Author Topic: At a Loss  (Read 18223 times)

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artk2002

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Re: At a Loss
« Reply #60 on: November 14, 2012, 03:43:32 PM »
OK - I'm going to back up because this is an etiquette board, and there is an etiquette question here.

Your MIL bought her grandson a gift.   He should thank her graciously, use the gift as it suits him, and that should be enough.   

I know there's a lot of back story that I'm ignoring - but a lot of this seems to me like you descending to her level.   Is this her trying to steal your thunder?  Buy her grandson's affections?   Prove she is a better, more generous person?   Perhaps - but why get into it with her?   She bought your son a present and you are ready to declare WW3 over it.  What would be the harm in letting it go?

Your MIL bought her grandson a gift.   He should thank her graciously, use the gift as it suits him, and that should be enough.   

As far as the interaction between the DS and MIL, you're absolutely correct. Between the OP and her DH and the MIL, you're not. It is an etiquette question when another person interferes with your parenting decisions. The question is how to deal with that person within the bounds of etiquette. OP has a range of choices between nothing and an all-out cut direct. I'm much more on the cut direct side because of the back story.

The harm in letting it go is the MIL then being told implicitly that this kind of behavior is acceptable (and even wanted), when it isn't. It's giving her license to do this again, and with bigger things. OP has expressed a concern for when her son turns 16 and MIL decides he needs a car. With the back story, that's not an unreasonable fear. The best way to stop this behavior is to stop it as early as possible. Every time MIL succeeds in trampling a boundary, it gets harder and harder to enforce them. It's not just a present, but something much, much more. It's a present with a message -- the message being "I don't have to respect your choices and decisions as a parent." Do you think that OP should just "let it go" when MIL buys DS a car against her wishes?

Setting a boundary with a boundary-trampler is not "descending to her level." It's taking appropriate action.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

mathchick

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Re: At a Loss
« Reply #61 on: November 14, 2012, 06:29:41 PM »
As far as the interaction between the DS and MIL, you're absolutely correct. Between the OP and her DH and the MIL, you're not. It is an etiquette question when another person interferes with your parenting decisions. The question is how to deal with that person within the bounds of etiquette. OP has a range of choices between nothing and an all-out cut direct. I'm much more on the cut direct side because of the back story.

The harm in letting it go is the MIL then being told implicitly that this kind of behavior is acceptable (and even wanted), when it isn't. It's giving her license to do this again, and with bigger things. OP has expressed a concern for when her son turns 16 and MIL decides he needs a car. With the back story, that's not an unreasonable fear. The best way to stop this behavior is to stop it as early as possible. Every time MIL succeeds in trampling a boundary, it gets harder and harder to enforce them. It's not just a present, but something much, much more. It's a present with a message -- the message being "I don't have to respect your choices and decisions as a parent." Do you think that OP should just "let it go" when MIL buys DS a car against her wishes?

Setting a boundary with a boundary-trampler is not "descending to her level." It's taking appropriate action.

I'm with Art.  When Mathprime was a baby, we had discussed with my in-laws that we didn't want certain kinds of toys.  For one birthday, they bought Mathprime a toy that had all but one of the qualities we didn't want in a toy, and it was something that would have taken up all of the free space in our living room.  When the toy was unwrapped, Mathprime would have taken it out to play with right then except that I said right then and there that that was not going to be opened right now.  The toy disappeared that night, and at this point we open and check anything that my in-laws send to the children before the children get to see it.

They have gotten better about what they choose as gifts, but that only happened because we got fed up and made it crystal clear to them that any inappropriate gifts would not even be seen by the children.

People who want to trample you boundaries won't respect them any more than you do.  If you don't enforce your boundaries, they will ignore them.  If you don't start enforcing them when it's about smaller things, you're going to have an enormous fight on your hands about something at the level of a car, where you say that of course they should have checked with you; you'll have to buy insurance, repair it, register it, etc.. They'll say that they never had to check with you about anything else before, and what do you mean they can't give it to him? They paid $$$$ for it, and they can't return it, you have to take it.  The longer you let someone get away with something, the more difficult it is to quash the behaviour when you decide to.

Zilla

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Re: At a Loss
« Reply #62 on: November 14, 2012, 06:52:36 PM »
I would give MIL a heads up and let her know you already had the guitar picked out. Continue to give yours. Your son can have two.

Maybe hers can be used if he needs to go somewhere and doesn't want to take the real one. Or maybe it is so awful he never uses it.

It doesn't seem like a really big deal to me, as a bonus instrument seems useful.

This is what I was thinking.  He can play/beat up the used guitar and have a nice one for Christmas. 

ladyknight1

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Re: At a Loss
« Reply #63 on: November 14, 2012, 07:00:05 PM »
My primary concern is that for now, it is a guitar. What happens in just over a year and a half when he is sixteen and can legally drive? Do they just buy him a car?

