When we were talking about raising children with NM, she told me that I was always the 'perfectly well-behaved child' and that everyone envied her. I don't remember crying when I was young. I do remember NM spending every waking hour with me, completely enmeshed with me and I had more fun I could have imagined, and I remember my first like 3 years of life as perfect. Maybe even a bit after that. I also remember that my opinion was always asked and valued, so that was also why it was so shocking when I became a tween and suddenly my taste in clothes was put down and screamed at, my taste in food was considered disgusting, my friends were 'inappropriate', and everything I wanted to decide on my own was replaced by her completely different decision.
I have only realized now why. I only had the illusion of deciding things. NM 'came out' lately that she was manipulating me from my birth into believing that the choices I made were mine. She proudly announced that she always manipulated me to do what she wanted me to. And then went on explaining in detail how to make a small child believe that the choices they make are theirs and still get what you want. How to provide them with 'options' to choose from and make sure that they will want to find out eagerly which one you would want them to pick, how to ask them to choose and then if the answer you get from your child is not what you want, simply derail their attention with some toy or something interesting (and due to their very short attention span they will forget you have even asked anything), and then ask the same question again, but that time, even more manipulatively.
NM described how to push their 'wants' the way you want them to, with little tricks, decoys, or how to disregard their desires without them noticing and then replace them with your own.
She was so proud of herself, and she was so condescending (she wanted to demonstrate how little I know about raising children and how awesomely clever she is).
When I was a teen, this elaborate technique was replaced by asking my opinion, acting like it was accepted, then coming at me later completely enraged, authoritative, and dragging along with EF as a physical and emotional shield and threatening to severely abuse him if I don't comply, and then telling me that I will decide to want the exact opposite. And I did so. The conversation looked like this basically:
NM: - Scatha, do you want to visit auntie today?
Scatha: - No.
NM: - Okay (walks away and waits until 5 minutes before departure time, then marches into my room)
NM: - Get your clothes, we are going.
Scatha: (grunts, makes faces and silently starts putting clothes of NM's choice on)
(you can extend the conversation with buts, arguing about clothes and losing, listening to how 'grumpy' or 'difficult' or 'unloving' I am, or how I don't respect family, or as a last resort NM shoving EF's sad, desperate and panicking face into mine, to demonstrate how she had already started torturing him emotionally and will escalate doing so if I don't comply)
It never even occurred to me until my mid twenties that I could ask why the hell she was asking my opinion if she was not interested in it or would not accept it anyway.
And it never even occurred to me that I could say no to these, until a few years ago. When I first did so, she sent EF to me, and I've never seen such fear on his face before. I still said no. Then she marched up to my door and ordered me to go. I said no and shut the door into her face. Then she tortured emotionally the living sh*t out of EF after it, just to make sure. This is their problem.
But this, that she admitted that she was conditioning me from my birth to do what she wanted me to, was downright creepy and shocking and devastating. At least now I know that no, even when I was around 3 years old, my life wasn't happy or perfect. It was manipulated. And I never had the chance to learn that being enmeshed with NM and doing exactly what she wanted was not equal to being loved for who I was. Not at all.