. Maria knows what happened, she helped me get through it. He's a pathological liar and my sister-in-law knows she can't trust him as far as she can throw him. But he's so narcissistic, he's convinced her that he's the be-all and end-all of men and that she's lucky to have him. And my sister-in-law only wants the best.

He's done rotten things to her even while he's in jail, but she deals with it (and when I tell you she's beautiful, I'm not kidding. One guy met her in CVS and then took out an ad in the local paper trying to find her). She loves his bulls***. That's what she thrives on. She ignores the 99% of him that's evil, and concentrates on the 1% of bulls***.

I don't really know if I can post about what happened. The post would take an hour to read, and I'm not sure who would read it eventually and freak out. It is one interesting story. I've often thought of writing a book about it...but in my book, there's a happy ending. And I just don't know if that's going to happen in real life.

Thanks for the hug!! Hope your Mother's Day was wonderful!

Take good care,
Lisa

Kacey said...

As to your sister-in-law (who is a dead ringer for mine), you have to stop letting her ruin your life or you will still be hurting when you are 71! You should have said that Al decided that he didn't want the extra calories, so he said "NO!" to a cake. Perhaps, she could just sing Happy Birthday for him right there in front of everyone, while sitting on her broom. Then you and Al could stand there and laugh. We (you and I) have to start calling these *itches on their one upsmanship. (Is that a real word?)
Then about your step-daughter---get over it! You know she cares about you, but probably feels disloyal showing it on Mother's Day. Also, she is fourteen, for cryin' out loud --- everyone knows that fourteen is the pits. You could bundle up her laundry and tell her to take it to her other mother, since mothers love to do those things themselves. I certainly would never ground a child for the week for an infraction that happened on her moms watch. You need to tell her "real mom" that any punishment meted out by her, needs to be handled on her weekends with the child. Egads Lisa! You are one of the neatest people I know (neat meaning cool---not tidy), so stop letting other people change your opinion of yourself! Hugs for you---Kacey Oh, yeah --- I have a Mother's Dayh Post, too.

Desiree said...

Were you by chance watching Joel Osteen? I watched a wonderful Sermon by him the other night and that was his topic. I was impressed by what a talented sermon he led!

Lisa said...

Kacey,

This sister-in-law and I used to be very close. She always knew that I was "onto" her when I'd catch her admiring herself in the mirror making all sorts of faces...I'd laugh and tell her to get over herself, and she'd laugh with me and joke about how well I knew her. She just has a crappy husband who never appreciated her for herself. Oh, he'll tell her he appreciates her--he'll buy her expensive things, or do something out of the ordinary for her--but it seems that he only does this when he's caught doing something dispicable.

Also, I think she's gotten by on her looks her whole life...it's what she was identified by, always. So somewhere along the way, she forgot about developing her insightfulness and her inner beauty. She can be kind when she wants, but her bitchiness comes through a lot more often now, and it ain't pretty!

As for my stepdaughter...I've never tried to be in competition with her mom, just as I would hope that my kids' stepmom wouldn't be with me. But I do get annoyed, as any human would, that the mother has a very free-spirited life and I'm stuck dealing with life's realities. I adore my stepdaughter; I always have. I know she loves me as well. Fourteen is the most selfish age on earth for girls, so I'm sure someday she'll appreciate what we do for her!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Desiree,

How'd you guess? ;)

As I've mentioned to you before, his book "Your Best Life Now" was a lifesaver for me. He's a very fair man, very kind and I like the fact that he "fell" into evangelism instead of choosing it, as a lot of narcissistic, power hungry people do sometimes. He really seems to be there because of his love of God and his desire to help people.

I have many cd's of his sermons (I listen to them while I'm driving), and I find that his message is always pertinent to what people go through emotionally on a day-to-day basis. I've looked at so many things in a new light because of his words, and my husband has even quoted him back to me, which is quite funny if you knew my husband ("Well, Joel Osteen said that you shouldn't feel that way, weren't you listening?")! I always believed in God, but now I feel that God actually likes me, as opposed to when I used to think that he was ashamed of me. Makes a big difference in your life, I'll tell you that.

Thanks for stopping by!

Take good care,
Lisa

LZ Blogger said...

Lisa ~ I am a little late... but I hope you had a Happy Mother's Day?" ~ jb///

Betty said...

Dear Lisa,

It's unbelievable that you and Kacey are afflicted with such similar sisters-in-law! Too bad you had to be in her presence on Mother's Day. And I can imagine how disappointed you were about your stepdaughter's lack of appreciation for you. And your house sounds mighty inviting to me- I'd like to spend a few days there right about now!

Hugs,
Betty

Lisa said...

LZ,

Why thank you, kind sir! You're always very thoughtful. Gonna try to get by and see where you've been in the recent past when I have some time...I've had a crazy couple of weeks, and I could use the "escape"!

Lisa said...

Betty,

I know, it's very ironic, isn't it? She gave me some sage advice about learning how to deal with it, or I'll still feel this way when I'm 71. I can't even imagine that. I don't want to feel this way next week!

Hope all is going well in your neck of the woods. I'll be by this weekend to see what's new!

Take good care,
Lisa

Loving Annie said...

Good Friday morning Lisa. How are you doing today ?

That is a shame. She definitely needs a talking to.

Just as she wants to be valued and appreciated for who she is, you need that too.

She's old enough to understand that love and respect is a two-way street.

Loving Annie said...

p.s. that was in regards to your step-daughter.

p.s.s. I DO want to hear the story about the perfect sociopath !

Sorry sister-in-law vents her pettiness onto you.

Lisa said...

Loving Annie,

My stepdaughter is a good kid...she just misses the mark sometimes because of her age. As I've said before, I know that she loves me...but it would've been nice to get a card. Hey, I got one last year!!

As for the story about the sociopath...I would have to do an anonymous blog. I've already said too much on here...if my SIL ever read anything I've said about him, it would start a war all over again!

...But if I ever do it, I will clue you in as to where it is. ;)

Take good care,
Lisa

Summer said...

Lisa, Happy Belated Mother’s Day!! Sorry I am late in reading this great ranting post...i could feel your pain but since you are the adult in this family, I expect you to be forgiven and brush it off as a teenage thing! Your step daughter is only 14 and kids at this age are moody, selfish and sometimes over sensitive....so give her any excuse you like! Know in your heart that she means well and she will realize it once she is older....i hope!
Have a wonderful day.

Lisa said...

Summer,

I've forgotten about it already. ;)

You're absolutely right...this is a tough age. But from experience, I know that every year, they get a little bit better!

Hope your mother's day was wonderful!!

Take good care,
Lisa

Loving Annie said...

Good Tuesday morning Lisa !
Just checking in to see how you are doing this week --

Loving Annie said...

Hope that you have a good Memorial Day weekend, Lisa ! Looking forward to reading your news ! Whether it is something that made you happy or made you sad or made you angry, you always bring up truths, and insights, and things well worth thinking about --