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Trying to not be unreasonable about my MIL

(32 Posts)
bubbathebuilder Tue 17-May-16 14:23:54

Right. I have changed my name so as not to be recognised. Also, really trying to avoid being the snarky unreasonable twat I know that I am. So I am after advice really.

I have great PIL - they are phenomenal. We chose to stay where we are now because my wife wanted to be close to her parents to help us with children when we had them - rather than move closer to my parents (who are 00's of miles away).

However, I am fed up of my MIL listening to me, agreeing, smiling sweetly and then happily undermining me as soon as my back is turned.

An example - we went for a meal. Had a great time. FIL paid for us all. Wonderful. Left the restaurant and my 4 year old who had eaten a massive dinner, and his dessert, and most of everybody else's too says he is hungry once we get to MILs house. He isn't - he is just being greedy.

I tell him he can't have any more to eat. Grandma suggests a biscuit or yogurt. I say to her and to him - "No, he has eaten enough I really don't want him to have any more to eat. " She replies OK, sorry you can't have any more. I go to the car to put something in the boot - and come back in to see him eating a biscuit. "It's OK" he tells me "Grandma said I could just have one little biscuit".

This is one little example - but it is a continuing and constant pattern. If they don't agree with our way of parenting vs their way of grandparenting, they simply ignore us.

The problem is that every time I raise this with my wife, she promises to do something about it but wont. She never actually challenges her parents - I think because of a lifetime of PA from her mum.

If I say something to them I will come across as a bad tempered angry rude arsehole - I know this because that is what happens when I get upset.

The unreasonable options are:

1) I open up on them both barrels and irrevocably damage the situation.
2) I am honest but manage to not lose my temper with them and my wife faces a couple of years of PA from her mum on how terrible I am (although natch, nothing will be said in public or my earshot).
3) I cut off all contact (and they help out a lot) and spend money on childcare for the time they do look after my children, only allowing them to see the kids on our terms and when we can control the situation.

Really looking for what the reasonable option is here. I should add that we are having issues with my son following instructions - and I don't know how much is his age and how much is that he realises that he can get his own way if he asks enough people.

Gide Tue 17-May-16 14:29:59

Option 2, ensuring your DW is totally on board. If the mil gives/does something you have-reasonably-asked her not to, pick her up on it every single time, without fail, utter consistency, but you need your DW big time on board with this. The incident you mention would have driven me mad. I know it would be wrong, but I'd have binned the biscuit after a chat with DS.

It's not healthy for him to eat yet more, she knows this, she is just doing this to have her way, one presumes, which is a massive PITA and yes, very undermining. I know it's a small thing, but very important in the grand scheme of things.

rumblingDMexploitingbstds Tue 17-May-16 14:36:03

I'm afraid I would have removed the biscuit and said nicely but firmly (and loudly) "Well I said no, you couldn't have a biscuit and it's mummy and I who decide, so we'll give this back to Grandma." And done so. And ignored any ensuing paddies from MiL or ds.

Grandma might think twice before she undermines you again or she might challenge you, in which case you can be cheerfully firm about "please don't undermine us". You do have the fourth option of just cheerfully and very firmly stepping in and redirecting every time they do it. Yes it's rude, but no ruder than undermining and playing the 'if silly daddy/mummy say no ask grandma' game, and less damaging than going nuclear. Your wife may get her ear bashed about how awful you are - well you're not, you know you're not, that translates as 'I don't like it when I don't get my way with bubba', a bit of thick skinned smiling, ignoring and doing things your way will eventually stop that.

And yes, before all the posts start about it's only one biscuit it's illustrative of an ongoing attitude towards you that you're seeing happen over and over. YANBU to be frustrated by it or to recognise at this point you're frustrated enough to be considering giving up on the relationship.

rumblingDMexploitingbstds Tue 17-May-16 14:37:04

LOL crosspost with Pita who says it much better.

rumblingDMexploitingbstds Tue 17-May-16 14:37:48

Pita ? Gide ! Ruddy autocorrect's insane.

bubbathebuilder Tue 17-May-16 14:54:28

Firstly thank god. I am now fighting back tears because I was starting to think I was going mad.

