Q: My mother-in-law is constantly giving us stuff for our baby girl, and it’s junk that we’re not interested in. We’ve done research and have specific views about what she should be eating, wearing, playing with, etc.
My MIL gets all offended if we don’t immediately bring out and use what she’s given us. In reality, I want to just toss it in the trash. It’s causing tension. Help!
The severity of this situation depends on your overall relationship with your mother-in-law. Is there a power struggle that goes back years, or is this just about a bunch of sippy cups? Generational differences in parenting styles are common, and you can’t blame her if she hasn’t memorized the encyclopedic details of your parenting philosophy. Even the most hideous of sweaters can be worn for a two-minute photo opp.
What might stop the deluge, though, is to give her other ways to feel like she matters and make an effort to let her matter. Ask her questions about her experiences. Talk about her cherished memories. And share your beliefs with her in a way that feels less dictatorial and more collaborative.
Q: My wonderful boyfriend of two years is coming to meet my family for the first time. I’m getting cold feet about it. He knows about my alcoholic father and my sister with an intellectual disability, but experiencing the situation in person might overwhelm him. I’ve never actually had a guy meet my family since I was in college. (I’m 38.) I know I shouldn’t be panicking about this, but I need a pep talk.
He’s wonderful. He’s been with you for a good long while. He knows all about your family. That’s pretty much a trifecta.
You’ve done everything right, and although every moment of this upcoming gathering might not be Norman Rockwell-worthy, experiences don’t have to be picture-perfect to cement love.
In fact, he may very well understand you even better – and feel like he knows you even more intimately – after he’s witnessed firsthand the nuances of your family. Trust your relationship to be able to bear the weight of this.
My guess is that it will – with flying colors. And if it can’t, it’s not because of anything you did wrong.
Andrea Bonior is a clinical psychologist and the author of “The Friendship Fix.” www.drandreabonior.com.
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