MIL has broken every personal relationship but a few over this kind of behavior and competition. She thinks that her "generosity" earns her immediate forgiveness for any and all offenses.

Exactly. Obviously, you know the situation with your MIL better than anyone here does... but this *really* struck a chord with me.

Essentially, you described my own mother.

You don't say, but is your DS the only grandchild, or perhaps the oldest? If he's not, does she "treat" the others like this? Because, in my own experience, it might be that she's viewing your DS as her "however many times it is, chance to make everything perfect". My DD is my mother's only granddaughter. Her two grandsons she treats as an inconvenience at the best of times (my nephew rarely, if ever, has anything to do with her as he's now working in Australia, my 8 year old DS also rarely has anything to do with her, because I strive to limit contact, but knows that he's "second best" to his sister). As far as my mother's concerned, my DD is her chance to "be a better mum" than she ever was to my brother and myself. DS is the only grandchild.

Also... does your MIL have any close friends? Maybe, if she does (mine doesn't; no one will talk to her, actually, which is pretty sad...), your DH could ask *them* to intervene, if that's not overstepping any etiquette guidelines? Sometimes we listen more to people our own age/from our own generation, than we do to those younger than we are, such as children and children-in-law... MIL has zero close friends and is down to one friend total. She alienates people.

I'm more than sure your DS will love the guitar that you and your DH have (?are) buying for him. Especially if he's old enough to work out what his grandmother's like and your past history of competitiveness with her. My DD worked it out almost a year ago, when she was 15. My DS worked it out when he was 3 years old. It's a hard lesson to learn, but sometimes...

They need to learn it.

I really hope this all works out for you.

(Incidentally, my DD becomes old enough to learn how to drive next year... and I'm terrified my parents are going to undermine me again and buy her a car, even though I've told her point blank that her wages from her part time job have to put to one side to pay for it... I pay her college fees and will pay her university tuition if she decides to go, but a car? Nope. Knowing what my parents are like, though, and knowing how many road accidents involve teenagers? It scares the *life* out of me!)

I am reassured that at least the car would involve too much red tape and paperwork. I am sorry you deal with this too.

miranova

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Re: At a Loss
« Reply #64 on: November 14, 2012, 07:18:22 PM »


My primary concern is that for now, it is a guitar. What happens in just over a year and a half when he is sixteen and can legally drive? Do they just buy him a car?



EXACTLY.  And this is the same reason why when we caught MIL sneaking candy to our children AFTER we had just gotten done telling them no, we took action.  It's NOT about the candy.  The kids would not have been permanantly harmed having a piece of candy.  We know that.  If she had given it to them innocently before we had the chance to say no, that would be different.  But when she deliberately goes against our wishes to appear to be more "fun" than us to the children, that is NOT going to be tolerated.  She was teaching them that our rules were made to be broken, and that had to be stopped when the kids were little before it snowballed into "oh you don't have to wear your seatbelt when you ride with me" or "I'll get you the dangerous gift that your parents won't give you".  She already is banned from taking them to the beach because she refused to put sunscreen on them even AFTER being told that it was a requirement for taking them to the beach.  They came home totally sunburned and told us that they hadn't put ANY sunscreen on.  Why?  Because the kids don't like it and "when we were growing up we never worried about things like sunscreen so it's no big deal".  Ok, well thousands of people dying of skin cancer might disagree with you and now you don't get to take them to the beach EVER again.  We are too mean, we don't care.  That's the way it goes, you don't respect us as the ACTUAL parents of the children, you get less access to the children.  Plain and simple.

It's NOT just a gift.  It's a way to usurp and ignore the actual parents here and send a message to the son that she doesn't have to play by their rules.  Learning an expensive instrument (or not) is a parenting decision, and no one but the parents have the right to make it.  She didn't even ask!  Heck, maybe my MIL has improved greatly because she has called already this year talking to me about what she is getting for the kids and making sure I'm not already getting the same thing.  Boundaries can work sometimes, if they are enforced!  But you can't let all the little things slide and expect anyone to take you seriously. If you let someone ignore your parenting authority in the little things, they will just keep going until it's something like a car.

Doll Fiend

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Re: At a Loss
« Reply #65 on: November 14, 2012, 07:51:10 PM »
Thank you for the comments. We have already had some friction over the past week since MIL thought it was DS' decision to visit them during the Thanksgiving holiday instead of his parents' decision.

This happened today, and she told DS the reason she bought a used one is she didn't want to waste money if he changes his mind about playing the guitar.  ::) 

Internally, I am screaming, but I am trying to remain calm until DH comes home.

