Dear Carolyn: I grew up with a mother who was profoundly manipulative, volatile and mean-spirited. My siblings and I all have anxiety disorders for which we have sought counseling. I have distanced myself from my mother and have a happy life with my husband and 4-year-old daughter.
I have begun allowing my mother limited contact with daughter out of my mother’s desire to have a relationship with her. I am comfortable with where the boundaries currently are, but my mother is not. She continually pushes to have my daughter for weekend visits (she lives several hours away).
I do not believe she would overtly harm my daughter, but she can “fly off the handle” when upset and has very different ideas than I do about what is “acceptable” behavior from a 4-year-old. My family seems to think I am being unreasonable to hold my mother at such distance. My sister has no personal relationship with her but does allow her to baby-sit her children. Am I wrong not to allow weekend visits?
– Anxious Mother
A: If this is multiple-choice, then I need more choices. Like this: “I refuse to leave my daughter with my mother unsupervised because I am (a) wrong; (b) realistic; (c) not out of my therapeutically reconstructed mind.”
I’m going with (c).
I can’t know what your sister is thinking, but I will spend part of today wondering how a parent too toxic for adults can be safe for kids.
You’ve mulled this yourself, apparently, and come up empty. Trust that. Don’t be sucked in by a manipulative family that has damaged your own mental health. If anything, recognize that you’re within their gravitational field and take a corrective step back.
Mom’s pressuring you? So what. You’re a mother too, one who knows the harm “profoundly manipulative, volatile and mean-spirited” people can do.
Teen should query therapist
Dear Carolyn: In a recent chat, you said it’s helpful for a teen to talk to someone who “doesn’t have an agenda.” My 12-year-old stepdaughter has witnessed a lot of violence against her mother while at her mom’s house, so her dad has her in counseling with a therapist she seems to like.
Recently my stepdaughter has made comments that she doesn’t like some of the things the therapist suggests – that perhaps there are better ways to handle things than violence, and perhaps my stepdaughter does get angry about things. The therapist appears to be a consummate professional. But now I’m worried my stepdaughter will think her therapist has an agenda. Do I try to help her see the therapist is unbiased, or do I just stay out of it?
A: Please encourage your stepdaughter to express her concerns to the therapist directly. It’ll be good practice for her in standing up for herself.