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> You have said some very hurtful things to your Mom, and there was never a better time than now to apologize to her, and mean it.

Of course she’s hurt. Unfortunately, it’s not about her. It’s about how she treats other people. I cannot teach my son that her behavior is acceptable, no matter how much I love her. She needs to understand that it’s NOT ABOUT HER. It devastates me that she’s hurt, but apologizing to her is going to completely foil the entire purpose of what I said because it brings it all back to HER and how SHE’s hurt and how SHE’s upset.

I’m not going to do that. You think that I’m not crying myself to sleep? She accused me of being greedy, of being mad at her, of LYING TO HER, and then when I told her it’s not about her, she pulled away. When I reached out to her a couple of days later, she replied with some bullshit nonsense that said absolutely nothing to me except “I’m hurt and I can’t be bothered to respond like an adult.”

Well, guess what? I know she’s hurt, and it sucks. But until she can recognize that her attitude is toxic and abusive, and that I can’t let my child and my wife live with someone like that no matter how much I love and want her to be a part of my life, there’s not going to be any progress made here.

I love Mom. But I had to make the painful decision, after lots of crying and pounding my desk and yelling at my wife, that no matter how awesome and generous she’s trying to be, it’s better for my son, in the long run, to live here and not be exposed to someone with that kind of attitude than it would be to live in a bigger house and be with someone like that every day.

It’s not about her. It’s about her attitude. She can *change* her attitude, and the moment she does, I’d absolutely love to have her back in my life, to whatever degree she sees fit. But until she does, as much as it sucks to have to make the decision, I’m sacrificing my ability to have a mom in favor of raising my child in an environment without that kind of toxic behavior in it.

Time for a true story, courtesy of my wife:

*****
A long time ago, when I was but a twenty-something, my family had a miniature dachshund named Oscar. He was a cute little black and tan with dapples who liked to get into the kitchen and sneak food. And boy was he sneaky!

One day, he managed to climb up onto the kitchen table when no one was home, and steal an entire stick of butter (225 grams for you non-Americans). Unhappy with the thought of having to eat it on the cold kitchen floor, Oscar dragged the butter to our comfy white sofa and proceeded to eat the whole thing, but not before getting a good portion of butter firmly stuck in the fabric of the couch.

When we got home, we found that in a desperate attempt to eat ALL of the butter, Oscar had also eaten a hole through the sofa fabric and through the sofa cushion! And we’re not talking a little hole. No! We’re talking a hole big enough to hide a few hardback books in. There was cushion foam everywhere. The sofa was destroyed.

I was livid. My younger siblings were livid. My mother was livid. But just as I was inhaling to start yelling at the dog and lock him in his kennel, my mother stopped me and said, “Let’s kill the dog.”

I’m not even kidding. I will seriously never forget those words as long as I live. The immediate response of all three of us kids was to move to protect the dog, and look at my mother in complete shock. She looked dead serious!

Finally, after a few minutes of protest (during which time Oscar was still innocently munching on cushion foam), she asked, “Why not?” Well, duh. We love the dog. And my mother in all her infinite wisdom said, “Now you guys understand what happens when I get mad at you. You love this dog. Even when he’s done something so very bad, you still love the dog. But you are angry at what the dog did.”

*****

Mom needs to figure this out. I love her. She’s my mom. I want her to be part of my life. But I cannot, and will not, expose my son to that kind of behavior. I don’t want him to learn that it’s OK to act with zero empathy or regard for other people, and I am *ashamed* of the fact that that’s been the example my mom has set throughout this entire transaction.

* She started the whole thing off with a bid so low that the seller walked away.
* She implied that the real estate agent was incompetent and/or out-and-out working against her on multiple occasions.
* She accused everyone involved of making crap up to over-inflate the value of the home, and continually worked her ass off to “prove” that she was somehow getting screwed.
* And in the end, when I sent her an email asking her if we might actually learn the simple lesson that treating other people like crap doesn’t actually work as a strategy, she not only accused me of being mad at her, but she accused me of being greedy and of LYING TO HER FACE.

