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Interfering/ controlling MIL - advice needed (long, sorry)

(8 Posts)
matana Tue 16-Jul-13 12:57:23

Firstly, as grandparents go she is the least engaged I have ever met. She lives 4 hours away, is retired and wealthy and yet she has seen 2.6yo DS a handful of times - the last time was Christmas when we travelled to see her (and FIL) and the rest of DH's family. We have practically had to beg her to help us with 2 days of childcare coming up - and that was more because DH and i felt we ought to give her the opportunity to spend some time with DS. My family live close by and would be more than happy to help, but we felt we ought to at least give her the opportunity instead.

Anyway, she (and FIL) are coming.

I have two stepdaughters - one (13yo) we see regularly and have an exceptional relationship with. The other (almost 16) chose two years ago to break off contact with us. We have tried numerous times and numerous ways to fix things, before letting it lie and hoping she will one day come back. Before she stopped contact, she too had a good relationship with us, as well as, and particularly, her half brother who was 9 months old at the time.

So MIL called DH yesterday to say:

1/ For DSD2's 16th birthday (the one we don't see any more) she wants to give her the £1000 she's saved over the years. DH said it was her money and she could therefore do what she wants with it, but wondered if it might be worth waiting until her 18th instead, by which time she is more likely to spend it a bit more wisely. He also pointed out that DSD2's former behaviour has been to never thank anybody for gifts and presents, and perhaps effectively rewarding her for having little to no contact with anyone might not be the best choice. Regardless, she wants to do it, so DH has made his point and said "go for it, but don't expect and thanks".

2/ She has arranged to meet DSD2 while she is looking after DS. This she had done before she spoke to us about it. Neither of us wants to stop this meeting and believe it's a good thing that they, at least, are staying in contact. The problem i have, is that she intends to take DS with her. This i feel is wholly inappropriate. DSD has not seen DS for over a year, despite both DH and I making it clear that if she wanted to stay in contact and have a relationship with him we will not stand in her way. DS's CM lives opposite DSD and has also said to her that she's welcome to visit DS there to develop their relationship. She has chosen not to. The last time they saw each other, DS had no idea who she was and apparently the whole situation was very awkward, as well as upsetting for DSD (she was plainly upset that he didn't recognise/ remember her). If DSD wants to see him, fine, but i want her to make that effort voluntarily (it's there on a plate for her if she chooses to take it), not because MIL makes DS tag along with them so she can give her £1000 over a coffee.

DH has told her we don't believe it's the right circumstances to re-introduce them. Firstly, he doesn't really know the grandparents who will be looking after him. Secondly, they are taking him to meet a sister he no longer knows. I want DSD to know that the door remains open, she is welcome to see him at the CM (and ours) whenever she likes etc, but a one-off and probably never-to-be-repeated occasion, outside of DS's home environment, is not the time or place to do so. MIL's reaction was "we'll discuss it when i come down". Mine is "no, we won't. It will not be happening."

How do i make her see (without completely alienating her) that her interference is likely to re-open own wounds? She is a volatile woman, who is likely to say "well i'm meeting her anyway - so you'll have to find alternative childcare". I don't want an argument, but over my dead body is she going to do this against our wishes.

Bonsoir Tue 16-Jul-13 13:00:34

It is not for your MIL to orchestrate contact between your DSD1 (the 16 year old) and your DS. That would give confusing messages to both DC.

I'm not sure why you are insisting that MIL does the childcare when she is clearly not engaged and poor at family dynamics.

matana Tue 16-Jul-13 13:04:46

True Bonsoir. Our approaches, and expectations, are clearly very different. The confusion arose because FIL is more engaged and put the idea to us of them looking after him. We thought that was positive, and accepted the 'offer'... without knowing that MIL wasn't actually engaged. DH desperately wants things to be different - he is both pleased and saddened by how different my own family is. This is perhaps the root of the matter.

Smilehappy Tue 16-Jul-13 13:29:03

MIL seems to be stuck in her own ways, she has no real engagement with you or the children so I doubt very much you will get her to see the situation from your perspective... She is in no position to set up these meetings without your consent. FWIW I reckon she is being very unreasonable with wishing to take your DS to the random meeting and handing over £1000 to a 16 year old girl, who has no responsibilities or understanding of money, who does this? I'm sure if it was handed to her at 18 or even better 21 she would be more grateful and have something worth putting the money towards. Why don't you suggest that MIL puts it in an account for 5years to accumulate interest etc? Sounds better to me!!

Good luck and stand your ground winksmile x

ihearthuckabees Tue 16-Jul-13 13:51:18

Forget about the rights and wrongs of giving DSD £1000. That's your MIL's perogative, and sounds like your DH has done the right thing by stating his opinion but then backing off.

But you are entitled to have conditions in place for how the babysitting goes i.e. saying that MIL and FIL must stay at yours with your DS and not visit anyone.

I would say to MIL, please come and look after DS, then on your way home visit DSD to give her the birthday money. If she doesn't agree, tell her you will cancel the childcare event. If she really wants to see DS, she will comply, although it sounds like she's not all that bothered :-(

GingerJulep Tue 16-Jul-13 15:58:39

Sounds as though both grandchildren (half siblings) live near each other and far from grandparents.

Grandparents are coming for two days to help out with the youngest child (which actually is nice of them - they are grandparents not CMs, why should they get the invite for help instead of a fun day out spoiling their DGC?). They are combining this with seeing older child.

It isn't really their place to try to bring about reconciliation between the DGC BUT the adults closer by/more connected to situation (OP's DH the kids' father and the mothers) have all failed.

So, what the heck?

DSD may/may not be upset by the meeting. But, just as she is old enough to cut contact with her father and step mother (for whatever reasons) she is old enough to make that call.

DS is probably too young to remember even next week who his grandparents met for coffee and likely only has hazy understanding of what a sibling is.

So, little potential for harm.

None of OP's complaints about her in-laws are likely to be made better if when they do start to engage OP and her DH make it awkward.

These kids will probably (hopefully!) grow up to see each other at the odd family occasion (the other sister's wedding and DH's funeral if nothing else!?!) so not really sure what the issue is with it now?

matana Tue 16-Jul-13 16:48:01

The point is Ginger my DS will hopefully be old enough to choose on those occasions. I do not want him dragged around to see people who don't give enough of a shit about him to get off their own arse and instigate a relationship. He's 2 ffs, not 22.

MIL is not a sweet lady who is helping with childcare, she is a manipulative control freak who resists every time we try to offer her 'a fun day out spoiling her DGC' so this was a last resort to get her to take an interest.

For the record, we also suggested that we visit her in August so she can have some fun days out spoiling the grandchildren and her response was "Sorry, i can't have you here, i can't cope".

If you can tell me how to engage with a 16 year old who does not want to be engaged with (and therefore we stop 'failing' her as you so judgementally put it) then i'm all ears.

GingerJulep Tue 16-Jul-13 16:59:56

But surely he's 2 and therefore it won't matter?

Failing to get the kids together. Not necessarily in other ways. Although DSD obviously thinks so. Have no idea why she doesn't want to see her father and his new family so can't comment on that.

If MIL doesn't want you to stop over (with elderly parents myself I get this) how about meeting half way for lunch/trip to nice park/whatever there is?

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