Author Topic: "So, how is your mom? And your cousin? And your uncle's dog?"  (Read 4627 times)

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Re: "So, how is your mom? And your cousin? And your uncle's dog?"
« Reply #15 on: July 06, 2014, 05:00:36 AM »
I understand where you're coming from (i'm not the greatest conversationalist and i have a father who cannot.stand.not.talking so those conversations are a lot of "so what's new with X, Y Z" from his side and a lot of one-liners from my side).

but i also agree with some of the PPs that these sound like pretty normal, run of the mill, conversations starters.

We have your MIL's side of the conversation - are you responding with more than Yes/no, or one liners? because that may the problem here. she may thing "hmm, i'll ask her about X" and she gets a "short" response so she may be thinking "uh oh, looks like i hit  a minefield there. i'll segue over to Y" which again gets a short response and so on.

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Re: "So, how is your mom? And your cousin? And your uncle's dog?"
« Reply #16 on: July 06, 2014, 10:30:19 AM »
I have had a similar reaction, OP, and just like you, I haven't been able to immediately say why it bothers me.

I think it's that the interest feels out of proportion.

It's one thing to ask about my dad, and his life. He's very close to me, and my MIL is close to me, so for her to be interested, that makes sense.

But my nephew isn't that close to me. Or, even if he is, my MIL has never met him (or met him seldom), and so it feels like prying.

It also feels judgmental, bcs I would have to say, "I don't know."

POD to toots, I understand why you might be uncomfortable OP. Also, if your MIL is asking lots of questions about people you aren't close to, it also highlights her disconnect from your life - e.g., if she wants to know what Cousin Alice is up to but in actuality, you only see Alice once a year at Christmas and don't talk to her otherwise, it can seem odd and prying for someone to ask about the details of their life.

My mother always asks LordL what his parents and grandparents are up to. Sometimes he has only a vague idea as he doesn't talk to them nearly as often as I talk to my parents. So he'll just say "I don't know if they left for vacation yet, I think they are going around this time" or what have you.

I agree with others that this is mostly a benign difference in conversational styles.


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Re: "So, how is your mom? And your cousin? And your uncle's dog?"
« Reply #17 on: July 07, 2014, 02:22:45 PM »
OP, it sounds as though your MIL is quite extroverted.  I am as well.  We extroverts love to make conversation because, for the most part, we love to hear about people.  It doesn't sound like the types of questions she was asking were out of bounds.  If she had asked for details about your mother's health issues or personal habits that would be overstepping.

DH always says I can go into a room full of strangers and come out with 10 new friends.  I always feel I learn new things making conversation and it takes me a few minutes to realize not everyone is comfortable with giving details.  I'm better at determining that now than I was in my twenties.


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Re: "So, how is your mom? And your cousin? And your uncle's dog?"
« Reply #18 on: July 07, 2014, 03:18:08 PM »
Highlighting what a few others have said, to me the questions you listed don't seem intrusive, but I can see how it might start to feel like an interrogation if she shoots them at you rapid-fire, or seems interested out of proportion to how she knows the people. And, I was also thinking what LadyL said--a lot of my relatives, I don't see very often or hear about their day to day lives, so if someone specifically asked me about Cousin X I would be like, "Um, I don't know, haven't seen him in a while, but I think he's doing well." Too many of those in a row could make me feel like I'm abnormally out of touch with my family.

I also wondered what, I think, cicero first mentioned--if you give only very short answers to her open-ended questions, MIL might feel she's either hit a sensitive spot, or something you genuinely don't know much about, so she'll immediately jump to another topic. But if you don't seem to "warm" to that one, either, it ends up feeling like 20 minutes of quizzing you on every relative you've ever mentioned. So, maybe try as an experiment elaborating as much as you can on a particular topic, and see if she sticks with that or still jumps around.

Also, even though your DH may not feel the same way himself, I think you can ask him to respect your boundaries simply because they're your boundaries. You don't know why telling MIL this or that makes you uncomfortable, but it does; so, if he sees you being reluctant to tell her, he absolutely should not jump in and tell her those things himself. If he feels things are getting awkward, he can jump in with a new subject of his own, like his own hobby or something he saw on TV.

I know my mom gets really irritated when my dad tells people stories about her friends and family, when my mom is sitting right there, and my dad only knows because she told him--she feels he's sort of appropriating her story and drawing attention to himself in an unappealing (to her) way, in addition to perhaps spinning it in a way she doesn't agree with because it makes "a better story."


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Re: "So, how is your mom? And your cousin? And your uncle's dog?"
« Reply #19 on: July 07, 2014, 03:29:48 PM »
In this specific type of situation, taking into account the OP's feelings about the subject and the MIL's perceived intent ("Enough about me, let's talk about you"), I would go into the next visit a little better prepared with conversational material, for bean dipping. It doesn't have to require a response (or much of one) from MIL, just give the OP something to add to a conversation without feeling pried at.

So, take charge, start a new direction of a conversation. "I read this really interesting article in the EHell Daily Star Times about bean dip, and it got me thinking about....." or "I recently discovered this great You Tube channel which has interesting webisodes about underwater basket weaving. It's something I've always been interested in, and the way they explain things makes it so accessible that you don't need a graduate degree to understand and appreciate the discussion. I thought their episode about...."  Or tell her something more interesting about yourself (new hobby, or work challenge, etc), so you don't feel so gossipy about others.


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Re: "So, how is your mom? And your cousin? And your uncle's dog?"
« Reply #20 on: July 07, 2014, 05:38:14 PM »
For many people asking general questions like "How's your mom?" comes across as very superficial. But remembering that you rmom enjoys volunteering and has recently moved to a new town implies true interest and care about your family so in turn about you. Also specific questions can be more open ended generating a more intersting conversation. I guess if your mom hated volunteering and you felt the questions was a shot at her then it could be intrusive.

I don't consider myself an extrovert but I'd be really suprised (and a little hurt I think) if my DIL felt questions about her mother's moving or general activities were rude and intrusive. I'm not asking medical, political, or financial questions.

If the conversation started feeling more like an interrogation then take charge. "Mom started volunteering at x and is really enjoying it. I wish I had more time to volunteer. I used to do 123 but don't seem to have the time now. Are you still working with the blue group? How's that going?"

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Re: "So, how is your mom? And your cousin? And your uncle's dog?"
« Reply #21 on: July 10, 2014, 12:54:21 AM »
I do somewhat understand the feeling - for example, my father-in-law asks questions about all members of my family when we see him. However, he's only met my sister and her husband once - at my wedding - and so it did seem odd to me at first that he would even care how her new job was. I eventually realized that he views it differently. To him, it doesn't matter that he's only met her once - she's my sister and she's important to me, so she's important to him.

So, I understand the gut feeling of "why would you ask that?" even though the actual question is innocuous. But I think it's important to realize, OP, that your mother-in-law's questions are not intrusive and not rude to ask, and she's likely asking them from a place of love and interest in *you*.
Parking my POD here.
I ask people about friends and family they have mentioned for that exact reason. I don't know the people I am asking about, but they are part of the world my conversation partner belongs to. I am often using the other people as a jumping off point for more things to talk about.

For example: A friend of mine is married and has small children. When he mentioned traveling and listed where he had been, he talked about traveling pre- vs. post-children. When he brought up the family traveling to [In-laws native country], I asked him how he liked it - then I asked how his kids liked it (there first time traveling abroad and meeting the family) - then we joked about how universal spoiling grandkids seems to be - then he talked about the bus tour they took there- and then that reminded him of a different trip and he told me a funny story about trying to drive in another country. Our conversation literally went around the world and flowed (I felt) very naturally.

In my experience, if people don't know about others in their life, they want to get to know them vicariously through you. And if they are familiar with the others - they still ask just as many questions, if not more because they have more (firsthand) info to work with! ;) ;D

If you are worried about coming up with conversations, questions (asked or answered) can be your friends!
"... for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
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