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Issues with late DH's mother (MiL) and her reaction to current DP (Loooooooooong!)

(220 Posts)
HMTheQueen Wed 16-Jan-13 19:39:44

This might be long, as I don't want to drip feed. Also I want to know if AIBU but I'm not brave enough to post there! grin

Quick history - DH died when DS was a baby (4 years ago). Have been with new DP for a year. He has 2 DSs and he is also a widower. So we (unfortunately) have quite a bit in common in that sense. When DH was alive, I had an OK relationship with his mother, with a few issues arising that were usually dealt with by DH - normal MiL stuff - her demanding that we spend Xmas with her rather than FiL (divorced 25 years ago) etc etc. Since I got pregnant and the subsequent birth of DS, we had quite a few run-ins with MiL overstepping the boundaries but DH dealt with them when he was alive and I have dealt with them since. (Search my name and you'll come up with a few threads about minor annoyances!)

Current situation - Last year I met DP after 3 years on my own with DS. We have moved in together and his DSs and my DS get along fabulously and consider themselves brothers. DS calls DP "Daddy".

All the Grandparents - my FiL, my parents, DP's dad, DP's in-laws - all treat all the DS's like grandchildren. The DS's call the grandparents by their names - nanny, grandad, grandpa etc - and generally everyone is happy that they have gained extra grandchildren and that DP and I have each other.

Except MiL. Immediately after the first meeting of DP, his DS's and MiL, MiL called me and the first thing she said was that she didn't want DP's DSs calling her "Grandma". She was quite forceful that she isn't their Grandma - she is my DS's Grandma and that's all. I said that's fine - it's up to her. I also thought (without saying) that it's no skin off my nose and they already have lots of grandparents willing to love them and treat them as grandchildren.

Current issue - DS and I stayed with MiL just before Xmas (overnight) as we were invited to a family friends wedding (DP and his DS's not invited as v. small wedding and didn't know B&G - everyone fine with that). During breakfast/playtime while getting ready for wedding DS was chatting about "Daddy" (DP) and his brothers.

MiL "You mean <DPname>".

DS "Yes, <DPname>".

MiL "He's not your Daddy."

I was fuming. But as DS was there, I didn't want to raise anything and I let it wash over me. In the car later, I spoke to DS about it (bearing in mind he is 4.7) and confirmed with him that DP is his "Daddy" as well as the Daddy he has in Heaven. He said he was very lucky as he had 2 daddies and 2 brothers. I agreed and we went down the 'Silly Grandma got confused' route.

I couldn't get MiL alone at the wedding (and didn't want to ruin B&G's day) so couldn't speak to her about this, so called while I was driving home in the afternoon (It's 2 hours away and DS fell asleep in the car). I told her that it was not appropriate for her to 'correct' DS and that as far as he was concerned DP is "Daddy". He also knows he has Daddy in Heaven and he feels very lucky to have 2 daddies and 2 brothers.

At which point MiL corrected me and called them "Step-brothers". angry

I explained that DS sees them as his family and that is what matters - not names or blood. DP is the only Daddy he has ever known and he is happy. She (half-heartedly) apologised then reiterated that she didn't want DP's DSs calling her Grandma as she isn't their Grandma. I said thats fine and her choice. She then felt it necessary to remind me that DS is the only child of her son who died so he is very special to her. I reminded her that I remembered him dying (what with being there at the time and all!). Basically she apologised (frostily) and we hung up on a very tense conversation.

Since Xmas she has spoken to FiL (remember - divorced 25 years ago - but she still relies on him a lot) and he has (essentially) bollocked her for being an idiot and jeopardising her relationship with her only grandchild.

She then rang me, apologised for the tense situation and said she'd be happy for DP's DSs to call her Grandma and she doesn't want to jeopardise her access to DS - which I would never do anyway - I would definitely not stop access with DH's family.

Here's the AIBU - AIBU to not want to see or speak to her at the moment. I'm still very very angry that she felt the need to correct a 4 year old as well as the fact that she thought it necessary to remind me that DH died. Like I didn't know, or had forgotten. I am so angry, I shake when I see her name come up on my phone and when I tried to call her back the other day, I could feel my heart racing. I DO NOT want to speak to her right now. She may have apologised and think its all better, but to me, she has done what she thinks she needs to do to see DS - not actually thought about how her actions may have affected me and DS. I am also not happy with seeing her or letting DS see her (for now) as I can't trust her not to say these things again, as she doesn't appear to understand why I am so angry.

