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Etiquette for your birthday

m
mousethatroared Jan 19, 2014 09:03 AM

Hi All, I'm new here. I am not the most socially savvy gal and you all seem pretty knowledgable about dinner party manners and etiquette, so I had a question.

This is the third year that my mother-in-law has invited us over to dinner to celebrate my birthday on the day of my birthday. I wonder if it is appropriate to decline the invitation?

We see my Mother in Law quite often, since she lives nearby. I appreciate that she wants to do something nice for my birthday, but usually when we go to her house for dinner (or when we have dinner here) my husband and I spend the time talking with her and the children get sent off to watch TV. When the children are with us at the table and in the living room, she get quite tense about their manners and frowns at my son alot. I then feel that I have to focus on more on controlling my children then relaxing. This is perfectly acceptable normally, but it's not really what I want for my birthday. I just want to go out to dinner with my husband and children and relax (this is not to say I won't pay attention to my children's manners in a restaurant, but they do fine in restaurants without much stress...particularly the casual loud restaurant I have in mind).

This year I declined the invitation for my birthday and suggested maybe we could get together another day. My mother asked if we had plans. I said yes. She asked what we were doing. I said we had planned on going out to eat. My mother-in-law seemed taken aback.

Was I rude or wrong. Should I have invited her along? It's not that I want to avoid my mother-in-law, I just would like to relax a bit on my birthday.

  1. coll Jan 19, 2014 09:06 AM

    Yes I would have invited her along, especially as she has hosted you for all these years. Maybe she'd like a break too? I mean, it's not a romantic meal with just you and hubby.

    If I was your MIL, I'd be heartbroken I think.

    4 Replies
    1. re: coll
      m
      mousethatroared Jan 19, 2014 09:33 AM

      I'm not sure that I gave you the right impression. We also host my mother-in-law quite often and the family (all the local siblings) always have a get together to celebrate her birthday, which we attend and I prepare a dish to share. Also, we just had her over recently for a nice dinner, hopefully that was a nice break. ;)

      But I hope I didn't break her heart.

      1. re: mousethatroared
        s
        sueatmo Jan 19, 2014 03:04 PM

        I think you should call her and ask her to join you. Perhaps if you are all a restaurant, and not at her table, she might lighten up with her grandkids. But if this continues to be a problem, ask your husband to speak with her about her severity with her grandchildren. It is totally possible that she doesn't realize how she is coming off around the kids. It wouid be too bad if she is so judgmental about table manners that she alienates them at a young age. Young kids need guidance, but also tolerance and acceptance. I am a grandmother, and I love having my grands and their parents to my house, and I don't worry about their table manners. That's their parents' job!

      2. re: coll
        pinehurst Jan 19, 2014 10:51 AM

        I agree with coll. When my mother (and MIL) were alive, we'd celebrate our birthdays with them, and if my H and I wanted to do something away from our parents, we planned it for the next night or the weekend. Nothing to say you can't celebrate your birthday on more than one occasion, or with more than one meal.

        But it seems the point is moot since you've already excluded her from your plans, right?

        1. re: pinehurst
          Ruth Lafler Jan 21, 2014 11:42 AM

          I disagree. This is her mother-in-law, not her mother. She doesn't get first crack at the actual birthday day.

      3. l
        LeoLioness Jan 19, 2014 09:17 AM

        Not rude at all. Your birthday, your call.

        3 Replies
        1. re: LeoLioness
          rmarisco Jan 19, 2014 10:25 AM

          right on LL... your birthday, your rules, you get to choose who to spend it with OR NOT!

          1. re: rmarisco
            Cherylptw Jan 19, 2014 08:54 PM

            Agreed..while it has been very nice of MIL to have you over to her house on your birthday, why would she be broken hearted if you decide not to do the same thing every year? And why would she expect that you should have her with you every year? You are entitled to spend your day however and with whom ever you like without being made to feel guilty because MIL is not included every year. That's makes no sense... If you want to include her in a meal, there is nothing wrong with inviting her someplace AFTER your birthday...

            My mother & I share the same birthday...we have gone through periods where we spend a few birthdays in a row together but the last couple of birthdays, we didn't spend together...we communicated but we had separate plans...

            1. re: rmarisco
              b
              bobbert Jan 20, 2014 04:01 AM

              I'm actually surprised this thread has had so many replies. I took one look, thought the same thing - your birthday, your call - and then watched the thread count build up. I think the OP did everything right. She didn't cancel after plans were made. She simply said they were having a low key dinner - this should be no big deal.

              There are parents that can't accept that their children, especially their married children, have their own lives. DW and I have 5 kids from our former marriages. That meant two sets of parents for each kid and for awhile 4 sets of grandparents. Birthdays and holidays were always a compromise or sometimes didn't happen at all at one or two homes. 2 of the kids are now married (both wives come from homes where parents are divorced) so there's another few parents thrown into the equation. I could not imagine expecting or being upset if a kid of ours could not show up at our house for THEIR birthday. They often can't show for MY birthday, let alone theirs.

              The only time I would probably think a MIL/grandparent, etc should get to trump other plans is if there were some illness involved where it might be the that "last" chance to spend a holiday/birthday with a parent/grandparent. Barring that, it's your birthday. You do as you chose.

          2. Jpan99 Jan 19, 2014 09:23 AM

            I'm surprised she didn't invite herself to go with you. I wouldn't invite her, but that's me. And it sounds as if you could use a birthday without her so I wouldn't worry about it. She may be hurt but she'll get over it. As you said, plan another night to have dinner with her.

            47 Replies
            1. re: Jpan99
              coll Jan 19, 2014 09:40 AM

              Don't be so sure she'll "get over it". Things like this can hurt for quite awhile. It's not like you made an alternate date or anything.

              1. re: coll
                m
                mousethatroared Jan 19, 2014 09:47 AM

                Actually, I tried to make an alternative date of her choosing, but she said she was very busy with her women's groups, she wasn't sure.

                1. re: mousethatroared
                  LindaWhit Jan 19, 2014 10:24 AM

                  And that could be her way of expressing how hurt she was at not being invited to go out to dinner with you. You know she's free on your birthday, as she had invited you to dinner, as she's done in the past.

                  I have to agree with foodieX2 below - by saying you were going out to dinner to a restaurant, you were telling her you didn't want her with you on your birthday. Perhaps her hurt feelings could be assuaged by inviting her along to the restaurant.

                  I am curious, however. You said you have to feel you have to control your children while at her house because she frowns at your son quite often. Are they *really* disruptive at the dinner table, or just fidgety and demanding of attention, as kids can be? Are they old enough to understand manners and sitting quietly at Grandma's house, or are they toddlers?

                  1. re: LindaWhit
                    m
                    mousethatroared Jan 19, 2014 10:51 AM

                    My kids are school age. As far as I can see, they are just the normal - sometimes want to interrupt the adult conversation or one-up each other.

