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DIL refuses to help at family functions-gives grandkids wrong idea about "family

Started by chickensouped, March 17, 2015, 04:32:40 pm

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I have a DIL-we we'll call her Stacey. Stacey is the mother of two of my grandkids, two girls who are 5 and 7. Stacey is aloof and distant. She is never one to help out our family in a time of crisis and tends to stick very, very close to her family, especially her mom, to whom she is joined at the hip with.

Stacey reluctantly if ever, comes to family functions. She does not attend holidays such as Xmas or Thanksgiving. She and my son live an hour away. She sends him over with the kids and has since they could walk. Even still, we only get a snippet of time. The majority of the holidays and just time in general is spey with Stacey's family. Stacey lives across the street from her parents and down the street from her grandparents. Her sister and her sister's family live 10 minutes away.

I have spoken to my son about this, but he travels all the time for his job and he does not want to deal with a grouchy mom, he wants to enjoy his wife and kids. None of my family is on Stacey's social media-she has it set to private-and she is not on social media with us. All contact with her goes through my son. They have a you deal with yours and I deal with mine deal in regards to inlays.

That means I am out of the loop and no pics or updates, as my son is forgetful and has never been one to stay in touch.

I have a daughter and two other sons and they all take turns hosting events, holidays, etc. Stacey has never done this and she does not invite us for meals.

This past Sunday she came to my husband's birthday dinner and everyone was excited because next summer, we will have our first family reunion in 20 years! My daughter and I broke the news to Stacey and told her we needed her help. She looked at us blankly and said, "But they're not MY family. MY family  had their reunion last year. " My jaw dropped. My two granddaughters were right there and heard their mother say that she does not consider my family to be hers.

She is telling them that basically her family is their "Real" family. It's bad enough that we rarely see them and when we do, we have to work on making them comfortable around us, as both families are very different and they are not used to us and our more boisterous dealings. My son did not hear this and I wonder if I should tell him of my hurt and this insult and how to respond to my DI L about it.


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My experience was somewhat similar. It was hard for me to get that our very minimal expectations were not going to be fulfilled and DH and I were not going to be treated with equality or even respect. What it finally came down to was my son wasn't willing to support us. Without that the relationship deteriorated until we had to simply accept that they were adults making their own rules in their own home. We got that our job was done and eventually turned elsewhere for compatible interactions. We lost contact with our grand kids and knew it was their parents choice and honored that. It took a long time but we are leading full and satisfying lives that are not connected with our biological roles. We did our best. We know that. Sending hugs...
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


QuoteShe looked at us blankly and said, "But they're not MY family.

Well, you know where you stand.  Our DIL also treated us badly and let us know that we were not her family (and second-class, at that) - and I did everything that I suspect you are doing to try to build and keep my family (or at least my ideas of what a family should be).  Her ideas did not mesh with mine and our son did not stand up for us.  Eventually, she left him and abandoned her children and he has since remarried.  This "new" DIL does not exclude us from "family gatherings", but she does not include us either.  Frankly, we just don't register on her mind/agenda (at least it is not with the hatred that we had from ex-DIL).  At least we are civil to each other, and it appears that you too have civility from your son and your son's family.  Sometimes, that is all we get - not fair, but it is what it is.

This year the presents/money for birthdays, Easter, Christmas, anniversaries, etc. will stop - not the cards (and maybe a small gift card enclosed). Last evening I told my husband that we would be celebrating holidays with our family "no more".  After almost two decades of being "ignored" (insert begging, pleading, crying, etc.), it is time to stop this; it is time to consider "us" instead of always "them".  As you can see, I am a slow learner.  I so wanted things to be different; but they are not.  So sorry .... 


Welcome.  Although I know that hurts to hear, like jdtm said, at least she was honest about where you stand with her.

Unfortunately, that is a choice she gets to make.  It's her life and she gets to pick who she spends her time with.  Not how we wanted it, but just how it is.  It sounds like from your post, that her boundaries have been set.  No social media with your side, no attendance at major holidays, no helping on anything to do with your side but she will send the kids with DH to see you.  Not the most ideal situation, but those are the ground rules with her and at least she is being crystal clear on them.

Does that stink?  Well yeah.  Is it how you want it?  Well no.  Is this what you have to change your expectations to?  Definitely.   We trip ourselves up between what we had as expectations versus what they have as reality.  It's our job to refocus our expectations to fit the reality and try to be grateful for the time you do get with the DH and GC's.  Some of us, aren't even granted that time and have no contact.  I would be happy with your situation.  I'm not saying your situation isn't ideal, it's not, just throwing out a different perspective.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


First of all, thank you for your support. I am wondering, should I bring this up to my son at all. I just feel like this is the type of thing that needs to be talked about. I do not like how that comment could possibly have hurt my grandchildren and warped their idea of what family is.


My take is no, it's their issue and you can't monitor what is said in front of or to the grand kids. Most of the time you don't even know. DIL is how she is and DS isn't going to change that. To keep peace, he probably won't even take issue with it. The only consolation in my circumstances is that I have found out that, for me, there is life after parenting and grandparenting. Hugs...
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


My take is no too.   Especially since you said you had already spoken to him before and he doesn't want to deal with her being grouchy.  IF, and I'm just speculating, he was to speak to her and back her into a corner, about the only thing she has left to do to you is not let him bring the kids over at all.  Sorry, but if someone has no qualms about telling you to your face and in front of her children that your family is not her family, I would think she wouldn't hesitate to use her last option.

