Author Topic: GMIL Birthday Mess  (Read 14396 times)

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lastnightsdream

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GMIL Birthday Mess
« on: December 27, 2013, 05:35:15 PM »
There are so many unanswered etiquette questions here - and we're still in the thick of this mess. Anyone willing to try and assist in the sorting out of this in a polite way I would appreciate it.

Several months ago, AIL and I were on the phone discussing GMIL's milestone birthday. AIL lamented how she longed to throw her mother a large birthday to celebrate this special birthday. I agreed and offered to help get the ball rolling. AIL lives across the globe, and IL's live across our country (several hours by flight). Over several emails AIL and I discussed venue, food, hospitality, decorations, fancy cake, etc.

As we neared the date I called MIL to coordinate (she lives in same city as GMIL). MIL sounded...not impressed. But cooperative and the illusion of support was there for our plans. I told DH "I feel like she will find a way to ruin this." Sure enough..

DH and I book our expensive flights. Take our last few days of annual vacation from work. Make arrangemetns for our pets. Have ordered a huge cake, and spent money on personalized party favours. We are ready for a big party and excited to surprise GMIL with our arrival in town for this special day. We'd discussed with AIL and MIL to have extended family invited, etc.

So we're about a month out from our trip. MIL informs us over a phone call last week that actually, GMIL wanted to go to XYZ restaurant ON her actual Bday, and so as not to disapoint her, she told her about the surprise party, and that we were flying out, and that we were planning a party. Then she says that they're having the party with the extended family on her actual bday now, and it'll just be immediate family when we fly out.

So basically, they are having the party without us, to heck with all the planning, and we are now going to ALL this trouble to fly there for a family dinner.

Immediatly DH got off the phone and said we are not going, let's cancel tickets. Which we did this week-end. I was livid. I started crying and left the room before the call was over (we were on speaker phone).

DH wants to tell them he is too busy to go because of work and that head in the sand routine is getting old. I told him I understand a white lie to grandma because why upset her further (she's in the 100+category), but he needs to tell his mother the real reason we're not going and discuss it with her.

Any advise appreciated...or commentary. Sigh.  DH has yet to tell them we're not coming (he wanted to wait until their holiday celebration was over as he didn't trust his mom not to blow a gasget and let onto GMIL that she was angry/upset/disappointed, etc).

aussie_chick

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Re: GMIL Birthday Mess
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2013, 05:57:53 PM »
You poor thing! I really feel for you and AIL and your DH in this situation. You were trying to do something really lovely for GMIL and it has become more about MIL than the guest of honour.

A couple of things struck me about your Op that it's probably too late to do anything about but perhaps just for future reference it might be helpful.

"As we neared the date I called MIL to coordinate (she lives in same city as GMIL). MIL sounded...not impressed. But cooperative and the illusion of support was there for our plans. I told DH "I feel like she will find a way to ruin this." Sure enough.."

I wonder why MIL wasn't included earlier than this? It's possible she had her own ideas for her mother's (i'm guessing GMIL is her mother, but please let me know if that's not the case) birthday and was surprised to hear that her DIL and her sister were planning something so significant without including her in the planning in any way shape or form. AIL lives across the globe but MIL is more local. Upon first reading, I wondered why you and AIL were arranging things and not MIL who lives in the same city as GMIL and possibly has more contact with her to know what she would like to do for her birthday. It's also possible that MIL had already started thinking about GMIL's birthday.

Also when MIL sounded not impressed - I might have tried to discuss this with her at the time. E.g "MIL do you think this sounds like something GMIL would like? Or did you have other plans?"

Also you and DH deciding not to fly out now. Is this more about MIL than GMIL?

Does it matter who attends a party for GMIL as long as she has a birthday to remember and her family is part of that?

Please don't misunderstand me. I don't want to sound as though i'm berating you because i'm not. Your MIL sounds like a pain in the butt!

I think you and your DH need to sit down and decide what's important to you. MIL's behaviour or GMIL's birthday and spending time with her.

I don't think you can tell GMIL a white lie given that MIL has already told her you're flying out.

It's a tricky situation.

Perhaps you could both go to GMIL's birthday (if flights are still available of course) and then after that, you and your DH, or just your DH and AIL could discuss the situation with MIL and find out what all this was about. Your DH could express how you're both feeling about it and explain that you were shocked at the turn of events.

There may be some back story to the relationship with MIL that isn't clear from the Op.


lastnightsdream

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Re: GMIL Birthday Mess
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2013, 06:12:10 PM »
Your reply was so thoughtful I wanted to reply to it immediatly and I thank you. Also - I really appreciate your approach. So many people write meanly right away and its so offputting.

