Annie - posted on 01/22/2016 ( 2 moms have responded )
I've have a 15 year long story that I will try to condense. My DH and I have been married for 18 years. I got along with the in laws pretty well before we had kids. Truthfully, I ALWAYS thought they were bizarre and slightly annoying but I never really let it get on my nerves. No big deal.
My husband had told me that his father was "tough on him" when he grew up. What my husband considers "tough", I consider abusive. His dad spanked them with a belt and used hard labor as punishment. He was never satisfied with my husband. As a result, my DH is not really a huge fan of his dad either. But we've always been cordial. My FIL had always been a narcissist and controlling. That's a part of him I've always known but I chose to ignore it.
Fast forward to the point where we now have three young children. I had the usual conflicts that annoy every new mother but tried to let them go. (Meddling, correcting the way I do things, etc but that almost par for the course, right?) But here's where things got ugly: Every time I would ask for babysitting help (MAYBE twice a year...not often at all) my MIL would be "too busy" and she would suggest my FIL do it. He's not a cautious person at all (One time he gave my two year old a HAMMER to play with! Another time, my son had broken his leg and my FIL picked him up by the cast!!! Idiot.) and therefore we were not comfortable with him babysitting the kids alone. So we said "thanks but no thanks". This alone had a strain on our marriage because we were never able to get any help. We moved from Chicago to Texas because we THOUGHT our families would help us with our twins. His family never helped me out. (That's a whole other bone of contention because eventually my MIL babysat my nephews every single day, for free. But I let that issue go) Anyway, over time, my husband told his mom that we were uncomfortable with just the FIL watching the kids and so she agreed to always be there with my FIL when we needed babysitting. We THOUGHT this would make everything ok. Apparently, she is not assertive enough to combat his idiocy, in order to protect our kids, as we soon came to find out.
One day, I was telling my DD that she would be staying with the in laws. She started crying and said she hated it there because grandpa scares her. Of course my heart started racing and I quickly and silently prayed to God that this wasn't going to be bad news! Ugh. I asked what she meant by that. (She was about 9 or 10 years old at the time, so her explanations were clear and thorough.) The stories horrified me, to say the least. Stories of how my youngest (3 years old) didn't want to get into the shower because the water was too cold and so he started crying. Instead of adjusting the water temperature, my FIL kept spanking him until he got in! My daughter witnessed it and it scared her. And because he kept crying, my FIL continued spanking him and saying "stop crying!" (Because THAT always works, right?! Geez.)
On another occasion, my FIL told them to ride their scooters in the street. My son said "Mama doesn't let us ride in the street." My FIL yelled, "When you're here, you do what I say!!"My son said he goes from happy to extremely angry and scary in one second. His unpredictable behavior terrifies my kids. They cried as they rode through the streets.
Once, my daughter was missing me and she started crying. FIL told her if she was going to cry, she had to leave. He made her sit outside, at age 5, by herself, for over 30 minutes. (I should mention they live in a shady neighborhood, btw)
Another time, the kids were getting too loud in the car (as kids can do....I know it's annoying and I've yelled at my kids to "hush up" many times) but my FIL pulled over on the side of a busy highway. He made them all get out of the car and stand in a line, with their backs to him. He took off his belt and was snapping the belt, telling them he would whip them if they made more noise in the car. My kids said they were terrified, as cars buzzed last them on the highway. This is definitely abuse in my book. Is it abuse in everyone else's eyes or am I overprotective of my kids? Mind you, my husband and I don't spank our kids. Our kids are very well behaved (of course not perfect) and respond quite well to correcting them verbally. (Calmly) They never get into trouble at school and teachers love them. Very good kids!
The coup de gras, my DD said when they were spending the night at the in laws house, she saw her grandpa getting into bed with my son...naked! Yes, as I write this I feel the chunks coming up into my throat and I can hear the collective scream of every mother who ever cared about her child! It would be important to note that my in laws are total hippies and we already knew that he sometimes sleeps naked. But that didn't really make it ok, in my mind. Not at all! I also want to note that my FIL frequently cheated on his wife and one time even contracted an STD from having sex with a prostitute. How do I know this? My MIL told us!!! (Very few boundaries in this family.) So not only did it make my children uncomfortable that he was naked but he could have been putting my son in close proximity with an STD. I quizzed the kids thoroughly and concluded that no one was inappropriately touched. (I still, years later, ask them if they've ever been touched inappropriately. I pray they're telling me the truth!)