We also never know what's going on in someone's relationship.  What if your DS has tried in the past to talk to her about his family?  And her stance over that is, "You can take the kids but I'm not going."  What he is doing now may be the result of him trying.  We never know.  I can just tell you from personal experience, that speaking to my DS about the situation only made it worse and lost me all contact with them.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


chickensouped - please listen to Luise and Pooh.  I have no doubt that your DIL would play the last card she has and try to keep the grandchildren from you (as well as your son).  After all, you are not family (she has already decided that).  Perhaps when the grandchildren are older and they are able to make their own decisions, you may be able to forge a stronger tie to them.   This is what happened to us - we are closer to our grandchildren than our son and his new wife.   But, maybe next year ....


Quoteboth families are very different and they are not used to us and our more boisterous dealings

I bet when the grands grow up they will prefer to spend  their time with the boisterous family!!   I would not talk to my DS but I would go out of my way to include my grands and their mother in all of my family's fun events!  And I know it sounds catty but I might even start phrasing it that way.......
Your mind is a garden your thoughts are the seeds
You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.
Author unknown


I took your advice-excellent-and stepped away from all this? I managed to put it out of my mind until I got an email from DIL this morning. I am summing it up for you and I am recuperating from it and trying to process my thoughts.

In the email, DIL confessed to having been cold to me since the wedding and even at the ceremony. DIL stated the reason for that was because a few months before the wedding, she and my son had come to visit us and she overheard me asking my son if he was sure that he was ready to get married, that I didn't want him to make a mistake and get hurt.

DIL then went on to say that also during the conversation, I had pointed out that her father was a recovering alcoholic, that though he had been sober for a while, addiction is a big thing and can run in families. What if DIL had the gene and would pass it onto the kids. I also noted how DIL's mom had been married twice before she married DIL's dad and that there were multiple marriages on both sides of DIL's family. I told my son that worried me as it seemed to hint at instability.

DIL said she remembered my son reassuring me that he would be happy and that things would be fine and to just be there and support.

I never knew that DIL overheard those things-this has been over 10 years and she has nursed that grudge this whole time. DIL went onto say that I looked down on her and her family for not being perfect and that I had no right to do so. She said my attitude is the reason why she could never feel comfortable around my family.

I am flabbergasted. What now?


My take would be to apologize for my thoughtlessness and to thank her for her candid information. I wouldn't hide behind being a loving mother. She knows that. It was human to be concerned but to express it when there was any chance of it being overheard was untenable. Just my take, remember. Always take what you want here and leave the rest. More hugs...
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


Well.  That opens up a whole new thing now.

First, I'm not siding with her on you asking your DS if he was ready to get married.  I think that is a parent/child conversation that is pretty standard in most homes.  It's us being a "Mother" and having a wealth of experience to draw from knowing marrying young is tough.  I wanted both my Sons to be mature enough to handle all the responsibilities that came along with marriage. 

BUT, and here come the big BUT.  Doing it with her present in the house was probably not the best idea.  Also, the other things you said?  I can see where that would have upset me too.  She probably had enough stress dealing with her recovering alcoholic Father that the last thing she needed was someone judging her family.  As far as multiple marriages go...again, I have to say that was harsh.  I was married before and my DH was married before.  I'm grateful no one looked down on us when we decided to marry because the truth be known (and I didn't advertise it), my Ex left me for another woman and his Ex had an affair on him a couple of years prior.  My Mother divorced because my Father was an alcoholic and had multiple affairs on her, and was a horrible person.  That had no bearing on the type of person my Mother was.

I'm not trying to make you feel bad, because we have all probably said things to our children, because we are worried about them, that probably would have hurt someone's feelings had they heard us.  Lord knows there were a couple of times that I had to sit my Sons down and tell them I didn't want them hanging out with a certain friend because I knew he was drinking and doing drugs and I didn't want them around him.  Had that person heard that, true or not, I'm sure they wouldn't have wanted to have anything to do with me.  The difference is....she did hear you and your words were probably very hurtful to her.

Ok, so that's done.  You did it, she heard it and now you have to own it.  I definitely would be apologizing immediately.  Maybe send back a very apologetic email saying you are so sorry that you said those things. That you didn't mean to hurt her but now you know you did, how could you make it better? No wonder she didn't see you as family and didn't want to be around you.   Maybe an invitation to lunch somewhere to talk and let you apologize in person?

Whatever you do, own it and don't put it back on her.  Don't make excuses for why you said it.  Just apologize and ask what you can do now to show her that you are really glad that she is part of your family.  Then it's on her if she will forgive and want to move forward.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


I want to apologize and I am trying to find the words to do so. The conversation was so long ago that I really didn't remember it till I saw the email this morning. To me, it doesn't matter, because the kids are fine and from what I can see, the marriage is solid. But obviously, it means a lot to her,

What I am most concerned about are two things and this is where I need your sound advice, ladies:

1) What are the chances that if I send this apology, she will think it too little, too late and that I am only sending it so I can have more time with the grandkids?

2) Also, did my son she knew of the conversation and he never told me? Should I tell him about the email and ask him if that is the case, that he knew she heard our talk?


My take: What she thinks is about her not you. And I would leave it alone with DS. It's about simplification and turning the page...letting go and moving on.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


CS, you've received much wisdom. My hope is for healing for you and yours.

Once my DS & (then) future-DIL decided to get married it was difficult to talk to DS privately. I'm guessing if I'd had a chance anything I said would have been passed on to DIL anyway.

Lessons learned.

Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb