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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.

KeepCoolCalmAndCollected Wed 16-Jan-13 22:36:23

As awful as it obviously is for your poor MIL losing her son, I do think that she must be made aware that you have to do what YOU feel is right for your son's best interests and emotional well-being.

Harsh, I know, but your new family isn't about her.

It is about what is best for your little boy. (And all of your new family).

In your situation, I would meet her on mutual ground and kindly but in no uncertain terms tell her how you feel and what you expect from her.

Good luck and all the best!

AmberLeaf Wed 16-Jan-13 22:37:32

I get your point about life being too short OP, but it isnt just about societal norms, its about how your son copes with it and to a certain extent other peoples [ie MIL] feelings.

How many months has it been? how long since your son called your DP daddy?

HMTheQueen Wed 16-Jan-13 22:40:52

I think I may have given the wrong impression. We didn't tell DS to call DP daddy - he did it completely of his own volition. For a while he called him <dpname> and daddy then he dropped the name. It was totally his choice, but we didn't dissuade him from using that title. I wouldn't have forced him to use that name if he wasn't ready - it was just a natural progression for him.

I'm going to go to bed now, but will read through this all again tomorrow when I have more time. Thanks again to everyone for their views.

Portofino Wed 16-Jan-13 22:49:23

He calls DP daddy because all his friends call their male parents daddy. But I think you NEED to remember that this is a special case and find a middle way. Unless your ex in laws are completely toxic it would be very cruel to deny them a relationship with your dc, and it would be cruel to them to quietly erase your dh.

MayTheOddsBeEverInYourFavour Wed 16-Jan-13 22:57:34

I hope you can find a way through this incredibly difficult situation, I do think you should cut your mil some slack but I also agree that it is your sons feelings that are most important. It sounds like your mil is willing to meet up you half way now?

I think its lovely he calls your DP daddy and I agree that that is between your ds and DP (and you of course) and while it must not be easy, it's not anyone else's decision to make. Your ds sounds happy and secure and loved and that is the most important thing of all

Alibabaandthe40nappies Wed 16-Jan-13 23:01:16

OP I do think you are being very harsh, and more so as the thread goes on.

I'm a bit stunned that you are getting annoyed with her grief. Losing a child is not the natural order of things. It can never heal, they can never be replaced, nothing can fill that void.
Perhaps tomorrow you could have a look on the bereaved parents thread, and see how those mothers grieve for their children, some of whom have been dead a lot longer than your DH.

Your MIL must feel that the blink of an eye has passed, and yet here is her son replaced by someone else. No wonder she isn't thinking straight, and yet she has apologised for her behaviour and acceded to your wishes. For you to still be even thinking about cutting contact is utterly, utterly horrible.

I know you say you are thinking of your son before anything else, but are you really? What happens if things break down between you and your DP? Then your DS will have lost another Daddy, which perhaps could have been avoided if you hadn't thrown him in at the deep end while jumping in yourself.
I do absolutely understand your wish on your own behalf to move the relationship on quickly, but I think you should be honest with yourself that it was done for your own benefit and not for the benefit of your son.

DoodlesNoodles Wed 16-Jan-13 23:01:45

I would think about sending a letter. Explain what you feel and reiterate how important she is to you and your DS. I liked the idea of suggesting a special day involving her and DS to remember your DH. This will help her know that you want to involve her for the long term.
You are articulate and I am sure you can explain things clearly. Tell her clearly that you are worried about what she will say to you son. You can tell her that she really upset you but that you welcome her apology and would like to move on. Maybe, you could suggest meeting up for a quick coffee at a coffee shop. (where you can have a bland chit chat about the kids )

...........or something like that.

Maybe, you can write it then leave it a couple of days before reading it again and sending it to her.

Your DS should also have a special relationship with his grandmother, one day his real daddy will become incredibly important to him. This is such a sad thread.

Badvoc Wed 16-Jan-13 23:13:42

You sound very level headed and fair BUT she is obviously struggling with the new situation in your family...you are moving on and that great. She is not or perhaps cannot?
Give it time.
No need to fall out.
A letter is a nice idea.

Solo Wed 16-Jan-13 23:16:06

I agree entirely with Rose at the beginning. Speaks perfect sense imo.

MidnightMasquerader Wed 16-Jan-13 23:40:46

"but - and it's a big but - my loyalty is to DS not her."

The utter, utter irony of this statement. sad

I find this thread unbelievably chilling.

