Family fun (not!)

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-31-2004
Family fun (not!)
Mon, 12-12-2005 - 1:43am

What would you do about this situation?

My MIl is ... well, different from the way I was raised. I will just say that. :)

She is quite thoughtless and on more then one occasion, her remarks have hurt my feelings extraordinarily. For example, after a tragic pregnancy, in which I lost twins (one early on in the pregnancy and one later at 17 weeks), my MIL did not even call me or say anything to me. She talked to my husband and instructed him on what we should do with the stillborn baby, but not a word to me. Thankfully, I became pregnant again about four months later. We didn't even tell them about the pregnancy until I was almost to the second trimester because I just couldn't bring myself to talk about it. Then, they came up for a visit. While they were here, I was drinking a caffeine-free coke. I offered to get one for my MIL and she looked hard at me and said, "No thank you. When I was pregnant, I was too afraid to drink coke. I thought it might make me lose my baby." This was just months out from my having to deliver a stillborn child!

That's the way she is. But the thing is... I honestly think she means well; she is just a total klutz about expressing herself. She probably WAS worried about my drinking caffeine-free coke and probably thought I somehow was to blame for the loss of my twins. Whatever. Truthfully, I have gotten to the point where what she says doesn't matter to me anymore. I used to get very hurt, but now I just don't pay any attention to her at all.

My kids are another story. We all went down to visit the in-laws over Thanksgiving. While we were there, my childrens' two cousins were also visiting. They are all near the same age, so the kids were having a blast. Right after the cousins left, my MIL takes out a gift and says to me that it was for my son and she had wanted to wait until the cousins left to give it to him because she didn't have anything for them. She then walked over to where my son and daughter were playing and proceeded to give him the gift. She gave him a hand held electronic game. I watched the whole thing and saw my daughter (who is four) and her face kind of lit up like, "Oh wow - gifts!" Then the smile gradually left her face as she realized that only her brother was getting a gift. After a few minutes of watching my son and Nana play with the toy, she got up and walked over to the sofa and sat down. She was just looking at her shoes. I was watching her, not knowing what to do. Then she started to very quietly cry. I walked over to her, picked her up and left the room with her. I asked her what was wrong, knowing full well why she was upset. She wouldn't tell me at first, but then she finally said, "How come Nana only got a toy for my brother?" I said, "I don't know, Sweetie, do you want to ask her?" I didn't think she would, because she is really quite shy, but she said yes. So I took her over to Nana and my daughter (still sobbing) said, "How come only my brother got a toy?" And Nana was just backpedaling big time. She jumped and said, "Oh! Well! ..... Actually I DO have something for you, but I didn't give it to you yet because your mom will have to help you with it." And I said, "Well, I am right here." So Nana runs out of the room and comes back with this .99 craft item. It was one of those foam door hanger craft kits. My daughter was immediately all excited, so we took it in the other room to do the craft together. When I turned the package over, it had her cousin's name written on it. But I didn't let my daughter see this and we did the craft.

The thing is... my MIL did the SAME exact thing last Thanksgiving. She got a gift only for my son and nothing for my daughter! And I watched my daughter watch this and say nothing last year. And I didn't say anything, because ... what was there to say? I was hoping that my daughter hadn't noticed, but I know in my heart that she did.

And I don't want my children to think that they have to get a gift everytime they go to Nana's house! But how can she buy a gift for her grandson and not her granddaughter? Who would do that to a four year old? She said she just didn't have time to get something for 'the girls' (meaning my daughter and her cousins), but ... she was in a toy store when she got my son's gift! How hard could it be?

I don't know if I am asking you all what I should do or if I am just venting. Both, I suppose. I have gotten to the point where I despise this woman and if I never saw her again, I wouldn't care a bit. But I have tried to foster a good relationship between my children and her. My issues don't have to be their issues, you know what I mean? And so my kids just adore her. And this kind of crap just breaks my heart.

What to do?


iVillage Member
Registered: 06-20-2000
Mon, 12-12-2005 - 9:09am

Man! I've heard of this sort of thing happening! Breaks my heart that an adult can be so damaging!