Yes - I have a long history with MIL. Mostly bad. Been with my DH nearly 15 years (since we were teenagers in Uni) and cut off MIL for several years, twice, during that time for rude behaviour.

AIL came to visit about six months ago and that's when we started discussing this idea. I understand she then went to visit MIL and GMIL (AIL and MIL's mother) and discussed with MIL. MIL and I very briefly discussed this and MIL seemed fine. But it was really AIL who was the driving force behind wanting to do all these things. Also - the reason I stepped up is because AIL has been very very ill this last year, and MIL is notoriously lazy. MIL had no plans for the birthday (and DH suspects she ruined all our plans because she didn't want the party to happen for various reasons, including making any efforts herself).

We were flying on points, and lost money by having our points refunded already. Also, I've released my vacation days at work and my directors would probably loose thier minds at the back and fourth of trying to find someone to cover my work, then let that person off, then again...you get the idea.

We spend several days thinking about whether we should still go to see GMIL. However, when this all started, we told MIL and AIL that we were only going so as to participate in this huge family event - and everyone agreed it made no sense for us to go to all this trouble for just a dinner. GMIL is in fine health, so no reason for us to hurry and make this trip otherwise. DH flies there for a few days once a year in the summer, so he planned to just devote more time to his GM on the next trip.

Still though - I see that point. I also know BIL's and their families are disappointed as they all very much wanted to spend time with us as its a rareity. And idk - if I'm being honest (and otherwise what's the point of this type of forum, right?) then the truth is yea - if this was the first time MIL had done this, we would still have considered more strongly going anyway. But this is just the last in a recent (last year and a half) string of events where, when she wasn't in 'control' of the situation, she found ways to sabatoge/change/complain/dramatize events and manipulate them to her liking.

I hope some of this helps to clarify.

bah12

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Re: GMIL Birthday Mess
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2013, 06:12:51 PM »
I agree with aussie-chick.

It makes sense that immediate coordination with MIL would have been helpful.  She lives close...presumably has more direct access to GMIL and her wishes and can help organize the logistics of a large get togher much easier than two other people not only far apart from GMIL but far apart from each other.

I also wish that your frustration with your MIL hadn't caused you to cancel your plans for GMIL's birthday trip.  This isn't GMIL's fault.  Is the disappointment to her worth it?  I think in a month's time you could have been able to work out a compromise between what GMIL supposedly wants and the birthday surprise you were planning that wouldn't have made you feel like your efforts and money were wasted and not appreciated. 

Hopefully your family can work something out.

lastnightsdream

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Re: GMIL Birthday Mess
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2013, 06:20:43 PM »
I spoke to MIL three times - once six months ago when she told me about the chat she had with AIL about GMIL party when AIL was over there visiting. The second time was when AIL and I started all the plans and I gave her the 'rough draft' and asked for input (and got 'well no that all sounds just fine.") and then again at the end when everything but the personalized favours had been done and I called her to discuss wording and items for the favours AS I was ording them online, and numbers as we did a rough head count of all the guests who'd come. So she was involved and have plenty of opportunity to say something ahead of time.

Something just doesnt' make sense here. The reason for telling GMIL makes no sense to me. And AIL has been to ill to call us (and between that and the time difference its tough getting her on the phone - she's with GMIL right now). But WHY ruin everything because 'GMIL will be disappointed.' Why didn't they just take her to the restaurant twice (and money is not an issue), or tell her they were going to hold off for some alternative reason. How do you go from all this to just letting the cat out of the bag and changing all the plans?!

Doesn't matter what the possible answer is here though as its just speculation. What matters are the facts I suppose - which is that was the reason we're being given that all our planning went down the gutter.

buvezdevin

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Re: GMIL Birthday Mess
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2013, 06:23:02 PM »
I, too, was a bit confused as to some particulars you mention, which from your MIL's point of view would be:

1.  MIL's mother has an approaching milestone birthday.
2.  MIL lives near her mother.
3.  MIL's daughter-in-law and sister, who each live considerable distance away, undertake to plan MIL's mother's birthday celebration, and advise MIL of the plans - which are not scheduled for the actual date of the birthday.

- as you mention ordering a cake, party favors, and booking travel - you had some details you had set, but it is not clear if you had booked a venue, or expected your MIL to host, how hosting costs would be covered, and it seems you were relying on your MIL to handle invitations for all guests.

I understand your being upset that the plans you had made are not being fully realized, but while you are hurt that your MIL seemed to accept your plans, I would not be surprised if she were hurt to have been omitted from the planning, and asked only to perform to plan.

