Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Team Mom Saga Continues

This is a footnote of sorts to my Blasphemous Rumors post.

It's a small world, er, city. Because we live in such a large, sprawling suburban area, and because my husband works in a suburb about 30 miles from where we live on the opposite side of the city, he doesn't often encounter people we know from our neighborhood, our very limited social circle, or our extracurricular activities. Nor does he ecounter people with whom we share common acquaintances. I do, occasionally when I'm out and about, but it isn't a common occurrance. Unless you live in an area like ours, it's hard to understand how unlikely that really is. It's one reason I loathe where we live. There is no sense of community here.

But I digress, if one can do so without having reached the point to begin with.

The other day, a co-worker asked husband how baseball was going. He knows Husband is very involved with the boys' teams and that baseball consumes our lives during much of the year. Husband told him it was fine, other than some drama with the team Mom. The co-worker inquired about the situation and Husband, while explaining, happened to mention her first name, which is somewhat unusual. The co-worker did a double take and said "You don't mean Popeye and Olive Oyl SMITH, do you?" Husband, taken aback, said, "Yeah, you know them?"

The co-worker snorted and confirmed that he certainly did know them. For a moment, Husband was afraid he had put his foot in his mouth, thinking they may be friends, or at least friendly acquaintances.

There was an awkward silence and then the co-worker said, "Man...they are just WEIRD."

Relieved, Husband asked him to elaborate. The co-worker explained that they used to go to church with Popeye and Olive Oyl. He said that Popeye, while introverted to the point of being a little creepy, is a nice enough guy. Olive Oyl, however, is a huge drama queen. He said that every single week she would stand up and tearfully beg the congregation to pray for her and some new issue that had developed. Every week she was embroiled in some crisis. If there was controversy or drama, chances are, she was right smack dab in the middle of it. And, she was forever getting her feelings hurt over the most innocuous little comments or ascribing malicious motives to completely innocent actions. She is the kind of person that keeps others on tenterhooks in her presence because one never knows what will set her off or when.

Well. That explains it then. It's not me. Whoda thunk it.

So that's good to know, but unfortunately, the situation is escalating. I am realizing that she is a truth stretcher, if not an outright liar, and instead of simply admitting she doesn't know something, or making an effort to find out, she makes up some elaborate explanation or excuse.

For instance, one child got the wrong sized shirt. These shirts shrink a lot, and so if it's already too small, its going to be really too small after it's washed. The kid's mother asked Olive for another shirt and was told that they had no more. Olive told her that she could order another one, but she would have to pay for it. This is a bald faced lie. The company that does the uniforms for our park keeps a huge stash of these shirts in their warehouse because all the kids in all age divisions wear the same shirt for fall ball, and just have caps and colored stockings to differentiate teams. The gal that orders uniforms for the park always sets aside a day for exchanges. All you have to do is show up and make the exchange. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. I've done it a dozen times. If you miss the date, which I've also done, you simply call her up and set up a time and place to meet that is convenient. Often it is at the ballpark since most of us live there during baseball season anyway. There is no charge for the exchange. It couldn't be more simple. Why lie?

The Mom, frustrated, came to me. She was on our team in the Spring when I was team Mom. I don't want to step on Olive's toes. I really don't. So, I told her to tell Olive that all she had to do was call Uniform Lady and request another shirt. She should have Uniform Lady's number, but if not, it's on the League website under "Board Members". I told her if Olive gave her any more problems that I would get her another shirt.

Due to several other issues, other parents have also figured out that Olive isn't always entirely truthful and that she would rather make stuff up than look like she doesn't know, or actually find a solution. They have also figured out that I know stuff and can get things done, so they have started coming to me when they have problems or when they need information. This really pisses her off, and she has gone from ignoring me, to being openly hostile.

I don't know what to do. I don't want to horn in on Olive's status as Team Mom, but I also don't want to not help people when they need it. Especially when they've already been to Olive with their problem and she has brushed them off. I think things are going to have to come to a head and explode. I don't have a problem with confrontation, but frankly, between what I've been told and what I read on her "Testimony" website, I'm a little afraid of her. Not her, exactly, but how she might react if we have to have it out. I can say with a fair amount of certainty that it will not be a rational, civilized exchange.

