Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

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.

I imagine it feels like a massive punch in the guts for your MIL to hear her grandson call a man he has known for less than a year, 'daddy'.

I think you need to cut her a huge amount of slack here. She's apologised and also backed down on the 'grandma' issue.

I'd imagine she is terrified that you hold the only link with her son, her grandchild, and you could take that away from her any time. Actually on reading your last post I'm quite disturbed that you have been 'kicking about in the back of your mind' the 'solution' of threatening to cut her contact with her grandson. I think to threaten that, even with no intention of carrying it out, would be incredibly cruel.

HMTheQueen Wed 16-Jan-13 21:55:11

branleuse should DS never call DP daddy then? Because it might upset MiL on the occasions we see her? How do you convince a four year old to call someone one name sometimes and another other times? Why should DS grow up without the feeling of having a father, who loves him and treats him like a son, simply because it upsets MiL?

Sorry, but I don't think it was insensitive. What would be insensitive is telling DS that he has to treat Grandma differently. That marks her out for even more special treatment - a four year old shouldn't have to adapt his behaviour to cater for an adult (who should be able to see the benefits for the child having a father).

I don't believe - especially after 4 years - that we should be watching every word we say in front of her in case it upsets her. She should either accept it, or pretend that she does. She shouldn't be putting her feelings above those of a four year old.

Nooneelseisallowedafergus Wed 16-Jan-13 21:55:31

Yabu.

It must be so hard for her to have lost her son, and have your new partner replace him.

You need to respect her feelings, and use your relationship with her to keep your late husband's memory alive so that your little boy grows up knowing about his roots and his father.

Maybe you can sometimes see her without your dp and other children? Just you and your birth son? It would show some kindness and thoughtfulness.

HMTheQueen Wed 16-Jan-13 21:58:50

drgoogle - that is an absolute last resort. I don't want to cut out DH's family from our lives. I love them too (in my own way) and they are my link to DH. BUT my priority is DS. If she can't behave in a way that does not confuse and upset DS then I will resort to the threat of ceasing contact.

This is not something I would do lightly, but I won't put up with her treating my DS as some sort of pawn in her grief.

HMTheQueen Wed 16-Jan-13 22:03:29

defineme - my parents have done similar - they'll no doubt get the baby book out to show DSs photos of me as a baby! DS even has one of my dolls mixed in with his teddy bears on his bed. Knowing the past is very important, to the living and the dead.

boodles Wed 16-Jan-13 22:04:44

It isn't every word though, is it, it is one very important word.

I don't think that it is wrong for your son to call someone daddy BUT I think it is very natural for it to be upsetting for your sons real dads mother and she will take a bit of time to get used to it. I am not sure how you think your son should adapt his behaviour?

If I can be honest, from reading your posts it could appear that you may be looking for an excuse to cut her out anyway. And if, as you keep saying, your son is what is most important the you have to put your son first and not do that as that will be cutting out your sons link to his real dad and he won't thank you for that later.

boodles Wed 16-Jan-13 22:06:39

I am not sure how her saying that her son is your sons real dad is confusing, it is the truth.

HMTheQueen Wed 16-Jan-13 22:07:10

I've just re-read and I sound really harsh. I realise that I have moved on (although not forgotten) and she will probably never move on from losing a son. And I know that grief works differently for everyone - but I don't want to have to be stepping on eggshells in 15 years because her grief is still raw.

4 years is a lifetime (my DSs!) but yet such a short space of time. When a child is involved though, I think you need to put their feelings and emotions first, which she clearly has trouble doing.

AmberLeaf Wed 16-Jan-13 22:09:05

Good lord, Ive only just realised what a short time you have been with your current DP!

YAsoooBU and moving way too fast.

HMTheQueen Wed 16-Jan-13 22:10:23

boodles it is the truth - that's right. But it's not that she said that DH is his 'real' daddy - it's that she thought it appropriate to say that DP isn't his daddy.

They may not be biologically related, but DP is the only daddy he has ever known and he loves him. Can't she be happy that DS gets to have 2 daddies?

BettySuarez Wed 16-Jan-13 22:11:07

I don't think there is anything wrong with your DS being able to call your DP Daddy.

It would be awful for him to live in a house where the other children get to have a Daddy, but he doesn't.