Mainly, it seems easily understandable why anyone might prefer to have a celebration of a milestone on the actual date of the milestone event, so I would not fault GMIL for such a preference and am not clear why your plans were to celebrate on another date.

Given that you and your aunt planned to surprise your GMIL "around" the time of her milestone birthday, and your MIL shared that information - perhaps trying to get GMIL to agree to the larger gathering being on your chosen date - if you don't go now, it seems (without further detail) as though you are canceling a surprise visit solely because *your* choice of dates for the big celebration of someone else's birthday was not agreed upon by the guest of honor.
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lastnightsdream

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Re: GMIL Birthday Mess
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2013, 06:26:50 PM »
Fair points and I left something out here:

The second phone call with MIL - she advised us not to come ON the date as we'd only be able to come for two days. So it was MIL who said for us to come three weeks later, so that we could have four days.

Also - DH and I were paying for the private room at the restaurant. I'd already put the deposit (refundable, thankfully) and made the reservation myself. Again - AIL first approached MIL with this. Not me. AIL was stressed about the plans so I picked up the ball b/c MIL wasn't. I made sure to speak with MIL twice during that planning, and again as it was completed, asking everytime for input and got none.

aussie_chick

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Re: GMIL Birthday Mess
« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2013, 06:32:02 PM »
Your reply was so thoughtful I wanted to reply to it immediatly and I thank you. Also - I really appreciate your approach. So many people write meanly right away and its so offputting.

Yes - I have a long history with MIL. Mostly bad. Been with my DH nearly 15 years (since we were teenagers in Uni) and cut off MIL for several years, twice, during that time for rude behaviour.

AIL came to visit about six months ago and that's when we started discussing this idea. I understand she then went to visit MIL and GMIL (AIL and MIL's mother) and discussed with MIL. MIL and I very briefly discussed this and MIL seemed fine. But it was really AIL who was the driving force behind wanting to do all these things. Also - the reason I stepped up is because AIL has been very very ill this last year, and MIL is notoriously lazy. MIL had no plans for the birthday (and DH suspects she ruined all our plans because she didn't want the party to happen for various reasons, including making any efforts herself).

We were flying on points, and lost money by having our points refunded already. Also, I've released my vacation days at work and my directors would probably loose thier minds at the back and fourth of trying to find someone to cover my work, then let that person off, then again...you get the idea.

We spend several days thinking about whether we should still go to see GMIL. However, when this all started, we told MIL and AIL that we were only going so as to participate in this huge family event - and everyone agreed it made no sense for us to go to all this trouble for just a dinner. GMIL is in fine health, so no reason for us to hurry and make this trip otherwise. DH flies there for a few days once a year in the summer, so he planned to just devote more time to his GM on the next trip.

Still though - I see that point. I also know BIL's and their families are disappointed as they all very much wanted to spend time with us as its a rareity. And idk - if I'm being honest (and otherwise what's the point of this type of forum, right?) then the truth is yea - if this was the first time MIL had done this, we would still have considered more strongly going anyway. But this is just the last in a recent (last year and a half) string of events where, when she wasn't in 'control' of the situation, she found ways to sabatoge/change/complain/dramatize events and manipulate them to her liking.

I hope some of this helps to clarify.

Thank you for your kind words. Whenever I launch into a reply on here I have to stop and check myself a bit. I try to write straight to the point but that can come across rudely when I just want to be succinct! Unfortunately what it usually means is that my posts end up incredibly long winded as I try to explain and over explain myself!

I really feel for you Op. Your reply added some more context. I stand by my original comment that MIL sounds like a pain in the butt! But now I want to add "huge pain in the butt"!

It does sound like MIL really wanted to sabotage what was going to be a lovely time for GMIL.

Given the update - especially with the cost and annual leave situation at work - I would send warm regards to GMIL on her birthday and plan something with her another time, either DH on his own when he's there in summer or another time when you both might be able to make it. You could send her a nice video message on her birthday - perhaps email it to BIL or someone who could assist with this so GMIL can see your faces and hear your birthday message to her.

If that's not possible. Send her some flowers and write a letter/send a card wishing her a happy birthday.

If GMIL has another birthday in future that family wants to arrange something for, I would probably explain to AIL that you are happy to assist in any way you can, but that AIL should discuss with MIL first and once they are 100% on the same page, you are willing to do whatever you can to help. Or perhaps your DH can have this conversation with his Mother and Aunt.

Don't give MIL the opportunity to sabotage again.