Secondly I am trying to minimise the impact on my wife (who hates confrontation with her mum after years of being cowed by this) but also on me - they do a huge amount to help us and I am quite selfishly keen that continues. So there is a bit of me being selfish in this as well.

I can be the world's biggest prat, and I do it regularly by being very arrogant and forceful about these things. I have an overactive sense of right and wrong that clouds my judgement and ability to understand how other people will react. I am just trying to avoid that really.

tinyterrors Tue 17-May-16 16:32:50

If it were a one off I'd say leave it, grandparents love to spoil their grandchildren.

However, it's an ongoing pattern and that's not okay. Your ds will learn that if mummy/daddy say no nan will say yes, and he'll learn that he doesn't have to do as you say which is not okay. It's also not fair for your ds to be in the middle as it will confuse him.

Wrt following instructions, or not in this case, it's something all children do. They're pushing the boundaries and finding out how far they can push, which makes what your mil is doing even more of an issue.

I'd go with 2, be polite but firm and tell her it's not okay to constantly undermine you.

ProfYaffle Tue 17-May-16 16:37:56

My parents could be similar when my dc were small. It wasn't quite as much of a problem for us though as they live quite a long way away.

However, an approach that really worked for us was getting the dc to enforce the rules. We'd prime them before the visit "Grandad doesn't know the rules about ice cream! Isn't he silly? I bet you know them don't you? Can you tell Grandad when he forgets?" Then when illicit ice cream is offered, either the kids shriek in excitement "Grandad! you don't know the rules!!!" or, if they forget, a discreet whisper in their ear and they remember.

ProcrastinatorGeneral Tue 17-May-16 17:06:51

Pick it up, every single time. Politely but consistently. Good luck.

TendonQueen Tue 17-May-16 17:13:21

As others have said, keep picking it up in a completely polite but firm way. As you know yourself and know you can slip into being arrogant and forceful (good that you recognise this) work on planning how you can do this without that tone. I would practice and role play what you will say and how. Broken record technique (Google it) would also be useful for you as it helps take the emotion out of things.

ProfYaffle Tue 17-May-16 19:36:54

Agree with tendon and procrastinator, pick it up every time. Doesn't have to be rude just a light toned "oh sorry mil, ds can't have that biscuit". My Dad never responded to Big Talks. Small, polite, frequent comments worked far better.

Dieu Tue 17-May-16 19:42:53

Her behaviour isn't on. However, I think when your parents or in-laws look after your children a lot, you sell your soul to the devil a little bit. I see it all the time with my two sisters, both of whom rely on my parents for childcare. A lot of the time it's a case of sucking things up and picking your battles.

JayDot500 Tue 17-May-16 19:50:24

Lol, I agree with Dieu. In my world, every case where grandparents step in to babysit, the child knows that can get away with pushing their parents buttons because granny/grandad will usually back them. Plenty of arguments, but nothing much changes.

OneMagnumisneverenough Tue 17-May-16 19:58:07

I'm a bit meh tbh - grandparents spoil grandchildren, that's their job.

My DNiece used to tell tales on her Dad (my DB) to my DM so that my DM could pretend to give him a telling off and he'd have to say sorry Mum etc. She would be so ecstatic about it.

As children we'd be slipped tit bits by grandparents, uncles and aunts and so it continues.

Honestly? I'd try not to get worked up about it. If she is doing it maliciously, you are only fueling the fire and if she isn't you are upsetting a beneficial arrangement for nought.

MistressMerryWeather Tue 17-May-16 20:06:05

I'll be honest, the biscuit thing wouldn't be a huge deal for me.

What other ways does she undermine, so much so you would be willing to go no contact over?

MrsCampbellBlack Tue 17-May-16 20:09:00

Good lord - no contact - do people really do this in the real world over biscuits?

If you're happy to take the free childcare then try to not be 'arrogant and very forceful'.

To be honest I think it is lovely when grandparents spoil their grandchildren but then I've never been in a situation where they've provided a lot of free childcare.

Perhaps pay for childcare and then let the children spend limited amounts of time with their grandparents where it doesn't matter if they have an extra biscuit or ice cream.

Tiggywinkler Tue 17-May-16 20:42:09

I think that GPs spoiling their GC is lovely, and to be encouraged. I love when my DD has cuddles/toys/treats with her GPs.