A couple of things come to mind here.
Depending on your son's temperament, etc.... you could discuss it with he the sort to understand the unfairness of this? He could ask Nana to be sure to remember his sis, or even refuse the gift if his sis doesn't get one also, or to give sis his gift (or at least share it) in front of the grandmother.... since she appears to have a special affection for him, and because he's a KID, that could open her eyes.
But I don't think too many kids are aware enough at this age to do that kind of thing, are they?

OK, let me keep going here. Maybe one of my thoughts will click for you.

You could talk to her, or have DH do it, but certainly bring this up. Pick a time when you're just hanging out, no conflict going on, totally nonconfrontationally, just a "making you aware, bet you didn't even realize how this affects dd" kind of thing. Your dd is WAAAAY too young to understand the unfairness. Heck, so am I!

Or, I think I'd only do this if I had tried talking to her first & failed - why don't you get your dd a gift next time, and when Nana gives your son a gift, you give dd the gift you brought, saying it's also from Nana? (this can be done in front of Nana, or in a less obvious way, depending on whether you're just trying to make your dd feel included or trying to teach your MIL.)
Heck, if she surprises you & gives dd a gift too, you can always save DD's gift for the next gift-giving occasion, right?

Was that any help at all?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Mon, 12-12-2005 - 12:43pm

Oh gosh! THat is so sad. I cried as I read this because i could just see that little girl. Here's what I think....

Maybe now that she said something to nana, nana might be mroe aware int he future. I think you did a FANTASTIC job handling it the way you did. Let nana answer the questions. I know the fact that there was another name on it

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iVillage Member
Registered: 08-31-2004
Mon, 12-12-2005 - 1:03pm

You are so funny, Janet! I am actually laughing now (and I thank you for that!). :)

I am laughing because Nana definitely favors boys over girls, it IS a cultural thing for her and she IS older and HAS been through a lot in her life. But I was afraid to bring up the cultural thing because I know there are many people from her country who do not believe the same things she does and I didn't want to offend any of them if they were on this board! I know that not everyone from her country feels the way she does! So I will leave her country of orgin a mystery (although some of you may already know.) However, my brother-in-law, her son, has flat out told me that culturally people from her country tend to be much harder on girls then on boys and really tend to favor the boys more and this is just the way she is. Or maybe I should say that the OLDER people from her country feel that way. I have no idea what the new generation is doing. People do change.

Anyway... I am still mulling over your response and the Lorax's and appreciate both of them. This problem may just already be solved, because (giggle) I made an executive family decision that we will not be going down to see our families at Thanksgiving anymore. It is just not worth the hassle. The drive down, which should take three and a half hours, took SEVEN hours with all the traffic. What a nightmare! We used to be able to avoid that by leaving a day early, but can no longer do that now that the kids are in school. And I had the brilliant idea that instead of either staying home for Christmas (and having to host multitudes of in-laws and not see my family at all) or going down for Christmas and having to forgo our own family celebration (when DOES Santa come?), we will now be going down the day AFTER Christmas. I can't believe I didn't think of this before now!

So perhaps not being there for Thanksgiving will solve the problem. Of course, they may come up, but I think I can handle it.

After all they will be on MY turf, right?

Susan :)

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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 12-12-2005 - 9:21pm

First let me say how sorry I am for your loss.


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Mon, 12-12-2005 - 11:14pm

That's right, girlfriend! Run your executive branch!!!

AS to your sensitivity to the country and it's beliefs.....leave it to me to post some drama first, huh? LOL!!! I am a mixee to say the least and have many friends of many origins so I feel pretty secure with my questions...not how folks will take thm, however. I'm not making my own judgemens, but I am discussing what is discussed with me, KWIM?

Anyway, I'm glad I made you laugh. I still thini it was great o put nana on the spot! Good decision (again!) !

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iVillage Member
Registered: 11-06-2005
Tue, 12-13-2005 - 4:28pm
When I was a young adult (twenty-something) I came home for Christmas from school. We (my parents, my sister and I) went to Grandma's for Christmas dinner. Grandma proceeded to hand out envelopes to my sister, my cousins (some thirty-something). I got I was devestated and embarassed that she had forgotten me (or did she?). Anyways, I felt horrible and if I felt horrible at that age, I can't imagine what it must be like to be a small child. Culturally or not, and I speak from experience because my husband is also from a culture that dotes on it's boys, it not acceptable. I think it's a great idea to change your travel plans to help prevent this from happening.