I tell her that I can only imagine how difficult it must be to WANT to be there for Cinderella but to be limited physically by her current health problems.
"I know how involved you have always been. It must be killing you to not be able to help out this time."
She is crying. Her emotions are raw.
I don't like seeing anyone cry, least of all because of something that I've done whether the tears are justified in my eyes or not.
But still I am confused. What IS her point? Why is she calling me to tell me this!?? What is she hoping will happen?
I muster up every last bit of energy to ask in the most respectful tone I have,
"What is it that you are looking for from me? It sounds like you are
Oh, no no, no... not at all! I'm glad you are there to help Cinderella, especially since I can't be. I know you care for her and I am grateful that she has you in her life.
And then she says it:
I guess... maybe... what I am asking is that since you were here for this play that...maybe... for the next one, you let me help out I-N-S-T-E-A-D.
And that's where I needed to stop her. RIGHT THERE.
"Why can't we both help out?," I ask.
Now it's my turn to talk.
My turn to explain that no matter what my personal feelings are towards her, she is and always will be Cinderella's Mommy.
"I have never tried to take your place. I don't want to be her Mommy. You are her Mommy and that's how it should be. I did not offer to volunteer in an attempt to exclude you. My volunteering has NOTHING to do with you, but is about me being there for Cinderella and for her school and for her teacher. Cinderella wanted me to help. SHE asked ME."
I reminded her that for nearly ten years I took a back seat and did NOT volunteer for Cinderella's school events in deference to HER. But that after ten years I felt we could move past that silliness and should ALL be able to be there for Cinderella.
I explained that I had originally ONLY volunteered to design the program because it afforded me the chance to be involved while remaining on the sidelines (a role Stepmoms often take). I did not offer to assist backstage because that had typically been her turf and I did not want to step on any toes.
(Essentially, I gave her first dibs but after it became apparent that she wasn't involved with this production and that they NEEDED more parental involvement, I stepped up and offered my services.)
"Maleficent, no matter what has transpired between us in the past, I'd like to think that we can ALL be there for Cinderella. Our personal feelings for one another have no place in this. Nor do they concern Cinderella."
I tried to reassure her while RESPECTFULLY letting her know I would not be backing down or backing off.
If Cinderella wants me to be there at her school events, I'm going to be there.
Maleficent understood and agreed with me.
(I think an entire fleet of angels must have gotten their wings yesterday to pull that one off!)
She told me she felt better after having spoken with me. She explained that part of her problem was not knowing whether I respected her as Cinderella's mother and that after speaking with me she now knows that I do.
(I DO respect the fact that she is Cinderella's mother, but I do NOT respect her AS a Mother. That's an important difference but one I did not feel needed to be expressed at that moment!)
The entire tone of our phone call was respectful, polite and low key. She did not come at me on the attack. Nor did I lash out in return.
A resolution was reached, a barrier broken through.