What shouldn't be encouraged, however, is this undermining business.

I'd sit down and come up with a list of non-negotiables, and also decide what isn't a major issue, just an annoyance that you can let go with gritted teeth.

I had a very similar issue with my MIL and chocolate - she wasn't even through the door each visit and she was shovelling it into DD's mouth. We had a gentle conversation about how I wanted DD to be excited to see her for herself not because of cupboard love, and I bought chocolate buttons in tiny little packets that MIL can give to DD after she's had her tea.

Win/win, with little drama. Good luck!

IAmBumblebee Tue 17-May-16 20:52:21

Is your real name Ray Barone? Haha. I love your honesty OP. But in this case, it's totally reasonable to be angry about this ongoing situation. I like the suggestion to nip it in the bud each time it occurs - your son will learn and hopefully so will grandma! Good luck.

MistressMerryWeather Tue 17-May-16 20:57:47

My two year old automatically sticks his hand in my dad's shirt pocket every time he sees him because he's so used to finding a treat there. blush

Thankfully my dad thinks it's hilarious. grin

Vickyyyy Tue 17-May-16 21:01:29

We have this issue with DHs mother also. She gives the kids chocolate right before dinner and stuff. They all know when she comes through the door they will be getting junk soon. Honestly, its probably not the best way to go about it but we leave her to it now. It makes her happy, its not 'too' much of a problem unless it gets OTT and meh, I agree grandparents like to spoil their grandkids :p

bubbathebuilder Wed 18-May-16 09:45:50

To be clear, this is not about a biscuit. This is about me telling DS he couldn't have a biscuit in front of MIL and also letting MIL know he couldn't have it, then her giving him one within a second of me stepping out of the room.

Or the fact that having told her what is acceptable for breakfast, and him knowing the rules too finding out that she is giving him two separate breakfasts each morning depending on what he wants.

Or having told her to cut down on the snacks after school because we have already had a letter from the school health visitor about his weight (which personally I think is a bit meh - he is 4 for christs sake). And then she agrees with us, and does her own thing anyway.

I am more than happy for this idea of grandparents homes are a special place of treats. That is fine. What I am not happy with is grandparents homes are a special place where whatever your parents think is right can go and fuck off into a cocked hat and we will all ignore them.

Spoke to my wife last night. The often, firm and polite will be the way. However, my wife will be the one to remind them.

Thanks everyone.

bubbathebuilder Wed 18-May-16 09:46:35

Also, who is Ray Barone?

OneMagnumisneverenough Wed 18-May-16 10:00:01

Funnily enough OP I almost added to my earlier post that if there was a weight issue then that may be different.

This is definitely a case of where you need to be working together. I agree it's a bit ridiculous to have a letter about a 4 year olds weight unless it has been a continuous problem, however you must also feel that there is something in it I think.

I agree that if anyone needs to play hard cop in this scenario it is your DW. Maybe say that you'd like treats to be left until late in the day so that he isn't asking for more treats later as it can be hard to say no. It would also be good if they could differentiate the treat giving between days when they are looking after him and days where he is visiting, so that on visiting days they can play indulgent grandparents but on looking after days they are in loco parentis and need to follow the rules?

BathshebaDarkstone Wed 18-May-16 10:03:44

My aunt does this: DD stays with her a lot and she totally fucked up DD's potty training by doing it her way, so we had to switch to her way too, she still ignores bedtimes so she's knackered for school. I'm going to have to start putting her to bed early halfway through the summer holidays this year, so her body clock's already adjusted.

I can't talk to my aunt about it and she ignores me anyway, the only way around it would be to say DD can't go there anymore, which would break her heart.

I hope your MIL is a better listener. Option 2, and good luck!

OneMagnumisneverenough Wed 18-May-16 10:04:51

Or at least had an agreed treat such as a small plain biscuit that they can even pretend to sneak him so it becomes the family joke. It would be sad to ruin his relationship with them, you are really lucky that he has loving grandparents.

My boys have never had a granddad and they've only one gran who is very elderly and doesn't live locally. I do feel that's a relationship that they've missed out on. I was brought up with a similar lack of grandparents though I can remember my granddad making scones with proper butter, something we never had at home - he died when I was about 7.

Try to cherish the relationship for your son.

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