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How to explain our nasty relative to our 4 yos?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I won't bore you w/ the whole story, but dh's brother and sis-in-law are NASTY UGLY and EVIL (and mentally ill). They refuse to speak to us or go to any family gatherings if we attend. That's fine, but something new has got my blood boiling.
They REFUSE to celebrate any holiday w/ the family on grounds that Holidays were designed by Hallmark and gift giving makes people greedy etc. Fine. But then why do they show up the day before or the morning of each holiday? I think it's so they will be the topic discussed at the holiday dinner table, even when they are not there.
That said, it gets worse. A little more than a year ago bil came to our house under the guise of working our probelms out. Well, what he really came here to do was to pick a fight. When he began picking apart our parenting (He's AP too!) dh asked him to leave. A few weeks later they attended a family gathering w/ their ds. BIL tried to apologize and dh told him to F-off. They let the children play that day (our twins and their ds are only 2 months apart) and they all had a great time. Well, a year passed and this Thanksgiving BIL and his ds showed up 20 min. before dinner, to gather grub, and I guess to make a statement. He *knew* we would be there momentarily. When we arrived his ds wanted to play w/ our boys, but BIL wouldn't allow it. He shuttled his ds outside as our boys went in. BIL preceeded to visit w/ MIL OUTSIDE for 15 minutes. MIL asked BIL "Couldn't the boys please play together, while you are here?" "No. I don't want to foster any kind of relationship."

My boys wanted to know why they couldn't play w/ their cousin. I think BIL showed up just to try to offend us with the "my kid's too good to play with your kid" crap. I don't care if this guy is a jerk, but I think it's totally SICK to involve the children in it. How can I protect my children from this @sshole, since he's obviously trying to take this to a new level?
post #2 of 7
We don't see my late husband's entire family. Another long story, but mental illness and dysfunction are involved.

I have explained it to my 5 yo that:

1. His daddies family is still really, really, REALLY sad about his daddy dying right now and that's why we don't see them.

2. When the time comes I am going to tell him that they have alot of problems and didn't act nice to us. It wasn't our fault, but they have a brain illness that causes mixed up feelings. We have made a decision that its best if we don't see them for awhile.

I still show him pictures of them and tell him stories about his dad and his family, but just no contact.

Its so hard and understand what you are going through. Best of luck!


post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thanks. I'm just so sad about it. My MIL has actually told me that she looks at my dh as an only child because BIL won't let her in on his life. I just am so afraid that BIL will hurt our children. He's done quite a number on dh-he even came over and started a fist fight the night before our wedding. We made amends and even let the jerk live with us. I get so pissed, but I try to let it go. BIL would revel in it if he knew he were effecting me.
post #4 of 7
We also have a similar situation. We do not see any of my dh's family. We can only see my mother when both my husband and I are there to protect our oldest son (age 4 1/2) as she makes mean, either overt or passive-aggressive, comments and actions towards him. She does this to other people and is overall verbally and emotionally abusive. She no longer physically abuses her own children - we're all adults - but I'd never trust her with my own.

Dealing with this is heart-wrenching and difficult. A few things we've found:

* Our son doesn't ask too many questions about his father's family. He just knows where they live. Once in a while - maybe twice a year - he gets a card from them. He says that's nice and puts it away. He's really not too inquisitive yet, eventhough he's a very bright, sensitive, emoting, emotionally connected child. He just has no need to ask much about them as he's never met them.

* Our son has figured out my mother, but he doesn't yet talk to me about it. He will sometimes refuse to hug her. He'll get a hurt, withdrawn look sometimes. We actively diffuse her: e.g. when she's intentionally ignoring his story to her, I'll say something like "I'm listening, Kieran. What you have to say is very important to me, and I love your stories." This has an affect on both of them. It lets her know that I see what she's doing too. (I've tried gentle confrontation and was told I was "ruining the family", "making problems," etc. So, it's not a situation I can try to work out openly. I do minimize contact with them, and my husband and I take close care of our boys when we're visiting.)

* It's helped immensely that we've made more "family." Our boys' godparents are part of our family. They are regular visitors - especially at holidays and celebrations - and are loved. Our boys feel very connected in our wonderful circle of friends. This helps me too.

* I've made specific provisions in our will about care for the boys and about my mother and dh's family not being alone with them, etc. It's painful, and I hope it never needs to be read, but this one kept me lying awake nights. It still does, but I have done something.

* When we start getting more questions from our son, we'll be honest but not volunteer much. We'll say that we have some very important disagreements that make us unable to see each other, and we'll reassure them of family in their lives.

