Question: Dear Luise: I called my DIL a witch because she asked me to have a baby shower but started dictating what she wanted and I was upset because this would be my party for them and the baby and that this was out of line. That was not right on my part, calling names. Now we have a cold war with the baby and shower coming. She feels that I give them things because I want to control their lives. Claims our son agrees. This is an old story resurfacing from their pre-marriage days. Our son was privileged and she was not. I give them things because I am generous and have normal interest and concerns. Her telling me how I was going to have the party was not appropriate and so ungrateful in my view and just rude. She should be happy that I am doing it and in a classy way. Now she says don’t give us anything any more because we don’t want to listen to your opinion in exchange. Oh what a mess. I asked her to go out shopping for the baby today but still cold shoulder because I am trying to “buy” her. Everyone around us family and friends feels she is not nice and treats me horrible even though I am generous always to everyone I know. I would be happy for her to show just the manners that everyone is taught as a child and don’t expect her to love me or even like me. Common courtesy would work. Golden rule would work. What am I to do. I have apologized but to no avail. She still maintains my motive for giving is to tell them what to do and my motive is that I love them and want to help. I have seen them maybe 2 times since the incident. I have all these baby gifts in my Living Room to give them from their registry — oh this is horrible. We have taken them on trips and given a new car and a used car, big holiday gifts, money, and I know I am bossy. But I am not bossy because I gave them something, I am bossy and generous by nature. Help. D.
Answer: Dear D.: You can’t change your daughter in law and she can’t change you. From my vantage point, that’s where the issue lies. She has whatever manners have come her way, as do you. By that I mean, she obviously thought it was rude that you didn’t ask her what she wanted you to do for her baby shower. Often, but not always, the mother-to-be makes all the decisions concerning a baby shower, no matter who gives it. And she thinks your name-calling was rude. You have different standards. You only see your own, which is natural but not helpful. Being the most mature, the burden of working though this is on your shoulders if you want to be part of your grandchild’s life. There’s a big chance you will be shut out, if you don’t.
Apparently she also can’t separate your bossiness from your generosity. There may be no connection but to her there seems to be. I would suggest that you take back the gifts that you have in the living room. Then ask. They may all be things from their registry but she may not want any more from you. That’s your olive branch, asking. If she says you have done enough, just get it and abide by it, even if you don’t agree. Temper your generosity.
Your son and his wife have created a new family unit just like you did when you married. They make the rules. He got to pick out whomever he wanted. It was his choice and she is in charge of her own home. As I said, they make the rules. If the ones they make don’t work for some reason, it is their job to see that and change it. They are learning, maturing…facing consequences. If they are like most young couples, they have a lot to work out at home before trying to present a united front beyond that.
Backing off isn’t going to be easy for you but it’s the only way I can see for you to move forward. If you want support in doing that, please come over to my Web-forum at www.WiseWomenUnite.com Blessings, Luise