But it just seems that there are some resentments, past issues between you and the MIL - fairly typical stuff that really should have been forgotten, wiped clean when your DH died. You refer to some things in your OP for example. You have every right to set some boundaries ( and it sounds as if you do need to do that). But I think you should also let bygones be bygones.

And just to repeat my earlier point, when I'm a nana I will be throwing the book at my family. Knitting patterns, christmas jumpers, renditions of knees up mother brown constant tales of 'when your mum/dad was little .....). Oh and I cry constantly now so I can only see that getting worse as I get older.

This is normal and I think that you are being unfair on your MIL by seeing anything sinister or abnormal in this.

And OP, please try to remember that one day you too will be a MIL to a DIL. I hope that she manages to accept your 'ways' with good grace and kindness smile

It was her child though HM, he was her son and he is your DSs Daddy.

Losing a child is just so so terrible, all she has left of him is your DS, her GS, I can't believe you could even think of denying him to her and her to him.

HMTheQueen Wed 16-Jan-13 22:12:57

Amber - in normal circumstance I would totally agree with you - and some of my friends have said the same.

But until you lose your husband to a horrible illness in only a couple of months, you cannot understand how short life can be. We both feel that this is the right thing to do for us and our families, and if we wait for months or years to be together to conform to social norms, we could be dead. It's as simple as that.

BuiltForComfort Wed 16-Jan-13 22:12:58

Hello, I remember your previous threads and posted on them as i was in a similar situation to you. First up, lovely news that you have found DP and that between you have created a new family. I remember that your MIL was always quite hard work and made everything about her, was quite smothering etc. as ever its about keeping the moral high ground as you know some of her pain (though I'm not sure she ever really acknowledged the scale of your loss did she?). She's given way on grandma, which is good and you need to acknowledge that again I think.

Re what ds calls DP, what would MIL and the posters in agreement with MlL, suggest your ds calls him exactly? It's not a case of divorced parents where the child has a dad even if not living in the family home. This child, sadly, has no memories of his father, and has forged a much-needed bond with his mum's new partner that is absolutely akin to a father-son relationship. He's never had a person in his life before who he can call Daddy, why would anyone take that away from him?? The only compromise I can think of is that DS calls DP "Dad" and refers to his bio-dad as Daddy, or Dadda or some other name. (Chances are that as time goes by your DPs kids call you Mum and keep Mummy for their bio-mum).

My only worry would be what DP's sons think about your ds calling "their" dad by Daddy too though it sounds like everyone is pretty happy.

PS any tips on how to meet a lovely widower with kids? Would be perfect for me and DS!

Ponders Wed 16-Jan-13 22:13:28

but if OP's DS's grandmother attempts to blank his current family, as she has done previously (though does seem now to be trying to make amends) he will not thank his grandmother for that later either, & then she will be sorry hmm

they need to work together IMO

boodles Wed 16-Jan-13 22:13:36

It isn't about walking on eggshells, it is about respecting her feelings too. She called you and apologised and backed down on the issue, which tells me she is respecting your view.

I also think that you keep saying about how she is not thinking of your child's feelings, however, can you honestly say, hand on heart, that you are only thinking of your child's feelings as far as his real dad is concerned?

Portofino Wed 16-Jan-13 22:15:26

She lost her son, and your new dp is not "daddy" of your son with him. You have to remember that even if your dh was an adult when he died, he will always be her child, her baby. It is a slap in the face for her to have him replaced - hard enough that you move on, but for her GC to call another man daddy???? My mum died when I was 4. No other gfs or wives of my dad have been Mummy.

MorrisZapp Wed 16-Jan-13 22:18:42

Really sorry for your loss op. I feel desperately sorry for your mil though, and I can't imagine what it must have felt like for her to hear your new dp being called daddy by her grandson.

As others have said, you have the chance to move on with a new dp, but she can't find another son.

Please be kind to her. I think you should drop the subject of the daddy correction thing and move on.

MorrisZapp Wed 16-Jan-13 22:21:25

Yes, good point portofino. The mil probably is putting her own feelings first to some extent, but so is the op.

Branleuse Wed 16-Jan-13 22:22:22

OP, maybe a pet name thats not daddy?
I think its a special case because their dad actually died, and I dont think its putting her feelings over a 4 year old. I think its about considering her feelings over your wish for them to have a brand new daddy and to fix this for them. They would still love your dp just as much if they called him by his first name, or by a different pet name, and he would still be a role model and father figure, but he shouldnt be daddy. That is for you, not them.

