So: what next? After tossing it around, I think the main thing is that I should stand down a bit, and stop seeing certain interactions as power struggles. Or rather, stop treating them that way: I still think that part of what's going on is placing her in the role of provider and placing her children in the role of provided for; that is indeed a power dynamic, but it's up to me as to how I respond to that. She's older, she's set in her ways; if I can find positive ways to redirect her energy or attention, then great, but if not, I should think about what I want to get out of actively pushing back.
And yeah, I think her memory isn't what it once was. I'm not sure what to make of that, other than to be glad that I'm not seeing any signs of that with my dad. And to be prepared for it to get worse.
The bit about the different grandkids was odd, though. I'm hoping that it was a fluke.
The rest of the visit was mostly as expected: we went to a zoo and a museum, my mom reminded us of the existence of gift shops every 30 minutes or so during those trips, but we enjoyed the trips anyways. On the last we went shopping (and looking at kittens) downtown, and actually that was pretty fun, Oberlin has some neat art galleries.
During one of the museum gift shop visits, apparently my mom and dad got in an argument over something that she wanted to buy (I think for the other grandkids?) that he thought they wouldn't like at all. I was outside of the shop, though, so I don't know exactly what was going on. And it must be difficult for them to negotiate that sort of situation: sometimes my mom needs my dad's help to do something, and sometimes he doesn't want to be part of that something. If she could see, she could just do it, he wouldn't be part, and it would be a normal disagreement; as is, though, it gets more complicated. In general, what I think happens is that he does that thing anyways, and in general I think that's the best outcome, but I don't think it's always the best outcome, and I got the impression that, in this situation, the discussion about the outcome didn't play out very well.
Also, on the last day, at some point my mom and I talked for a bit, and I said something like "we'd been having arguments about shopping all week"; if I'm remembering correctly, she said something like "really, I didn't realize that". That felt pretty odd.
My mom doesn't just want to pay for meals and events during visits, she wants to give gifts to people. So we weren't too surprised when she announced a spending budget for Miranda during the trip; Miranda was good about that and found something nice to buy that used up the budget.
This happened during the first day; my mom responded by increasing the budget. And she did that in a way that did not impress me: she decided that the way to be fair to her sons was to give each family the same amount of spending money for the grandkids, instead of giving each grandkid the same amount. Everybody else was more or less horrified by this; if I'm remembering correctly, she responded by some combination of covering her ears with her hands and telling us that we can't tell her what to do.
I raised the issue the next day as we were walking to the car, saying that I really hoped that she wouldn't say things like that to the grandkids on the other side of the family; she responded by calling me stupid, spelling it out just in case I didn't get the point.
I don't think that she actually treats her grandkids that way normally: I've never gotten the feeling that Miranda gets more Christmas / birthday gifts than the other grandkids.
For at least the last decade, when my parents have visited (or when we've visited them), we've had arguments about paying for stuff. Specifically, my mom really wants to pay for everything: in restaurants, she'll regularly tell the waiter to give the check to my father (my mom is blind, else she would take it herself), and she'll say things like "your credit card isn't good here".
This largely comes from a good place: she wants to provide, she wants to be a nice guest. But there's also a power dynamic going on (whether intentional or not I don't know); and when it transitions from her paying for restaurant meals to wanting to come along grocery shopping so she can pay for groceries, it becomes something that I can't explain in terms of gifts or in terms of a nice gesture.
This has actually gotten somewhat better recently; we've established that we'll alternate turns paying for restaurants and that we'll pay for our own god-damn groceries. On this visit, they let us take them out to a quite nice restaurant with no pushback at all; I appreciated that.
We visited my parents last week. It was mostly good, but interactions with my mom were strange.
Which I want to write about so I can think about it, but I'm not sure I want to do it in as public a space as my regular blog. So: here, I guess.