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TOXIC FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS (With a Brother-in-law)

I am trying to maintain family connections since my husband's death some 20 months ago, but it is a challenge with his side of the family. My husband was an angry, difficult man and we lived walking on egg shells. It is clear that his whole family is similar.

In the past year or so, the two brother-in-laws who do call, (there are five total), attempted to circumvent speaking with me by continuously calling my son on his cell phone. This started when my son was just 14 and he is now 15. They'd call too early and wake him up from sleep because they would continue to forget that we are one hour behind them. (I've only lived here 1,600 miles from them for 19 years, you'd think they'd remember by now.)   At times they called when my son was at school or at an after school activity. They were playing the game "avoid speaking to our brother's widow."

My son and I teamed up and I began to answer his cell phone, then they finally began to respect my request: Call our home phone when you want to speak to my son.  I explained to my son that his uncles need to show respect for me by going through me to speak with him. Plus, one brother-in-law in particular has been critical of me even though I have done nothing to him. I was a loving, faithful wife to their brother for 20 years 10 months. I told my son that when he is turns 18 and is living on his own, then they are free to avoid speaking with me when they want to talk with him.

I was really frustrated this weekend. I called "D" -  because we had not heard from him, so I just wanted to say hello and then I planned to give the phone to my son. I did not speak with him for long, but it was evident he was in an irritable mood and looking for an argument.  I gave the phone to my son, and it was clear that the conversation was not going well, he ended up arguing with his uncle. My son, who is on the debate team, successfully put his uncle in his place and got the conversation steered in other directions.  My son told me it was clear that his uncle was looking for an argument.

Long story short, this uncle has the emotional sophistication of an 11 year old despite being 51 years old. He is single, has never been married, is moody and bad tempered. He lacks social graces.

One thing my son shared with me was his uncle, once again, was criticizing me and then putting him down as well, which initiated an argument and caused him to use his debate skills. His uncle tried to insult him with "You're a momma's boy." In short, my son told him that he has a right to his opinion, but that his uncles' opinion meant nothing to him, thus, he deflated the insult. My son said to me, "I'm not looking to him for some kind of approval."

My son let the incident roll off because after dealing with his father all of his life, dealing with his uncle was a piece of cake. My son may only be 15 years old, but he far exceeds his 51 year old uncle in maturity and emotional intelligence.

Despite my son's ability to let it roll off,  I have felt angry and frustrated with this uncle for attempting to insult my son by saying "You're a momma's boy!"  I am astounded by his level of ignorance, immaturity, and insensitivity. He is saying this to a  FATHERLESS 15 year old boy whose father DIED of cancer just 20 MONTHS AGO. This uncle is saying this to a child whose only living relative in the entire state of Texas is his mother. If I am the only family he has here, what does he expect? My son and I have a close relationship because we have been through HELL.

Is this uncle so blind that he cannot see that there are no male relatives nearby to fill in the fatherly role?  Since my husband was anti-social, there isn't a family that we associated with all these years that has a dad who would take my son under his wing. I had hoped for it, but it is so transient here that people move away.

I am thankful for the positive male role models at our church where we have been attending for just two years. Plus, I made arrangements  during the past two summers  so that my son has volunteered at the church and been working with a man who volunteers to do the building maintenance. This man supervises a group of teen boys close to my son's age who volunteer their time to take care of the church building and grounds. My son has learned how to hang sheet rock, install a sink, and other similar types of activities. He really enjoys it.

I managed to get my son into a youth summer job program this year. He experienced his first job and the pride of earning his first pay check. His supervisor was a very nice man who told me, "You're son is so respectful and a pleasure to work with."  At the end of the program, we had to drive into downtown to pick up the final paycheck and sign paperwork. The liaison greeted my son warmly and when he shook my hand, this man said to me, "Out of the 500 or so kids in our program, your son is one of our best workers. You are doing something right." I was both humbled and grateful to hear this.  The pastors and laymen at our church have said to me, "Your son is a great kid. We appreciate all that he does here for us." 

I have let me son know about the positive feedback that I have gotten from his supervisor, the program liaison. and the individuals at church. He is a good kid who is beginning to know his worth, yet struggles with the angst of adolescence. I know I may only be his mother and I cannot teach him to be a man, but I am doing my best to give him experiences and opportunities to be around positive male role models because he is fatherless.

Thanks for letting me vent.

~Mariposa

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Comment by Mariposa on August 19, 2013 at 2:42pm

Suz and liz- thanks for your supportive comments. Blessings to you both!

Comment by Suz on August 18, 2013 at 5:10pm

Oh, my. I agree. You are doing a great job of being a mom! I know it is hard to ignore when someone starts to call your son a "mama's boy," but I would try not to give it a moment of your time. It is just a sick comment made by a sick man. As a former debater, I love that your son is using his "debate skills."

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