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Unusual MiL problem

(12 Posts)
debjud Wed 19-Nov-14 09:40:59

Posted in AIBU by mistake - so am posting here now.

My MiL is 87, fiercely independent but increasingly frail - often tripping up, balance problems, eyesight not good, memory not good. She has insisted on cooking the Xmas lunch every year, every bit of it. It's DH's family - just 5 of us altogether - Me and DH (late 50's, early 60's), BiL (late 50's) and DD (18).

We were getting increasingly worried and frankly uncomfortable about her doing all this cooking, also getting in quite a tizz by the time we got there.
So last year, we suggested that we all contributed to the meal - she insists on having it at her place - won't go anywhere else - about an hour's drive from us. BiL = soup, Us = turkey, gravy, potatoes, MiL = other veg, bought xmas pudding, made xmas cake, mince pies - so still plenty for her to do. I have to say, it was a great success (we thought) - the turkey survived the journey and everything was hot and good.

This year - she says it was awful last year - she wants to do everything - "do we think that she's not capable?" "Is her food no good? "(!). Her kitchen is v small, so I don't think that us all pitching in with the cooking there would work.

I don't know what to do now. I worry that if she has her way, at some point she will scald/burn herself or worse - her hands visibly shake when she lifts a pan or takes something out of the oven (low down near the floor). Every time we see her, she has a new cut or bruise from where she says she 'tripped over her feet' etc etc - and that's just the ones we know about. And in our 50's and 60's we are not happy about being 'served' in this way. But she also wants to do it and is v proud about it!!

Any suggestions? Especially from anyone who has experienced this situation?

elelfrance Wed 19-Nov-14 09:56:39

Thats an awkward one, last year's compromise would have seemed the ideal solution !!
Maybe one of you (whoever is least likely to upset her) could stay with her in the kitchen to help, lift heavy stuff out of awkward oven etc...i know if it was my family, we'd be inclined to say 'Look Betty, you need help, if all of us are worrying about you getting hurt, it will make the day very stressful, so just let [whoever] give you a hand'....but we're a very direct family, so that approach mightn't go over well everywhere !
Must say too, nice to see a family rallying round to help an aging MIL, even if she isn't too receptive !

schmeegle Wed 19-Nov-14 10:01:11

I have a little experience in issues like this. Namely my granny, many moons ago. It's clearly very important to her to be able to make dinner on Christmas day for her family. In all likelihood she will get great enjoyment, or at the very least distraction, in preparing for this over the coming weeks.

I think it would be a lovely gift to her to let her carry on and do it but obviously given her age I would suggest someone would need to be there while she does it to keep an eye on things.

This might be incredibly awkward and not fit in with anyones plans but it would be a kindness. And to be blunt, she doesn't have many Christmases left.

I have memories of a very similar episode in our family and I'm glad in hindsight we accomodated her.

Hope this helps.

NakedFamilyFightClub Wed 19-Nov-14 10:07:23

Could one person travel up before Christmas day to stay overnight and lend a hand on the day itself to basically supervise her in the kitchen and do as much of the heavy lifting as possible?

It's not ideal, but it might work.

debjud Wed 19-Nov-14 10:11:18

Many thanks for your swift replies - I'm going to discuss them with DH this evening. I suppose the other thing to put into the mix is that she is the only one in the family to whom Christmas really means something - is religious and will be going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. So I think she is also really tired by the next day.

balancingfigure Wed 19-Nov-14 10:16:33

If she's used to doing it all does she feel guilty about last year because you all helped?

I think you need to be very firm but in a kind way - we love coming to your house, love your homemade mince pies but we all feel much better when we can help. Maybe say you know she is capable but do not think it is fair/safe for her do everything.

She may well moan about it but she won't actually hate it.

addictedtosugar Wed 19-Nov-14 10:34:55

Would DD like to help?
Could it be sold to MiL as teaching DD how to cook?

But yes, the only way we managed with this was to have an assistant. With time, Granny has relented, and will now ask for help. It is easier, as everyone is at my parents, not her house. But still took a long time to let her see how much she didn't need to do.

Now, aged 87 (iirc), she is content to supervise most things (mince pie pastry is one exception)

TheSpottedZebra Wed 19-Nov-14 10:38:21

Agree with her 'teaching' someone how to cook.
Maybe one of the cooks from last year, given that the dinner was so awful (Ha!)

TheFantasticMrsFox Wed 19-Nov-14 11:36:12

Would she even contemplate going out for dinner?

RunawayReindeer Wed 19-Nov-14 11:53:43

Or potentially could you all take turns "watching" her in the kitchen, just to keep an eye, and make it seem like you are wandering in for a chat?? I think a Pp idea to sell it as dd needing cooking lessons ready for her own dinner sounds good (if dd is willing)

ReallyBadParty Wed 19-Nov-14 12:40:05

I know exactly what you mean; my parents do this every time we visit, and it is a nightmare and does put us off going there.

It's all very well to offer help but it doesn't stop the kind of frantic atmosphere as they hobble about looking as if disaster will strike at any moment.

DM compounds this by having to sit down for intervals, so long delays, quite dramatically saying that cooking makes her very sore!! We offer/try to insist that we will cook every time, no joy. The dcs find it tricky too, the atmosphere is about as far from a relaxed meal with family as you could get!

To be honest, I think it's all very well to be proud, but sometimes it would be the right thing to do to acknowledge that the time has come to hand on the baton. (Rolling pin?) I hope I won't do this to my dcs and that they won't have to post on MN about

Anyway, I have no solution, but understand how you feel.

ZingOfSeven Wed 19-Nov-14 13:59:07

It could be the last Christmas she ever does, so I'd let her do it.

My MIL is like her in terms of independence, I already told her that I'll need a release form so I never have to fight with her about taking/refusing medicines etcgrin

I understand you worry, but it would make her happy to do it for all of you so yes, offer help, but let her get on with it.
good luck, you are so lovely caring about her!thanks

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