When Jane decided to move up here, we made the decision for her mum to come up too. She was in her late 70s, and wouldn’t have managed on her on. As it is, she barely eats unless Jane makes her something. Often when we’ve been on holidays, we’ll come back to find hardly anything eaten, so moving her up here was a fairly easy decision to make. In some ways, its been helpful. Before Matthew and Daniel were with us, there wasn’t so much need for help. Jane & I both worked full time, but the ironing and cleaning would be done, so it was great. There was also someone to look after the house when Jane & I were away on holiday. Then Matthew and 19 months later Daniel came along.
Initially Jane got a fair amount of help. Grandparents can be a huge help to any parent, when it comes to babysitting and general help around the house. We even got to go out a few times! But, the trouble with Jane’s mum is that over time she has become lazy, and has allowed herself to decline mentally (I’ll not go into detail about my mum, who, despite living just 10 miles away will find all sorts of excuses – usually helping (non-stop) at her church – not to come over and help.) When the boys were babies and toddlers, she was reasonably active, but as they’ve matured, the have become much less dependent on others. In those years, Granny did nothing to find herself any interests. In 10 years, she has made absolutely no effort to develop any friendships. In fact, she is constantly sending text messages to her old next door neighbour. Now, the occasional message fine, particularly in the months after a move, is fine. But constant messages daily 10 years on? I’m afraid to say that time has passed, and life moves on. Here is the environment we are all in. Here is where we need to make attachments to get us through. Over time, Jane has formed friendships in the local area, but not her mum. Even when we saw a plug for a local club for the elderly (a full day, once a week), she claimed to have rung, but it went to an answer machine. That’s code for, “I didn’t bother.” Its because all that is done all day (other than the occasional day when she does the ironing, which is a huge help) is sitting on the sofa from as early as 715am until 10pm. Daytime TV in the afternoon and a mix of soaps and years old repeats of quiz shows in the evening is the daily dose of mental stimulation. All that has lead to a steady mental decline. Its not that we’ve done nothing. We try and encourage her to engage with others in the local community, to no avail. My mum will invite her out to lunch now and again, but usually she won’t even answer the phone when we’re not here, so that will fall on deaf ears.
What has resulted is someone who makes no effort during the day, and has not prepared at all for the boys growing up. In was inevitable that they would grow away from her as they matured, found other interests (Daniel loves playing Lego Star Wars on the Wii now, not playing made up games with Granny) – and that they are out of the house from 845am until 345pm. She has become much more intolerant of them, purely because she is so jealous that they don’t want to play with her anymore. And its all because no effort has been made to meet the boys half way. She makes no secret of her dislike – I’d almost go as far as to say hatred – of Star Wars. She doesn’t hold back from telling Daniel so either. Is it any surprise then that he has withdrawn from her almost completely? Cue constant baiting of him to give her the opportunity to tell him off. On occasion, it gets so bad that we have no option but to remove Daniel from the room because of his behaviour. Its not fair on Daniel to do so, but we have no option.
One of the things that is said to him when he plays Lego Star Wars is that she will leave home. Its a completely empty threat, as she lives so comfortably with us. And where would she go? But Daniel is aspergers, and he will take that literally. Initially, he was worried about it, but he hears it so often that he pretty much ignores it. He tells us of course, and it is denied. I think she forgets they are growing up, and they will tell us when these things happen. We’re constantly telling them that if they experience bullying in or out of the school, tell us. So they do. And bullying it is.
Well today it was Matthew’s turn – for the first time – to be on the receiving end. He put on Skylanders on the Wii in the living room, a game he loves. As soon as it went on, the huffing and moaning started. I don’t know if she was aware I was in the room (Jane and I were in and out tidying the cupboard under the stairs) but suddenly Matthew became highly agitated. Jane asked what was wrong, and he said over and over that Granny said she would be leaving the house – all because he played Skylanders. Matthew is ASD, and takes EVERYTHING literally. He was clearly upset. But when Jane asked him what was said, Granny just sat there, all innocent. Now, Matthew is a terrible liar, and is incapable of making something up on the spot, so we know what he said was true. But if you ask Granny, there is complete denial. Its Matthew (or usually Daniel) who is lying. Its not just that though. What’s annoying is the constant chipping at then, and the huffing coming from the sofa. Well, if you don’t like what someone is playing/watching, either try to develop an interest for their sake, or find something to do. But years of inactivity has led to this, and it looks impossible to break out of it. In the meantime, Matthew and Daniel are suffering, and we (Jane mostly as I’m out at work Monday to Friday) get no support. I’m so envious of other parents we know locally who have such active and helpful parents. Two we know can leave their kids with granny to go off on holidays. So jealous!
We’ll keep going though, but if you’re bored, do something about it. Don’t take it out on children who are psychologically unable to defend themselves.