BettySuarez Wed 16-Jan-13 23:47:55

I'm finding it chilling too sad

fruitstick Wed 16-Jan-13 23:53:19

I'm still struggling with the real issue here.

You have every right to do whatever you like.

Your MIL has every right to find that hurtful and painful and difficult.

It is incredibly unfair of you to be ANGRY that she doesn't like your son calling your DP Daddy.

Looking at it logically, your DSS don't call you 'mummy' because they remember theirs and so don't want to.

Your DS doesn't remember his and therefore has no real feelings towards him as a person. THAT'S the painful bit for her. Your son might not rremember his father but she does. Therefore, she doesn't want him calling your DP Daddy.

You shouldn't pussy foot around her but have a bit of heart.

fackinell Thu 17-Jan-13 00:01:53

You're not BU, OP, but she is probably just scared that her son may be forgotten (in her eyes). It's lovely that you're all a big happy family with you DP and DSSs but she is probably still grieving so much and is frightened the link will be lost.

I think it's also important that your son knows a lot about his bio father. Can you imagine if it was you that had died and your son called another woman mummy? How would your Mum feel? She would probably want to talk about you to him. I think neither of you are BU. live and let live. She can embrace your DSSs without them calling her Grandma.

Well done on coping with your bereavement and raising your son well on your own for the most part of his life. grin

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Thu 17-Jan-13 00:21:53

MIL is a lonely woman, she divorced your FIL 25 years' ago, when DH was alive she wasted time with fall-outs when you and he got together. Against the natural order of things she has outlived her son. Understandably she can't bear to see him replaced. When she corrected her GDS she knew you'd hear, and she touched a nerve.

A Pyrrhic victory as now she risks losing touch with that precious link to her son.

I think you are already wavering. I don't think you would deny her access to GDS any more than you would stop FIL from seeing him.

We have photos up, we talk about him, we socialise with his school/uni friends who talk about him, we see his family

Yes you have moved on, life is precious, I haven't walked a mile in your shoes so wouldn't dream of opining about the speed of your new relationship. As DS grows you will see more of his DH in him. FWIW I don't think a mother's love for her DS does trump that of a DIL especially when she's cradling their baby. Nor do I think you have it in you to let MIL's grief break that bond with DS.

What would you do in her shoes? How would you feel if you son died and you missed him whilst his wife (totally understandably) moved on?

Sad, confused.........

Truth is you don't know because grief make fools of us all. It fucks with out mind and reasonable becomes unreasonable for no normal reason whatsoever!

BranchingOut Thu 17-Jan-13 07:17:08

The fundamental problem is that while you can move on and find another husband, an adult cannot do the same when it is the loss of a parent or child.

Speaking bluntly, but from experience.

SaraBellumHertz Thu 17-Jan-13 07:35:24

Having thought this through a little more I actually think it is very odd that your son is calling a man you have known less than a year (and him presumably an even shorter time) daddy.

Whilst I appreciate your argument that life is precious I think you have put your son in a very vulnerable position.

Clytaemnestra Thu 17-Jan-13 10:24:30

Your son isn't in a position to be making the call as to calling your dp daddy. He's 4. He DOES want to replace his biological daddy with this new daddy, because what he wants is a daddy. He never knew his birth daddy, so at 4, he doesn't have any loyalty to him. He's 4, he doesn't have the emotional maturity to understand the concepts involved. His immediate progression to calling your new dp daddy is giving him the security he wants, so he is all keen to replace his birth father. He's diving into this as much as you are.

BUT he's 4. He doesn't understand all the relationships, in his eyes you pretty much can get a new daddy from the shop to be a forever daddy. You do know it's more complicated than that, so leaving the whole decision up to him as to what he calls your dp isn't fair, and it opens it up to heartbreak if your dp decides that, for example, life is too precious to waste on a family set up and actually he fancies moving to Australia. You've been with him for less than a year, you don't know him we'll enough to say hand on heart you know every inch of how he thinks. You can chuck yourself full steam into this relationship, because life is too short to think about what might go wrong...but what if life turns out to not be short, this turns out to be a horrible mess and then your son is down two daddys? You're in a position to understand this, your son isn't so it would be kinder to help him adjust slowly. If your son is calling him daddy, surely your dp should be thinking of adopting him? Getting parental responsibility? If there was a horrible accident and you were unable to care for your son, then currently he would lose you and his brand new daddy in one go. And if you're not ready for your dp to have legal parental responsibility then your ds shouldn't be calling him daddy yet. Because for him, that's the 4 year old equivalent of legal adoption and it will be devastating if it turns out that actually it's not the case.

