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to wish my DH and SIL would grow up a bit?

28 replies

Innishvickillaune · 12/04/2011 16:33

Buckle up, it's going to be a long one Dh's family are funny ones.

They don't really talk directly about anything to eachother e.g. if bil has a problem with dh he will say it to his mum who will say it me to say to dh etc. It does my head in, because I come from a very outspoken verbal family where we overanalyse everything to death communicate our grievances, have a barney and then get the fuck over it.

The ironic thing is that I would say, on the surface, that dh's family is much more "functional" than my own: his parents are still together, not so many skeletons in the closet as in our family etc. However, the way in which they fall out/don't get over it is really getting on my nerves.

At Christmas, we stayed at PILs when SIL wasn't there, but her children were. This is where the trouble started. DH was pissed off that we had to spend our holidays pretty much taking care of SIL's children, and, I think, pissed off that because of this our ds didn't get as much "attention" from the PILs. SIL's kids are 5 and 3 and very active, boisterous kids who act up a lot to get attention (but nothing out of the ordinary). Dh said something on facebook about how he felt that going back to work would be a holiday and his sister got in a hump about it (as communicated to us by MIL Hmm) for which I thought they were both being ridiculous. I don't agree with airing grievances on fb but it was a very generic status update, not one of those "some people.." types of ones, so I do wonder if MIL had a hand in alerting SIL to it..

We went to PILs again a few weeks back. SIL was, again, away for most of our time there but came back before we left. SIL was in a different room talking to MIL, while Dh was with her girls, reading them a book. SIL's older girl (seemingly out of nowhere) pushed the younger one against a table and started trying to pull at/gouge at her eyes. Dh told her to go and sit on the naughty step (which is SIL's behaviour method of choice). She wouldn't go so he picked her up and put her on the step. Everyone then came in to have dinner. Dh waited outside with DN, who was wailing and screaming on the step, alternating between saying: "I'll hurt her if I want to, you can't stop me, I LOVE HURTING her" and wailing "Mummy, Mummy, you are starving me". Dh (who we could all hear) kept saying: "you need to do your 5 minutes" and ignoring the rest of it.

At this stage, I was in the room where everyone was eating dinner. SIL was laughing saying that dh was in for a surprise if he thought that DN would "give in" and he was about to see how stubborn she was. MIL started to get really agitated, saying she'd "been out there long enough" (but she was still screaming). At no point did SIL or BIL attempt to go out or deal with it, they were letting him "get on with it" and laughing at his naivety. MIL told them that maybe if they were consistent like DH (cringe) that they wouldn't have the behavioural issues they do. Time ticked on. After about 15 minutes, MIL started muttering about how DH was being "unfair" and I said I'd go and tell him to come back in. DN was sitting on the steps still shouting abuse at DH/calling for her mum. I asked dh how he was doing and could see he was really feeling the strain, but he said he had to stick it out. I asked did he want me to get SIL. At this stage, everything was horribly tense and to be honest, I hadn't a clue what to do. I said to DN that I thought she was being a bit silly and that if she just sat for 5 minutes it would all be over and this was taking AGES. I showed her how long it had taken on the clock. I said we were going to go away and let her decide what to do next. We stepped away and she went quiet. Eventually, she did the time and apologised. However, I think the fact that I didn't actually go out and just bring them back in kind of was bad.. but I felt torn..

Anyway, the evening deteriorated after this. DN came back into the room calmly for dessert but ended up kicking her dad. He left Hmm and went to watch football leaving SIL to discipline her, but the discipline went mad with SIL saying she was going to take DN out to sleep in the doghouse and lots of roaring and screaming. It was about 9.30 at this stage and her little sister was also crying. Eventually MIL intervened and took the girls to bed and SIL went into the other room and just cried.

It was all horrible.