This got me. So sad that Grandma basically said that he is not worth a better guitar and the belief and pride in him that he will take to the instrument. I believe that your better and more worthy guitar will say to him about how much you believe in him and how much pride you have in him. Your love and respect for him and his dreams is easily told just by the quality of the guitar you are getting him.

figleaf

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Re: At a Loss
« Reply #66 on: November 14, 2012, 08:05:21 PM »
This sounds to me like the teenage version of MIL purchasing a grandchild's first Halloween costume or Christmas dress without checking with the child's parents. As the kid gets older, the purchases get costlier. My MIL did both of the things I mentioned, and was upset when her "gifts" went unused. Ther were many "but I just" conversations in those years.

Many years later, I think MIL and I have a reasonable relationship. There were about 5 years of her testing boundaries, and DH and I never giving an inch when she started "but I just"-ing. Now MIL would not purchase a big-ticket, large or 'main' gift for our girls without asking. In return, we've let her take the "super-grandma" spotlight a few times. Sometimes I regret that MIL and I had those prickly years, because there will always be some wariness between us, but it is jut the way it worked out.

The difference is, my MIL responded to our 'training'. Your MIL seemingly just took your boundaries as a challenge. Problem is, she was never going to win.

If this is just the last in a long series of oversteps as you describe, I'd take it as a signal than it was time to limit her access to my family. A few posters brought up the issue of a car, what is to prevent her from bankrolling his first apartment without your consent in a few years, or something equally huge?  I am (I hope) exaggerating, but I have heard of it happening. Recently I've been asking myself, " what positive impact does this person have for my family?". If the answer is none or not much, I'd be cutting them out, especially as, in your case, she has shown no willingness to respect you.

blarg314

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Re: At a Loss
« Reply #67 on: November 15, 2012, 04:32:42 AM »

If this were just a one-time thing, in a normally healthy relationship, getting really upset would be an over-reaction. It would be worth a "What was up with that? We've already bought a guitar for a Christmas gift, and this makes things really awkward!" 

I also know cases where the parents are way over the top in how they try to control their kid's environment and their interactions with everyone in it. You've probably met the parents who insist on only organic hand-crafted toys, made of wood and hand-woven natural fibres, or the ones who throw a tantrum when they're over at your house and the older kids are watching TV, and demand you turn if off because they don't let their kid watch any TV.

But this doesn't sound like either case, rather part of a pattern.  I have a friend whose MIL tends to do stuff like this. She'll keep trying to get in first for special stuff, knowing very well that this is something the parents would really like to do. She also has the bad habit of spontaneously doing 'favours' or buying 'gifts' that end up costing them money, like picking up something at the store and presenting a bill for it, or a gift certificate for something they wouldn't normally get, but only for 2/3 of the price. Each event doesn't seem that bad, until you string it all out.

I can see the car happening, too. But she'll buy some clunker off of Craigslist that is not safe to drive and doesn't have proper papers, and needs extensive repairs to be safe on the road.  DS will get really excited at the idea of a car, and be disappointed when the parents say absolutely no way.



SPuck

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Re: At a Loss
« Reply #68 on: November 15, 2012, 07:33:28 AM »
Just because you receive a gift does not meant you have to be happy about it, and in certain situations you don't have to be cordial either. I'm kind of reminded about that thread where one grandmother wanted to give her granddaughter a box of  a thousand lady bugs. It is a thoughtful gift only up to the point where you realize it wasn't thought through. Yes it might have been exciting, but then what you realize is that you have a box of a thousand lady bugs you have to get rid of or release without upsetting anyone or releasing a wave of lady bugs upon an unsuspecting area.

ladyknight1

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Re: At a Loss
« Reply #69 on: November 15, 2012, 09:19:14 AM »
The guitar MIL bought will remain at her house. We will be buying a new, good quality instrument for him to learn on, and hopefully play for years. DS loves music, and was in school band during middle school, and picked up a guitar while at our vacation house. He really enjoyed playing.

This is a perfect example of how my MIL thinks and behaves. She loves to go buy used goods that end up breaking or getting ruined (due to exposure, improper use) in a short time. It is not my money and I have no right to tell her what to do, but I am not going to allow her to continue to usurp gifts that were planned or to buy gifts I don't want DS to have yet. We give DS a lot of freedom and independence because he has been brought up with boundaries and has a level head and moods. In just over three years, DS will be legally an adult, and I want him to be able to live independently.

O'Dell

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Re: At a Loss
« Reply #70 on: November 15, 2012, 10:53:09 AM »
Unless you all cut MIL out of your lives completely, she'll keep this up. Your husband can talk to her about her boundary trampling until he's blue in the face and she won't change.