Many families are dysfunctional. I'm sending big well wishes your way as it takes a lot of courage to protect your children as you are. Please know that you are not alone in this. The world is basically a good place, and I think there are many who want to love and be included in our lives. I'm not going to agonize too much and waste precious time dealing with those who are destructive and harmful to me and my children. Many blessings,
post #5 of 7
First let me say OH MY GOD! I thought I was the only one with this problem. We have not talked to my DH immediate family ( mother, father, brother,sil) in 5 years. Again very long story but they brought it on themselves and since they live in PA and NY and we live in NH it makes it much easier to ignore them. His wacko mother does send the occasional letter to stir me up but over the years i have learned to not get upset and just chalk it up to her mental problems. That said I think that everyone has given you great ideas. I am always asked what I will tell my boys ( 3 1/2 and 19 months) when they ask about Daddy's parents. Well just the other day he asked where they were and I told him PA. Whew! That was the end of the discussion. I do have a plan that in the future we will tell them that they did mean and nasty things, refused to admit blame and apologize and they made us feel bad and we decided that we didn't want them around us or our children so that they could not hurt us anymore.

TreeLove I think that the kids are old enough for you to tell them the basic truth. That sometimes people just do not get along no matter how we try and that it is healthier and happier to stay away from said people. Tell them that it is sad that Daddy does not see his brother but sometimes that BIL is just not a nice person and hopefully some day everything will work out.

I try very hard to tell James the truth when I can eventhough he is only 3 1/2. He is a very sensitive and caring little boy and seems to understand that things do not always work out the way we want them to.

That said, I am so sorry that this is happening to you. I know how hard it is and it must be even harder when you actually have to deal with the people face to face and they hurt your children. I know that my problems with my husbands family really came to a head while I was pregnant with my oldest. I felt that I could deal with being attacked but that under NO circumstances would I allow ANYONE to make my kids feel bad about themselves or their parents. Well I have run on here, sorry but this post really touched a nerve and I would welcome the chance to discuss things further.
post #6 of 7

I'm right there with you, although like mamabug and some others, I have completely cut off my relationship with my mother and her husband because of what I call a toxic relationship. It is a very sad thing to have to do this, and I do wonder what I will tell dd when she starts to ask. It won't help that she has a cousin the same age as her who does have a relationship with my mother. I figure I will do what mamabug did by telling her ds that "They are in PA" (mine is in Florida), you know, only giving the information she specifically requests, and later explaining that that some people have sick feelings the way we can have sick bodies, and it can make those people do hurtful things, and that we do not like having our feelings hurt. I am not suggesteing you cut off your relationship with these relatives, but if you need to limit your relationship, this may be a good way to explain it.
post #7 of 7
I know it's been awhile, but I keep thinking about this discussion here. Are any of you still there?

I have some rambling thoughts that want to get out ...

The first one is about pregnancy. My first pregnancy shocked me in that I wasn't prepared for all of my feelings and memories of childhood to rush up at me. I was better prepared the second time, and it helped that I had the Dr. Sears Pregnancy Book as he alerts readers that if a mom had a traumatic childhood or problems with her parents, pregnancy would cause this to surface. He suggested making a list of what your parents did that was good and bad to help in moving on, not repeating, and emphasing and carrying with you the good.

After my oldest was born, I read that parents author their family's history. This is so powerful for me. I'm helping to write our history and it doesn't include hitting, belittling, abusing, swearing at, violence, alcohol abuse, etc. The bad family patterns stopped right with me. I've got my faults, but they aren't ones which necessitate social services intervening, and I honestly believe I'm a good mother.

That said, I struggle as my estrangement with some family and terrible situation with my abusive mother make me feel a bit alone in the world. I carry this with me in how I mother no matter how hard I try and how wonderful my dh is. For example, our extended-family situation clouds my decision to homeschool. This is a big one. I've always wanted to HS my DS (age 4 1/2), and he is soooo well suited for it. BUT, because I feel that we are somewhat alone in the world, and he has this hostile grandma on one side and no relatives on the other, I sometimes - often now - think maybe the community of school would be good for him and us. We have wonderful adult friends, but they live a bit away - most over an hour. Our local Waldorf school has been supportive in our pre-K with our DS going 2-mornings a week. I can't see him in the 5-day K program next year, BUT, I think to be ultra honest, that I'll miss the community for all of us.

So, I'm not trying to detour here. I'm just saying that this nasty family stuff is far reaching. It affects the holidays big time. (I try to go away for my b-day as it's too hard when they won't come celebrate. Now that DS is older, how do I explain why they won't come see him? Why they never visit? Why they only talk about his cousin, the child of my sister, the favorite?) It's a lonely road. I often feel strong, but I also feel sad. Being at-home, extended nursing, family bed, that can all feel lonely when others are criticising so much. I'm not sure I can really do homeschooling on top of the nasty family isolation. I guess I'm blabbing. But I'm so glad you're here and posting. It helps to know that I'm not totally alone in this situation, though, of course, my heart goes out to all of you as well.

love, teastaigh
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