I would probably not bother to discuss with MIL what happened in this situation. I'm guessing from your update that she might not "get it", or might choose not to! But if she ever brings it up in conversation, bean dip or ask your DH to deal with the conversation.

bah12

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Re: GMIL Birthday Mess
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2013, 06:37:29 PM »
I can totally see why someone would prefer to celebrate thier birthday on their birthday and not wait for three weeks.  I don't think MIL should have pushed for the surprise to be so far removed from the actual birth date.  I think all of this would have likely not occured the way it has had it not been for that one small detail.

lastnightsdream

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Re: GMIL Birthday Mess
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2013, 06:44:15 PM »
I don't understand why they didn't just take her to the restaurant. It makes no sense to me. Its five minutes from her house and they've gone plenty of times. Whoever was able to in the immediate family could just have gone with her.

Instead, MIL told her they weren't going until we got there, and instead, they invited ALL the extended family to a pot luck at GMIL's house on the actual day. Which GMIL apparently didn't want because she doesn't like having people in her house (which is why I booked her favourite restaurant after discussing with AIL and MIL). It just makes no sense to me.

Regardless, I think now where we're at is what to do about it. I worry that when kids come, MIL will pull something like this yet again and I won't stop to let DH deal with it, I'll give the cut direct myself if it affects my kids. So its important to me that DH speak truthfully with his mother about what happened and discuss it. But DH says something similar to Aussie - why bother, bascially, as she won't change. And that's where I sigh because I truly don't know sometimes - maybe just hope that she will understand she needs to stop pulling this stuff.

Hmmmmm

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Re: GMIL Birthday Mess
« Reply #10 on: December 27, 2013, 06:57:37 PM »
I'm confused. Who mailed out the invites to all of the other family to attend on a different date than when you and the other co-host had selected?

You and AIL decided to host a party and were making all the arrangements.
You invited extended family for a specific date.
You make plans to travel on that date.

Who told the rest of your guests the party will be a different date?

lastnightsdream

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Re: GMIL Birthday Mess
« Reply #11 on: December 27, 2013, 07:04:09 PM »
No mailed invites. AIL arranged with MIL between the two of them they'd reach out to family two months prior by phone (everyone lives somewhat in the same area). Then MIL told AIL a month before the birthday (and two months before our trip) that she had taken a cake to a great aunt's annual early holiday party to celebrate with the extended relatives. I found this out from MIL during that phone call when she told us how she changed all the plans. No one told me about that mini celebration in all this. And I never heard from AIL for over a month prior to GMIL's actual bday. So I wonder if AIL, who always does the head in sand routine when MIL acts up, just decided to bow out without letting us know any of this.


Mikayla

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Re: GMIL Birthday Mess
« Reply #12 on: December 27, 2013, 07:36:07 PM »
OP, something you said in an update caught my attention:  "So its important to me that DH speak truthfully with his mother about what happened and discuss it. But DH says something similar to Aussie - why bother, bascially, as she won't change."
 
Well, sure, she won't change.  That's because the people around her aren't demanding that she do so!  People like your MIL don't change unless they start suffering consequences of their actions.  So far, it sounds like she's been given "permission" by her kids and siblings to keep on truckin'.  (I'm not referring to AIL's illness, but rather the pattern you mentioned that she won't stand up to her).

I may have missed it, but is your MIL looking forward to this extended family event?  My answer might depend on that, but regardless of what you decide, this should be the straw that broke the camel's back - it was so cruel and mean-spirited.  So my take is that if you don't go, your DH needs to be prepared to tell her exactly why, and then attach a consequence you both agree on.  Maybe he could tell her he's cutting off contact for awhile.

And if you do decide to attend, he needs to tell her all of this in person after the celebrations are over and you're ready to leave.  My own take is that I agree with aussie_chick that it might be best to not go and just send a card and flowers to GMIL. 

Sorry you're going through this. 

Zizi-K

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Re: GMIL Birthday Mess
« Reply #13 on: December 27, 2013, 08:08:45 PM »
I think you could have avoided all of this nonsense by simply making the party a regular party rather than a surprise party. The plans could have been set with GMIL directly, so MIL wouldn't be able to meddle. At 100+, I'm sure a surprise is a good idea, the poor woman could be frightened to death!

I'm sorry your MIL destroyed weeks of planning and caused you so much disruption - however, it is confusing that you left so much power and planning in the hands of someone known to create trouble. In the future, you now know you have to circumvent her completely. Expensive lesson. : (

RooRoo

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Re: GMIL Birthday Mess
« Reply #14 on: December 27, 2013, 09:49:07 PM »
Parkin' my pod with Zizi-K.
"Someday we must write a book of Etiquette for sensible people," said Mrs. Morland, "though apart from a few rules it really boils down to an educated mind and a kind heart." ~ Angela Thirkell, Never Too Late