What you can do, however, is talk to your son about what she does. You've taught him good boundaries but he's also going to need to deal with people who don't have good boundaries themselves. He might as well learn the inevitability of that and how to handle it with dear granny. Consider it part of his education.

I think your best option for dealing with her is to act as if there is nothing wrong with her attempts to compete. It can be quite deflating to the competitor if their target refuses to participate. I'm thinking go with a "Bless your heart" attitude with her. Her way of competing with you is pretty pathetic anyway...a busted second-hand guitar that may or may not be repairable? A genuine "Bless your heart" response would be appropriate even if her heart were in the right place.
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
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Virg

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Re: At a Loss
« Reply #71 on: November 15, 2012, 11:15:35 AM »
Elenelle wrote:

"The piano's still in my house, because it was my DD's gift - and because she loved it. Briefly. For maybe a month. Because she discovered boys as teenage girls are prone to do, had exams, went to college... It hasn't been played since, undoubtedly never will be, and it is a constant sore point."

This story is really stunning, I must say.  That said, if your DD feels guilty about the piano and you don't like it, I'd suggest talking with her about selling it.  If you're hesitant because it's her piano, you can always give her the proceeds and if she really wants to play, you can get a great keyboard for the money you'd get out of selling a piano.

ladyknight1 wrote:

"My primary concern is that for now, it is a guitar. What happens in just over a year and a half when he is sixteen and can legally drive? Do they just buy him a car?"

Be proactive about it and it won't be an issue.  Talk to your DS about how and when he'll get acces to a car (or get a car) and lay it out the way you feel is best.  Let him know that you won't allow anyone to go around that, to the point where you won't accept a car if someone gives it to you (unless that's an allowed part of your plan).

Then advise your MIL of your plan.  If she goes around it and buys him a car, thank her for the gift and then sell or donate it.  She can't force you to step off the plan and if you discuss it with your DS beforehand it'll turn her attempt at backdooring you to your advantage.

Virg

CakeEater

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Re: At a Loss
« Reply #72 on: November 15, 2012, 10:03:50 PM »
Thank you for the comments. We have already had some friction over the past week since MIL thought it was DS' decision to visit them during the Thanksgiving holiday instead of his parents' decision.

This happened today, and she told DS the reason she bought a used one is she didn't want to waste money if he changes his mind about playing the guitar.  ::) 

Internally, I am screaming, but I am trying to remain calm until DH comes home.

This got me. So sad that Grandma basically said that he is not worth a better guitar and the belief and pride in him that he will take to the instrument. I believe that your better and more worthy guitar will say to him about how much you believe in him and how much pride you have in him. Your love and respect for him and his dreams is easily told just by the quality of the guitar you are getting him.

I disagree. Buying expensive, top quality items says nothing about your love or respect for your child, or their dreams. Grandma's reasoning (buying something cheaper for someone to learn on, until you see if their interest holds) is a perfectly reasonable plan.

Buying broken garbage, as grandma did, obviously isn't. 

mmswm

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Re: At a Loss
« Reply #73 on: November 16, 2012, 01:08:38 AM »
Oh, boy.  I understand perfectly how you feel, only with me, the issue is with my mother.  There's a reason I live 3000 miles away from my parents.  My adult siblings (I have two siblings that are still minors) also live nearly 1000 miles away from them for the same reasons. I don't have anything else to add, but I did want to post to let you know that I don't think you overreacted at all, and if you do decide to give her the cut direct, I think that would be perfectly reasonable considering the back story.
Some people lift weights.  I lift measures.  It's a far more esoteric workout. - (Quoted from a personal friend)

snowdragon

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Re: At a Loss
« Reply #74 on: November 16, 2012, 01:22:41 AM »

The big deal is that grandma just completely stole the boy's parents' Christmas thunder. That guitar was going to be special.  It was picked out with love, and his parents obviously looked forward to giving him his first guitar.

Grandma took that right away from them.  That's a pretty big deal, IMO.

I agree with this.  But let your husband handle this.  Grandma is very self centered and entitled.

I play the guitar.  Just because something is shaped like a guitar and has strings doesn't really mean that it is even playable.  I doubt that your son will necessarily want to play the thing that MIL bought. If it was cheap at a thrift ship, it was there for a reason.  It's quite likely that MIL basically threw her money away.

Cheapo guitars are difficult to tune and keep in tune, the strings hurt the fingers more, and the sound is inferior.

I've found two violins at a local thrift shop that looked quite rough. I had them in mind for decorations but when I told my teacher about them he wanted me to bring them in - they were early 20th century instruments, and with $50 in repairs total, I had a couple of really nice instruments.  Sometimes the reason an instrument is in a thrift shop is because the owner died and their heirs didn't want it around.