I don't know if all this is a result of her mental illness or not. My youngest sister is much the same way, although not to the degree that Olive is, and she is not mentally ill. She is the youngest of us three, and I think that has driven her need for constant attention and validation. There's something to all that birth order stuff, I believe. Anyway, I don't think it really makes a difference why Olive is the way she is, except that I worry about how a confrontation between us will affect her mental health. I know from reading her website that her grip on stability is very tenuous, although that may be exaggerated.

This whole experience has led to wonder about how and why and how people who suffer from profound debilitating mental illness make the decision to have children. It makes me think of Andrea Yates and brings to mind a whole host of really convoluted issues regarding mental illness and parenting. If anyone has any thoughts they'd like to share, please feel free. I do have some experience with mental illness, but it's from a distant perspective. My youngest sister's boyfriend of many, may years is severely mentally ill and I've seen some of the struggles they face, but they have no children. The only people who are affected by his mood swings, paranoia, extreme anxiety and manic/depressive cycles are the two of them. I'd like to do a piece on this topic at some point, and I'd appreciate any insight you can offer.

9 Comments:

  • At 10:39 PM, Blogger molly said…

    Your sentence '...led to wonder about how and why and how people who suffer from profound debilitating mental illness make the decision to have children.' sounds very judgemental. Was it meant to sound that way? If it was, do you or any one else have the right to determine someone else reproductive rights? Do you know the genetics, the probability of a mental illness being transmitted from parent to child? Just wondering, that's all.

    Some advice here, about Olive. If you should confront her, about anything at any time, don't do it alone or behind closed doors. You may feel that you want to save her embarrassment, you may want to be kind, but have a little self-preserving paranoia of your own. Any confrontation, from the smallest to the largest, should be done with doors open and in front of witnesses of your choosing. Take a friend or two with you. If it's legal, take a tape recorder. This kind of person is dangerous and harmful. This is the kind of woman who will take your words and twist them and use them against you and you'll find that you'll have no defense against them. Please be careful.

     
  • At 11:11 PM, Blogger Blog Antagonist said…

    Please let me clarify, because I didn't mean to be judgemental, though I suppose, there is no way to be completely non-judgemental when discussing an issue as provocative as this.

    There are people who know before they choose to have children, (I don't believe that Andrea Yates did, but I'm not extremely knowledgeable about her case)that their illness is such that they may be a danger to themselves or others. I wonder how they reconcile this knowledge with their desire to have a family.

    I just recently read "The Dogs of Babel" which was an odd book, but it was about a woman who was mentally ill, and would not have children because of that fear. She ultimately killed herself.

    I'm not trying to judge and I'm not advocating restricting reproductive freedom, I'm just trying to understand. I honestly can't imagine that someone like her is equipped to handle the day to day stress of raising children. It concerns me. I wonder if it concerns her. I wonder how she arrived at her decision to have children knowing the extent to which she was mentally ill.

    I can't possibly say what I would do in such a situation, but I *think* I would probably choose not to have children. Not because I might pass on a mentall illness genetically, but because I couldn't bear the thought that I might kill myself and leave them without a mother, OR that I might hurt or even kill them.

    I'm of the opinion that Andrea Yates was ill and needed help and didn't get it. I don't think she was responsible for her actions and I don't think she should be punished, I think she should be treated. But I don't know how she lives with what she has done. I couldn't.

     
  • At 1:22 AM, Blogger R.G. said…

    I have known quite a few people with varying degrees and types of mental illness. Some are lucky enough to gain an understanding of their illness early enough to make the decision not to have children. But for many, the illness is elusive. It comes and goes. The time of life in which children are conceived and born may be a time in which the illness seems to have abated. Then of course, the decision to have children is so deep and complex, and often people don't make that decision completely rationally.

    It sounds to me like Team Mom lives her life as if she doesn't have an illness at all, or at least she doesn't acknowledge how much it affects her behavior. I imagine she would scoff at anyone who suggested perhaps she shouldn't have had kids because of her illness. She clearly thinks she's fine and perfectly rational.