Anyway, DH and SIL are not really speaking, but as is the way in their family, it's very "unofficial". DH says that SIL is unfair for expecting him to discipline her kids and then not supporting him in trying to support her, and SIL feels judged (which I understand). However, what underlies all of this, as I see it, is jealousy. The two of them are patently jealous of eachother - DH for SIL's income and home, SIL for the fact that our ds is never in trouble with his GP's (because he is still a BABY!). I see MIL unintentionally set them up against eachother all the time and it just GOES WRONG - she does it with the kids too, e.g. the kids never get told anything they do is good, just that X is doing it better e.g. "your baby cousin can eat that without making a racket, why can't you?", "your baby cousin is always smiley, you're so grumpy" etc. I HATE it, it just breeds ill will and resentment and I can see how, even as adults, DH and his sister are always vying to be the "good one".

However, it leads to loads of stress. SIL didn't even say goodbye to me when we left and I'm guessing she thinks I am the evil inlaw influencing her brother! How little she knows him - I don't particularly get on well with her but I really, really stay out of this if I can.

Anyway, I don't know what I'm looking for here. Advice. What do people do when these tiffs arise in families? What's my role? Dh is a real family man but since becoming a parent himself I can see how easily he could alienate his siblings (SIL is not his only sibling) by acting like he knows the best way. On the other hand, I don't think that's what he was doing really, he was just trying to do what he'd been told to do if there was an incident and I'm not sure why it all played out as it did, but maybe the MN jury will be able to work it out for me. My personal view is that getting involved in parenting other people's kids is Not a Good Thing.. but this is how they operate in his family and I'm at a loss.

Could I just tell DH to grow up, would that help ?

OP posts:

squeakytoy · 12/04/2011 16:39

It will blow over, just leave them to it. Do nothing.


fluffyanimal · 12/04/2011 16:39

I've got no advice but you've got my sympathy. Can you time your visits so that SIL and her family are not at PILs when you are?


RevoltingPeasant · 12/04/2011 16:44

Your SIL sounds like she is really struggling - I mean, I am not a mum yet, but telling your child you're going to put them in the doghouse - wtf???

I suggest introducing her to MumsNet! Seriously. BIL doesn't sound much use and she might get some good advice here.

As for DH, leave it. Siblings need to sort it out between themselves, don't intervene.


Innishvickillaune · 12/04/2011 16:44

Oh I don't think I will do anything so that anyone can, erm, see me doing anything, really.. but I would like to know what to do in the future if it arose again and/or what to say when dh talks about it because I feel like a useless tool when it comes up. I think, because of the nature of the differences in our families, he expects me to know what to do in these types of situations.. but my only answer to anything is to talk about it and that doesn't fit his family dynamic well! I wonder now should I just be telling him to stay WELL out of disciplining her kids no matter what.

I think it's a shame to see them falling out.. they were very close before we all had kids . I really like SIL's kids and DS adores them and I don't want to see this pattern escalate iyswim.

I suppose it's just one of those times when the family dynamics are so different that it's confusing!

OP posts:

blondebutonlyfaking · 12/04/2011 16:46

I would give SIL and brood a wide berth for a while.

It'll blow over.

Or maybe they will never really get on and contact will be best kept to a minimum.

But really your DH and SIL and MIL etc all need to sort it out themselves.

(Disclaimer - was married to this sort of family for a long time and it is exceedingly wearing and I wish I'd stood up for my kids when it was going tits up for them and just opted out the rest of the time and not gone near)


Innishvickillaune · 12/04/2011 16:52

Blonde, I suppose from a very selfish point of view, I am worried about how it will go in the future for us and for dh. I find the way that the kids are played off against eachother really difficult and also how the discipline is either non-existent or really over the top e.g. it's all laughing and joking one minute and the next they are being thrown into the "naughty toilet" which is a dirty toilet downstairs in the dark and locked in.

Ds is only a baby but they talk about SIL's little one being very naughty and she really isn't. They also smack, threaten with the wooden spoon etc.

I often wonder if what happens when SIL is there is that she doesn't really go with this abusive stuff old school style of thing when she's at home but feels under pressure to be "disciplinarian" when she's at home and it all goes tits up. Dh seems, to me, to also be far more "old school" when he's at home then he ever would be here where he's soft as butter. It's just that because their parents expect that, they seem to go for it when they're at home.

