Hello ladies. I wonder if I might bring something to you for some advice. I have a bit of a tricky situation on my hands and I desperately do not want to do the wrong thing.
My BIL who is very dear to me has been in a relationship for about a year with a lady who has a very small child, the same age as my middle one. The relationship has progressed very quickly and they are living together as a family.
My little ones are very fond of this wee girl (let’s call her Isabel, I don’t want to use a real name of course) and she of them.
My MIL is making a strong effort to be inclusive of and accepting of Isabel as a family member. The situation is delicate as my BIL is still not allowed to parent Isabel or direct her although she often is in his sole care. As a result, my MIL is not identified as a ‘granny’ or he as a ‘dad’. I don’t have any views on this either way as Isabel is not my daughter and it is not for me to pass judgement on how BIL’s partner manages these relationships. Isabel’s birth father has never met her or been in her life and I realise this is a difficult situation for her mum to navigate.
I would absolutely definitely never willingly or knowingly do anything to endanger these relationships.
Here is my first trouble. It seems minor but the situation is very eggshell-y and I’m not sure how to proceed. DH says he doesn’t know what to do and wants me to handle the issue. My MIL over the years has tended to keep all of the kids’ christmas and birthday presents at her house for them to play with there. I have at times felt uncomfortable with this but have never made an issue of it.
However, Isabel has been using these toys/furniture etc when she is at MIL’s, both when she’s there alone and when all the little ones are there together. My eldest two (aged four and three) have been strictly instructed about sharing, so they do share with her, but have recently cried after some visits because “my granny gave [toy] to ME and now Isabel just takes it”. There have also been a few items that Isabel has taken home and that my children have noticed are missing.
The second issue is that MIL has taken down all pictures of DH and some of my children and replaced them with pictures of Isabel. The children have noticed this (it was absolutely not drawn to their attention) and have asked why this has happened. They have asked if they have to share their granny with Isabel and whether she is Isabel’s granny too. I have basically flannelled them with vague answers but am not sure how to approach this. She does not call BIL dad or anything like that.
The third issue is that BILs partner and I parent a bit differently. This is in no way a criticism of her. I am probably too strict and old fashioned in my approach to be honest. However I am strict about good manners and good behaviour when out or when visiting. On our last visit together to MIL’s, Isabel threw furniture, toys and food, and pushed my youngest (just turned one) off a ride on toy that MIL had purchased for him. Isabel also frequently wets “for attention” (according to her mum, I don’t make any judgement) and removes her clothing in public. At my youngest’s baptism, she had to be removed from mass for doing this and also for hitting my middle child.
My girls are questioning why they are corrected/not allowed to do things that Isabel is allowed to do without correction. I would add that my MIL is quite willing to correct them but Isabel not at all (again, this is a difficult relationship and I completely understand her position).
The wee ones are all fond of one another and we ensure they meet up regularly. This good relationship is really important to me and I don’t want to do anything to damage it.
How should I handle my children’s questions/reactions to all the above? I am desperate not to say the wrong thing.
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