The last post introduced you to my friend and her husband, The Smiths, and her husband's family, The Dimsdales (and Mrs. Mealy, the grandmother). This one is going to tell the story that started it all. Wait -- that is not exactly true. This post will be about the incident that revealed the true colors of the Dimsdales and Mrs. Mealy. This is NOT the beginning, not really. The beginning was years ago. Keep reading and you'll see what I mean.
Last summer, Mrs. Mealy wanted to have a cookout, so The Smiths offered to host the gathering. Everyone was invited. The Dimsdales declined because they were busy doing some home improvement projects, but they sent their daughter along with Mrs. Mealy. (Now, first of all I would be a little insulted if I was hosting a "family" get together and my family said "No thanks, we're gonna stay home and paint" but my friend wasn't fazed by this.)
As I said in the last post, my friend's daughter and her cousin are pretty close. As the day's activities were drawing to a close, the two of them tried to cook up a scheme to spend the night together. My friend was cool with it, and grandma was okay, but said that the little girl would have to call and ask her mother.
(I should probably point out that although my friend's kids had spent the night with this little girl at their grandma's house and the girls had spent the night together at the sister-in-law's house, The Dimsdale's kid had NOT spent the night at my friend's house except maybe once. Every time it was suggested that this little girl come over to my friend's house, the parent's had an excuse and would say "We'll do it another time." THIS time, however, it was just more than obvious that there was an issue that could no longer go unnoticed.)
So my friend calls her sister in law to see if the little girl can spend the night. Here is basically how the exchange went:
Mrs. Smith: "Hey the girls want to spend the night together. Do you care if [your child] stays over?
Mrs. Dimsdale: "Oh that would be fine, but they can spend the night over here. I don't mind."
"Well, since they are already here, why don't they just spend the night at our house tonight?"
"Oh well it's no big deal if mom doesn't want to drop them off on her way home I can come and get them."
"No, I don't want to send kids over to your house when you have been working all day."
"Oh I don't mind, just send them over here.”
"Well why don't you guys take the night off and go out to eat, and I can bring her home in the morning."
"Well we could, but I really don't mind. It's not a problem you can just send them over here. They can spend the night over here."
"No, I wouldn’t feel right about that since you guys have had so much on your plate with painting. Why don’t you let them spend the night here?"
"Well...put [my child] on the phone."
The little girl got on the phone, and went into the other room to talk privately with her mother. She eventually came back to the room after hanging up with her mother, saying that they would "Do it another time." My friend smelled a rat. She knew that a spend the night party at her house with this kid was never gonna happen, and she wondered what kind of mother would put her kid in a position to be dishonest with another adult -- family no less. The little girl got her things and went straight to the car. My friend confronted Mrs. Mealy, who after a little poking and prodding finally informed her that "Well they don't want her to spend the night because well they are afraid [your son] might pull his pants down and show her his penis and then they might start experimenting with each other." My friend was so appalled she just turned around and walked back into the house. There she found her daughter crying because The Dimsdale's kid had told her the same story, but worst of all her little boy had heard why his cousin was not allowed to spend the night.
Like my friend, I found this more than a little ridiculous and deplorable behavior on the part of adults and family. They are cousins after all, and HE IS EIGHT. It is not like he is a little flasher running around in a trench coat. The Smiths were wondering what in the hell these psychos were talking about. I mean, the kids had not all been together at the Smith's house over night for years, so if any supposed exposure had ever taken place it would have happened either at their house or the mother-in-law's house. The other thing that reeeeallly pissed her off (and would have pissed me off too) was that they had basically LIED to them about it for God knows how long. Yep, for all of their moral superiority, they were big fat liars. Their pants were fully ablaze every time they had said "Maybe next time."
So, my friend was naturally a little obsessed with this situation. We discussed it ad nauseum on the phone and in person. Because the daughter had talked to her cousin and had gotten the low-down from her, the little boy was fully aware that his aunt and uncle were claiming that they were not comfortable with him. It made him sad. It made The Smith's FURIOUS and just flat out pissed me off. This little boy was led to believe that he was "wrong" somehow. Finally (after about 5 days) Mrs. Dimsdale sent her a text saying that she wanted to get together with them and "clear the air" about things. Now, I know that 5 days after a blow up like this seems like a pretty long time to wait -- especially since this is family that we are talking about, so I tried to put myself in this woman's shoes. She is a very religious, and mealy mouthed individual, and she has pissed off what is basically a more volatile and blunt version of me. It would probably take someone like that a few days to get the courage to talk about this. I was trying very hard to play Devil's Advocate with my friend and give Mrs. Dimsdale the benefit of the doubt.
FYI -- I have had a little experience with the whole nudity issue (go HERE for that story). But in my case, it wasn't family, but a neighbor. She called me immediately, we addressed it immediately, and it was over. Immediately. Her kid still comes to my house and my kids are welcomed at her house -- no big deal. So my friend and I decided it was not the nudity that was at issue here.
