Posted: Wednesday, October 8, 2008 9:11 pm
Dear Annie: I have two children with my husband, and he has a son from his first marriage. My mother-in-law treats my stepson, “Luke,” so much better than the other children. She has Luke’s pictures all over her house, but none of our children. She buys Luke expensive toys all the time, but our children receive used, scratched presents, and only on their birthdays and Christmas.
Mom makes no effort to spend time with our children and she only lives a mile down the road. We have to practically beg her to be involved in their lives. We do see plenty of her, however, when Luke spends the weekend with us.
I’ve asked my mother-in-law about her favoritism and she said she feels bad for Luke because his parents are divorced and, since he is only with us part time, she feels she has to compensate. My husband has talked to her, too, but she sees nothing wrong with “making Luke feel special.”
My children are too young to realize what’s going on, but I hate to think how they’ll feel when they are older. My husband doesn’t want to limit contact because she is their grandma and they love her. But I would like to see my children’s pictures on her wall, too. I want her to show the same affection for my children as she does for Luke. What should we do? — Cinderella’s Stepmother
Dear Stepmother: Mom can dote on Luke without ignoring the other grandchildren, but we suspect she feels that would be disloyal. This dynamic could change on its own as Luke gets older and your children are more engaging for Grandma. We hope so. However, unless she says or does mean things to your children, don’t curtail her visits. They will accept her as she is if that is how you present it. Meanwhile, are your parents close? Emphasize that relationship and find other grandparent figures to fill the gap. Grandma will reap what she sows.
Dear Annie: My sister and her husband both have Ph.D.s. Her mother-in-law addresses their mail to “Dr. and Mrs. Smith” even though she knows my sister has earned the same distinction as her son. This has gone on for over a decade.
When asked about this, her mother-in-law stated, “Well, my son is the head of the household so he is ‘Doctor’ and I am proud of him. She is not as important as my son, so I will never use her title because it could diminish my son’s importance.” How insulting!
This woman is not senile nor is she from another culture where women are treated as inferior. My sister insists her mother-in-law is too stupid to be corrected and she ignores her. I want to say something to this rude woman in defense of my sister at the next family gathering. Should I? — Doctor’s Sister
Dear Sister: Absolutely not. So Mom is old-fashioned, sexist and loves her son more than her daughter-in-law. Your sister gets to decide how to deal with this and she has chosen to ignore it. We know you want to stick up for her, but we can see how she earned that doctorate. Please respect her decision.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Not Interested in the Stud,” whose neighbor constantly adjusts himself in her presence.
Many years ago, I was employed by a male shopkeeper 10 years my senior. He, too, kept adjusting himself around me. I noticed he performed the same ritual every time he spoke to a female customer, but never when talking to a female family member. Turns out, he was so self-conscious around women that he had a nervous habit of continually checking to see if his fly was open. The behavior was so ingrained, he had no idea he was doing it. Once he became aware of the action, it stopped. — Been There, Seen That
Dear Been There: Thank you for pointing out an additional, less worrisome reason for this behavior.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Published in The Messenger 10.08.08