My husband has been married twice before me. I have been married once. We both have dealt with our fair share of crazy in-laws and I thought I hit the jackpot when it comes to my current in-laws. His real mom is crazy, but I have adored his dad, step-mom and step-sister since day one. They have taken me in as well as my children like their own - until recently. In November, my FIL was diagnosed with inoperable metastatic liver cancer. We have been making trips to see them (4 hours one way) as often as possible since the prognosis and life expectancy estimates are particularly grave. Since we normally have five kids with us every other weekend (DSS (12), DD (9), DSS (8), DS (7) and DD (1)) and I am expecting, we have been staying in a hotel to minimize the stress on FIL and MIL. In December, my children (DD9 and DS7) were at their father's for Christmas break and my DH's oldest son (16) was here. He lives in Texas, so we wanted to make sure that he had an opportunity to see my FIL because he will not be back until summer and we are not sure what will happen before then. So, we took DH's three boys and our DD together to Ohio and stayed in a hotel. I was invited to go shopping with MIL and SIL alone without kids. As soon as we got in the car, my SIL said, "I mean this in the nicest way, but it has been so peaceful without your two here. I mean, I love them and all, but it's been great not hearing "hey Mom" every 5 minutes.". MIL sat in the passenger seat and grunted in agreement. I explained that there is a big difference in parenting between how I parent my children (involved in what they do, occupy them and have been a huge part of their lives and let them be themselves! DD has ADHD and impulse control issues but is still very well behaved) and the way DH's ex parents hers. (Great kids but have been left to entertain themselves on their own and take care of themselves and her most of their lives. They are very well behaved and quiet and barely even speak to anyone.) I didn't know what to say. So, I was hurt, but didn't know if it was hormones from being pregnant or if I should truly be upset for SIL saying it and MIL agreeing!
I told DH who addressed it the next morning with FIL and MIL. They came to the hotel while I was in the shower and as soon as I got out, MIL came in and told me that she was sorry I was hurt and that her daughter was on the phone crying because she felt bad that she said it. She also said that they wouldn't have said it if I wouldn't have said in other conversations myself that DD was kind of hyperactive and loud. She basically wanted me to get on the phone with her DD and tell her I was sorry for getting my feelings hurt and continued to make excuses for her DD saying it and her saying nothing to stop or refute it. I told her that I didn't even want to go through it at this point because she obviously wasn't apologizing and only excusing the comment. Later, my SIL text me and said that she was sorry that she said it and that she loves my children and me. Now, MIL and FIL are barely speaking to us. MIL had told DH that I was making a big deal out of nothing and that maybe I was not emotionally stable because of being pregnant. That really ticked me off.
I don't know what to do. I feel like they are "pretending" to like me and like my kids just because FIL obviously wants to have a relationship with DH. I want to support my FIL ( I don't feel like he feels this way about my children or me) but I don't feel comfortable ever trusting my MIL or SIL again. Especially with my children's hearts who have taken them in as family and absolutely adore them as a true aunt and grandmother. I am very hurt for them. DH wants to go back next month to see his father and I want to support them. Am I wrong to never to want my kids back over there? Am I overreacting? I can "play nice" and get along with MIL and SIL for the sake of my FIL, but I"m still so hurt and angry by the fact that MIL and FIL haven't addressed it since. Sorry about the novel!
Mama and stepmama to DSS1 (16), DSS2 (12), DSS3 in heaven, DD1 (9), DSS4 (8), DS1 (7), DD2 (1) and DS2 due spring 2014!
I think anyone in your situation would feel hurt. It was an inappropriate thing to say and your MIL responded inappropriately, in the moment.
But, sometimes people put their foot in their mouth. And when one person does this, the person next to her may be at a total loss, as to what to say next. Sometimes people can't find the right way to apologize. We're human. And you're family. And humans and families aren't perfect, and don't end because of one gnawed foot. That should be recoverable.