That last visit was awful. Our boy (16 months) was in the bath with SIL's girls and she was just ROARING into their faces "Shut Up! Shut Up! Shut Up!" (which made my boy cry a lot when he was already crying in the bath). SIL is pg and hormonal which doesn't help but it makes me really uncomfortable..

I think I've been in the position where my family is the "broken" one with the Problems for all this time dh and I have been together and since there have been kids in the house I can see that maybe it wasn't all as rosy for them as I might have imagined Sad

OP posts:

blondebutonlyfaking · 12/04/2011 16:59

Innish - my MIL and FIL did this. With my DD's and two of their cousins who are roughly the same age.

"Oh Blonde DD you should be more like cousin x she's so much nicer than you"

"Look how much nicer cousin x is sitting than you blonde DD"

And the absolute classic when my DD was 3 weeks old and her cousin was 2 weeks old

"I can't hold blondeDD2 now. You'll have to have her. My lovely GS is here now"

And shoved DD2 at me to hold her other grandchild!!

and then the horrible older cousin actually spat in my tiny DD2's face and said "she yukky" and no one did anything

MIL used to threaten mine with the wooden spoon, and she actually DID smack DD1 on more than one occasion. My DH didn't tell me the first few times, DD was small and couldn't really talk, but as soon as I found out I went ballistic.

Actually, DH reaction to it all is a big part of why he is now XH Grin

The best advice I can give you is sit down and talk to DH and get a united front together. And if MIL is shit stirring saying "SIL says xyz" just say "Well, if that's what SIL thinks then she needs to come tell us herself"

Sorry for rambling - don't know if that helps or not Blush


Innishvickillaune · 12/04/2011 17:04

No, that's really helpful, thanks. I suppose that's why I posted it here because I wondered if others had similar experiences. MIL and FIL I do think are well-intentioned at least, but I can see that there is trouble ahead if I appear to comply with their way of thinking on the older girls, especially with reference to the smacking etc. Maybe I should start making jokey "ah sure they're only little, just toddlers exploring the world!" type comments. I think you are right about the shit-stirring too. I know MIL wants them to get on etc and thinks it is helpful but it really, really isn't.

What did you do about the wooden spoon issue?

OP posts:

EldritchCleavage · 12/04/2011 17:31

OK, I don't have experience of this precise problem, but when I stayed with PIL and I saw DH getting sucked back into a damaging dynamic I used to find some reason to ask him into another room or suggest going for a walk to take him out of it.

In the moment, it was very hard for him to avoid reacting in the same old way. As soon as he was out of it, he would generally see what was going on without me having to point it out.

On that basis, the one thing worth tackling directly with your DH may be that his mother does set the siblings up in opposition to one another. Perhaps have a way of signalling to him not to react or rise to that would help the general atmosphere. I would pick her up on the comments about your DC and the cousins too (however gently), whenever she does it.

I have to say too, if DN played up DH then I think it was appropriate for him to deal with it.


blondebutonlyfaking · 12/04/2011 17:31

I ended up having a screaming match full and frank exchange of views and told her if she laid a hand on my DD I'd have her for assault and if she threatened her with any sort of violence again she would never see any of the kids again.

This was part of a whole series of things that all came to a head in one screaming match heated discussion. All around favoured grandchildren, MIL shit stirring, all that kind of stuff.


blondebutonlyfaking · 12/04/2011 17:44

With hindsight, which is always 20/20 as they say, I do wish I had been stronger and addressed every issue as it arose.

There were 4 adults other than me in the room, for example, when the cousin spat on my DD. Granted, the child was 2 and a half, but she should have been told off. Parents did nothing, I shot DH "the look", he did nothing.

What I should have done was say to the parents "I cannot believe you let your child do that to my baby"

But this child was very much favoured, and parented in a "isn't my child just the most fabulous child ever" way - and this has carried on with the next child, and is still carrying on now as they grow.

The minute I knew about the wooden spoon I wish I had phoned her and said "I believe you threatened my DD with the wooden spoon today. That is not how we parent and discipline her. Do not do it again"

(Note the lack of please in the last sentence )

But I was trying to please her, trying to fit in to a family that were never going to accept me as I wasn't "good" enough, trying to be polite and not rock the boat.


