Friday was the day. The day we once again, met with Grandma L and Aunt Ju-Ju with their counselor to figure out where to go from here. The time-out had lasted an entire year without any action on their part, except phone calls to Bill becoming far and few between and the words "I love you" were not said any longer.
Even after a restless night, I wasn't angry with Bill for lying to me about the ambush session. I still don't know why. I should have been. He lied to me again, I was tricked and it was for a sensitive situation. I had every right to be livid with him. Maybe it's because the gloves are off and I'm not taking any more crap from his family. Maybe it's because I have faith in myself that I'm not going to let them push me around anymore and will say what needs to be said because I just don't care at this point. Maybe it's because Bill hasn't tried to do any sneaky things in this year time-out and I've had the proof that he will have my back. Maybe it was because I needed the entire year to heal from the stress they caused. Whatever the case, this was a different situation.
Friday morning I dropped the kids off at the drop-in center so I could get my hair done. I hung out at the salon for a few hours. It was fun and relaxing. I wasn't even stressed about the upcoming appointment. It wasn't until on the drive over to the office that I started to have anxiety.
I picked up Bill from work and we drove to the session. He seemed indifferent about the whole thing, not worried if we got there on time or what happened. This might have made me feel better, knowing that if crap hit the fan, he wasn't going to try to push me into anything. We got there and just like the last session, sat in the waiting room while the three of them chit-chatted about stuff like nothing was wrong. This time I just flipped open my phone and surfed facebook.
We got in the session and the counselor took a completely different approach than the last session. Rather than hashing out the four plus years of events, she started with the ultimate goal (which for Bill is some kind of normalcy) and systematically wrote out what steps we need to take to get there. It was very structured, there was no room for misunderstanding. It was very black and white - exactly what I need in these tumultuous situations and exactly what Grandma L needs to get a clue.
At the beginning of the session I stated, just like last time, that I was there for Bill. Unless there was going to be different action from his family, I had no interest in participating and I was fine with the way things were. The counselor respected that and said that I could jump in at any time. The first thing she asked is what is the first and most important step that needs to be done before any baby-steps can be taken. Bill didn't quite get what she was going for and I knew exactly what she was asking. I quietly sat and observed.
She re-worded the question and got the ball rolling. Bill got it and said that an honest and sincere apology to me needs to be made. There were so many things that needed to be addressed, that they picked two instances and worked with those - the time she called herself "Mommy" to Logan during their visit last year and the time she called me "Little Bitch" and cut me out of the family a few years ago.
The counselor turned to Grandma L and told her exactly what a sincere apology sounds like, the reasons why it's so important and that even though she just put the words in her mouth, she needed to find her own for this situation. She was telling Grandma L that she needed to take responsibility for her part in the problem and that giving me the chance to let go of ill-will was critical.
Grandma L's apology was weak, but I didn't expect anything more. What was important was that she was facing the music. There was no more denial of situations or sweeping them under the rug as if they were unimportant events. I sat there quiet and emotionless and let them do what they needed to do. She cried about how she didn't want to be their mom, just their grandma and that she had no idea calling herself mommy would insinuate otherwise (gee, go figure).
When she attempted to apologize for calling me names and cutting me off, she began to justify her actions saying that she felt attacked. The counselor stopped her and redirected her back to the goal, telling her that she was confused in the moment and rather than asking questions to understand the problem, she mixed-up her confusion with anger and lashed out. She still needed to resolve the act of her confusion. Grandma L begrudgingly apologized. Things were moving in the right direction.
Then, Aunt Ju-Ju pipped up and asked about their apology. Just as we were taking steps forward, she was taking us two steps back. The counselor said that it wasn't going to happen, that it was too big of a step at this point. Bill then interjected. "Kristin has apologized. Sincerely. The phone call that she made to Mom where Mom hung up on her. I heard her apologize for her tone and jumping to conclusions." Grandma L began to lie, saying that she didn't hang up on me. This is where I opened my mouth, "Yes, you did," and the counselor quickly got us back on track. She told Grandma L and Aunt Ju-Ju that they will have to take Bill's bookmark reminder that there was an attempt at sincere apologies and that if they push it any farther, we'll stalemate and leave right back at square one. The counselor recognized how important Bill's input was and thanked him for this information. Grandma L rolled her eyes, shook her head and sighed, "Fine. Move on."
We accepted that this was all they were able to do, we tackled the two events and moved on to the next step which was discussing comfort levels of a meeting. This is where I added my two cents saying that I would compromise with a public meeting. We were not going to their house and they were not coming to ours. We agreed to meet for an hour at the park. We discussed boundaries - where Grandma L was told that crying would scare the kids (and I was SO GLAD the counselor brought this up because this is one of her main tools for emotional manipulation). Aunt Ju-Ju asked all of the boundary questions for Grandma L - what was acceptable and what wasn't. This really rubbed me the wrong way because it's common sense, but then I had to remind myself that this is the problem - they lack common sense and they have no concept of boundaries.
So, we went over actions like, hugging was OK, holding the kids was OK, taking them off somewhere else was not and when I asked for my children back, I expected to be respected and not argued with. Aunt Ju-Ju pipped up again, "No, what does it look like. We're not getting back into the past." But the counselor saw that they needed to know what not to do just as much as what a perfect meeting looked like and took over with that. "So, no taking the kids from your arms, no taking them out of the playground."
With this agreement to meet for an hour at the park, the counselor wrapped up the session quickly before anything could go wrong and screw up the massive baby-steps that were taken.
At the car, Bill hugged me and thanked me. He knew that I was doing this for him. After an hour of keeping up The Stone Wall in the session, completely emotionless, I let it all out on Bill's shoulder, tear-staining his shirt. In some way, I was able to move on because I felt like there was some justice being done. That people were facing their actions that caused hurt (no matter the intention) and this is one of those core issues for me. I need justice.
On Sunday afternoon, we woke up to rainy weather. We had to go with an alternate plan because the park wouldn't work. Bill tried to suggest they come over to our house and I quickly pulled the breaks on that. We decided to meet at the mall play area.
We got there and a million unruly kids were running around. Grandma L and Grandpa L greeted the kids and hung out in the courtyard until Logan pretty much told everyone that it was time to go play. So we made our way in. It was the perfect place for this first meeting. It was an absolute madhouse in there and I spent the entire time wrangling the boys, making sure Logan was sharing the slide and that Carter wasn't getting trampled over. There was no constant one-on-one interaction, just brief conversation with the kids before they ran off to play on something else. An hour was all Carter could handle and Bill recognized that he needed to go home. I didn't have to say anything. He wrapped up the play-date and we went home. It was relatively painless. There was no gabbiness, no teary emotional guilt trips, no excessive paparazzi photo shoots (which we did not address and I was concerned about it). It was quick, like ripping off a band-aid.
The plan of action is one more hour-long public meeting (I'm assuming sometime around Christmas). Between then, weekly brief phone calls with Logan on Sundays are OK and then we meet with the counselor again to asses the next step. We'll see what happens...