                    My MIL likes to talk with my daughter, but she doesn't engage my son very much, sometimes he tends to interrupt more and try to show off after dinner when my MIL is at our house. I watch out for that and remind him of his manners. At my MIL's house, the dinner is the same (some interrupting, sibling rivalry and not eating the correct portion of vegetables, etc). I don't think it's "disruptive" beyond having dinner with kids typically is, but my MIL seems to disapprove, particularily of my son. Although, I wouldn't say their manners are that different.

                    She usually sends the kids off to watch TV after dinner so we can have adult conversation without being interrupted.

                    The thing is, my daughter is almost 11 and my son is 9. I don't think I'm going to have a lot of birthdays where they are actually willing to celebrate with me like they do now.

                    1. re: mousethatroared
                      f
                      foodieX2 Jan 19, 2014 11:08 AM

                      <<The thing is, my daughter is almost 11 and my son is 9. I don't think I'm going to have a lot of birthdays where they are actually willing to celebrate with me like they do now.>>

                      That's really sad, why do you think that? My son is 12 still celebrates with me and I don't see that changing anything soon. Of course as he gets older we need to be a little more flexible.

                      Why does it have to be on the actual day? I will admit that for a few years in my teens I didn't choose to go home for my moms actual b-day but we still celebrated. We just waited until I was home. Can't you celebrate both with your kids and your MIL? I would the celebration would be more important than the actual day.

                      1. re: foodieX2
                        m
                        mousethatroared Jan 19, 2014 11:26 AM

                        I'm very happy to hear that your son still celebrates with you! My daughter seems to be entering an intermittent grumpy, mom can't do much right phase. I was preparing myself to deal with solid teenage apathy soon. ;)

                        It doesn't have to be that actual day. I was just sorta taken by surprise. I thought my MIL would offer a different day and things would go smoothly from there. That is usually what I do when I invite someone over and they have other plans for that day. I didn't know that being together on my exact birthday was going to be a deal.

                        I didn't actually think she would ask what our plans were...which is probably stupid, but that's what I mean about not being the most socially savvy gal.

                      2. re: mousethatroared
                        LindaWhit Jan 19, 2014 11:15 AM

                        Hmmm...if you would indulge me in a bit of virtual armchair psychology, your daughter is born first. I'm wondering if your MIL continued to pay more attention to her after your son was born, and he grew up seeing that she got the "favoritism" from Grandma (perhaps unintentional), so he's now vying for her attention, especially since your MIL continues to engage your daughter and not him.

                        It certainly doesn't sound disruptive to me - typical kid behavior (and I don't have kids) - but everyone reacts differently to these situations.

                        1. re: LindaWhit
                          m
                          mousethatroared Jan 19, 2014 11:48 AM

                          Yeah, that sounds pretty on. But I think it's more a girl/boy thing that first child. My MIL seems to prefer the girl cousins too.

                          1. re: mousethatroared
                            LindaWhit Jan 19, 2014 12:01 PM

                            OK, that was a thought I had as well, but then that would include her own son (unless it's a recent occurrence). Does your MIL have any daughters? If so, do you see the same thing between her son(s) and daughter(s)?

                            1. re: LindaWhit
                              m
                              mousethatroared Jan 19, 2014 12:35 PM

                              My husband has two sisters and two brothers. I don't know. It seems like more the younger generation that it comes into play.

                        2. re: mousethatroared
                          westsidegal Jan 26, 2014 12:45 AM

                          mho:
                          your kids are going to fly off with their own friends sooner than you know.
                          enjoy your special day with you own kids before this happens.

                        3. re: LindaWhit
                          a
                          annomy Jan 26, 2014 04:32 PM

                          If that's her way of expressing her hurt, it's pretty passive-aggressive, which you should avoid enabling. Yes, maybe you could have softened the blow by saying you felt like a restaurant celebration this year (and vaguely inviting her) or just a quiet evening. But I'm definitely a fan of the "queen for the day" theory of birthdays, and you get what you want. Is the problem that her house is filled with delicate tchotchkes? Or just that she's controlling? If it's always that tense at her house but your kids aren't that bad, I agree, her son might gently tell her... Hmm, not actually sure how to end that sentence... but something that might give her a better understanding of how she's coming off. It's not going to do much for her relationship with her grandkids, either.
                          And remember, you said it was an invitation. If it was actually a command performance, the relationship definitely needs some work.
                          Good luck!

                        4. re: mousethatroared
                          EWSflash Jan 26, 2014 02:11 PM

                          Oh my, it sounds like she has quite the controlling streak. I can see where her feelings would be hurt, but one really shouldn't try to take over somebody else's birthday permanently. I think it's time for your husband to talk to his mom in a rational and calm way, if that's possible.

                          I knew a couple that routinely hosted a Halloween pary on Halloween. They were fun, but after several years people started making other plans (like taking their kids out trick or treating if it was a school night, for instance), and the couple got pretty shirty when so-and-so didn't show up at their Halloween party. There were never even any invitations issued, it was word-of-mouth stuff.

                        5. re: coll
                          l
                          LeoLioness Jan 19, 2014 09:55 AM

                          Wouldn't that be the mother-in-law's problem, and not the OP's problem?

                          1. re: LeoLioness
                            f
                            foodieX2 Jan 19, 2014 09:58 AM

                            It becomes her problem if the MIL takes out her displeasure on the OPs husband or kids. Sounds like they get together as family quite often with sibs etc. if the MIL is the toxic type shed can quickly get others on her "side". Unfortunate but true. Theses boards alone are full of family dramas.

                            1. re: foodieX2
                              coll Jan 19, 2014 10:05 AM

                              I didn't pick up on anything toxic, but who knows.

                              1. re: foodieX2
                                l
                                LeoLioness Jan 19, 2014 10:08 AM

                                I guess I see what you're saying. Personally, I extricate myself from family drama-type nonsense and I definitely don't cater to people who try to drum it up. I'm also pretty firm with my boundaries with my in-laws.

                                1. re: foodieX2
                                  m
                                  mousethatroared Jan 19, 2014 10:18 AM

                                  She's not toxic, just kinda tense, particular with a very certain idea of how things should be. The rest of the family is pretty even keel. I can't see this creating family wide problem.

                                  1. re: mousethatroared
                                    f
                                    foodieX2 Jan 19, 2014 10:27 AM

                                    Oh, I wasn't saying she was just using it as an example of how it could become "your" problem. Family riffs have been caused over less, lol.

                                    I tend to be the includer and as I stated below I would have invited her. Good grandparents are a blessing and having one actively involved in a child's life even more so.