Innishvickillaune · 12/04/2011 18:18

Oh, that is a worrying final sentence, blonde... some of it does resonate!

I do think it's a good idea for me to make plans to be firm. We have had similar instances e.g. DN chucking a wooden toy at DS when he was four months old and everyone laughing etc... I might use my mother's trademark Evil Stare of Doom and be assertive as you suggest.

Precious first-grandchild syndrome. Hmmm.

OP posts:

elmofan · 12/04/2011 18:21

"also how the discipline is either non-existent or really over the top e.g. it's all laughing and joking one minute and the next they are being thrown into the "naughty toilet" which is a dirty toilet downstairs in the dark and locked in. "

Shock They are locked in ?? I would scream blue murder if anyone did this to a child in my presence Sad


elmofan · 12/04/2011 18:24

Actually i reported my old boss for something very similar Hmm


Innishvickillaune · 12/04/2011 18:30

I know, elmo, I know. I reported someone at work for something much less serious than this (also CP issue). I am like someone whose tongue has been cut off in that house sometimes, and I need to sort it.

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MigratingCoconuts · 12/04/2011 18:37

well, I have to say, you sound like the sane one!!

Have you ever thought of having SIL plus family over for dinner and a chat? Sounds like you could do with cutting out the MIL and coming to an understanding together.

MIL sounds like she is stoking this, even if she doesn't realise it, and your DH and SIL have fallen into communicating through her...not helpful!! Gives MIL lots of power though, doesn't it??!!


elmofan · 12/04/2011 18:38

Sorry i don't mean to be judgmental i'm sure you were put in a difficult situation, but i honestly don't understand how you could witness this abuse and not say anything Sad those poor children must have been terrified .


Innishvickillaune · 12/04/2011 18:43

It's funny, I didn't even think of saying anything.. I just sat there, eyeing dh who said something about it being a bit scary. I don't honestly know what you're supposed to do in someone else's house when they're behaving badly.. my own family was alcoholic so I always assume other people know what they're doing and I don't tend to trust my instincts in the moment when these things are happening. After the event I see it more clearly. Even simple things like when SIL was roaring when DS was in the bath, I thought afterwards I could have just turned to her and said: "would you mind quietening down, please? It's upsetting DS" (in a gentle but firm way). But I know as I write that, that I would find that very hard to do in reality. I worry when I read what blonde has written because it really is quite familiar..

OP posts:

MadamDeathstare · 12/04/2011 18:44

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

blondebutonlyfaking · 12/04/2011 18:48

Innish - I'm sorry if I sounded doom-laden, I didn't mean to.

It's just I can see parallels in how my kids were treated.

My then husband's brothers kids and later on his sisters kids were treated so differently to ours.

The Smack I found out about was actually because DD1 had some rice cakes (don't ask she had food intolerances and they were all she could have) and she fucking shared with her cousin. But my MIL smacked her because BIL and SIL had decreed what said child was allowed to eat and when she was allowed to eat and my demon child had gone against their routine.

Shame she never gave me the same respect witch


blondebutonlyfaking · 12/04/2011 18:49

And I totally get the not being able to speak out.

reminds self of the infamous dinner of the women shouldn't have the vote proclamation when blondebof sat dumb and said nothing and it still rankles years later


elmofan · 12/04/2011 18:55

It is very hard to know what to say in the heat of the moment sometimes (i am the very same & i will avoid confrontation at all costs) except for when children are being intimidated .
Does MIL ever punish her GC or is it SIL that is doing all of this ? I would worry tbh Innish that they might do this to your ds when he gets a little bit older .


Innishvickillaune · 12/04/2011 18:57

No it is the GP more than SIL... and I do worry about it.. and have tried to talk to dh about it but he gets quite defensive e.g. "you've said that already, you've made it clear that you don't like the way my parents do x...".

It is all very worrying.

OP posts:

elmofan · 12/04/2011 19:08

Do you think your dh would stand by and let them treat your ds like that ?
I don't even know these people(thankfully) and i feel Angry


elmofan · 12/04/2011 19:13

blonde your MIL would have been walking funny for weeks if she had hit my dd with her wooden spoon Wink

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