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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 Sat 19-Jan-13 10:00:45

TheCarefulLaundress
I am glad you posted.
This thread has often reminded me of other threads with adopted children scenarios, where a grandparent/family member, will not accept the adopted child and treat them differently to their 'blood' grandchildren.

BuiltForComfort
I think that is a very valid point.

HolgerDanske Sat 19-Jan-13 10:14:11

The knife through her heart of hearing someone else be given the title her son should have had will always be there for MIL. There is nothing anyone can do about that no matter how sensitively it's handled. That's why she deserves unending compassion.

But for the little boy his father will always be something of a pretend-daddy. That is the truth of it. At such a young age and with no memory of his dad, I think it's important to nurture any relationship he has that can fill that hole. He deserves a daddy that he can see and touch. And if that includes calling that person daddy (personally I would have gone for daddy Y, I think) then I think that's ok.

Flatbread Sat 19-Jan-13 10:17:34

Ok so if the OP were to marry her DP and they each adopt the other's children, it's then ok for her ds to call him Daddy? And the knife that would go through MIL's heart would no longer matter?

Yes, it means the relationship was given time and thought and responsibility.

Can OP say truthfully, that if she were to die tomorrow, that her dp would be the best person to bring her son up? That her dp would always have his best interests in heart and if there was conflict, he would put her son before his own, if need be?

And same for her dp, if he were to die tomorrow, would he want op to be the lawful guardian of his children?

What happens if the partner remarries...will the child be brought up by two completely unrelated people?

And wouldn't the grandparents need to be involved in this discussion...?

I think it is reasonable for MIL to be devastated to hear the position of daddy so casually handed over.

TheCarefulLaundress Sat 19-Jan-13 10:18:54

The situations are not completely different. Both are about children who have never, nor ever will, know their biological parents being able to have what nearly all their contemporaries will have - the opportunity to call the man who is raising them daddy.

OP's late DH will always be DS's daddy too but, sadly, he won't be the one taking him sledging today, overseeing his homework, cuddling and horse playing with him. That's what daddies do and therefore DS has every right to call him daddy.

And I would hope that OP will show compassion to her MIL whose life is frozen in grief whilst OP and her DS are living in the happy present - which they have every right to do.

(Izzy - DD adopted from country where there is no paper trail of birth parents).

HolgerDanske Sat 19-Jan-13 10:28:49

And to get back to the original question, HM I can totally understand why you would be angry at your MIL. But I really think the best thing for everyone (esp your son) would be to build bridges. As soon as possible. Don't leave it too long.

Children need all the help and support and love they can get and the wider his family network the better for him. And as he gets older and his dad's person starts to take more importance in his self-identity, he will be much better off for having had a close relationship with his grandmother (as long as you two can gently circumvent any thorny issues between you).

Forgive the rather silly question, but does your son have his own personal photo album of his dad? I imagine he would so I'm sorry if this offends you..
But if he doesn't then please ask your MIL to make one up for him. That, along with the memory box and a journal of memories would probably reassure her enough that things can start to heal between you two. And it will be a treasure for him someday when he starts to wonder about who his dad was.

Velcropoodle Sat 19-Jan-13 10:37:52

Holger that is an inspired, really lovely suggestion.

Flatbread Sat 19-Jan-13 10:54:51

Bolger, that is a wonderful idea.

I read some of OP's other threads and she comes across as a very strong and warm and fun person in those.

I guess this is a stage where there is potential for a lot of conflict as OP enters a new phase in her life. Understandably she is impatient with MIL and wants to move on.

But she needs to accept that MIL will never move on, and that she cannot punish her for that...instead use it as a positive thing to make her son's dad more real for him. And let them build a strong bond with plenty of one-to-one time. The more he loves his dgm and sees her as a strong positive influence in his life, the more likely he is to be really proud of his birth-dad and gain confidence from that.

Flatbread Sat 19-Jan-13 10:55:46

Holger not Bolger blush

springyhope Sat 19-Jan-13 11:01:43

I feel quite miserable that this thread kicked off yesterday, of all days. I hope you survived the day OP.

Astley Sat 19-Jan-13 11:03:27

Thecarefullaundress you seem to be purposefully obtuse. My brother does all those things with my DC, it doesn't make him their Father hmm
Plus my brother is biologically related to them, something the new DP won't ever be.

Allowing a small child to call a man who had been in their lives for a matter of months is just not a good idea IMO. SIL's boyfriend grew up like this, biological Father and Mother split up, Mother moved country and has allowed him to call a sucession of men 'Daddy', she is no longer with any of them and he only has contact with one former 'Daddy'. He is very messed up.