                                    1. re: foodieX2
                                      l
                                      latindancer Jan 21, 2014 10:46 PM

                                      <Good grandparents are a blessing and having one actively involved in a child's life even more so>

                                      Such a profound statement and so true.

                                      1. re: latindancer
                                        Monica Jan 22, 2014 07:48 AM

                                        The key word is 'good'.

                                        1. re: Monica
                                          Sooeygun Jan 22, 2014 08:56 AM

                                          <The key word is 'good'.>
                                          Exactly. This coming from someone whose grandmother didn't hide that she preferred the other grandchildren over me and my siblings. Luckily my grandfather was lovely and my other set of grandparents more than made up for her nastiness.

                                          1. re: Sooeygun
                                            b
                                            Bellachefa Jan 22, 2014 11:27 AM

                                            trust me, it sucked being the preferred could do no wrong grandchildren too.

                                            1. re: Sooeygun
                                              Monica Jan 22, 2014 11:52 AM

                                              my MIL is a self centered old lady who wants to be babied. My FIL was an angel...how did he deal with her for so long?? He passed away 5 years ago at 73. All his siblings lived until they were close to 100...he was the only one who died 'young'. I told my husband, you know, having a bad husband or wife can definitely shorten one's life. My MIL asks me if I will take care of her when she is old...the same lady who used to curse and scream at her FIL who was dying in the hospital to go to hell and die now.

                                              1. re: Monica
                                                b
                                                Bellachefa Jan 22, 2014 12:14 PM

                                                wow, that must have been therapeutic typing that! Since we don't have children I don't have that guilt card to play. We/I am on my own.

                                  2. re: LeoLioness
                                    coll Jan 19, 2014 10:04 AM

                                    Times have changed, I know, plus maybe I'm projecting because my MIL was a sweetheart. But I would never have done something like that to her. I'm guessing her other plans aren't set in stone and maybe she was just hurt enough to pretend. Why the heck wouldn't she be invited along when she was obviously looking forward to the celebration. And if it's because she makes frowny faces, god help us all.

                                    1. re: coll
                                      l
                                      LeoLioness Jan 19, 2014 10:23 AM

                                      I guess I don't see this as something "being done to her". That seems wildly oversensitive, not to mention self-centered.

                                      1. re: LeoLioness
                                        coll Jan 19, 2014 10:30 AM

                                        When people purposely exclude me, but also avoid telling me why, I don't take it lightly. It means they don't care how I feel.

                                        I am the farthest thing from wildly oversensitive or self centered. Just realistic, so it would be time to rethink this relationship which seemed fine up to this very minute. Hopefully you will never be in this kind of position, it can be more than hurtful.

                                        1. re: coll
                                          l
                                          LeoLioness Jan 19, 2014 10:37 AM

                                          I don't think I would be in this situation, because I would never assume I'm invited everywhere and that a lack of an invitation is a slight.

                                          I certainly understand that people would want a dinner with just their husband and children. I'd have to be incredibly self-centered to be hurt by that or think someone owed me an explanation.

                                          1. re: LeoLioness
                                            coll Jan 19, 2014 11:21 AM

                                            I wonder if when the "self centeredness" is on your end if you'd feel the same?

                                            1. re: coll
                                              l
                                              LeoLioness Jan 19, 2014 11:30 AM

                                              I don't understand what you mean, but I'm guessing my answer is yes. Seriously, the thought of being devastated by someone choosing to celebrate a birthday with their spouse and not me is ridiculous to me.

                                              1. re: LeoLioness
                                                coll Jan 19, 2014 11:31 AM

                                                Not just the spouse, it was a family gathering. But maybe your family isn't like that, no biggie.

                                                I am old fashioned in that I respect the elder members of the family, whether I like them or not. Not saying I'm right or wrong, just can't imagine this situation in my world.

                                                1. re: coll
                                                  s
                                                  sedimental Jan 19, 2014 11:37 AM

                                                  I think it about the WAY it was handled that was wrong.
                                                  I took a trip for thanksgiving. Many family members were used to coming to my house. I let them know waaaay in advance that I was not hosting.
                                                  It would have been wrong to not say anything until they called asking what time was dinner. That would have been rude of me.

                                                  1. re: sedimental
                                                    coll Jan 19, 2014 11:47 AM

                                                    That too!

                                                  2. re: coll
                                                    Ruth Lafler Jan 21, 2014 11:49 AM

                                                    I think it's perfectly fine to define some family occasions as being for your nuclear family. If you don't, then where do you draw the line? How many relatives have a right to be hurt if they're not invited to every occasion? Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins?

                                                    If it were her own mother (who, after all, was responsible for her being born on that day) I might feel differently. But a mother-in-law has no right to assume she'll be included in your birthday plans.

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                      coll Jan 21, 2014 11:51 AM

                                                      I've stopped commenting on this thread after several people pointed out that most of the posts are more about the poster rather than the OP. My MIL was a saint, and I would have done anything for her. YMMV!!

                                                      1. re: coll
                                                        l
                                                        latindancer Jan 21, 2014 10:53 PM

                                                        <my MIL was a saint, and I would have done anything for her>

                                                        Well, I don't know too many saints but my MIL was pretty close to it.
                                                        She loved me because I was the mother of her grandchildren and made her son happy. She did her best to not interfere and now that I'm older and wiser I would have/should have invited her to all my birthdays celebrations, although she came to most of them. The ones, though few, she wasn't invited to hurt her, although she never said anything.
                                                        It would have made my husband happy, my children happy and her happy. My ego got in the way…it was *MY* day, dammit…..now that she's gone I wish I'd done differently.

                                                        1. re: latindancer
                                                          coll Jan 22, 2014 04:31 AM

                                                          As I get older, I'm finding that the saying hindsight is 20/20 to be so true. If only I knew then what I know now! Which is why my comments are what they are I guess. Mistakes, I've made a few myself.

                                                2. re: coll
                                                  j
                                                  julesrules Jan 19, 2014 05:35 PM

                                                  I think it's been a bit self-centered of the MIL to assume that dinner at her house is what the birthday girl would prefer, year after year. I get feeling hurt to realize after doing it that way for several years that maybe her DIL doesn't prefer/enjoy it that way, but it's the kind of hurt one should get over when one realizes 'it's not about me'. Which to be fair may take a few days, so here's hoping the MIL can schedule another day.

                                          2. re: coll
                                            m
                                            mousethatroared Jan 19, 2014 03:27 PM

                                            Actually, there's a good chance her other plans are set in stone. She belongs to 2-3 women's groups and they have meetings and fund-raising events. Which is not to say that she might not have been pretending, but it's ordinary to schedule around her groups.

                                            1. re: mousethatroared
                                              LindaWhit Jan 19, 2014 03:47 PM

                                              Interesting that these groups take precedence over family gatherings.