That was so incredibly far off the mark and out-of-proportion to the message I was trying to send that I realized that her attitude actually was toxic and abusive. And I’m willing to shoulder that kind of thing if I’m the only one involved — but she’s talking about sharing a home with my family. I will absolutely not have that kind of bullshit rain down upon my son’s head.

I’m his dad. That’s my *job*.

Sending this email was the hardest thing I ever did in my entire life. Five and half years ago, I had managed to impregnate my wife, and so I had this little dude that lived with us and made us laugh and cry and yell. I had been a dad for that entire time — that guy who threw his kid up in the air, played, tussled, and, as much as I hate to admit it, occasionally thwapped him on the noggin when he got really annoying.

We’d been going to a counselor for a few months, because my kid is very active and his preschool teachers were concerned. As a side-effect of looking into his hyperactivity, we had kind of concluded that I was a bit of a douche to my kid sometimes. I vowed to stop, and in fact, I did stop. I haven’t thumped him in almost six months. But that was just “not doing bad”. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I took my first proactive stand to protect my kid from something…and that something happened to be my mother.

We’re poor people — I work from home writing articles for small business blogs, and my wife is effectively disabled, with an unknown disease that has seen her gain weight, albeit slowly, for her entire life, no matter how she eats or exercises. I won’t talk about the effects that being poor has had on our family relationships except to say that my mother and my wife’s father are both archly conservative, and effectively blame me for not being rich on the assumption that being poor is entirely a matter of not working hard enough.

That said, my mother occasionally makes huge gifts on our behalf. She brought me a minivan when I graduated college, loaned us money when that van’s transmission fell out, and is often quite generous with us whenever we meet. (She lives in Florida, and I live in Washington State, so that’s fairly rare.)

Recently, as she’s thinking about her retirement, my mom decided to buy us a house. Or rather, she decided to buy a house and rent it to us, but the net effect is that she was planning on sacrificing more than half of her nest egg so that her grandson could have more than our 650 square foot apartment to run around in. (650 square feet is a bit small for a normal four-year-old, much less a hyperactive berserker like mine.)

We spent months researching, finally found the right place, and everything seemed good, right up until, after having seen the place in person, my mom decided to offer $120,000 on a $180,000 list price. Everyone present, from the real estate agent to my wife’s mom, looked at her like she was crazy, and naturally, the owner just walked away. Didn’t even bother to reply other than to say “my counteroffer is…$180,000!”

Several weeks of back-and-forth later, we had arrived at a price, and during the whole time, my mother basically continuously accused everyone involved in the exchange of everything she could justify and a few things she just made up on the spot. Now, I love my mother, and I’ve never seen her act like this before, so I just assumed that it was panic because she didn’t want to give up her retirement pot. I get that; I’m scared about not having enough money on literally a daily basis. I know what that’s like.

But it’s not an excuse to be toxic and abusive to the people around you — and that’s what happened. In the end, she ended up accusing me of a few particularly nasty things like trying to take thousands of dollars from her and lying to her about and on legal documents, and after I had finished crying for a couple of hours, I had this profound revelation.

I realized that I didn’t want my son to ever feel like this. I realized that my mother’s genes are in me, and I recognized that some of my behavior was very similar to hers. I realized that I don’t want my son to grow up with a father who treats him the way my mother treats me. And I also realized that I don’t want him to grow up with a grandmother who treats him the way she treats me.

So, I made the very first step away from being just a Dad and toward being an honest-to-God Father: I told my mom to take her offer of a house off of the table. It was contingent on the agreement that we allow her to live with us later in life when she needs someone to take care of her, and while I’m perfectly willing to do that for my Mom, I’m absolutely not willing to expose my son to the kind of treatment that she inflicts on the people around her.

To protect my son, I gave up a house. And a Mom, apparently, because she’s given me the silent treatment ever since. That’s apparently a pretty standard weapon in the arsenal of an emotional abuser. I don’t know at what point in my life my mom turned into that kind of person, but I know she’s well into that role now — which is exactly why I had to take my stand.

Having a home and a Mom is not as important to me as keeping my happy, sunshine-y little boy happy and sunshine-y.

My wife, after I sent that email above, walked over to me and gave me a hug. “Welcome to fatherhood,” she said. And as much as that decision was devastating and painful and sucked, I’m proud I made it.

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