I thought it was just common sense that you didn't get you DC to call men who you've been with only months, something as important as Daddy. It just boggles my mind that a man, not married to your biological Mother, who has only known you a year gets to be 'Daddy' despite how clearly distressing it is for his actual, biological Grandmother!

TheCarefulLaundress Sat 19-Jan-13 12:51:06

Astley - that's quite offensive to the OP who appears to have made a commitment to her DP and his children and has no intention of getting a succession of men to be daddy to her DS.

You clearly believe that blood is thicker than water and my family are proof, along with other adoptive and blended families, that it's not true.

AmberLeaf Sat 19-Jan-13 14:09:51

Dont make this about adoption.

It is nothing like that at all.

diddl Sat 19-Jan-13 14:15:14

Sounds to me as if MIL is doing as OP says as she is frightened that she will lose contact with her GS.

I do agree that correcting him was wrong & she should have spoken to OP about that.

KeepCoolCalmAndCollected Sat 19-Jan-13 14:48:14

Amberleaf
Nobody is trying to change this in to an adoption thread. It merely shows that there are sometimes 'similarities' between the two i.e. blended families/adoption families.

ohfunnyhoneyface Sat 19-Jan-13 15:08:03

OP: just wanted to say good luck and I'm so pleased for you that you've found someone special to love and share your lives with.

There really isn't enough love in this world- you've done what you think is right, your MIL is not supporting you. I hope she comes round and you find a way for her to be part of your lives in a positive way that everyone is happy with.

None of us know how we'd feel in this situation- but I feel strongly that I would want my DC to have someone to love and care about them if the worst happened to me. I would want people to be happy and move on with their lives. I would not want people wallowing and I would not want my parents making things awkward for my DP and his new partner.

TheCarefulLaundress Sat 19-Jan-13 16:22:53

Amber - don't dictate what people discuss. It's entirely relevant.

Astley Sat 19-Jan-13 16:30:32

How? This child has biological relatives, still alive and desperate to have a relationship him.

That's not really the same as adoption. Then the Grandmother would no longer be legally related to the child.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Sat 19-Jan-13 17:02:38

Tactful kindness and sensitivity on everyone's part can help preserve contact with the living and a link by memory to the dead.

FIL and BIL and MIL are and could still be a loving part of her DS's life. I don't see that OP is trying to blot out or forget her late husband or deny their son any knowledge of past history. More than one poster has said, it's not all about her. A few have criticised her for 'jumping in at the deep end' and moving in with DP so soon. She's come back and defended herself and been taken to task.

But without her this little boy wouldn't be at the centre of this dilemma. True, she hasn't been a Queen Victoria figure, setting the pace of grieving, jealously clinging onto her status, static and enshrining her DH's memory as an impossible ideal for any man or DS to match. Otoh she could have already moved away and been a lone parent well beyond her in-laws' reach.

If, as several suggested, she bears a grudge or actively dislikes her MIL then she's hardly the first woman to come onto MN with that kind of baggage is she.

Good luck HMTQ.

Flatbread Sat 19-Jan-13 17:33:17

If, as several suggested, she bears a grudge or actively dislikes her MIL then she's hardly the first woman to come onto MN with that kind of baggage is she

Yes, but in most cases there is a dh to act as a counterbalance, understand the pil perspective and maintain a strong bond with mil.

Here, it is even more important to keep the ties, for the little boy's sake. Mil is his biological family, the current dp is not. Mil will put the boy first, the dp probably will not (although he may be a perfectly nice bloke)

It should really not be an ultimatum to mil to accept wholehearted dp and his children, or lose the relationship with her own dgs. The child is not the personal property of anyone, and should not be used as a negotiating tool. He has a right to form a relationship with his father's family, irrespective of his mum's life and decisions.

DoctorAnge Sat 19-Jan-13 18:51:24

Late to this but want to add that whilst you sound like a good person OP this isn't all about you. Your DS and his Grandmother have a very, very special bond and it is vital that it is kept, well sacred really and I don't use that term lightly.
I see no reason why she should be called Grandmother by other children when a name basis would serve just as well. I also think you have bonded very quickly with the new set up but it is understandable that she is going to find things harder and slower. It hasn't been much time at all!
I feel for her so, so much. You sound quite callas toward her on here and the comments about attention seeking are quite cruel really. She has lost her son and your DS his son is going to represent something very special to her. She has apologised, the poor Woman sounds desperate that you could and have threatened to cut her out.
I am really sorry but you don't come accross well on here.

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