                                              1. re: LindaWhit
                                                h
                                                Hobbert Jan 19, 2014 04:39 PM

                                                Is it, though? I certainly have commitments other than work- my book club, a volunteer commitment every other week, a couple of meetings related to my volunteer organization each month, and, frankly, they mostly come first. This is a flexible dinner. If it was me, I'd decline the invitation and suggest a couple days to reschedule. Major events like weddings and such take priority but everyday casual family get togethers? Nah.

                                                Honestly, it's great she has her own life. My mom doesn't and relies almost completely on my sister and her family for social gatherings. It's kind of sad, really.

                                                1. re: Hobbert
                                                  LindaWhit Jan 19, 2014 05:40 PM

                                                  I don't disagree with the OP's MIL having her own life. However, a birthday dinner with her DIL is probably a bit more than a casual everyday family get-together, especially since she planned to have that day open for the dinner.

                                                  I'm all for having a busy social calendar, but I think that family should still take precedence. The charities will go on; the family member may not always be there.

                                                  Having said all of that, I still think the OP should call her MIL and invite her to the restaurant dinner.

                                                  1. re: LindaWhit
                                                    h
                                                    Hobbert Jan 19, 2014 06:09 PM

                                                    Yeah, I would agree that the kind thing to do would be to invite MIL to dinner. Personally, I don't consider birthdays to be terribly special but if the OP has set that precedent in her family, then, you're right, it is more than a casual dinner.

                                                    1. re: LindaWhit
                                                      Cherylptw Jan 19, 2014 09:01 PM

                                                      I don't; if the OP wanted to have dinner with MIL, she would not have declined her invitation...she already said all she wants is to have dinner with her husband and kids on her birthday. Not too much to ask IMO

                                                    2. re: Hobbert
                                                      Ruth Lafler Jan 21, 2014 11:52 AM

                                                      It's unreasonable to assume that other people will schedule their lives around *your* other commitments. If they want to, great, but why should the daughter-in-law have to schedule her birthday celebration based on her mother-in-law's activities?

                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                        h
                                                        Hobbert Jan 21, 2014 05:34 PM

                                                        I think you missed my point. The OP should schedule her celebration and invite MIL if she wishes. MIL can decline if she has a conflict. Not the other way around.

                                        2. f
                                          foodieX2 Jan 19, 2014 09:37 AM

                                          I would have invited her but that's me. Since you have celebrated with her the last three years I can see that she would be taken aback. It would have been one thing if you said you were going to a friends house or out with friends but the message was loud and clear it was really about not celebrating with *her*.

                                          There is nothing wrong with not wanting to either, but being upfront about it might have been a better approach.

                                          I am also not hung up on actual dates. We celebrate Christmas the weekend after with my family, usually do birthdays on the weekend, etc. my son always wants to something special on Mothers Day but we opt to go the day before to avoid the Mother's Day crowds.

                                          1. grampart Jan 19, 2014 10:29 AM

                                            This sounds like an episode from "Everybody Loves Raymond".

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: grampart
                                              Sooeygun Jan 20, 2014 11:24 AM

                                              Pretty much every second episode of Everybody Loves Raymond.

                                              1. re: Sooeygun
                                                h
                                                HillJ Jan 21, 2014 09:24 AM

                                                Funny my MIL loves that show....

                                                1. re: HillJ
                                                  coll Jan 21, 2014 09:41 AM

                                                  As long as it's not vicariously!

                                                  1. re: coll
                                                    h
                                                    HillJ Jan 21, 2014 09:44 AM

                                                    Ha! If a tv show can keep my MIL in check, it's a good thing. I'd rather she'd laugh her head off at a tv daughter in law than cut mine off :)

                                            2. s
                                              sedimental Jan 19, 2014 11:12 AM

                                              I think it would be safe to assume you insulted her.

                                              It is not wrong to want to have your family to yourself for a Birthday dinner....sans MIL.

                                              It would have been better had you prepped her before this, letting her know you were changing the routine this year, instead of declining an invitation you knew would be coming. It would have been better and "saved face" for her if she knew not to ask you. You didn't give her the opportunity to gracefully deal with your change of plans. Since you asked, yes, you were both rude and wrong, IMO.

                                              Now it is done. You did not invite her. She feels insulted/hurt/ whatever. At this point, all you can do is invite her over for a birthday brunch, or piece of cake and coffee, or dinner on another night...something that includes her in your family birthday celebration that doesn't so much feel like a consolation prize.

                                              At least you can rest assured she will not invite you over on your birthday again.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: sedimental
                                                m
                                                mousethatroared Jan 19, 2014 11:40 AM

                                                I did ask and I appreciate the diversity of opinions.

                                                I was kinda hoping that there was an Emily Post flow chart for birthday invitations, accepting and declining. But I guess with family all bets are off.

                                                I'm not sure about a routine? We've been married 13 years. Last year and the year before she invited us for dinner on my birthday. I guess I might have seen a developing routine. It wasn't topmost in my mind.

                                                1. re: mousethatroared
                                                  s
                                                  sedimental Jan 19, 2014 11:42 AM

                                                  Ha! But now you know it was topmost in HER mind, lol.

                                                  1. re: sedimental
                                                    coll Jan 19, 2014 11:47 AM

                                                    Yeah, live and learn ;-)

                                              2. h
                                                HillJ Jan 19, 2014 11:28 AM

                                                I applaud you for making a decision and doing your best to convey how you'd like to spend one special day out of 365. Your husband could have handled the conversation with his Mother himself and given the b-day girl a break from a potentially awkward moment. Your MIL can pick her bday, her son's bday and her grandchildren's bday this year to host or join you-still plenty of celebrations in a year. The options are great. You could decide to have tea or go out for a coffee just the two of you soon after even if her feelings are hurt a tad now.

                                                Communication isn't easy in family but like I said, I applaud you for trying to find a solution that was honest. I would continue to strive for open communication from now on. You just opened an important door.

                                                1. b
                                                  brandygirl Jan 19, 2014 01:05 PM

                                                  From the tone of your post, I take it that you pretty much get along with your MIL, but, as often is the case with family members, there are issues. If I were in your MIL's shoes, I would be terribly hurt, and I'm sure that wasn't your intention. I believe it is worth it to make sacrifices for family.

                                                  If it's not too late, I suggest you invite her to dinner with you and, if you really want to celebrate your birthday without having to deal with her, then have a second celebration on another day without her.

                                                  I've lost both parents, and can tell you I would give anything to have both here to celebrate my birthday, along with all the "issues" that come with them--and trust me, there were plenty of issues.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: brandygirl
                                                    Karl S Jan 19, 2014 01:44 PM

                                                    This.

                                                    MIL does not sound like the sociopath who upended another Hound's Thanksgiving. This may be her way of making sure to honor you, her son's wife. It may not be your preferred way of being honored, but families are about working things out.