After discussing and analyzing the situation at length, we reached a few conclusions:
1) The problem isn't really the 8 year old. If it were, then all 3 of the kids would not be allowed to spend the night together with Mrs. Mealy.
2) The problem is more likely my friend and her husband or their parenting style -- in other words they do not trust them to keep the 8 year old dressed, keep the TV tuned to PBS, and keep the computer turned off. The Smiths are of a different denomination than the Dimsdales, and obviously their religion of choice was not "religious" enough for the Dimsdales.
3) The bigger problem is the dishonesty and disrespect shown to my friend and her husband. (The Dimsdales treated The Smiths like they were inferior -- they had a "Well, you know how 'they' are" attitude toward them). The Smiths would have gladly bent over backwards to accommodate any rules that The Dimsdales might wish to have imposed, but they were never asked or given the chance.
4) Then there were the hurt feelings of not just their son, but of my friend -- Mrs. Smith had held Mrs. Dimsdale's hand through her husband's affair. She had helped her find extra work when her husband had stepped out on her. She had watched her kid for her so that she could work those extra jobs. This wasn't just a slap in the face from the sister-in-law -- this was Mrs. Smith finding out that someone who she had thought of and treated as a close friend did not hold her in the same regard. Not even close.
5) Finally, there was Mrs. Mealy. Mrs. Mealy had been fully aware of her daughter and son-in-law's opinions of her own son, daughter-in-law, and their kids but had not said or done anything about it. Seriously, this one took a little longer to sink in for me, but she had betrayed The Smith's trust every bit as much as The Dimsdale's had by keeping quiet.
I had a lot of sympathy for Mrs. Mealy at first. She most likely knew the real reasons, whatever they were, for The Dimsdale's behavior. I could imagine being in her position, standing in her son’s living room having to level with adults her daughter did not have enough respect for or the guts to tell the truth. What was she supposed to say? I had a hard time however, excusing her perpetuating a lie for what had to be YEARS. I know that if this were MY family and MY mother, then at the first whisper of a problem she would have nipped this in the bud so to speak. She would have sat me and my sister down and made us work through whatever the problem was. She NEVER would have lied for either one of us and she would not let us lie to each other. There might be lots of yelling and anger, but it would have been settled fairly quickly -- no way that this level of deception would have gone on and on like this. (Yes, my sister and I are both nearly 40 but you've never met my Mama). Mrs. Mealy is nowhere near up to those standards -- she got very indignant and passed along info that she knew to be a lie.
I think that Mrs. Mealy and The Dimsdales are basically such dishonest people that the way my friend and her husband relate to each other and handle conflict (which is head on and toe to toe) scares the hell out of them. They are intimidated by them and afraid to confront them because they are basically too scared to confront even each other in their own marriage. To treat someone else like they are not even worth the truth is really arrogant The way they tried to pass themselves off as somehow better than the Smiths - better parents, better Christians, better people would have almost been funny if they hadn’t been such two faced liars about it. There is one thing for certain – People who feel the need to assert themselves as morally superior are usually neither. (And we know they are not since their own marriage had been in such a shambles).
Mrs. Mealy doesn't know how to deal with my friend’s intense fury over this and her inaction has been detrimental to the relationship she once had with her daughter in law. She prefers the no conflict dishonest happy-happy-joy-joy policy that her daughter has with Mr. Dimsdale. No yelling, no arguing, no conflict, just quiet judgment of everyone around them while you go and have an affair with the church secretary. I think that her perpetuating this lie was her way of diffusing the situation, but she gave no thought to the long term effects -- it was like putting duct-tape on a leaky pipe. It'll hold for a little while, but it you don't find a more long term solution you're gonna have a real mess.
My friend had already decided that when they met to sit down and talk, she would do her best to remain calm. She was going to do her best to appear accommodating and let them talk. But she would hold them accountable for the way they had character assassinated her son. And if they did not end this meeting with some sort of resolution that allows the little girl to come to her house, then her kids will no longer be allowed to go to their house either, because she did not want her kids to be exposed to this insane behavior any more than necessary. I agreed with her.
If only it had been that easy....
The next installment will be ~The Confrontation~
FYI -- this next part may take several days to get right. While I know the gist of what happened, there are a lot of details in the dialogue that went on that I don't know. Just be patient. My friend has a job and she and I both have families that prevent us from working 24/7 on getting the juicy details all down on paper, and we want to make sure that we get it right. This post took longer than expected because I (knowing the WHOLE story already), had gotten a few things out of order and she had to correct me. Also, I am really bad about interjecting my own opinions and imposing my anger and outrage onto her "character" in all of this, when at this point, she was more stunned and shocked than she was angry. So it's gonna take a little time to get things all sorted out.
(Oh, and for all of you who have sent me emails and messages wanting to know if this is about certain people in your own lives, I am trying to keep this completely anonymous, so all I will say is "Hmmmm.....could be!")