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Challenges with my in-laws

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

MIL and I have never and will never see eye-to-eye on my children. That being said, she has really caused herself some issues with our 5yo dd, their relationship is very strained. I suggested mil do some reading about the challenges gifted children have/face and those the parents/family have/face. I'm hoping to find some good, as well as quick and easy, reads for mil regarding misdiagnosis and dual diagnosis. FWIW, she'd never read an entire book.

Any suggested reading for mil? Any help is greatly appreciated. I'm hoping for articles and quick pieces on web sites.


For those that aren't aware, dd is very sensitive to light and sound, any change to routine or plans, she's very much an introvert (mil is text book extrovert and really smothers dd). DD has some behaviors (ticks, leg kicking, ear pulling) that look a little like she might be on the spectrum. We don't suspect she is but they're good indicators of when something hasn't gone or isn't going quite right. For whatever reason, intentional or not, mil says she cannot see in dd these behaviors. EX: mil was reading to dd while dd was sitting next to her staring off into space sucking her thumb, pulling her ear, and slapping her feet together. Mil said she thought this meant dd was tired. Additionally, dd seems to try to control mil to keep her reigned in, for lack of a better description. DD tells mil where to sit, what to do, what to say, what toys she may play with, how to play with those toys, etc. Mil says she doesn't see this as trying to control her but just playing with her.

What's more, I can sense in dd when she's having trouble. This feeling grows and grows the entire time my ILs visit and doesn't dissipate until they've been gone for several hours.


TIA for any suggestions you might have.


I meant to say, so came back to add, that mil makes dd crazy and with that comes tantrums and fits that are almost always directed at me. I cannot continue to play mediator for the two of them while also being dd's punching bag. This must be rectified or I will be forced to limit time dd spends with mil.

post #2 of 16
Originally Posted by Casha'sMommy View PostThis must be rectified or I will be forced to limit time dd spends with mil.


I'm fuzzy on why that isn't plan A.  The visits sound very stressful for your DD.


I'm assuming that you've attempted to explain to your MIL what works and what doesn't work for your DD for now.


You know that she isn't going to read anything.


Ego, limit visits for awhile.


post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply!

MIL lives 5.5 hours away and we see them a handful of times per year. MIL tends to want to spend as much time as possible with dd, totally understandable, but, you're right, she does stress dd out. I don't want to say they can only see her for a few hours each time they visit when it's already only holidays and a couple other random times throughout the year.

To be fair, dd loves her grandmother and wouldn't want visits to be limited. DD would be very upset with a short visit. This is part of dd's OE's, she's very emotional and very sensitive and a visit of only a couple hours would be upsetting. I struggle with allowing the 5yo to make the decision but it'd be really hard on me that day when the ILs left after only a short visit.


It hit me this afternoon that I suspect mil is intentionally, and maybe subconsciously, making things more difficult where dd is concerned simply because she wants to make life more difficult for me. If this is true, no visits for a while would be in order. I'd just really like to give mil the chance to make things right, y/k.

post #4 of 16

ILs don't change. Parents sometimes don't either, but there is a reason that strained relationships beween MILs and DILs are proverbial. She isn't listening to you and she won't read what you pass on to her, or if she does she'll ignore it anyway. I wouldn't frame it as an issue of her trying to make things harder for you, even just subconcsiously, but as an issue of her (with her extrovert personality) feeling smothered, controlled, and judged as a person (I am not saying you are doing this or that it is a rational reaction on her part).


How worried are you precisely about how stressful those visits are for your DD, in the grand scheme, if it is mostly just a few holidays? Your DD shows signs of increasing stress during those visits and falls apart for a day or so after they've left, but do you feel this is harming her in the long run? (Easy for me to ask, I know. Only you can judge how resilient your D is in the long run). More harmful than the strain on family relationships that may be caused by a final rupture between you and MIL? I am asking because you are making it clear that YOU can't handle the visits and the aftermaths any more, and maybe if you found strategies for yourself your DD might be able to handle it better, and you all can just bumble along until your DD is old enough to assert her needs in ways that MIL can't ignore anymore. I recognize that need for control you describe well. I know it could also be an autistic trait, but I agree with you it is most likely your DD trying to keep your MIL from overwhelming her and herself from falling apart. Maybe you can help and support your DD on this road of learning to assert herself and shaping her interactions with MIL more, as opposed to just see it as a sign of your DD getting overstressed and slowly coming to a boil yourself. I also don't understand where your DH is in all this - if it's holidays, he should be around?!. She may listen to him, at least in the moment, as well as to your DD. Put him in the middle, remove yourself, and insist he takes some of the brunt of your DD's reaction as well (unless she needs you to wind down, period).