                                                    Maybe a via media is getting a baby sitter for your children (apprising your MIL in advance).

                                                    1. re: brandygirl
                                                      m
                                                      mousethatroared Jan 19, 2014 03:18 PM

                                                      Brandygirl - My sympathy for your loss. My parent are both deceased as well.

                                                      I do understand that people are not immortal, that we should treasure them. This is one reason that I do spend alot of time with my in-laws. But I'm not sure that feeling I must be available on any day for someone's invitation to visit (as opposed to an emergency), while I would normally be flexible in my invitations is fostering a healthy relationship.

                                                    2. SaraAshley Jan 19, 2014 01:50 PM

                                                      I see no issue with you declining her invitation to dinner at her house since it is your Birthday, but I agree whole heartedley that you should've invited her out to dinner with you and your family. The way you describe it, it seems the dinner out would take care of a lot of the issues you have with having dinner at her house.

                                                      I don't know. If I were in her position, telling me you had plans and then not bothering to invite me without any explanation as to why not, would be a huge slap in the face for me. I'm hoping you consider inviting her and that's still not too late.

                                                      22 Replies
                                                      1. re: SaraAshley
                                                        l
                                                        LeoLioness Jan 19, 2014 02:32 PM

                                                        I'm really surprised that so many people would be offended by someone having dinner with their spouse/children. Do you really need a "reason"?

                                                        1. re: LeoLioness
                                                          LindaWhit Jan 19, 2014 02:56 PM

                                                          When a precedent has been set whereby the OP and her family have eaten at her MIL's for the past few years, yes.

                                                          1. re: LindaWhit
                                                            l
                                                            LeoLioness Jan 19, 2014 03:01 PM

                                                            But it's not like the OP is a no-show. She explained she would be doing something different. Its a two year old "tradition".

                                                            I think the mother-in-law sounds selfish. Pouting because someone isn't celebrating their own birthday to your liking? Come on.

                                                            1. re: LeoLioness
                                                              coll Jan 19, 2014 03:11 PM

                                                              No she only explained after being forced to do so, that is sad. Your family may have different dynamics than mine, but this is not right to me.

                                                              1. re: coll
                                                                l
                                                                LeoLioness Jan 19, 2014 03:13 PM

                                                                I guess so. My in-laws don't have an open invitation to everything.

                                                                1. re: LeoLioness
                                                                  coll Jan 19, 2014 03:14 PM

                                                                  Your loss I guess.

                                                                  1. re: coll
                                                                    l
                                                                    LeoLioness Jan 19, 2014 03:24 PM

                                                                    Loss of what? Their company whenever they want? That's not a loss whatsoever.

                                                                    1. re: coll
                                                                      m
                                                                      mousethatroared Jan 19, 2014 03:50 PM

                                                                      But Coli - I don't have an open invitation to everything she plans. She doesn't always accept our invitations, because she has plans with other family, a friend or group and she doesn't immediately invite me or us along.

                                                                      Also sometimes she doesn't accept invitations to events, like kids shows or games and she usually doesn't come to the children's b-day parties, even when they were young, because they are too loud for her.

                                                                      This doesn't make me or my husband feel heartbroken, because we know it'll only be a week or two, before we see her again, maybe a month tops if people are really booked. For the kids birthday, we just schedule separate time for her to celebrate with us and the kids.

                                                                      I mean, I appreciate your opinion, but perhaps you are making some assumptions about how I treat my in-laws that are unfounded.

                                                                      1. re: mousethatroared
                                                                        16crab Jan 19, 2014 05:24 PM

                                                                        Mouse, I don't think your feelings of wanting to spend your birthday with your husband and kids are wrong at all. Although it might be better at a restaurant, it's clear that it is more relaxing for you if she is not there. Being one who likes a big deal made of my birthday, I probably wouldn't have accepted the invite the first time around, but it's too late for that. Hindsight is 20/20, but it would have probably been better for the the husband (she is his mother after all), to tell her that this year he wanted to take you out, given that the kids will be teenagers before you know it and opportunities for the 4 of you to celebrate as a nuclear family will be gone before you know it, and could you possibly do a birthday dinner for you at her place the night before (or the weekend before, or the week before, or whatever works for her schedule). I just think if it had been pre-emptive rather than waiting for her to invite you, it might have softened the blow. Maybe you or your husband could call and invite her and just tell her she caught you while you had something else on your mind and you just weren't thinking. Then next year be pre-emptive about it.

                                                                        1. re: 16crab
                                                                          Ruth Lafler Jan 21, 2014 11:58 AM

                                                                          Right. What you should have done is called her when you made the decision and said something like. "I really appreciate that you've hosted my birthday celebration for the last couple of years. This year we decided we'd like to keep it a little more a low key by going out with just my husband in the kids. I'd love to find another day when we can get together."

                                                                        2. re: mousethatroared
                                                                          MamasCooking Jan 19, 2014 08:24 PM

                                                                          She is probably secretly relieved she no longer has to host your *traditional* dinner. It gets old. I had to set firm boundaries with my adult kids and their SO's last year (when I retired) about MY time and MY life. They were so accustomed to me hosting dinners... picking up the tab at lunch/dinner...financing their short of cash times....dog sitting.....cat sitting and on and on and on that I finally had to tell them....no no no. They still love me but I have my life back now:)

                                                                          1. re: MamasCooking
                                                                            m
                                                                            mousethatroared Jan 20, 2014 04:30 AM

                                                                            She may be secretly relieved she doesn't have to make dinner, but still unhappy that I didn't accept her invitation or invite her along to dinner. She's kinda complicated. :) Or she may be blithely fine with the whole thing and I was just reading too much into her pause...I do that sometimes and mood she's in has a lot to do with her response.

                                                                            Life is funny.

                                                                            1. re: mousethatroared
                                                                              MamasCooking Jan 20, 2014 08:47 PM

                                                                              Well for what it is worth my late MIL showed up at the hospital before I got there when I began labor for my (now adult) son. My husband had called her @midnight, she took a taxi there and was there ready to *run the show*. As soon as I was in the room I stood up for myself (hubs was a 34 year old mama's boy) and told him *She is NOT going to steal my shining moment of glory and she is not allowed in here or in the delivery room*. I forced his hand and made him go tell her that. She lived and I stopped being afraid of her:)

                                                                              1. re: MamasCooking
                                                                                d
                                                                                Dirtywextraolives Jan 20, 2014 08:58 PM

                                                                                BRAVO!! Good for you MC! My MIL wanted to do the same thing.... Lucky for us she lives 3000 miles away and I told my husband, I think when I was still early in the pregnancy, under no conditions was she allowed to be there..I wasn't having any of my own family, why should she be any different? Plus I already had enough of her selfishness and over dramatic reactions at our wedding and while we were newlyweds.... To this day, 17+ years later, she still plays the passive aggressive victim. I'm over it.

