The Matriarch

When I first became a Mother and my 8lb child careened out of me like a bat out of hell – my entire body felt a shock like no other. What’s interesting about this part of the story is that I never experienced the same sensation with my other two daughters.

It was as if a lightning bolt had gone through my whole body to announce nothing would be the same again. I had been metaphorically electrocuted by my daughters arrival and reset as a different person. The days that followed showed me that despite my persistence in the previous 6 years that I did not want kids; I wanted her all to myself forever.

She was and is my baby; I will always protect her, her sisters and have their backs no matter what.

As she grew into a toddler, close family (mainly her fathers) would comment on her energy levels and the fact she didn’t sit still nor did she really “cuddle” with anyone aside from myself and her dad. She had boundaries even as a small child and if she didn’t want to hug someone or accept their kisses; I didn’t make her. This seemed to annoy some of the grandparents but they were more concerned with how she seemed to beat to the sound of her own drum.

I knew almost right away she was just like me – spirited in every sense of the word.

I had trouble sitting still as a child and had a very creative imagination. I loved to put on plays, performances and dance. I was loud and sometimes bossy; taking my role as Big Sister probably too seriously.

In School, I got into trouble for being a social butterfly; distracting the other children or just being too chatty. A risk-taker even then; my 1st grade teacher referred to me as “cheeky” although I know she had a soft spot for me.

Even as a small child I spoke up for myself and if I didn’t agree with something; I’d make a point as to why I didn’t. This would eventually be the source of my troubles between my mother and I who has admitted she’s always found me to be frustrating and doesn’t think she can ever change her behaviour towards me for that.

I knew a long time ago; long before I became an adult myself that if I did have kids of my own – I’d be nothing like how she was to me. This became evident when I became a mother for the first time as she seemed to stay away on purpose. She constantly said my baby was too attached to me and seemed disgusted by how much I loved being a mother. Of course she blamed me for that somehow; once again referring to me as difficult and hard to get along with but she’s a minority.

No one had used those terms ever to describe me because I am actually a very laid back person – which was the thing that annoyed my ex-husband most ironically enough. It was not until I tried to leave that my ex-husband and his family started referring to me as a “crazy, psycho.” This did not align with my personal history with friendships; relationships with the opposite sex or even with my friends parents.

Well what do you expect? It’s when you try to take children away from their Mother – a negative reaction is almost guaranteed and they will try to use whatever they can get – against you. Document everything.

Throughout my childhood I had collected and saved things for my future daughters.

There was a Christmas dress with exquisite white lace trimmed with silver and blue velvet. My dad had taken me to Burlington Mall when I was 5 years old and I picked that dress out myself. I remember that memory fondly and it’s one of the only ones I have left of him and I.

Then there was all of my dance costumes, awards and pictures so I could show them what their mom was really like growing up. I also kept some sentimental toys that had been given to me mostly by my Grandparents. When I moved out of my childhood home in 2010; I took almost everything that meant something to me including all of my Father’s mementos, papers, pictures and funeral cards. If I had left them there; they would have been lost or destroyed.

I have hung onto these things as if they are real memories that I can pass onto my daughters. I think I saved all that stuff so I could be able to say: “See! I had a normal childhood after all! There were these things given to me from people who actually loved me.”

“The Red Cape” is a perfect example of how I’ve kept things even though I didn’t exactly love what it was but clearly hung onto what it represented. The Red Cape is fleece with black trim, a hood and it came with one of those black, purse-like hand warmer things that you wear like a necklace. It looks adorable on my oldest daughter and she loves to wear it.

My grandmother had given it to me for Christmas when I was 10 years old. It wasn’t something I’d ever wear to school because even then it wasn’t “cool” and my friends would have teased me. I never told this to my grandmother. She picked it out for me because she loved it and wanted me to love it too. I could barely hide my disappointment and embarrassment when she pressured me to wear it.

Even worse was when I’d show up for my weekly visits and she would get semi-annoyed that I never wore the cape. There were a handful of times she became frustrated herself and straight up said I didn’t like the cape she chose. I would never tell her that though because I’d be terrified of upsetting her so I’d lie and say I wore it to school; forgot it there. Sorry.

I always wondered why as a child I would tell ridiculous white-lies but that was explained to me in Treatment: I was terrified to tell the truth.

By the time I hit 11-12; she had already noticed I preferred hanging out with my school friends rather than have sleepovers and pool time. I was changing and she didn’t like it. She would act rude towards me and embarrass me all the sudden like the time she scolded me in front of the entire family for not wearing a bra. I was 12 and had nothing but bee bites and no one had said anything about me needing one until she did at that moment.

In one of her letters to me in 1996 while I was away at Summer Camp; she very passively but aggressively mentioned that I barely had any time for her any more now that I was so busy with my friends. Was this true? Sort of – I was also a Competitive Dancer at the time; practicing up to 30 hours a week after school. Sometimes even more if it was competition season. I had other things taking me away of course but I was naturally growing up as well. The guilt from her made me feel anxious.

