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Wedding Woes

This is a hill to die on.

Dear Prudence,

My mother-in-law has always doted on our 3-year-old daughter. She has beautiful blond hair, and my mother-in-law loves to brush it, braid it, and dress my daughter up like a doll so she can stage photographs. I always thought this was borderline ridiculous, but my wife doesn’t have a problem with it. Recently my daughter was playing with my sister’s kids and ended up getting a massive amount of gum in her hair. Kids are kids. My sister apologized and paid for the haircut when we couldn’t get all the gum out. My daughter has a pixie cut now. My wife was upset, but her mother turned on the waterworks—actual sobbing over a kid’s haircut. She upset my daughter so much that she started crying too.

My wife kept apologizing, her mother kept up the hysterics, and I told my mother-in-law she needed to get a grip and that hair grows back. My mother-in-law snapped at me and then used a racial slur to describe my nephews (they’re biracial). I told her to leave my house. She apologized later. My wife has a hard time maintaining boundaries with her mom because the woman is a bulldozer. I want these photo shoots over, and I don’t want her to have unsupervised contact with our daughter. My wife thinks I am being too harsh. Am I? I would usually ask my family for advice, but I obviously can’t in this situation.

—Hair-Trigger Grandma

Re: This is a hill to die on.

  • How does your daughter feel about the photos shoots? If she likes them then, as ridiculous as they are, let it be. If she doesn’t like them then absolutely step in and put an end to it. 

    You and your wife need to come to an agreement on what boundaries need to be set with Grandma, and work together to enforce them. It sounds like your wife struggles with this, so be patient with her, but firm with what you come to agree on. 

    And the racist language? Hell no. You were in the right in asking her to leave and you should do it again if it happens another time. 
  • levioosalevioosa Southern California member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Grandma sounds a little lot toxic. I don’t care if the granddaughter enjoys the photo shoots, they’re not benign. I’m guessing she’s getting a lot of sexist commentary with them that’s going to shape how she sees herself later in life. And as for the racism? Grandma can fuck right off. 


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    mrsconn23charlotte989875
  • I agree about the supervised visits. Grandma is going to give your daughter some messed up ideas about appearance and body image. For an adult to sob that much over a child's haircut is absurd. Of just as much concern is knowing that she might use racist language around your daughter and give her a negative view of her own family members. If sticking around when Grandma sees your daughter will help, then that's what you should do.
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  • I think I fall in the camp of "supervised visits with Grandma" for now.  But not necessarily forever.  Hopefully Grandma will start to see the errors of her ways.  Change and adapt.  

    But, yeah.  Grandma needs to be heavily monitored right now.  At least she apologized for the racial slur, but it was especially reprehensible it was targeted at other children in the family.  And hopefully the severity of GTFO means she will never make that mistake again.  However, her future actions need to show that.  She does not get the benefit of the doubt.

    It's also really disturbing how heavy-handedly she is just pounding in the notion of "girls should be pretty" into her very impressionable granddaughter's head.  We get enough of that s**t from society at large!  We don't need Grandma doubling down on it, ffs.  Ideas like this planted so young could potentially mean a lifetime of insecurities for their daughter.  Grandma also needs the law laid down that she will not make even one more negative (implied or otherwise) comment about her granddaughter's new hairstyle.

    With that said, I actually hope Grandma continues to brush and style her granddaughters hair (supervised).  Especially with the pixie cut.  Because that is a bonding time for them.  Plus, I think it would be even more detrimental and speak volumes for the granddaughter if Grandma suddenly stops doing that.    
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    charlotte989875downtondivaVarunaTTkerbohl
  • GM can fuck right off with the racist comments - that alone would be enough for me to limit interaction to supervised only.  The photo shoots are super creepy and I would not feel comfortable with them.  Crying over the hair? That seems pretty benign to me in general, but going to such hysterics that your wife is apologizing for getting your daughter's hair cut is a little much. 

    I'm in my 30's and my mom still cries when I get my hair cut really short but in a "it's super cuter short, but aaaawwww your long hair!!!!!".  It was suuuper long most of my childhood and my 20's and she has very pretty hair but was never able to grow it that long.  It's just a big joke in our family now. 

    This GM seems to have a very toxic attachment to a 3 year olds hair.  Yuck
    charlotte989875short+sassysparklepants41
  • How does the daughter feel about the shoots?
    MIL was out of like and LW definitely needs to push back - especially since LW's wife is unable to alone.

    Kids are kids. I think my mum cried when I got a hair cut at one point because the hairdresser was stupid {didn't want to "fight with me" to brush my hair so she cut the knots out and barely fixed it}

    But MIL here is just irrational and sounds pretty toxic. But if daughter is ok and wants to see her, something needs to be figured out. Boundaries. 
  • A few big issues here:

    1) Wife is an apologist for her mom.   The tone taken seems to be that the wife takes the path of least resistance for mom.  A possible neutral 3rd party (therapist) may be needed here.   The wife and the LW are the partners.   Wife and partner need to talk and come to an agreement about what's best for their home and child.   That may mean that wife has uncomfortable conversations and communications with mom.   That's part of being an adult.  You don't give into your parents when doing so is not in the best interest of your child.

