I’m not sure if this is an etiquette issue or not, but it is tying me up in knots, and I need advice. My in-laws have 4 grandchildren, my 2 girls and my DH’s brother has a boy and a girl. My nephew is the youngest at 17. Ever since my nephew was born, they have shown him preferential treatment to the point of ignoring the three girls. He has stayed with them every summer for the past 10 years, and sometimes, during the last week before school they might begrudgingly ask to take the girls, but where they would take the boy to amusement parks and other assorted fun places, they have never taken the girls anywhere. It isn’t a behavior issue, as the girls are all quiet and well behaved while my nephew is getting a little wild.
My niece was living with her dad, who, honestly, is an unemployed bum who can never get his stuff together, but he has a good heart. I see my niece fairly regularly, but I hadn’t been to their house, but my MIL had been there several times. Two years ago, my niece, who works full time at McDonalds and pays most of the bills, was 18 and we went for a visit about a week before Christmas. I almost started crying… My niece’s room consisted of a ripped mattress on the floor with no sheets and an old blanket for a curtain. My MIL knew she was living this way and didn’t do a thing to help her. I spent $100 and bought a nice headboard/foot board and frame off the internet and bought sheets, a comforter set, mattress cover, curtains and a rod. I would have liked to replace that mattress, but I ran out of money. My DH picked her up from work just to see her face when she opened her bedroom door. She was very happy! When My DH asked his mom if she knew about the state her granddaughter was living in, and why didn’t they do something about it, my MIL said, “I thought she wanted it like that.”
My nephew, whom I love to bits, it’s not his fault he is “the golden child” in his grandparents’ eyes, has money/gifts poured on him, and he has noticed the inconsistencies between him and his sister/cousins. Last Christmas the girls got socks, underwear and p.js, and he got a $300 BMX racing bike. He has brought it up to the GPs but it just gets brushed aside. He has started to realize that he can have anything he wants if he whines long enough to the GPs. He is very sports minded and they have paid all the fees associated with hockey/football since he started. I don’t have a problem with this, it is their money and they can spend it as they see fit, but this year, hockey fees are $10,000 because he has reached junior A levels. He is a good hockey player, but my FIL thinks he is good enough to get a multi- million dollar contract. I am not seeing it, but who knows. They have complained about how much money they spend on my nephew, and when I said, “just say no”, their response was, “Well, he’s a boy.”
The rub is that my daughter wants to start college this September. She was an honor student all 4 years of school and is very studious. My DH asked his parents if they could help with the tuition. Obviously they are very well off and could easily afford it, but he got the humming and hawing and was asked if she qualified for any scholarships. My DH is extremely pissed at his parents, but he expected it, as they did this favoritism thing when him and his two brothers were growing up. He was not the golden child so he was treated worse than the girls in this generation. The funny think is, they know that my DH is the only one they can count on when it comes to important things, he is the only one they will let work on their vehicles (they expect him to do it for free), take care of their house while they are on vacation (this ended when they left the druggie son in the house against everyone’s better judgment and sold off their possessions). My DH said never again.
My nephew’s mom became involved with my BIL because of the money even though she lives separately and is in another relationship. She has kept her “oar” in by ingratiating herself and her new boyfriend with my in-laws, no matter how much it hurts my BIL, and regularly “borrows” money off my in-laws “for my nephew” even though she has a government job and makes close to $60 grand a year. And she posts pics every weekend about concerts she was at, places she went etc… I just laugh at that because my in-laws know she is suckering them, but can’t say no if it’s for their grandson.
Do you think I have a right to be upset about this? It isn’t just that they won’t help with the tuition (only time we have asked them for money), it’s just the blatant misogyny against my daughters and my niece. It isn’t like they are old country from an ethnic background where this is common, they are 3rd generation Canadian/Irish. It has gotten so I don’t even want to be in the same room with them. 0429-14
I am of the firm belief that once you are an adult, there should be no expectations whatsoever that your parents owe you anything except maybe love. The bottom line is that your in-laws (and your parents, too) raised their children to adulthood and are not responsible to assist in rearing their grandchildren. You and your husband wanted and had two daughters, you then provided for those two daughters and that includes college tuition if that is your choice to provide. It’s not as if the prospect of a daughter going to college was suddenly sprung on you…the possibility existed since the day she was born and you’ve had 18 years to save, plot and plan a way to fund that education. Looking to one’s parents to help send your kids to college is a rather high expectation, in my opinion. So, you and your husband figure out how to fund your daughter’s choice of college without looking to the in-laws to help.
As for the disparity in monetary gifts to grandchildren, I know exactly what you feel. Among my own siblings there was one who seemed to always be the recipient of a greater largesse than the rest of us. As adults the other siblings and I didn’t ask for money and we certainly did not receive it whereas the money seemed to flow liberally to this one child. We reasoned that we were better people for this deprivation since we all learned to be financially independent and successful whereas the “golden child” never prospered. To hand over money to one “special” child isn’t always an act of love. It can actually be hateful in that the person becomes dependent on the parent and never matures or prospers to be a healthy, functional adult in society. It can be a means to crippling a person with an entitlement mentality, a poor work ethic, greed, ingratitude and selfishness. I and my siblings warned my parents many times over the years that they were not doing any favors for this particular sibling. We do not envy the “special” sibling one iota. I would not want to live the life this person does.
Your nephew recognizes the disparity of what is given to him and what is given to his own sister and cousins from his grandparents, and while he made a half-hearted effort to change the status quo, he’s not really interested in stopping the gravy train otherwise he would have rejected the money and extravagant gifts out of solidarity and loyalty to his own sister. No, he’s become a greedy, selfish, miserable creature with no sense of justice and frankly, he’s not a person I would trust. He’s the one most likely to financially exploit the grandparents when they are vulnerable and the one family member most likely to sponge off the rest of you when he doesn’t get that multi-million dollar hockey contract. He is to be pitied because his grandparents have crippled him, possibly for life.
So, teach your daughters to be strong, independent, hard working, grateful, and kind people who don’t have any expectations that parents or grandparents owe them a living or an education or any other material item. They will be happier and more successful as adults if you do.
And as a last word, gird yourselves for the probate from hell when the in-laws die. I can see the writing on the wall that distributing the estate assets will not be a rosy walk in the park.
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Amen, Admin!! My mom gave and gave to one sibling (our only brother) to the point that she was broke, and he died of an overdose of the drugs that he was addicted to and she paid for. We kept telling her she wasn’t helping him – she was simply enabling him. But – you can’t change people and I’ve made peace with that.
Kids (and young adults) need to understand the value of earning something – if everything is handed to you, you appreciate nothing. I worked for everything I have – and always have. And I appreciate my blessings and deal with my hardships because I learned how to.
OP, you can’t change your in-laws’ behavior – but you can change how you let it impact your life.