I have a great job making documentaries. I also have two gorgeous twin girls who are fantastic acrobats and so far have won every competition they’ve gone in for.
But is my mother the slightest bit interested? Absolutely not. When I visit her of course I ask what she’s been doing and who she has seen and she drones on for ages telling me in minute detail about anything from a TV programme to her experience in the local supermarket.
She very rarely asks about me or the children so I try to keep her up to date instead. But she is not the slightest bit interested. She doesn’t question a word I say or make a warm comment. Instead she pretends to suddenly remember another dull anecdote that I have to listen to.
She needs to be the centre of attention no matter what. She wants every conversations to be about her.
I realised over time that she is jealous of the work I do and hearing about it makes her feel inadequate. My twins aren’t bothered if she doesn’t talk to them. Like many children they are excited when something good happens or they win another competition but less keen to talk about it to someone who doesn’t listen. Recently I’ve tried just listening to her and not saying much and cutting my visits down to about thirty minutes. I manage it but I often burst with rage when we leave that she is so disengaged with her own family.
Should I ignore what she does or tell the children what an awful person their grandmother really is?
It is both tedious and infuriating to listen to someone talk incessantly about themselves. If it was anyone other than family you would probably not bother to go and see her. Not only does your mother need to be centre stage her patent lack of interest in you and your daughters is extremely hurtful. It is not surprising that you react as you do when you leave her company.
You are correct that her behaviour stems in part from jealousy, probably because of her own lack of achievements or dissatisfaction with her life. But it’s also possible that she boasts about you and her granddaughters to her friends and neighbours but will not congratulate you or share how proud you are.
You have started to change things which is a good idea because she is unlikely to alter her behaviour. Your girls are at an age where they do not seem to mind her lack attention but this may change as they get older. We recommend that when they start complaining about her that you give them honest answers. Don’t bring up your own painful experiences but use what they say to help them understand a little of what she is like. In other words let them find their own way with her. They have not grown up immersed in her toxic care so will not suffer as you have.
When you visit make a mental list of ways to interrupt her flow of words by, for example, offering to make a cup of tea or point out an interesting bird in the garden. Meanwhile keep your own expectations of her realistic and enjoy your daughters.