                                                                                1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                                                                  MamasCooking Jan 20, 2014 09:24 PM

                                                                                  Some women just cling to their sons and love to try to create problems. I don't get it. What kind of mean witch wants their beloved son to be unhappy:( Not me no way!

                                                                                  1. re: MamasCooking
                                                                                    d
                                                                                    Dirtywextraolives Jan 20, 2014 09:39 PM

                                                                                    I know, I'm raising two myself, and would never dream to butt in on their married lives the way my MIL has tried to since the day she met me. My husbands a only child (one of the reasons I wanted to have another baby shortly after my first!) and she's been divorced from my FIL since he was young....I understand he's really all she has, but if she handled herself less passive-aggressively she would have more access & say from the beginning. Her loss.

                                                                                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                                                                      MamasCooking Jan 21, 2014 01:00 AM

                                                                                      It is too bad she takes that stance because she could learn so much from you about a younger generation of women and also she is deleting her opportunities to bond with those grandsons of hers. She is missing out on a lot. There is no way I would ever do anything that stupid to myself. Women have to love their son and daughter in laws and treat them as their own.( unless they are abusive maniacs) If they are incapable of that then it is on them.

                                                                                      1. re: MamasCooking
                                                                                        d
                                                                                        Dirtywextraolives Jan 21, 2014 09:04 AM

                                                                                        Oh I know, it's terrible. She has come out and stayed with us for weeks at a time....kind of hard to say "no, you can't stay with us" as that is what she's always done with her son, and she's still working so money is an issue for her. But she has basically ignored me and my kids (to a degree) for the past two years. Would only call my husbands cell phone to talk, and claiming to my husband & FIL that I "hated" her...I have no idea what she's talking about or what I possibly did to slight her, being that i bend over backwards to accomodate her every time she's here. Well, it's taken her two years to get over whatever imaginary slight she perceived and now she's planning a three week trip here in March. God please help me to keep my mouth shut.

                                                                                        1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                                                                          MamasCooking Jan 21, 2014 11:51 AM

                                                                                          I feel for you and I will be thinking about you:) I would be full of dread...doom and gloom anticipating her visit.

                                                                                          1. re: MamasCooking
                                                                                            d
                                                                                            Dirtywextraolives Jan 21, 2014 12:58 PM

                                                                                            Thank you. Well, she was a bit more communicative during the holidays this year, so I am going to try to put it all behind me and let it go. Unless she mentions something, I'm just going to proceed as normal. We'll see!

                                                              2. re: LeoLioness
                                                                c
                                                                charmedgirl Jan 19, 2014 03:25 PM

                                                                Maybe it's because I'm not married and don't have a mother-in-law, but I'm with you LeoLioness. I don't think 2 years in a row (when it seems they have been married at least 11 years) makes a "tradition." I think it is lovely they all get along so well that they sometimes spend birthdays together, but I think it is well within the OP's rights to want to spend her birthday with "just" her spouse and children. If I were in the mother in law's place, I can't imagine being so sensitive that this would bother me. At least ... I hope I would not be. Especially not when the offer to make plans on another day was extended. I think my reaction would be "great, how's Friday?"

                                                                Again, I admit, maybe this is my lack of appreciation of in-law dynamics. But I am trying to apply this fact pattern to any of my existing relationships, and I just don't see being upset.

                                                                Bottom line, no, I don't think the OP was rude at all.

                                                                1. re: charmedgirl
                                                                  LindaWhit Jan 19, 2014 03:53 PM

                                                                  I'm not married, nor do I have kids. BUT.....I am fully aware that as people get older, they get more set in their ways. Hell, I'm 55yo, and I'm more set in my ways than I was 10 or 20 years ago. My mother is 83yo, and she is pretty firm on the time frame in which she has her meals. So a little leeway should be given in situations such as this.

                                                                  Having said all of that, I'm not defending the OP's MIL. The manner in which the situation was handled could have been done a lot better, IMO. And inviting the MIL to this birthday dinner at the restaurant seems to be the best way to (hopefully) assuage any hurt feelings. And, perhaps, the OP's husband can have a talk with his mother at another time as to how she treats his and the OP's son, to (hopefully) smooth things out in that area of family relations.

                                                            2. c
                                                              Chatsworth Jan 19, 2014 02:30 PM

                                                              If you're happy to have her along, I'd suggest having your husband call your mother-in-law and say you feel really bad about hurting her feelings and asked him to ask her to dinner.

                                                              If that isn't a good solution for you and your husband, perhaps send her a hand-written note explaining that you wanted to spend time just as the four of you and you hope you didn't offend her and you would love to go out for coffee/dinner together.

                                                              Be sure to ask her for parenting tips, even if you have no intention of following them!

                                                              You obviously mean well, and I hope it all works out. Keep us updated!

                                                              19 Replies
                                                              1. re: Chatsworth
                                                                h
                                                                HillJ Jan 19, 2014 02:41 PM

                                                                Wait, a note? Because the OP was thinking of celebrating her birthday this year differently? They are on speaking terms, the idea of doing things differently has already been discussed btwn the two women. Is a note really called for? Doesn't that add unnecessary focus. Why not just make plans to get together on a diff night/day?

                                                                While I follow why you are making such kiss ass suggestion, I can't imagine turning one meal into a series of indirect smooth overs and apologies. What exactly did the OP do wrong?

                                                                1. re: HillJ
                                                                  coll Jan 19, 2014 03:13 PM

                                                                  I would call and say, I know the kids make you nervous and that's why we didn't invite you initially, but we would love to have you if you'd come. Of course more grandiose than that but in that vein.

                                                                  1. re: coll
                                                                    h
                                                                    HillJ Jan 19, 2014 03:19 PM

                                                                    Follow up phone call to revisit the entire discussion, sure but in person would be better. A note, over board.

                                                                    I appreciate and respect family boundaries because they are bound to come up from time to time and this is ONE meal, one celebration over a year full of opportunities to celebrate. Plus the OP is only asking to change these dinner plan.

                                                                    1. re: coll
                                                                      c
                                                                      cleobeach Jan 19, 2014 03:50 PM

                                                                      I like coll's approach.

                                                                      My old school father never got over his wish that his grandchildren would behave perfectly at all times. It did impact his enjoyment at meals.

                                                                      When I could see his tension rising, I would say to him "it is your choice, we can stay and enjoy each other's company or we can leave if it bothers you that much." He always choose staying. With him, the acknowledgement went a long way in smoothing things over.