If I could confirm that she realises the gravity of what she said and promised she wouldn't do it again, I'd be more than happy for her to see DSs. DP has been very supportive in all of this and is happy to back me up, whatever my decision - although we are both hesitant about her seeing his DS's as she will clearly favour my DS over them and we don't feel that is fair on on any of them.

I may potentially see her in the next week or so (great aunt's funeral) so could speak to her then about how she made me feel and the confusion she could have put DS through (but luckily he is a very chilled little boy and not much phases him!)

Do I speak to her at the funeral? Do I call her before hand (which would then create an atmosphere at the funeral)? Do I let it lie for a while and keep ignoring her calls (I answer maybe 1 out of 6 calls)? Am I being totally unreasonable and should let it go? I need MN wisdom as DP is sick of hearing about it and I'm sick of talking about it. Some sort of action needs to be taken.

Thanks for reading.

Roseformeplease Wed 16-Jan-13 19:47:56

I think her upset is understandable and she is feeling scared and cornered and is lashing out as she wants him all to herself and not to share with your parents, never mind his new "grandparents". Now, I say understandable but that doesn't make it right.

I think you need to tell her how hurt you are but do so in a way that acknowledges her feelings. Perhaps concede something. "You will always be extra special to him as you are a link with his Daddy" or "You must make sure you tell him all about his Daddy as a boy". I think, while you are upset and angry and have every right to be you probably have to allow for her feelings. You now have a son and a partner and she has neither and probably is terrified of losing her grandchild.

Maybe extend an olive branch but make it clear as you do that your son's happiness will not be compromised.

Maybe not what you wanted to hear and I really do see why you are upset and angry.

HecateWhoopass Wed 16-Jan-13 19:51:59

I don't know. I can see and of course understand why you're so pissed off and yes she's really cocked up but as the mother of 2 sons I am also trying to imagine being in the horrible position of having lost one of them and then hearing their child call someone else daddy.
I wonder how that would feel?
I am not saying that her feelings matter more than yours. You've both suffered a dreadful loss. But is she a horrible, toxic person or is she not handling the loss of her son and very mistakenly thinking he's just been replaced and wiped.
I'm not saying she's right to feel that way. She's not, clearly not. It sounds like youve done everything to ensure your child remembers his father and it must hurt you to the heart if it appears she thinks otherwise, but I wonder if there's a way to work through this? If she's focusing on her loss and forgetting yours, could you talk to her and put her straight?

What a difficult situation OP. sad I think you are being perfectly reasonable to ignore the majority of her calls for the time being. Hopefully she will realise how much it has affected you and think before she acts so insensitively in future. If I were you, at the funeral I would stay surrounded with others to avoid getting drawn into conversation with her/ wait for her to approach you, try to stay calm, keep conversation brief but polite etc and if she pesters you, just explain as calmly as you can how you feel and how she has affected you with her attitude. What's said is said, she cannot control how you react to it. Maybe over time she will realise the gravity of her actions, maybe not. I'm not sure how you expect her to prove she realises how serious it is, but you are entitled to feel how you feel and give yourself the time and space to process everything.

ThePinkOcelot Wed 16-Jan-13 19:52:21

I think if it were me I would let it lie for a while. You have spoken about it, so I wouldn;t bring it up again. Of course, if she did something like this again, then by all means kick off! I certainly wouldn't say anything at the funeral - not the time or the place. As you say, your little boy hasn't been phased by it and is only little so will probably have forgotten about it all now. Let sleeping dogs lie - for the moment! xx

Doogle2 Wed 16-Jan-13 19:54:44

I understand its a difficult situation but I don't think you will achieve anything by blanking her. In fairness she apologised and has said your stepson can call her Grandma. Who knows what is going on in her head. Perhaps she feels a bit disloyal to her sons memory?

Just remember that you are happy with your own little family. I think it's lovely that you are still encouraging a good relationship with Grandma. You can't control what she says but you can correct her. I bet she's forgotten all about it now so let it be.

Anifrangapani Wed 16-Jan-13 19:59:04

In answer to your AIBU - yes a little, but is uderstandable why you are cross. However she has appologised and made the conciliatory gesture of saying your dps kids can call her grandma.

I suspect that she is fearful that by increasing number of people in your family that the memory of your late husband will be diluted in your son's mind. And therfore when she dies your husbands memory will die too. It might be wise to have a chat with her to make her realise that your late husband is still very much a part of the discussions you have with your son. Maybe you and her can put together a memory box for when your ds is older.

As for brining it up at the funeral. It is already going to be an emotionally charged time so it is probably best leave it for another day when you can both feel comfortable.