And keep telling yourself "it's just three days - it's just two days - it's just for today" and visualize the relaxing activity you are going to treat yourself to right after she's gone, while your DH gets the kids ready for bed.


And by all means, find ways to keep visits just a bit shorter, keep interactions between the two just a bit shorter, but don't let your MIL know you're doing it and why. Not knowing your MIL, I'd come down on the side of keeping a loving adult in your DD's life, at some cost to yourself.

post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 

I so appreciate your perspective Tigerle. I'm trying to keep this on topic as I feel it is a gifted issue and I so appreciate and respect the opinions of so many of the women here.


DD's behavior after the IL's have visited include things like throwing herself to the floor and hitting her head on the floor, kicking me, pinching me, hitting me, biting me, screaming in my face, thrashing about putting herself and others in danger of being hurt. So, no, I simply cannot take it any longer. lol She's getting too big to be held onto and kept safe. fwiw, this is something I posted about a few years ago. We first saw this behavior at my mothers house and we do see it from time to time but it is most severe with the il's.

DH, unfortunately, is not who dd goes to for comfort. I'm pretty much the soul provider of comfort which is why she takes it all out on me, I'm her safe place to fall, I know. Additionally, dh is still trying to please everyone and rarely steps in when he should, something he and I are working on. And, yes, he will be taking the brunt of some of this.

Yes, mil and I have issues. She's disrespectful and inappropriate towards me and generally only does this when dh isn't home or isn't in the room. However, I'm doing my best to separate these two matters and make the issue with dd the priority. I agree that mil is not likely to read anything I send however, if she doesn't then it's her own issue to deal with. You're right, mil won't change but I'd feel a whole lot better about all of this if I did my fair share. fwiw, mil has worked with a family with autistic twin boys for almost 10 years so dd's behavior isn't totally out of the norm for her. In that, I feel mil should have a better handle on how to deal with dd.

I was truly hoping to educate mil on the "fun" stuff we tend to deal with as parents of gifted kiddos. I'm not sure she's really in doubt but she says she doesn't believe dd's behavior is anything but age appropriate. I have 3 children older than 5yo dd and they did not act like this at 5.5yo, they also weren't as sensitive or creative.


As for dd, I have been giving her ideas for how she might be able to use words to tell mil how she's feeling and why. I've heard dd attempt to tell mil something wasn't what she needed or wanted and mil seemed to let it go in one ear and out the other. DD does not want to hurt mils feelings and I think she won't push the matter with mil. I stepped in a few times this past weekend while mil was here and said in front of both dd and mil, "You can tell Grandma you don't want to read that book anymore or you'd like to read it to her or you'd like to do something else." DD looked at mil and said, "I want to do something else." I'm hoping to give dd some coping tools as well as this is who mil is, she's an extrovert and will always be. DD needs to know how to safely interact with her because mil will always be a part of her life. I want dd to feel good around her grandmother not panicked.


DH and I have discussed shortening visits with the ils. They don't stay with us anymore which has given dd a HUGE relief. This changed when we moved closer to other family several months ago and the ils now stay with them while in town. I've noticed big improvements the last two or three visits. However, the ils are usually in town for as much as five days or a week and mil gets here as soon in the morning (everyday) as we'll allow and stays until after the kids have gone to bed so, 12+ hours a day. I'm considering that this needs to be cut at least by half or they can only visit for one day or there must be a day or two between their being here. I think mil tries to cram in as much fun as possible while she's here but can't seem to see or accept that dd can't handle all that fun. Three months of fun crammed into a few days is more than a lot of people can handle. lol


To reiterate, I want to do my share and give mil the links to the pages. If she reads the articles or not is up to her but then she only has herself to look to if she doesn't.

post #6 of 16

Goodness, my kids have a great relationship with both sets of grandparents and my kids would melt down if they had to interact with them or with anyone for 12 hours a day. I'm fairly certain my kids don't want to interact with me for 12 straight hours.


First it sounds like you do need to put limits on how long the grandparents can be there. I'd say something like DD is always a bit slow to start her day so we'd love to see you around 10am and we can do brunch. The kids take some quite time from 1-3 so we'll see you for supper after that. Bedtime ritual is an important time in our day and the kid really need to wind down for the night starting at 7pm.  So lets figure out what we want to do from 10-1 and from 4-7. Then I would plan activities during at least one of those time so it's not constant 1:1 interactions but side by side doing.


Also it sounds like you may need to back off a bit and let DD and her grandmother find their own groove. It sounds like the relationship between your MIL and yourself is strained which puts a strain on the whole dynamic not just between you and your MIL but also between your MIL and your daughter. My in-laws didn't really get to know the kids until I started allowing time for them to get to know each other without me there. When my kids were little if I was in the room my kids focused their energies on me and not on the person visiting. So the in-laws just really never felt like they got to know the person my daughter was until they had time to do so without me there. If she goes to you for all comfort and your not comfortable with your MIL being one on one with your daughter what about having her father be the person there for most of the interactions instead of you? This takes the pressure off of you and onto your husband where it should be since this is his family. And it allows your daughter and MIL a bit more space to get to know each other and figure out how interact successfully.

post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 

Limiting the time of the visits is already something I've told dh is likely a must. The issue will be getting them to abide by this, that's where dh must step in and assert himself more.

As for dd and mil having time alone, I'm rarely in the same room with them but they aren't alone in the house. Often times, as I mentioned, they visit for multiple days. This means they're here on week days and dh is always at work while they're here so I will have no choice in the future but to be the assertive one. DD has some attachment issues and I'm not sure how she'd feel about being left alone with anyone. That would have to be a spontaneous event.


As for the length of time they stay at our house, I think that has something to do with their having stayed at our house for several years of visits. I think they feel they can stay as late into the day as they'd like. They're boundary crossers for sure. I've seen it happen time and again in my home and my sil (mil's dd) home. This is part of the issue between me and dh and the ils.


At this time, the only information I think I may send mil is regarding OEs.


post #8 of 16

Don't have time to read through the posts, so I just have one quick suggestion.  If she's never read a whole book, she sure isn't going to read through a whole one her DIL gives her.  Can you get your hands on a FAQ sheet or something short and sweet?  Just an idea.

post #9 of 16

Ah, understand it a lot better now. So it is not really about years of frustration building up until you can't stand it any more, but the situation actually ending up unsafe for your daughter and you. There have been times when DS has lashed out at me like this and I agree there is a point when it is not a tolerable situation anymore- Something's got to give.


I still would not frame as an issue of your MIL jeopardizing your doughter's health in order to get at you. If you were positive that is the case, I'd say you'd have to cut relations one and for all, because that is a toxic issue for the whole family. However, if you put it in terms of your MIL trying to assert control of her own personality, of her realtionships with your children and her son and of being unable to respect boundaries and other people's needs at the best of time, you've still got enough conflict there to arrive at the solution that was your Plan B: curtail the visits. By all means, send her articles and FAQs, knowing she'll ignore them but feeling you've done the right thing. Then work out some new groundrules with your DHsuch as:  until DD gets better at dealing with this sensory overload, grandma is in the house when and as long as he is in the house. Period. Let him work this out with his vacation schedule. If this would cut in too much on his time with your family, he has to work out something else with his parents.

And they NEED to be gone before the bedtime routine starts. Don't expect understanding from your MIL. Just do it. She doesn't like you anyway and if she truly cares for your DD she'll swallow it.


I notice that not only does your DH seem strangely absent from your descriptions, but so does your FIL...


I think Jolly said it well


Goodness, my kids have a great relationship with both sets of grandparents and my kids would melt down if they had to interact with them or with anyone for 12 hours a day. I'm fairly certain my kids don't want to interact with me for 12 straight hours.



post #10 of 16
Originally Posted by JollyGG View Post



First it sounds like you do need to put limits on how long the grandparents can be there. I'd say something like DD is always a bit slow to start her day so we'd love to see you around 10am and we can do brunch. The kids take some quite time from 1-3 so we'll see you for supper after that. Bedtime ritual is an important time in our day and the kid really need to wind down for the night starting at 7pm.  So lets figure out what we want to do from 10-1 and from 4-7. Then I would plan activities during at least one of those time so it's not constant 1:1 interactions but side by side doing.


This is the tactic I would use.  I can relate to these in-law issues, with them not being as sensitive to the clues that the kids are getting anxious with the situation.  If MIL is still at the house and it's time for the bedtime routine, and she doesn't get the hint, then upstairs you go anyway, to help dd ger ready for bed.  Plan outings for the days, plan in the rest time, etc.  That's going to be my strategy in my next visit to my in-laws.  Constant interaction is just too intense.

post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 

I didn't go into extensive detail about all the mil stuff, maybe I should have, because I didn't want this thread to be moved. This is about dd's OEs and mil not getting that and I wanted to keep it on topic.

DH isn't usually around for the majority of the visits and I do like the idea of talking to him about no visits unless he's here. I say yes way too often, something I'm currently working on, so I'd usually agree to their coming over when it's just me.

FIL is generally a quiet bystander, he is a smart ass jerk to me most of the time but he doesn't get dd upset so I don't really care all that much.

