I have the best husband in the world but his (divorced) parents literally make me want to scratch my face off. His mother is generous and kind but so high strung and totally overbearing with my son. She thinks she knows best and makes comments that make me feel useless as a mother. My father-in-law rough plays with my son and I find myself awake at night worrying that he will break his neck. He has been rude to my family but in such a way that he gets away with it. He too pretends he is all-knowing about raising a child when he is clearly clueless. My husband knows these feelings but I want them to know. How do you recommend I approach this very sensitive topic? Or should I hold this in forever to keep the peace?
I wouldn’t know anything about mothers-in-law like that, because mine is a perfect angel who thinks everything I do is amazing.
But if I did, say, have a mother-in-law who once gave my son an entire dozen doughnuts “just to see what he would do,” or buys my kids toy guns despite my misgivings because “boys need to be boys,” or innocently forwards me emails and clipped articles from the National Enquirer regarding everything from peanut butter allergies to internet predators, I would tell you this:
You said it yourself: she’s generous and kind. She cares enough to be engaged in your lives, and obviously loves your kid. You feel useless as a mother because she’s poking her grandmotherly finger into the part of you that every mom has–that you’re not doing a good job, or you’re not doing the best you can. This is nonsense. You are. Just listen to what she has to say, nod thoughtfully, and then go into the other room and bang your head against the wall or do a shot of tequila or whatever it is that will make you feel better for the moment.
Your father-in-law, however, is a boob. He can’t make him less rude or obnoxious, but your husband needs to tell him to stop the rough play. How he does that is his own business. (Oh, I know how cowardly this seems, but really, a rude jerk-off who thinks its okay to muscle a little kid around under the guise of playing isn’t someone you should have to deal with.) If your husband won’t do it, then just don’t leave your son alone with his grandfather. When the wrestling match starts, pick the kid up and move him elsewhere. Repeat as needed.