                                                                      1. re: cleobeach
                                                                        a
                                                                        autumm Jan 19, 2014 04:03 PM

                                                                        My dad is the same way. He sees my toddler trying to use her spoon or drinking from an open cup and spilling a bit and he freaks out. It's a constant, "dad, it's FINE" He's getting a bit better but it's stressful

                                                                      2. re: coll
                                                                        MamasCooking Jan 19, 2014 08:14 PM

                                                                        Grandiose:) Coll perfect description!

                                                                        1. re: MamasCooking
                                                                          coll Jan 20, 2014 02:13 AM

                                                                          Thanks! I got a million of 'em ;-)

                                                                      3. re: HillJ
                                                                        c
                                                                        Chatsworth Jan 19, 2014 05:18 PM

                                                                        The OP's mother-in-law sounds somewhat old-school in terms of her expectations for her grandchildren's behavior. I am sure that the whole family hopes for many years of happiness for everyone, and one of the sure ways towards that is keeping things between non-blood relatives crisis free.

                                                                        Respect towards one's elders is a premise that shouldn't be taken lightly. If it takes five minutes to write a note and mail it, what's the big deal? Especially if it alleviates bad feelings. Obviously I don't know the family or their dynamics, but the OP asked for suggestions. Perhaps one note will mean there won't be a history of "indirect smooth overs and apologies." One doesn't always need to be wrong to then apologize.

                                                                        1. re: Chatsworth
                                                                          h
                                                                          HillJ Jan 19, 2014 05:31 PM

                                                                          You're right Chats one doesn't need to be wrong to apologize or to be flexible. Valid absolutely. If the OP didn't live nearby, if she didn't see her MIL often, a well written note might be a nice touch. But they do see each other and regularly from what I'm gathering and a note just seems so out of context. A phone call, meet again to discuss celebrations, sure.

                                                                          Listen, we all come to these threads with our own family dynamics and experiences. I have four adult children. A very large family and inlaw family. If we took um-bridge with every invite, celebration and preference it would never work out. We remain flexible because it's the only thing that makes for smooth family relations. I don't pull the elder card on my kids or extended family EVER. I really dislike communication breakdowns with folks I care about. You need a flexible understanding reply, you can expect one from me. But good lordy, don't send me a note for something that can be cleared up with two words: please understand.

                                                                          1. re: Chatsworth
                                                                            j
                                                                            julesrules Jan 19, 2014 05:51 PM

                                                                            I think the idea was that a note might be overly formal for this family/situation and actually make things worse. I'd personally give the MIL a couple of days to realize she doesn't 'own' her DIL's bday and become more open to an alternate plan. That said, I have on occasion sent an email to my MIL to clarify when I feel we've had a misunderstanding. But only when all I had to say was unequivocally positive.

                                                                            1. re: julesrules
                                                                              c
                                                                              Chatsworth Jan 19, 2014 06:16 PM

                                                                              I certainly agree that a note might be overly formal- it was just a suggestion since the OP was asking for help. Who knows though whether her mother-in-law has email or would prefer a formal approach?

                                                                              HillJ - it's refreshing to know that your family can sort things out through direct and honest communication. I wish that were true for every family. Unfortunately (as these boards show) there's a lot of dysfunction out there.

                                                                              1. re: Chatsworth
                                                                                h
                                                                                HillJ Jan 19, 2014 07:18 PM

                                                                                If you believe that direct and honest communication didn't come from a lifetime of working at it every day, I haven't done a proper job of explaining. Communication is not a foreign skill to anyone on community forums, truly. We all communicate with each other pretty darn well. Apply those natural instinct to the people closest to you and you'll see how beneficial direct and honest communication is.

                                                                                I don't read dysfunction nearly as much as I read how afraid people can be over life's simplest challenges. It's all in how you deal with the people you care about.

                                                                                In my very first post here I applauded the OP for how she handled herself in this situation. Even all these posts later, with far more revealed to the discussion, I still believe she did the right thing for the right reasons.

                                                                                1. re: HillJ
                                                                                  grampart Jan 19, 2014 07:27 PM

                                                                                  " It's all in how you deal with the people you care about."

                                                                                  I totally agree, but those people have to remember that caring is a two-way street.

                                                                                  1. re: grampart
                                                                                    h
                                                                                    HillJ Jan 19, 2014 08:25 PM

                                                                                    And most do. I certainly believe the OP does. If she didn't care she wouldn't be asking.

                                                                                  2. re: HillJ
                                                                                    c
                                                                                    Chatsworth Jan 19, 2014 08:33 PM

                                                                                    I totally agree that "direct and honest" communication is the most beneficial. Unfortunately not everyone can cope with it. As I said, I don't know the OP and was just trying to offer a suggestion. My worldview is that sometimes I just have to suck it up and ignore a slight/apologize even if I wasn't in the wrong/accept that a friend's child is the most obnoxious brat in the world.

                                                                                    1. re: Chatsworth
                                                                                      h
                                                                                      HillJ Jan 19, 2014 08:38 PM

                                                                                      Ah can I relate. 26 years ago...I was visiting with my brother, his wife and their child. They left and my niece and I spent the day together. She wore me out. I called her bratty and she told her father what I said. Two hours, sitting at the table smoothing over what I said. Two days later, the phone rings. It's my niece. Aunt J did you really mean I was a brat. Does that mean I can't come by anymore. I said, E you are my niece and I love you. It was bratty of me to say that. I'm sorry. Why not come over today and spend some time in the studio.

                                                                                      End scene.

                                                                                      Life is just like that. It doesn't need more drama or window dressing and WE ALL go through it.

                                                                                      Now, back to the OP!

                                                                                      1. re: HillJ
                                                                                        d
                                                                                        Dirtywextraolives Jan 19, 2014 08:52 PM

                                                                                        Sounds like you did go through some drama....

                                                                                        <Two hours, sitting at the table smoothing over what I said>

                                                                                        1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                                                                          h
                                                                                          HillJ Jan 19, 2014 08:54 PM

                                                                                          Why of course! And in the end it was worth the time agonizing over what I said because this never happened again and we laugh over it and a gazillion other little challenges that life threw our way. Drama over. Drama my brother and SIL needed. I was flexible :)

                                                                          2. re: Chatsworth
                                                                            m
                                                                            mousethatroared Jan 20, 2014 04:36 AM

                                                                            I think a note would be appropriate for some folks. I know a family that exchanged notes in social circumstances such as these and it works out very well. Within the context of this family and how we typically communicate, I'm afraid a note would come across as overly formal, possibly cause offense. "Why is she writing me a note when she could just call?"

                                                                            It's all just individual stuff, but I appreciate the suggestion.

