Set Boundaries Early With Grandparents Or You’ll Regret It

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465555734A woman wrote into Carolyn Hax’s Washington Post advice column recently with a question about her mother-in-law’s insistence on calling her child “my baby.” It annoys the mom, because clearly, it isn’t her baby. It’s her grandbaby. She’s wondering if she is being too sensitive about the whole thing.

She explains that her MIL has been calling the baby “hers” since before it was born. Since the baby’s been born it’s only gotten worse — she says it several times a day. The woman has begun avoiding her mother-in-law’s calls because this behavior drives her so crazy. Her husband thinks she’s being “petty.” I think there are obviously deeper issues here, evidenced by the fact that her husband is “siding” with his mother.

The thing is — the way we feel about things matters. Whether it’s the best response, the most mature response, or “petty” is neither here nor there. The reason why small problems evolve into large problems is because we don’t address them immediately; we let them fester to the point where cutting off contact with someone is easier than dealing with the laundry list of minor pains they have inflicted. I don’t think this woman is being petty, but I do think she needs to address the underlying issues that are making her feel territorial about her child around her mother-in-law.

I can tell you from personal experience, boundary issues with grandparents don’t resolve themselves, they just get worse as children get older. If there is something going on with your own parents or in-laws, you might want to either address it, or figure out how to make peace with it. Ignoring this kind of thing might drive you insane. I feel this woman’s pain, because my own mother not only calls my children “hers” — I’m pretty sure she actually believes it somehow.

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