Best of luck. Xxx

Can see it from both sides tbh.

My mum died when I was 4, my dad remarried but none of us have ever called her Mum as you have only 1 mum in my eyes, however I love my stepmum as though she was my mum. To all intents purposes she is my mum. She has done an amazing job with us and she knows I think of her as that.

My DD calls her nanny. I know my mums sister struggles with this, after all that is her sisters granddaughter, not my stepmums but she smiles and says nothing even though I know it really hurts her inside to watch someone else bring up her sisters children and grandchildren...

I don't think you are being unreasonable to be angry, it is your choice what your DS calls your partner but just remember it can hurt like hell to people on the outside.

Well done for starting over after losing your husband, that must have been awful. Hope it all works out for you and you find a solution smile

FiveGoMadInDorset Wed 16-Jan-13 20:01:13

Let it go, half of my half siblings kids call my mother by her name the other call her Grandma, My childrens step grandma is called by her name and not grandma as she isn't, and hasn't been around long enough to be called Grandma, but this is a personal issues, she has every right not to be called Grandma by someone else's children and yes techincally they are his step brothers. Please don't forget that she is of an older generartion where blended families and what we call each other was different, and she has lost her son and probably scared that your son is going to forget his father.

millie30 Wed 16-Jan-13 20:01:18

I feel sad reading your OP. My mother died when I was a baby, and my Dad remarried when I was 3. My maternal grandparents were very kind and supportive to my stepmum and when she had my younger sister they welcomed her as one of their grandchildren and never treated her any differently. I'm sure they were heartbroken at the loss of their daughter but they never let it impact how they treated all of the children and always respected that our stepmum became our 'mum' and were very grateful at the role she had in always ensuring they had access, including driving through a blizzard when heavily pregnant so they could see us over christmas.

It is a shame that your MIL has decided to take a hostile stance, and I can only assume it must be grief which is the cause. I wouldn't keep ignoring her though, but I would take the stance with her that she is very important to your DS and you want her to be as involved as possible to keep his father's memory alive, but she cannot be allowed to undermine how he feels about his dad and his brothers.

Cantbelieveitsnotbutter Wed 16-Jan-13 20:02:16

I think maybe some space is a good idea.
I've rewritten this post a few times now to try and make sure it reads in an understanding way.
I think she's worried her sons been forgotten, that he's been replaced (she's been replaced) and that both herself and his memory is being left behind.

Now that's clearly not the case at all. But I think you BOTH need to take some deep breaths and show each other some understanding. They'll be times you both get it wrong, but hopefully you'll navigate the way through

I feel quite sorry for her, tbh. She must be so heartbroken at losing her child. I think I'd try to forgive her for the 'Daddy' correction. It must have hurt her to hear your DS refer to another man as Daddy. Like her DS was being forgotten. I know that's not what is happening, but I can imagine it striking her that way. She just wants her boy back sad

FiveGoMadInDorset Wed 16-Jan-13 20:06:14

And definitely don't bring it up at the funeral, not to right time or place.

jojane Wed 16-Jan-13 20:08:43

I can see why you are upset but I can also see her point of view too, if the situation was that you had divorced and you ds had a step mum who he calle mummy, you would probably be upset? I think your MIL is trying to make sure that her son is remembered and not replaced which maybe to her mind is what's happening? I agree that you need to chat with her and let her know that her son will always be a part of your ds's life and try and find ways that she can help keep his memory alive, passing on some of his things, talking about him to your DS, taking him to places she used to take her son etc, maybe if she feels her son isn't being forgotten she will be more accepting of the new family you have created.

HMTheQueen Wed 16-Jan-13 20:09:52

Phew! It's nice to see I'm not BU in being angry.

Rose - DP read your post and said "That's what I've been saying!"

Hecate - I was hooping I'd get some wise words from you! I do understand that it must be difficult for her to hear DS call another person Daddy, but shouldn't she be happy that he is happy? Since DH died it has all rather become about her - her grief, her feelings, and everyone pussy-foots around her. I don't think she is as toxic as some people described on MN, but I do think to a certain degree she is. She is very selfish and doesn't consider other people. She does what is best for her, all with the best intentions, but won't think about how her actions/words affect other people. She has been like this forever, and everyone say it's just her way and they never pull her up on it. I wonder if someone (me!) says something she might change? Or just think I'm being too sensitive?

Two - I'm not sure how I can get her to prove she's sorry - just an understanding that she's upset me would be nice. She's apologised for what she thinks has upset me - not what has actually upset me. She lives in her own little world and I'm fairly certain she has no idea I'm still angry, as she thinks she's made it all better by apologising!

