Question: Dear Luise: To make a long story short I am having problems with my ex mother in law. When her son and I got divorced she took me to court and sued mefor grandparent’s rights which were granted, I was young and didn’t have a lot of money so my child was taken away from me. I still see him often and he and I have a wonderful relationship, the problem is I am working full and time and have recently gone back to college to try and make a better life for my son and myself. She has signed him up to play football (which I never agreed was a good idea and he has told me he doesn’t like playing) and now she expects me to drop everything on Saturday to go watch him play. I am a seventh day adventist and we attend church on Sabbath and it conflicts with my schedule much of the time and when it doesn’t conflict with church I usually have a lot of homework to get done and very little time in which to do it. I want tosupport my son and I do go to most of his games but I don’t feel as if it should be expected that I take him to the games when I didn’t sign him up for it in the first place and he doesn’t even show any interest in it. Please help me with the words to handle her overbearing, manipulative and controlling ways in a way that I won’t come off sounding like I am a horrible mother who doesn’t want to rearrange her schedule to suit her needs. Or am I supposed to rearrange my whole life around my son’s activities? Thank you and God Bless. L.
Answer: Dear L.: The problem with trying to work out an issue with a person who is overbearing, manipulative and controlling is that’s how she will respond. There’s no way I know to change her and she probably won’t listen, show you respect or cooperate. I think I’d be tempted to write her a registered, return receipt requested letter (so she can’t say you didn’t or that you wrote something else) letting her know you are not going to drive your son to and from games on the Sabbath and you are not going to defend your position in the matter. I would also let her know that so far it doesn’t seem to you that your son is really into the football thing and you question the wisdom of pushing him into playing and feel you should have been part of the decision making, since it is known to be a dangerous sport that requires dedication. Tell her you appreciate everything she does and would like her to try to understand that you are doing your best, too. If you know a lawyer that would write and send the letter for you, that’s also an option. If you did that and she took exception to your communication, I’d tell her the truth…that you want to be heard and often feel you aren’t. She may have custoday but she wouldn’t even have her grandson if it weren’t for you. It seems to me me like she is ordering both of you around. That’s simply not realistic. Blessings, Luise