My MIL and I generally get along very well, but there have been many bumps in the road in the past decade plus of my relationship with her son. There is one instance that really stands out in my mind where I really want to know if there was anything I could have done to handle things better. It happened while I was pregnant for the second time. There are some basic details that you need to know before I begin the story. First, my FIL and MIL are notorious in the family for arriving late to family functions or not going to them at all (birthday parties, holidays, etc) including things hosted by their own children. Second, my MIL and FIL’s relationship with my BIL and his wife is strained and includes a time where neither couple spoke for nearly a year. Third, my MIL is mentally ill (has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, depressive type and is on meds).
We were at my niece’s 5th birthday party. I was 29 weeks pregnant with my son and it had not been an easy pregnancy. My DH and I arrived to the party with our daughter (3), who immediately latched on to her cousin and started playing. I was helping my SIL in the kitchen set up the food and chatting, when my MIL and other BIL arrive (without my FIL). My daughter sees her and comes running to give her a hug and kiss, then goes back to playing.
My MIL walks into the kitchen and starts greeting people. Then she asks how T is doing. I don’t answer her initially. She had started calling my unborn son by my father’s name intermittently about a month or so prior for a reason I’m not entirely sure of. We hadn’t told anyone at the time any of the names we were considering, and that one wasn’t even in the running. Most times when she asked I would answer her and just ignore the whole name thing. This time, I had decided enough was enough, and I was no longer going to let her call him by a name that wasn’t his. We had already had one bleeding scare by this time, and I was very superstitious about the whole thing. She asked again, and I still didn’t answer her question. I did ask her who she was talking about. When she said her grandson, I snapped and told her that wasn’t his name and we would let her now when we had one. Then I left the room before I said something I would really regret.
I know that the tone of voice I used was not the best, but I still can’t get over what happened next. My MIL left. She didn’t say goodbye to anyone (her sons, her granddaughters, etc), just got in her car and drove home. The first we knew she was gone was when my niece (the birthday girl) came in looking for her to say hi. I tell my SIL about the incident, for lack of a better term, and my husband calls his parent’s house. He is informed that my MIL is horribly upset, crying and won’t be coming back to the party and that my FIL might not be coming either. Meanwhile, both granddaughters are asking about their grandparents and I’m trying to apologize to my SIL for causing the whole situation.
In the end my FIL does come, I feel guilty for the rest of the party and my MIL tries to claim the name thing is a cultural tradition. If it is, its one that none of us knew about and something she didn’t do with any of her granddaughters.
Was there anything I could have done better, or can I just chalk the whole situation up to my MIL’s illness? 0906-13
I think you overreacted and handed your MIL an opportunity to play drama queen on a silver platter. Ehell is all about using good manners and civility to not only control yourself but take command of any situation in a calm, assertive way so as to defuse the boors and dramatists as much as possible. Personally I would have played the “dumb card”….as in, “My dad? Oh, he’s doing fine.” And if MIL insists she is referring to the as yet unborn T Jr., “I don’t know anyone by that name here,” and then beandip. The problem will resolve itself eventually when the baby is born and you name it something entirely different than “T”.