Just to clarify, I wouldn't say anything to her about this at the funeral - that would be wildly inappropriate. I was thinking of afterwards (after the wake) just the two of us without involving the rest of the grieving family.

I think she is still grieving - which is understandable. I can't imagine losing a child. It would be unbearable, not matter what his age. But her grief shouldn't over ride everyone else's feelings, and shouldn't give her carte blanche to say what she likes with no repercussions.

defineme Wed 16-Jan-13 20:11:28

It's awful, but in this case I think you need to let it go. I would respectfully suggest that some of that anger is possibly coming from another source-eg you could still be (very reasonably) angry that your dh died-I know my dm was even when she was happy with a new partner-I don't think the grieving process stops when new partners begin. I think you're doing brilliantly btw and I hope I haven't overstepped the mark.

fruitstick Wed 16-Jan-13 20:12:28

I also feel quite sorry for her. She has lost her child. That isn't to say her feelings are more important than yours, but they are different.

I would be sensitive around her. She probably shouldn't have corrected your son but really, what harm did it do. He knows your new DH is not his birth father, he knows he has a Daddy in heaven. The fact that she reminded him hasn't really caused him any trauma.

I think a lot of your anger towards her might be a result of your own grief. You don't want people reinforcing the sadness you have, and moving on after the death of a partner is incredibly difficult.

I realise this is all amateur psychology and you're welcome to tell me to do one.

However, a bit of kindness and understanding on both sides would really help I think.

I hope you work it out.

HMTheQueen Wed 16-Jan-13 20:13:41

Wow massive cross post! Off to read all the rest of the posts......

JustFabulous Wed 16-Jan-13 20:14:31

I think it is perfectly understandable that you want some space from her and I am immediately reminded of the letter I received from my MIL after I had the audacity to miscarry on her birthday. The point being a letter might be the way to go. Explain how you are worried how your DS might feel he is doing something wrong in seeing X as his Daddy and Y as his brother, if Grandma says different. Say access it a different issue and you would never stop her seeing your son. Keep it factual and polite. A letter is useful as you can recheck what you write in a way you can't when you speak. She can read it in private and doesn't have to respond immediately.

You have done nothing wrong and as someone with no family at all I would be happy with any bonus relatives I could get!

FiveGoMadInDorset Wed 16-Jan-13 20:17:47

I wouldn't say anything on the day of the funeral at all, wrong time, worng place even if it is after the wake.

allibaba Wed 16-Jan-13 20:19:51

OP your MIL may still be grieving. Grief is sooo complicated anyway and she may not be dealing with it very well, even four years on.

You could suggest Cruse Bereavement Services to her to see if that helps her and in turn may help you and your new family situation.

SaraBellumHertz Wed 16-Jan-13 20:20:23

I'm afraid I think you are being a little unreasonable.

Your mil lost her only child and is now having to get used to her grandson calling another man daddy. After being in his life for less than a year. It must be painful for her.

That's not to negate your pain but you have moved forward and DH never will

SaraBellumHertz Wed 16-Jan-13 20:21:32

Sorry that was an awful typo : should read she will never move on not DH. Sorry

AmberLeaf Wed 16-Jan-13 20:23:03

I think YABU.

I was thinking YANBU until I got to your actual AIBU bit!

Her son died, yes you know that as your husband died too, but that was her child and I can see why she feels upset.

Hearing his son call another man daddy must hurt, even though it sounds like you have a lovely lovely set up with your DP.

I was really with you until you said you felt angry with her!

She has reconsidered, backed down and reached out to you, I think YABmassivelyU to be continue carrying on this ill feeling towards her.

ClartyCarol Wed 16-Jan-13 20:23:17

I agree with pps that it is a horribly difficult situation for both of you. I think it's admirable and for the best that you've managed to move on and find happiness again, however I can imagine what a wrench it must be for your mil to hear your ds call your dp "Daddy". Taking into account your ds was a baby when your dh died, perhaps she had never even got to hear her son called "Daddy" by her grandson, but she hears him say it to another man. Sorry if that sounds insensitive/ sentimental. I think she sounds upset and yes, worried about being forgotten or pushed out.

Oh, it's very difficult but I think if you ignore her calls it will heighten these feelings further for her. Perhaps you could write her a letter putting it all down how you feel, reiterating heavily that she will always be a part of your ds's life, as will of course your late dh. Agree with pp that making a memory box together might be a good idea too, if she wouldn't find it too upsetting (or you, of course).

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