After telling my DH about this, we both concluded that it was necessary for my hubby to confront his parents about it. He's a calm and logical guy. I figured he would be able to have a rational talk with his parents. When he told his dad that we were not comfortable with him sleeping naked when the kids are there and not comfy with his discipline tactics, his father became defensive. He said "when they're with me, I will do things how ever the hell I want to do them!" To which we both concluded ultimately meant that the FIL would never, therefore, have the kids by himself. Never! If that was going to be his attitude, then we would have to do what it takes to keep our kids safe. He also became extremely pissed off and concluded that we were accusing him of being a pedophile. We never actually insinuated that (DH just said it made the kids uncomfortable) but his defensiveness in the matter was alarming to me. Red flag, right?
But it didn't stop there. After attempting to communicate with him, he decided to strike back at us. He bombarded us with emails, pointing out all of our faults. He called me a "prude" (because I didn't think it was appropriate to sleep naked with kids), a bad wife, bad mother, bad hostess at parties...etc, etc. He said my kids were lazy, rude, and overprotected. (Which they are not but even if they were he should not be calling his grandkids names!) He would send mail to THEM directly and tell them to ignore what we, the parents, said and to get on the computer and communicate with him. He would insult my kids in letters. (We learned to tear them up before the kids ever saw them) He was repeatedly telling my kids to ignore their parents rules because we didn't know what we were doing as parents. He challenged our marriage. He threatened to tell other people that we were alienating them because we were cruel and insensitive. He said so many awful things. We tried to ignore it all but eventually we would get at least 5 emails per day and 10-20 letters in the mail per week, outlining what horrible people we are. It was psychotic. I saved the letters, in the event that I'd need to file harassment charges!
My FIL is a narcissist and he is really good at convincing the rest of the world that he is an amazing Saint. Therefore, he was good at convincing the rest of the world that he was wonderful and we were abusing HIM! How did he do this? He talked to others and told them that we are keeping his grandkids from seeing him. He would ask other people to try to convince us to be nicer. Ugh. A total nightmare.
My hubby and I refused to discuss our personal lives with these people and were trying really hard not to "out" my FIL for the asshat that he really is. Therefore, people believed his lies.
It's been hard taking the high road. He passive-aggressively insults us via Facebook. (Ex: sent my hubby a link to a song about a man in a bad marriage) We ignore. We were basically just staying away from the in laws for a long time and ignoring the harassing emails. Over time my husband was beginning to get sad that he was missing holidays and other special events with his siblings and baby nephews. So eventually, we caved in and went to the in laws house for Easter. It was awkward and frustrating for me, to say the least. Now the in laws think everything is hunky dory and all is back to normal. My clueless MIL keeps asking when the kids can spend the night. It's as if they do not even remember WHY we kept the kids away! They believe their own lies at this point and think we were just being selfish and mean!
So here are my questions. I already know that I was initially justified in keeping the kids away. Those were definitely deal breakers and we tried to communicate our grievances clearly and calmly. The in laws responded horribly.
But now every time I go to their house my anxiety is through the roof. I don't want my kids there and I feel like I am giving them what they want (but they don't deserve it!!) My husband and I could care less about ever seeing my FIL again but we return to their house because we feel bad for my MIL and want to see the other extended family. How do we continue to be a part of the family but keep our distance from the FIL and let him know it is a consequence of HIS actions? Is that even possible? And am I correct in wanted to stay away from him? And is it wrong to keep my kids away from their grandfather?
Also, I sincerely feel like he needs to have it spelled out for him, how he screwed up and why we are staying away! My husband and my FIL are both highly intelligent men but have horrendous communication skills. My DH attempted to explain our actions but my FIL still doesn't seem to get it! I've tried to be the good, silent wife, but feel like I need to have my say. Waiting for the two men to communicate effectively is like watching for the sun to burn off. Sigh. Frustrating, to say the least. Do I have to continue sitting around the in laws house, playing the good wifey, keeping my mouth shut, and letting this narcissist have his cake and eat it too? Or am I finally allowed to have my voice heard? I'm angry! These are MY KIDS that he has hurt!
I believe most women would have given him an earful by now. I'm so frustrated and don't know what our next move needs to be. I feel like we need to stay away but then I wonder if I'm over reacting. And I feel bad for my husband. He wants to be with his mom and siblings and nephews. He'd be sad without them. What am I to do?
PS I often hear that DIL's need to "remember that these people produced the husband that she loves." My husband is definitely a hard worker because his parents made him feel like that's what life is all about! Ugh. But otherwise, they produced a basket case. My husband suffers from low self esteem and bad communication skills. (We work on that a lot) In the beginning, he was too hard on our own kids, mentally, and spanked them too hard. I helped him work through that and he has corrected that too. He is man enough to end the cycle of abuse in his family and that's why I love him. He works hard to be a better man than his own father was.
So no, I do not personally believe that my in laws played an active role in creating the person that my husband is today. Although according to my FIL, my FIL was an excellent husband and father. And the rest of the world believes his lies. Good grief. I hate that man so much.