My ds1 calls my dp papa. He calls his dad, dad or daddy.

HMTheQueen Wed 16-Jan-13 22:23:42

built I think I remember you too and your wise words previously!

I think you have hit the nail on the head - what should DS call DP if not daddy? He finally has the daddy he wanted, just like all the other children, why should we deny that? And surely this is an issue for DS and DP. No one else. If they are both happy with these names who are we to say no or to intervene?

DP's DSs are happy for my DS to call him daddy - in fact it happened without any comments or issues. It was a natural progression. They all see each other as brothers so it is natural that he calls him daddy too. I hope that one day they will feel they can call me mum or mummy, but we are leaving it to when they feel comfortable - not forcing it on them.

Can't help with the meeting of widowers though smile DS and his DS2 met at nursery and set us up through a playdate! But I'll keep an eye out for you wink

ponders I think you've got it - I feel that through her actions she is forcing me to react in a way that I don't want to - but will if I have to. She is well known for instant reactions and regretting them later, and I don't want to be the person who denies her grandchild - but if she keeps pushing I will have to. Hopefully when I speak to her, she will see that we are all trying to do our best, and we can reach a compromise that suits everyone.

HMTheQueen Wed 16-Jan-13 22:26:24

Can I just say thank you to everyone that has given their views. Although I might not agree with them, it is helpful to see others points of view and I have certainly taken them all on board. smile

izzyizin Wed 16-Jan-13 22:27:17

my loyalty is to DS not her

It surely goes without saying that any 'loyalty' you feel toward your ds should serve to promote his best interests by facilitating contact beteen him and his paternal relatives.

Personally, I find it exceptionally distateful that you would even consider resorting to the threat of cutting contact with your ds's paternal dgm as to merely utter it, let alone carry it out, would be cruel beyond belief.

If you go down that particular path it will be you who is using your ds as a pawn to bolster your notion of how a 'blended' family should conduct itself and to excuse your intolerance of your mil's attempts to remind him of his late father, her deceased son.

I confess to being surprised that you appear to see no discrepancy between what your dp's dc call you and what your ds is expected to call your dp.

To tell it how it is, you are living with a man who has two dc by his late dw. As he is not the father of your ds, it is a misnomer for your ds to call him 'daddy', nor are his dc your ds's 'brothers' or 'stepbrothers' albeit, should you marry, your ds will acquire 2 stepbrothers in addition to a stepfather.

DewDr0p Wed 16-Jan-13 22:30:15

Oh dear OP, first of all I am very very sorry for both of your loss.

My very good friend died just over 4 years ago (leaving her dh and 2 dds) and I know both her dh and her dm quite well so I can see both sides of this story.

My friend's dh has coped well and is rebuilding his life, dating etc. He hasn't quite found that special person yet but I think he will and they will make a new family one day. My friend's dm is doing OK but there are times when the sheer rawness of her grief takes my breath away. Losing a child is so against the natural order of life. There will always be a daughter-shaped hole in her life. I think this is perfectly normal. I can't imagine losing one of my children, the mere thought makes me feel sick - can you?

I imagine that your mil is finding it very very hard to hear your ds calling someone else "Daddy". Prob not made any easier by the fact that your dp's dcs don't call you Mummy tbh. Did you tell her about this? I'm just wondering if she didn't know this was a conscious choice on your part?

Perhaps the best course of action here is to be the bigger person. Take an appropriate moment and thank your MIL for agreeing to be called Grandma. Say how much it means to you and dp, that you are trying to build your new family unit and give the children that security that you thought they had lost. You might even acknowledge that you understand that ds calling dp Daddy must be hard for her but explain the reasons why. Remind her how important dh is to you and your ds and how important her role is in helping ds to know about his dad. But then ask her to respect the decisions you have made and support you in them - for ds.

Velcropoodle Wed 16-Jan-13 22:34:56

Can I suggest that you write her a letter pouring it all out-and then park it in a drawer somewhere and read it a week or so later?
then you can edit, re-park, re-read and finally decide to send if you think the end justifies the means.Chances are you'll never send it.But you will have had your say.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now