My mother-in-law could ruin Christmas
My elderly mother-in-law is not kind to my daughter. She criticises everything – her clothes, her friends, the way she eats. She even criticises her skin and says her acne is caused by her lazy lifestyle and overuse of computers. She compares my daughter, who is 14, to her cousins who are highachievers and her brothers (who hate the way their sister is put down). Now my daughter is threatening to boycott Christmas Day if my motherin-law comes to have lunch with us. My daughter can be unpredictable. Christmas is ruined and it’s not even December.
Mary-anne says: It’s an unpleasant situation and unfair of your mother-in-law to draw attention to your daughter’s supposed faults. Fourteen is a vulnerable age anyway without someone undermining her confidence. But hosting Christmas dinner is also stressful and you don’t need this undercurrent of hostility swirling beneath proceedings. It’s good that your daughter has voiced her threats; better to have advanced warning rather than be ambushed on the day.
Slamming the door on your mother-in-law or issuing ultimatums might temporarily solve your Christmas lunch dilemma, but it doesn’t solve this problem in the long-term. And nor does it help your daughter learn how to deal with tricky people in life. I think part of the answer lies in your opening sentence: my elderly mother-in-law is not kind to my daughter. This is the one thing your daughter can most learn: kindness.
Some people think kindness is weakness but it’s not. It takes guts to be kind in the face of spite, ignorance, or misguided advice.
Being elderly can be fraught too. Your mother-in-law comes from a generation where manners and hard work ruled and she is probably criticising out of love. Another thing that might help would be a chat with your daughter about the ageing process. Some elderly people, certainly not all, lose perspective and filters as they age. They don’t realise the hurt they are causing when they criticise — or how loudly they are criticising.
Why don’t you enlist your daughter’s help for part of the meal? She could search online and find something she’d like to cook, or some table setting she could make. It would give you both something positive to focus on.
A ‘no device’ curfew for a chunk of Christmas Day would be another way of not antagonising her grandmother, (that rule would have to apply to every age group).
If your daughter boycotts Christmas dinner it will just reinforce your mother-in-law’s opinions.
Good luck on this one, it’s no fun being the referee when everyone else is playing. Hopefully you won’t need your whistle.
Without turning the tables or being mean to the old lady, you could have a password up your collective family sleeve that you bring out if generation warfare erupts.
Mary-anne Scott has raised four boys and written two novels for young adults including Coming Home to Roost. As one of seven sisters there aren’t many parenting problems she hasn’t talked over. To send her a question email email@example.com with Dear Mary-anne in the subject line.
Some people lose perspective and filters as they age, and don’t realise the hurt they are causing when they criticise.