There have been so many times I’ve wanted to ask her: “Did you choose me in particular to love the hardest so I wouldn’t turn against you when I finally learned the truth?”

Growing up; I called all of my Mother’s friends “Aunt and Uncle” and they were a constant in my childhood. After my Dad died; one by one – they all fell off the face of the earth. The remaining “Auntie and Uncle” stuck around for most of my life but I was always terrified of them too.

As a child, no one in my family had any boundaries and I knew everything about everyone. My Mother had no filter when it came to gossip – Family, friends, didn’t matter. If someone upset her; they became an enemy. My father wasn’t like that at all anyway but he wasn’t alive to maintain a strong relationship with his side; strong enough so I could see how dysfunctional things actually were.

As a child, you don’t want to believe your parents and grandparents are capable of wrong-doing, bullying or even being mean. Any time I voiced an opinion that didn’t jive with hers or theirs; mainly hers – I would pay for it. Withholding love and affection came very easily for my Mother and it was her best punishment.

It’s not like I didn’t have any glimpses of my other side but my Dad’s parents were so terrified of pissing my Mother and her family off. They were scared if they did something she didn’t like; they would never see us again. When my Dad died in 1991; there should have been opportunities for my brothers and I to properly grieve with our Dad’s family.

Every get together, Family Reunion, a church mass in his honour, anything that was ever mentioned or suggested – came with some negative furry from my Mother that my Dad’s family hated her and that they weren’t even loving Grandparents the way hers were – they were just all about money.

She would often get frustrated with them and talk terribly about the realities of what would have happened had our Father lived and she had died. If this had happened – she said: “Your dad would have moved all of you kids there and you would have never seen him! You would have been raised by your Oma and Opa and it would have been terrible.”

When she had to choose someone as a potential guardian in case something actually did happen to her – she named her Brother and his wife who at the time were childless. It occurred to me much later in life had she died and had we ended up with them – we would have ended up with people who have no biological connection to us whatsoever.

Thank god that never happened. I was so happy to turn 18 so I’d never have to worry about that.

There was never any thought about us kids and what our future looked like. Our Dad’s parents did everything they could to secure our future by saving for our education; making sure we had money put away, among other things. Not once did they ever speak badly of our mother to us nor did they ever try to manipulate us for information about her.

Although this was hard for them considering what happened to their Son; they loved their grandchildren more and it was just not worth it.

However my mother never forgot their perceived slights about her and never promoted them as being good grandparents to us or for us. Her family was always on a pedestal and our access to our Dads side of the family was completely controlled by her.

My Oma is 97 now and I’ve spent the last year saying “Goodbye” to her and healing the pain we both share.

It’s been quite a year; well actually it’s been quite a decade. I had always remained very close with my Cousins, my Aunts and Uncles but we all have our own families now. They respect me for what I’ve been through and they are well aware of what has happened. Through all this; I’ve learned so much about my Dad and the type of Man he was. I also got to finally have a relationship with the Aunt my Mother hated all my life. From her; I’ve learned to reparent myself but also learn more about myself.

I seemed to have forgotten through my addiction that I come from a long line of strong, accomplished women and mothers who would have my back no matter what. That the Family I thought would never accept divorce, drug addiction, depression and rehab – would help me in ways I never thought possible.

My Oma is proud of me for leaving with my kids and being brave. She and I have been able to sit and talk about lots of things that happened or should have been said – right up until February 2020. After her last hospital stay; she became completely different as she enters the last phase of her life. Having the conversations I was able to have; wouldn’t have happened if I had waited any longer.

She held my hand; I fed her dinner and wiped her mouth. It used to be her feeding all of us her amazing soup. She told me so many stories about her Dad, Mom and Step Mom – like how she adored her step mom because she would reward her with treats if she did laundry. My Oma has been one of the most nurturing, loving mothers/grandmothers ever to exist but for so long she wondered what she had done wrong.

She did nothing wrong; I explained. Then we began talking and she began connecting the dots; remembering her instincts and what had actually happened. What we talked about is very personal and I’ll probably never share it on here but it provided me with the final comfort and validation necessary to mend the grief I still carried over my fathers death.

Before all this; she had been falling out of bed and hurting herself. She was frustrated, annoyed and angry for not being able to do anything on her own. After the hospital stay and the advent of Covid – she seems to be at peace. She is finally giving in to the process of ones life ending naturally and is somewhat enjoying her new quarters as best she can.

I have been trained for the role of Single Mother to 3 my whole life. This is my job – raising these girls. It’s my job to protect them and to ensure they are properly emotionally connected to their Grandparents; not used in a game where no one wins.

I couldn’t be OK with a lot of what was happening during my marriage as I witnessed the same cycles repeating themselves. The constant alienation of grandparents against their grandchildren was a constant theme within the confines of my marriage. I knew it was a matter of time before my kids fell prey to the same trap if I didn’t show them how things should really be.

I am the Matriarch now – of my own Family. I’m not going to listen solely to just one person; especially if I can tell they don’t behave in an honest, healthy way.

