How to deal with a difficult mother-in-law? Don't.

Every time I think the bat-in-law (That's what I call her. But only in private. Never in front of my children.) has reached a new level of "Are you KIDDING me?" somehow she reaches deep inside and pulls out even more what-the-f*ck and we're off to the races yet again.

This time, it involved my youngest child and happened last week during Spring Break. He visited her and his grandfather in their sunny winter home, and on the last day brought up the subject of college tuition.

One of their myriad of trusts is a family education trust. It has paid the college tuition of several extended family members, and has (to date) paid for their grandsons' tuition as well. It doesn't pay for room or board or any expenses.

I am thankful and yes, grateful, that particular part of the burden of college has been lifted. It has come with many strings and conditions and confirmation has always come at the last moment, but it's something. It's a lot, really.

My youngest has been worried that his grandparents wouldn't extend the same to him as to his brothers. He and his father, their son, are estranged and (this is shocking, I know) they blame me. They are upset, too, that he lives with me. (As did- and do when they are home- his brothers. If that sounds confusing, it is. It always is, with them.)

And, so, he asked them if the education trust was going to pay for his college tuition in the fall. After hemming and hawing and dancing around the matter, they said it would.

Then, he asked if they would help pay for his room and board and expenses. His father, he pointed out, had refused to pay child support until the court ordered him to (again) and the latest round of court proceedings made it obvious that he wasn't going to contribute to college unless the court forced him. (Which is unlikely but, based on the divorce settlement, not impossible.) He told them that I couldn't help very much with the expenses and he was worried about being able to pay for them.

No way, they said. "Your mother just needs to get another job [to pay for them]."

So....their son isn't responsible at all and they're okay with that? My ex-husband makes about 10 times what I do, and has access to literally millions of dollars and I should get another job because their son refuses to contribute?

Alrighty then.

And then they went on about his father is wonderful and their estrangement is all my son's fault* and they *know* that every email my son sends them or his father is written by me.

No, they're not, my son said. Of course they are, the bat said. "The punctuation is too good." At which point, he told me later, he simply shut up. He told me he knew that no matter what he said, they had their own 'truth.'

And in those 10 minutes of conversation, she undid years of her own hard work. Since the divorce, whenever there has been any problem or concern, his grandmother would say that it was me, or that what I said was untrue. It's always, always me. And my children would always be confused-- I never pushed an issue (at least in front of them) and their grandmother was always whispering in their ear that their mother was bad. In the wrong. A liar.

How do you fight that? How do you try to keep a family intact and relationships strong, for the benefit they bring, with that always in the background? I didn't want my children to ever feel like they had to choose. I recognized that children have relationships with grandparents that are separate and special from the parents. I didn't want my children to lose any family closeness and strength and emotional security because their parents were divorced.

I was not going to be "that" kind of divorced mother. My children, I vowed, would be sheltered from the ugliness I heard about in so many other divorces. I would always take the high road, and I have tried. Not always successfully, but I have tried.

So what is worse, then? To have the rose colored glasses ripped off as a young adult when you see more and can no longer be shielded from unpleasantness, or to grow up without ever having had them? Watching my children- my youngest, especially- struggle with seeing the unkindness and misrepresentations their grandparents and father presented has been very hard.

Why shouldn't my son have written those emails? He's a good writer, and continues to improve every year. He has a very clear voice. He knows how to use grammar check and how to proofread. How insulting is that, to their own grandson?

On the plus side, at least they think I know how to punctuate correctly.

One of the conditions of the trust paying for the tuition is that he doesn't work, so he can concentrate on school. Hello? He's going to have to work to pay for his personal expenses. I still have his two older brothers to pay for and there is no way I can pay it all.

It would be easier to take if I didn't know- and they didn't pat themselves on the back for, pointedly and conspicuously and publicly- that they have funded dozens of full ride scholarships for economically needy students. They've donated tens of millions (MILLIONS) of dollars to their respective alma maters.

And they won't help out their grandson with room and board because....why? Don't they realize that, living on (mostly) just my income, their grandsons are economically needy?

I wish I could just pay for everything without any help from anyone, but I can't. My youngest will leave college with some student loans; it's going to be unavoidable. His father makes six plus figures a year, and pays for his new wife's children's college room and board, and has decided to stop paying for his own children....but I should go get another job?

They are assholes, every one of them. I hate them all. Not because of the money- although that pisses me off something fierce- but because of how they treated my son. How dare they?

So have I said anything to them? No, and I'm not going to. I refuse to dignify their behavior with a response or defense. I will handle it by simply refusing to deal with them at all.

And of course, I probably will get another job. You do what you have to do.

Anybody know anyone who needs help on nights and weekends?

*For the record: it's not. My son left their house after his new stepmother called me a whore who had "humped her way through Hinsdale**." She made sexual gestures while she said it. Then, she went into how I had spent all of their child support on myself. His father didn't say a word and there has never been an apology. My son left and has never returned. His brothers are none too pleased, either.

**not our real suburb

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  • I am sorry you have to deal with this. What a mess!

  • P.S. It also sounds a bit like my divorce situation. All I can tell you is that in the long run, Karma caught up with my ex. Big time.

  • Thanks, Kathy. I usually say that when they swagger up to the gates of St. Peter and go to walk right into Heaven, he's going to pull them aside and say hey, we need to have a talk.

    Let God sort 'em out, in other words. Otherwise, I'd spend my time wondering why karma hasn't already gotten them....

  • In reply to Jamie Winters:

    amen!
    keep your head up.

  • Favorite line: "On the plus side, at least they think I know how to punctuate correctly."

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    Jamie Winters

    Jamieson Winters has been brooding over the many ills of society for more decades than she cares to remember. Jamie is wary of Republicans who try to regulate her uterus and what few hormones she has remaining, distrusts people who don't read for pleasure and intensely dislikes speed traps and red light cameras. She does, however, like small children.

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