I suspect you're quite so angry with your mil because you feel she's judging the speed at which you're moving into this relationship, and you don't want to consider the possibility that this might be anything but the perfect blended family dream. Which it might we'll be, and I really hope it is. But you should be cushioning your son from the possibility that it's not.

Junebugjr Thu 17-Jan-13 10:54:21

Oh come on OP. Your pissed off with a woman who's lost her son, and has to hear her grandchild calling another man 'daddy', and then seems to have the tag 'gramma' foisted on her by your new family. Your asking way too much of her.
Anyone with some sense and a heart would be hurt by this, I can't believe you've got the brass neck to come on here asking the best way to get some sort of apology off her! It sounds like you need to do some apologising of your own. FGS be more sensitive around her in future, you've put her in an awkward position and not the other way around. I can't believe my eyes reading your posts honestly.

HappyGirlNow Thu 17-Jan-13 10:57:32

Hi OP.

Firstly, I'm so sorry for the loss of your husband and its great that you've found someone else to share your life with.

However, I find the situation you've created odd to say the least. You've only known your partner a year (a very short time) and insisting that both families become so intertwined they call each other by family names? Surely all the children have their own grandparents? Why should your MIL be happy to be called grandma by another persons children? Why can't they call her by name? As long as she's kind to them what does it matter? And as for your son calling your new partner 'daddy' - again, I don't think that's necessary at all and I can see why she's so hurt.

I think maybe the rest of the family are just trying to keep the peace in meeting your demands. What if you and your new partner split up (a year isn't exactly a long term relationship) and everyone's been calling each other 'grandad, daddy' etc etc? Will you all just move on and do the same in your next relationships? How will your son feel? And would you let him call your next partner 'daddy'?

Sorry, you asked for opinions and that's the strong feeling I have when I read your posts. As I said, it's great that you're happy and it must have been an awful few years for you.

HappyGirlNow Thu 17-Jan-13 13:15:45

Oh OP, missed the bit about you ignoring your MIL's calls.. That's very cruel.

HMTheQueen Thu 17-Jan-13 14:20:07

Thanks to everyone who has contributed. Definitely some interesting points of view and I'll have a proper look at them all after the boys are in bed.

FeistyLass Thu 17-Jan-13 15:30:15

Op, you've been through such a lot but somehow I think you have lost perspective over all this. Your mil has apologised and tbh when I read your OP and she said to FIL she was scared you would cut contact, I thought she was over-reacting but you've since made it clear that you consider this a possibility sad. To me, that seems incredibly cruel and out of all proportion.
If I was you I would be reassuring her that she would never lose contact with your ds, because she is his grandmother and they do have an unique bond. You're confusing lots of normal granny-activities with some sinister attempt to turn your ds into your late husband. They're not.
Everything you have mentioned my MIL does with ds and my dh is still here. It's what MILs do. Actually, it's what grannies do because my dm does the same too.
Names are very powerful and letting your ds slip into calling your new partner daddy without considering the implications seems a little odd. There are lots of names - daddy, dad, papa, pa, father, etc. When your ds wants to talk about his late father, what will he call him? Your new dp and his birth dad are two different people.
You obviously have an unhappy history with your MIL but you shouldn't let that cloud her attempts to have a relationship with your ds. You sound as though you're just waiting for an excuse to cut her off. That isn't putting your ds first. It's putting your feelings first. She has an unique insight into your late dh which none of his uni friends or even your FIL can provide to your ds.
I'm sorry if I sound harsh but you do too.

AutumnDreams Thu 17-Jan-13 16:39:42

Having lived through a time of great pain, losing your DH, I feel that you have tried to create - understandably - a sort of Utopia in your new relationship. It seems that most of the people involved have felt able to enable that. Only the grief stricken mother of your late DH is unable/unwilling to play ball. I actually feel respect for her that she is trying.

As the mother of adult sons, with their own families, I can honestly say that I would feel exactly the way she does if, God forbid, I ever found myself in that position. I would stick to my guns too, and as I said, I have some respect for her that she has backed down and apologised. Is it possible that because you had some problems with her before DH died, you are allowing it to colour your judgement now?

I truly don`t think there can be any worse pain than that of losing a child. I pray I never find out. There is no way forward from that. You have all the power now where your son is concerned, Please use it wisely and with compassion.

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