I have to say here that the reason the notion entered my mind about mil intentionally making poor choices re: dd is because we've spent the last 3.5 years working on this with them and she still cannot seem to figure out how to interact with dd. FIL does fine with her, he doesn't smother her, he let's her come to him in her time and then leaves it at that. No one else in the family has this issue, just mil. My parents are good, aunts, uncles, friends and their kids, etc are all able to read dd and make appropriate choices. How can it be that she doesn't get it after all this time? I don't like thinking mil's doing this intentionally but it's hard not to think that. DS has food allergies and in planning a large family cook out at our home I asked that no one bring any food, we'd provide everything so it would be safe for ds. I specifically spoke with mil about this and she agreed it would be best for us to handle that and then she turned around and brought a veggie and dip platter and said to me, "Look! Isn't this a lovely veggie platter?" I let it go because there were others around but why would she do that knowing the risk for ds and he's too little to understand why he can't have certain things. Sure enough, ds got something he shouldn't have and was sick for the next 3 days. This is a separate issue but she seems to know it's going to put the kids at risk and still does it.

I don't want to worry about sorting mil's stuff I just want to do my part in sending her some info and leave it at that. On that matter, I can't seem to find a good FAQ list regarding OE's in young ones. Any suggestions? Knowing some of dd's issues, any suggestions for other options would be appreciated as well.

Thanks for all the responses.

post #12 of 16

frankly after what you said about bringing food I would focus MORE on that- find a story (any really!!!) and have your DH hand it to her and ask her to read it while he is visiting them alone (without you and ds) that is far more a issue -IMO


risk of illness - tackle that 1st! if she can't deal with that why even try on the other?


and a halt to all visits for the near future unless your DH can be around for the majority of the visit

post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 

serenbat -  You are absolutely correct! Good news, they're not permitted to bring food into our home anymore. That situation was rectified and we moved on from it. I was pointing out how toxic I think mil may be and the reasoning behind my suspicions.

post #14 of 16

Oka, you have told us several times now what you want and what you don't want from this thread and I am going to be disrespectful and disregard your wishes anyway because I don't think it is really what you need from us and I hope that's okay:).

I think what you need from us is support in saying no! Your MIL is a very selfish woman and I think that wanting to spend time in this manner with your children is not because she adores them but because she is using them as vehicles for her own self-concept as a grandmother. If that makes sense. And I think this is still the right forum to talk about this because you need this kind of support from people who understand that completely disregarding a gifted child's OE can be as unsafe for this child as disregarding another's food intolerances.

With regard to your DS, you realized you said yes once too often (accepting and serving the food he shouldn't have as opposed to throwing it straight in the trashcan) after you had an agreement with your MIL and had given her all the information she needed. You put your foot down so your DS could be safe and o wonder, MIL is still coming into your house.

She will still come if you put your foot down in regard to how much time she spends with your DD and how she does it. You will all feel better for it and family relations (which I still think are important and should be completely cut only if there is really, truly no other way to be safe) can be preserved. FWIW, I had a fairly toxic grandmother and she managed to completely ruin her relationship with her formerly closest and most compliant grandchild so that when she tried to reach out to me when I was a grownup, I was too afraid to accept it and I regret this now.

post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 

Doh! Busted. You are correct, I did say yes when I should have said no and I should have thrown the veggie platter away. I decided, in the moment, that the easiest way was to just let it go. I was running around like a crazy person with something like 75 people in my house and yard all wanting to see the house we'd just moved into only weeks before. I was unable to fight her. I have been trying for years to keep the peace for dh's and dcs sake only to never be allowed to succeed in doing so.

I completely agree with your pov, mil's idea of fun is not the same as my dc. She does attempt to engage them in activities that she feels are fun.


I come from toxic parents, one of which cannot be trusted and I do not regret keeping him at a very far distance. I have given the other parent and a step-parent the second chance which is a decision I'm happy with. I don't want my dc to be without a set of grandparents but I also don't want things to continue as they are. DH is doing his best to process everything I've given him since the last visit and he wants to deal with his mother as he's been hurt by her recently as well. DH and I have agreed that it would be best if the il's visit when dh is here and we won't be sharing any meals.


In talking with dh last night I came to the realization that the more time the il's spend here the more toxic behavior I exhibit. They're a unhealthy bunch, DH is likely the only relatively healthy one out of them. He left home at 18 (well over 20 years ago) and hasn't spent much time with them since, just a few days here and there over holidays and such. DH's job has always taken him on the road for weeks at a time making regular visits with his family impossible not to mention he's the only member of his family to move away from their home town. His siblings have remained there, even attended college in their town. His family doesn't really know him anymore and they're not trying to. In all honesty, I have no emotional ties to the il's making it easy for me to write them off, if necessary. DH and dc would suffer from that and so I want them to get it worked out. I just don't want anything to do with that process.


I am still hoping to find that OEs FAQ page. lol

post #16 of 16
Thread Starter 

I only have a few minutes before heading out the door for the day but thought I'd share this article before doing so.



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