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, or am I being realistic?
Dear Anxious Mother • 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, and have the sense not to pass under-informed judgment on the way people raise their kids, 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. Protect your cub. Be fierce.
Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.