Setting boundaries with parents/grandparents - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 01-05-2011, 08:18 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm getting ready to write a letter to my mother about this, but I'm also really hoping to find someone else out there who has already done this to see what sort of words are best to be used.  


My mother came for the holidays, and gave our little 2 yr old girl some gifts that were, frankly, rather traumatic for me to see (children's religious books and a stuffed Teddy bear that sang a religious song quite loud and obnoxiously).  I grew up with her and in a religious school where their particular fundamentalist ideas were hammered into me in an abusive way.  


I've always known that I was going to have to set a pretty firm boundary with her about this, and this is the time....she really set me off this time.  I didn't say anything while she was visiting, but would rather deal with it in a letter (she lives across the country from me).  I've already had experiences with her trying to be honest and set boundaries on the phone and it was pure hell.  She's in a fairly healthy place right now mentally, about as good as she ever seems to get (struggles with depression a lot)...I do somewhat fear 'sending her into another depression' but I also know that *I* don't cause her depression....and I just don't care so much anymore....I am determined to set this boundary and believe it is very important.  


As far as my own spirituality goes, I've been avoiding discussing it with her for as long as possible.  I still wish to reveal as little as possible to her, but still give her enough of an explanation so that she can adjust her behavior accordingly.  


So...basically what I want to tell her is that we don't appreciate her launching into pre-meal prayers with out asking...especially in public, but, basically, we don't want her praying out loud around us at all ... we prefer to ask the blessing at dinner ourselves, if at all, and we don't do it at breakfast or lunch.  She has launched into these before and its very uncomfortable and I get scared to even sit down to a meal with her, or go out for one with her.  


The other thing is to ask her to limit her gift-giving to us, and esp. our daughter, to non-religious, non-spiritual gifts, unless she runs them by us first, knowing that we will likely disapprove of them.  


I know its going to be hard on her...when she is feeling "mentally well" unfortunately she gets more into proselytizing us... she will likely say things like "this is who I am and you aren't letting me be me!"  (this is what she often says if I try to set a boundary with her and make a request that she change her behavior around me).  (she is also an alcoholic and has a hard time with boundaries).


If anyone else has already said these sorts of things to their parents, I would love to see some of the wording! Also, please feel free to PM me if you want to have a more detailed discussion, I would love it!  


Thanks so much!  

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#2 of 6 Old 01-05-2011, 09:45 PM
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Honestly, and I have BTDT- I wouldn't write the letter.  It tends to 'feed the fire' and then the other person gets defensive and it escalates. 


Remember you have the power over your own life, not her. 


If I could go back and do it over, I would immediately read Toxic Parents by Susan Forward.


Then I would make my own boundaries that I could enforce, and let her know on a need-to-know basis, and then *enforce* them.


Like, you can't stop her from praying, but you can choose

1) not to be around her when she does it

2) not to participate

3) not to allow it around your DC

4) not to allow it in your home


Something like that... The gift thing is trickier, but you obviously do not have to keep/accept anything.  Maybe tell her politely but firmly (broken record style if need be) that your family will not be accepting gifts from her since she cannot accept your family's boundaries (if that's the case).  Then it's over.  No justifying, no more explaining.  Case closed.



Oh- yea for you for living across the country, by the way! 

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#3 of 6 Old 01-06-2011, 01:40 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for your reply, I really appreciate it.  For a letter, I had in mind something short and sweet, just defining the boundaries, and possibly using *I* statements to talk about how *I* feel when she does these things, I don't know.  Then leave it at that.  I know, it could totally backfire, but I've also BTDT, and we survived.  And really, I'd rather she got a bit uncomfortable around us for a while...her 'comfortable' is annoying and offensive!  Anyway, I will definitely keep your warning here in mind as I compose and decide whether or not to send.  I've also thought about sending it to her counselor, who could then give it to her during a session, so she'd have support right there for any hurt feelings she may have.  


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#4 of 6 Old 01-06-2011, 02:23 PM
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her counseling session is for her to use in whatever way she needs.  i would not try to have it delivered that way.


i agree with love.  if you want to send a letter, i think it makes more sense to say what you won't tolerate in your home or around dd.  it's really her choice whether to comply with that (like not praying before meals) or not visit your home.  if she wants to continue visiting your home and continue to do the things you find objectionable, then it's up to you to establish your own boundaries (like not inviting her to your home or not sharing meals with her). 


as for the gifts, i would just say, "please don't give us or dd religious gifts.  i don't want you to waste your money, because we will not accept them" (or will not keep them). 


if you want to explain, because it will make you feel better to do so, then of course say whatever you want to your mom.  i truly doubt it will be effective in any way.  in fact, i doubt anything you say will cause her to change the way she lives her life - it's more like a fair warning before you change your relationship with her (and between her and your dd).  i would bet money that you will be the one who has to do the changing, not because you're wrong, but because you're the one who isn't happy with the status quo.

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#5 of 6 Old 06-22-2011, 10:02 AM
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Although you certainly feel the manipulation behind your mother's behavior, you need to find and acknowledge the good intention behind it.  Like, "Mom, I know you care about us, and want what you think is the best for us, however......".  Regarding the praying, you can't and shouldn't attempt to stop her from a practice she finds rewarding.  Again, acknowledge the good in it, recognizing the benefit she receives from it, and how important it is to  her, and you would "never dream of asking her to refrain from it", but you CAN ask her to pray silently so it does not intrude on your way of life.  You could even have a "moment of silent thankfulness" before meals with her.  You can use the moment to just be grateful to all who had a hand in your meal that day, from the growers, to the pickers, to the truckers who hauled it, etd.  She can pray to her deity.  As for the gifts, I would set a very clear boundary with them using the "when you do- I feel - I want - if then:"  model.  "When you give our daughter gifts we object to I feel disrespected for the way I choose to raise her.  I want ___________ to have things we can all feel good about, so I would like you to not give her anything with a religious undertone.  If you do, we will just throw them away."   Good luck.  It's been a long journey learning to stand up to my mother's judgementalness and manipulations.  It's taken me a lot of therapy, and I even had to become a therapist myself!!!

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#6 of 6 Old 06-22-2011, 10:23 AM
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I wold leave the whole gift thing.  If you don't like them or don't want them just say thank you and pass them on.  You might want to encourage non electronic gifts and be proactive in steering what she gets (dd would so love to get XYZ for christmas/birthday) so that she is distracted from crap (Even when I was a ev-prot I thought most the toys/books/music in Christian marketing was just crap).  If your mom asks what happened to them tell them dd just wasn't interested so you passed them on.  Eventually she will start asking what kinds of things your child IS interested in.


The praying you might want to address.  You can still approach it from a positive place.  Perhaps suggest that this is something you prefer for everyone to do of their own accord in your home/when you are in public (for public prayer bringing up the scriptures about the publican and the pharisee is always a good approach.  Tell her you feel it is scripturally wrong to pray publicly in restaurants and stuff and it is hard for you to not feel judgmental towards the pharisitical attitudes of those who make a show of prayer in public and that you would hate to lead anyone into sin by pridefully making a big deal out of praying in public....)

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The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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