    2) MIL insulted LW's biological family.   MIL needs to apologize and wife needs to take that insult seriously.   This IS the wife's family too.   And failure to be outraged by racism of her in law's sets a tone that she's OK with it.   

    3) LW and wife need to get on the same page.   I'm with LW that 
    -They need to talk to the MIL.   For now, no unsupervised visits.
    -Bigger apology needed to LW and his family.   MIL cannot insert any clarifying statements here.   It needs to be a flat out apology owning that racist statements are wrong and she was wrong.   Period.   Failure to do that will not move the needle. 
    -LW and wife need to determine what  the child is and is not OK with.   They need to ask her un-leading questions that ask what she thinks of what the grandmother has done.   And they need to follow the child's lead.    

    For now grandma's on thin ice and supervised visits only.   Wife needs a solid discussion that the family's needs come before the mom's wants.


    short+sassyMissKittyDangerVarunaTT
  • MyNameIsNotMyNameIsNot Atlanta member
    Ninth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    I think a marriage counselor is in order. Wife has gotten all the way to adulthood, marriage and has a 3 year old without learning to set boundaries with her toxic mother. That's a huge problem. 

    Crying over a child's haircut is completely ridiculous. But the fact that wife then apologizes to grandma, while grandma throws such a tantrum that the 3 year old gets upset is just too much. And she's racist? Yeah, I wouldn't be allowing any supervised visits with this toxic woman either.

    I would have told LW not to marry her until she learned to set boundaries with her mother. Going back and doing it now is going to be harder. 
    banana468charlotte989875short+sassydowntondiva
  • I think a marriage counselor is in order. Wife has gotten all the way to adulthood, marriage and has a 3 year old without learning to set boundaries with her toxic mother. That's a huge problem. 

    Crying over a child's haircut is completely ridiculous. But the fact that wife then apologizes to grandma, while grandma throws such a tantrum that the 3 year old gets upset is just too much. And she's racist? Yeah, I wouldn't be allowing any supervised visits with this toxic woman either.

    I would have told LW not to marry her until she learned to set boundaries with her mother. Going back and doing it now is going to be harder. 
    Exactly.   There's a big problem here if the wife's approach is always to not upset the mom when it is actually upsetting her own child or is racist.   
  • I think a marriage counselor is in order. Wife has gotten all the way to adulthood, marriage and has a 3 year old without learning to set boundaries with her toxic mother. That's a huge problem. 

    Crying over a child's haircut is completely ridiculous. But the fact that wife then apologizes to grandma, while grandma throws such a tantrum that the 3 year old gets upset is just too much. And she's racist? Yeah, I wouldn't be allowing any supervised visits with this toxic woman either.

    I would have told LW not to marry her until she learned to set boundaries with her mother. Going back and doing it now is going to be harder. 
    Argh!  I missed the part where the wife was apologizing to her mother about the haircut (sigh).  The mom needs to champion for her daughter right along with her H, so they are a united front.  And, if counseling (individual and/or family) will help her with that, then it needs to happen.

    I also keep seeing it from the 3-year-old's perspective, who is too young to understand most of this, and it's breaking my heart.  She is going to view what happened very simply.  She probably feels like she was a bad girl, because she got gum in her hair, and now everyone is upset.  And maybe even that some of her "value" is her long hair.
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  • MesmrEweMesmrEwe member
    Knottie Warrior 2500 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    edited November 8
    While gum in the hair sucks, it is not impossible to get out as some like to believe it is.  A little gentle orange cleaner properly and carefully applied/worked patiently until the gum is out, goes a LONG way.  If a 1.5yo will sit for 15 minutes watching a movie while doing ear drops a 3yo can sit and watch a movie while having one-trial learning that gum in the hair simply in general sucks.  And who in their right mind lets a 3yo near GUM?!?!?  That's who deserves the supervised visits more than anyone here!  Even the staunchest racist will shut it when confronted with "not in this situation" will stow it.  

    If the Mom (and GM for that part) is a "long-hair Mom" (not talked about as much as the breastfeeding Mom, all-organics Mom, or even the hot-mess Mom), I can understand the tears because this probably was a first cut and not done by "choice" (most don't realize there's other options to cutting a kid's hair in that situation - the battery operated Thomas the Train at full speed or the family gerbil to the hair usually isn't as fortunate of a hair is able to be rescued situation) and a parenting "moment" of happy worked up excitement to have done, probably with lunch/girl's day out was denied for both.  For that part, I'm team Mom & GM.  The racial stuff - that's where the anger should have been directed with a matter of fact shut-down in a tone of "never again and I'm not going to say that again", not the rest. 
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