    Because of this, I actually recommend you completely refrain from any kind of "having it out." From what you've written about her, I think it absolutely won't solve anything, it will just make her worse. My approach would be to keep helping people, don't worry about stepping on her toes, and if she decides to confront you, make it as brief as possible. Refuse to engage! With mental illness you will almost always lose because you can't have a rational argument with an irrational person!

    Okay, just my two cents! Sorry you're going through this. :-(

     
  • At 1:25 AM, Blogger Blog Antagonist said…

    You know, Rachelle, I think you hit the nail on the head with this statement..."You can't have a rational argument with an irrational person." Thanks for your advice. What you say makes a lot of sense.

     
  • At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Antique Mommy said…

    A very thought-provoking post.

    It would be nice if you could quietly go to Olive and try to forge a peace of "this silly disagreement" but it's not resolution she wants, but drama. Odds are the more you bump up against her, the more you will get on you.

    I must take issue you with your over-generalized statement about third children. Maybe because I am a third child! Antique Daddy is a third child too and he's has rock and stabilzing force in his family since he was 17. (Of course I realize that is not what this post was about)

     
  • At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Kvetch said…

    I agree with those who say that a confrontation will go no where. I think you offer assistance to parents who come to you, but don't outwardly step on her toes. I don't know but it seems like in the future she will be in the background because everyone will "know how she is." As for a mental illness, I think that before you chalk it all up to that, that you consider it might be a thing to hide behind for her. I have many family members who work in the mental health field, I am not judging, I'm just saying that if it's not as bad as she says, then she's using it as an excuse for her behavior and to keep confrontations at bey. Just another thought.

     
  • At 6:56 AM, Blogger Karyn said…

    I have nothing new to add to the Olive Oyl dilemma. But. RE: The Mental Illness & Parenting thing.

    Depression is something I've grappled with since I was about twelve or thirteen. I have been in and out of counseling, on and off of antidepressants. I have been 'graduated' out of therapy and 'referred' back into it. It is never easy, even in good times, because you know that somewhere up around a bend, a dark patch is lurking. But you do the best you can with it.

    Having kids was the only consistent thing I ever wanted. All other desires to be, to achieve, whatever, came and went and changed. Still do. But not the parenting. It is as much a part of who I am.

    After my 2yo was born, my physicians all knew my history with depression and so I was carefully observed and released with a plan and a prescription to combat the postpartum depression. Which is good, because it almost killed me the first time I had a baby. I spent about ... eh...15 months in a haze of self doubt, panic, despair and misery, despite being immensely grateful and proud of the child I helped produce. I think that one year took YEARS off my life.

    Some days I make bad choices. Some days I do better. Sometimes I cry and go into Bare Minimum Mode, where the only real aim is to make sure everyone is safe and cared for, but there is no energy or wherewithal to do crafts or play on the floor or whatever. Some days I am wildly creative and do a stellar job with this mothering gig.

    Nobody is abused or neglected and I am extremely open about everything with my doctors, the children's doctors, their teachers, whomever. That way, I figure, if something starts to go awry and I don't see it, maybe someone else WILL and the path for constructive conversation will have been paved.

    I know this is a long, rambly comment. But this is my experience, such as it is, with 'mental illness'. Am I crazy? They tell me no. Am I psychotic? Again, they say no. Am I normal? Once again, probably not.

    But I know what is important and the fact that the children are priority one, every time all the time, puts me somewhat more on par with the normal parents. Putting them first really limits the amount of time I can indulge in my neurotic tendencies.

    Sure, I want to climb into bed, pull up the covers and pretend I don't exist. But lunches need making, booboos need kissing, coloring must be done and block towers must be built, and I cannot do that from beneath the duvet.

    I have no answers but you asked for sharing... THAT I can do.

     
  • At 2:35 PM, Blogger Blog Antagonist said…

    Karyn

    Thank you for sharing that. I know it must be difficult for you to be so open, but I really appreciate your insight. It sounds to me like you are a great Mom. :?)

     
  • At 2:58 PM, Blogger Karyn said…

    Thanks, BA. I try.

    Some days, I'm ahead, some days I'm behind. But as the Baz Luhrman song says, the race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself.

    I'm a fierce competitor though. ;)

     

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