From what you've said:
- When your MIL and SIL heard, from your husband, that your feelings were hurt...they cared, felt bad and wanted to repair it. They didn't say, "Oh, phooey! She's too sensitive!" and blow it off; or "Heck! Does that crazy broad really think somebody likes her kids!?"
- Your SIL cried and wanted reassurance that you would forgive her; that the relationship wasn't ruined. She texted you that she really does love you and your kids. Your MIL tried to explain the context behind the comment, hoping you'd see it was a misunderstanding, not intended maliciously. She, too, was eager for evidence that the connection between you and her daughter had not been destroyed.
- You felt that your MIL's efforts to explain your SIL's comment (to make it seem less mean or inappropriate) - and her desire that you comfort your SIL, by expressing forgiveness - diminished the sincerity of her apology and her concern for your feelings.
I can see your perspective. But you could be wrong.
They might like (and love) your children - and might usually enjoy visits with them. Yet - at this difficult time, as your FIL's life ends - they might have relished having one calmer, quieter visit where they could connect with you and your husband, without the most energetic of your brood.
My brother married a woman with 2 sons close in age to your older ones. I don't know if they have ADHD. It wouldn't surprise me. But her parenting style is also very distinct from other parenting styles in my brother's and my family - and even in hers. She's very loving and involved, but has few rules/boundaries and happily tolerates a very high level of noise and chaos. Make no mistake, people ADORE her. From the day everyone in my family first met her (AND her kids), we were holding our breath hoping my brother would marry her. She is simply a delightful, magnetic person. Her kids are sweet and kind. We LOVE them. But that doesn't make all of us different people, with her same tolerance for noise and chaos.
I want a relationship with my new nephews, and want my kids to grow up loving their cousins. So I plan outings; gear up for a rambunctious day and enjoy it! But I'd feel a little panicky if she called on me for last-minute babysitting, especially on a day I'd expected to be calm and quiet. My parents are aging and will sometimes agree to watch an infant grandchild, or a calm youngster. They don't think they'd be able to handle these two boys...yet they wouldn't miss the boys' birthday parties and like seeing them at family gatherings.
Your MIL and SIL can be more easily exhausted (than you are), by your kids' energy and their demands on your attention, WITHOUT thinking you parent them wrong and WITHOUT secretly disliking them (or you)! Your MIL and SIL can be different from you - and have different ways, with children - and still appreciate and love you and your children.
The problem isn't the difference. The problem is that your SIL voiced it and wrongly thought you'd agree. Evidently, you made some comment about your daughter having ADD and your MIL and SIL assumed that you must sometimes feel overwhelmed by her energy and relish a little break. It's possible that this is what your MIL was trying to explain to you: that your SIL's comment was based on the assumption that you, too looked forward to a little "grown-up time", without your kids asking you for something every few minutes...and that she never would have said that, if she had realized you don't look forward to the occasional break from your kids... because they do love you and care about your feelings.
And if you feel like they've stopped talking to you, it could be that they're embarrassed; they think you're angry with them; or they're hurt that you don't seem willing to forgive them. That's reparable, too.
I just have to say that Vocal Minority gave an unbelievably amazing response! I agree with 1000% of everything she said.
I absolutely wouldn't let a foot-in-mouth moment destroy what sounds like a loving relationship. Especially considering the extenuating circumstances of your FIL's illness... no matter how well MIL and SIL seem to be handling it, I'm sure that they are stressed and sad. You've been wonderfully supportive to them in many ways, including hours in the car, making sure that all the grand kids spend time with them, etc., but the support doesn't end there... it extends to understanding how they may be emotionally overextended and not 100% "on", and cutting them a little extra slack. And, honestly, even under the best of circumstances, family can say something stupid, anyway.
There are plenty of people in my family who I love whole hardheartedly but would be mortified if something that I said about the one thing that I didn't like about them was heard/taken the wrong way/got sent to the wrong person in an email, etc. It could happen, and I'd want to be forgiven...