When I became a Mother myself; I had all of these people giving me advice; making comments or telling me and my ex what to do with our kids. Anything I ever said or did in regards to mothering, parenting, etc. was critiqued or judged. I was so exhausted from being a full-time Banker, Mother and Wife – it became so much easier to just take a pill and shut up.

I realize now I let myself be erased. I was setting myself up really because for the first time in my life – I didn’t fight back or speak up. I just created another life to live in so I could survive in my reality. I went from being a strong, independent, ambitious young adult into a person I don’t even recognize. I became completely dependant on my ex husband and his opinions of me became bible.

All he would have to do in order to cause me great confusion and anxiety was tell me “My Dad/Mom/Sister said we should do it this way” and I’d do whatever he said; even if it felt wrong.

If I didn’t do things to his liking; affection, love and even friendship would be withheld. If I stepped outside of the lines too much; they would make themselves known and I’d be put in my place. For almost 6 years; I barely spoke and had only one face. I came to realize I wasn’t the only one who felt this way but it’s very hard to speak up when you are married to a Family.

One of the last encounters I had with my former Mother-In-Law; which was actually the defining moment in all of this because it was after this incident that Children’s Aid fully supported me was in June 2019.

It was when my Mother, her Husband and my former husband all decided to plan a trip up to the Cottage behind my back; despite me telling them absolutely not. My Ex-Husband concocted this elaborate lie; telling me he was taking the kids up to his Uncles Trailer with his Dad – no women, for an entire weekend.

A few days before; I had the worst anxiety and felt completely unhinged like something was about to happen. I had woken up at 3 am two nights in a row in tears. I felt like someone or something was being done behind my back and it would affect me greatly.

The day before the Trailer Weekend was to occur – my youngest daughter who was 5 months at the time got sick. I took her to the Doctor who said to keep her quiet and she’d probably be very clingy. I did not want her going up to a Trailer with a bunch of men and I told his mother when I got home this.

She already knew what the plan was and while I showered; she told her son he better go talk to me. The two of them were baiting me. She told me I was feeling something for nothing. She specifically called me “paranoid” (duh of course because I consume cannabis) as she sat on my front porch after I specifically said “something doesn’t feel right here” and I think you guys are up to something.

My Mother In Law knew why I was feeling the way I was because she was part of the lie. She was part of the trap to bait me; to make me go insane by compromising my children and my motherly instinct. She had the audacity to say then as well: “I know exactly how things will go in Court and with Children’s Aid” when I hadn’t even been served yet which was the first sign something else was being planned.

How could a Mother do that to another Woman? How could she lie; but then gaslight her own daughter in law when she knew her son was up to no good? She did not care that she was lying, and most likely this would be the end of any relationship we shared. She just wanted me to get so upset that I would hit her son as they recorded me.

That never happened thank god – I walked away and the truth came out a day later.

The only explanation is she is just trapped and stuck in the only cycle she’s ever known. At the centre of it all; there is one person calling all the shots. She had to participate otherwise she wouldn’t be loyal to her son.

She just doesn’t care how it affects her granddaughters and probably still doesn’t but that’s ok. I can only manage how I react and they knew they’d have to do something pretty fucked up to get the “reaction” necessary for Sole Custody.

What is BAITING?:

From: Narc

It’s all about protecting my girls and me as their mother from these cycles that continuously play out in our families and lives. It’s identifying a need for help; support and guidance when you have no one else to turn to.

I also work everyday teaching my girls how to rise above petty bullshit and to make their own decisions, and their own ideas about how things are. I’ve been extremely careful in how I’ve handled this because I do not want my children to fall prey to the same garbage I went through as a child.

That’s why I asked Children’s Aid to remain involved as a support to my family so my children have access to counselling and a reality check outside their family. When you have a set of Grandparents supporting a full blown “all or nothing” custody battle – this becomes necessary and I recommend making it part of your exit plan.

We can no longer make excuses for older generations who just don’t want to change.

We cannot let grandparents, or anyone else in the “Family” destroy the way we want to live our lives. No one is meant to live out someone else’s dreams or operate by their manual. If the children are happy, healthy, safe and thriving – ask yourself why are you so involved?

I know it’s hard to believe someone who was a School Teacher could be that manipulative but I see it in a totally different way. We are all “Living” according to how our parents raised us; what kind of childhoods we had, the trauma, mementoes, memories and events that shape who we are today.

I was addicted to pills because they numbed me and allowed me to perform in my life at an exceptional level. It also allowed me to stay in my reality when all the triggers, trauma and ruminating thoughts came through to remind me of my pain. I just STFU, did my job, birthed babies and lived every day without anyone knowing how much trouble I was actually in.

Everyone sat back and thought it was great. Everyone else got exactly what they wanted from me but I was dying.

We behave in ways that tell a story and that’s how all the professionals involved with me and my kids were able to help and support me. The truth always has a way of coming out and people eventually become exposed for who they really are.

My daughters will become themselves and I will do whatever I can to nurture and guide them.

Much love to you all.

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