                                                                          3. Kat Jan 19, 2014 03:38 PM

                                                                            It is your birthday and you should be able to celebrate as you wish. I find it incredibly controlling of your MIL to assume that you will wish to celebrate all your birthdays with her on the day of your birthday. You are not her child. I can see her offering to celebrate with a cake maybe a day before or after your birthday, but it is your choice where and with you celebrate your own birthday. And, have your spouse talk to her about her strict behavior toward her grandchildren. She may react better if it comes from him.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Kat
                                                                              Sooeygun Jan 20, 2014 11:32 AM

                                                                              Even my own mother assumes I have plans with Mr. S on my birthday. Our family birthdays (with my parents, siblings, etc.) are always done on another day, so as not to interfere with any special birthday plans.

                                                                            2. c
                                                                              ChillyDog Jan 19, 2014 03:39 PM

                                                                              I think it is presumptuous of your MIL to mandate how you should spend YOUR birthday. You did nothing wrong.

                                                                              Your husband should have stepped in and prevented this uncomfortable situation for you. Now he needs to step up and have a chat with her. He owes you that.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: ChillyDog
                                                                                MamasCooking Jan 19, 2014 08:12 PM

                                                                                I think the OP needs encouragement to continue setting personal boundaries that others encroach on. Expecting her husband to fight her battles with his mother is not a great resolution. The OP stepped up set a boundary and good for her.

                                                                              2. a
                                                                                autumm Jan 19, 2014 04:07 PM

                                                                                I think it's perfectly fine for you to choose a relaxing dinner out with your kids for your birthday. Well mannered kids are still kids, and I feel that sometimes the older generation who's kids are now grown have forgotten how kids are, hence sending the kids off to watch TV.

                                                                                Next time you are at her place and she starts giving your son a hard time, have your husband speak to her. Not you. Her son, and tell her, Mom, he's doing fine. She needs to hear it from him, and your son needs to hear his father's support of his general good behavior.

                                                                                1. p
                                                                                  pedalfaster Jan 19, 2014 04:12 PM

                                                                                  So taking the MIL and the b-day out of the equation and just sticking to the etiquette question: you did nothing wrong.

                                                                                  Person X issued an invitation.You declined.

                                                                                  The breach of etiquette actually occurred when she then inquired about your plans.
                                                                                  Huge no-no!!!

                                                                                  What if your answer had been "Bill and I taking the kids to a sitter, renting a hotel room, and wrestling in chocolate pudding while watching porn".

                                                                                  Awkward!!!

                                                                                  (Just out of curiosity, what do you and your family do for ~her~ birthday? She may be trying the throw you the kind of celebration she herself enjoys.)

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: pedalfaster
                                                                                    m
                                                                                    mousethatroared Jan 20, 2014 03:36 AM

                                                                                    Wow, now I feel like my birthday plans are far too tame. :)

                                                                                  2. m
                                                                                    miss_belle Jan 19, 2014 04:19 PM

                                                                                    The problem with threads like yours is that everyone gives you their opinion and then you have to come back here and there with your family dynamics. Not your fault. Just the way these things go.

                                                                                    I've had several things to say on and off today and I'm glad I stayed out of it:-)

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: miss_belle
                                                                                      h
                                                                                      HillJ Jan 19, 2014 04:36 PM

                                                                                      Point taken. I'll remember such sage advice next time.

                                                                                      1. re: miss_belle
                                                                                        m
                                                                                        mousethatroared Jan 20, 2014 04:51 AM

                                                                                        Yes, it's true, people always interpret things in the context of their experience and there's always a bunch of back story that you can't include without writing a novel length post. This mean you have to clarify things and there are some snafus and misunderstanding.

                                                                                        At the same time, I really appreciate it, because it reminds me how people (such as myself and my MIL) ARE all responding in terms of their different life experiences and it helps me to not take things personally and understand that my MIL is just coming from one of these different perspectives.

                                                                                      2. Cheflambo Jan 19, 2014 05:29 PM

                                                                                        Yeah, it sounds like you hurt her feelings. She was probably thinking that birthday dinner at her house was going to be something of a tradition, and she now thinks you don't feel that way, or you don't think it is as important as she does. It might have taken some of the sting out if you had invited her to join the family at dinner out that day. But you are absolutely within your rights to want to celebrate in a stress-free situation. Perhaps you can heal this over by doing something special for her on HER birthday? And just wondering, how does you son feel about eating at the same table with grandma?

                                                                                        1. d
                                                                                          Dirtywextraolives Jan 19, 2014 06:07 PM

                                                                                          "Oh Gee, Mom that's so nice of you to make dinner for my birthday, but your son is taking me out to a wonderful place that I've had my eye on for a while". Then make reservations.

                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                                                                            c
                                                                                            ChillyDog Jan 19, 2014 06:29 PM

                                                                                            For four.

                                                                                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                                                                              m
                                                                                              mousethatroared Jan 20, 2014 05:00 AM

                                                                                              Damn, yes - that's what I should have said.

                                                                                              It was not my most stellar moment. We're watching our SIL's (incredibly cute and fluffy) puppy and she (the puppy, not the SIL) was homesick and kept us up late whining, then got up at 4am to go potty. So not much sleep. Then my MIL popped the question as we all milled about with dogs barking, as the kids and DH and MIL headed out to see a cousin's hockey game. I'm not socially smooth normally, but, I hope, this was below average for me. :)

                                                                                              1. re: mousethatroared
                                                                                                m
                                                                                                mselectra Jan 21, 2014 02:18 PM

                                                                                                Sounds like you have a wonderful close family. And, especially considering that, that you may be beating yourself up unnecessarily since you already see yourself as socially unsavvy. Perhaps next time you're talking with her about whatever, 'spontaneously', if socially awkwardly, burst out with a "you know, I'm so lucky I got myself into your family!"

                                                                                            2. MamasCooking Jan 19, 2014 08:07 PM

                                                                                              As harsh as this might sound sometimes in life we have to learn to gently set some personal boundaries. It sounds as if you were as kind and polite as possible. She will survive.I would probably go take her out for coffee and pastries to smooth her ruffled feathers but that is me.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: MamasCooking
                                                                                                Frosty Melon Jan 21, 2014 11:38 AM

                                                                                                Exactly right. Make a plan for the near future to get together, which should supersede this particular one-off event. If the MIL still holds a grudge after that, the issue is hers.

                                                                                              2. KarenDW Jan 19, 2014 08:43 PM

                                                                                                I would not feel uneasy about having plans for MY OWN birthday that do not include my MIL. After all, it's not as though sharing your birthday dinner is a decades long "tradition".
                                                                                                If I choose to have dinner with only my spouse and children on my birthday, it's my choice. If I choose to have dinner with a friend, and not with my spouse and/or children, that's also my choice.

                                                                                                1. mrsfury Jan 20, 2014 03:28 AM

                                                                                                  You were not rude nor should you have invited her to tag along. She should just get over it. It is your birthday after all.

                                                                                                  We have spent every Christmas Eve (25 years) at my MIL's house. If I told her I decided we were going to have a fancy dinner out (just hubby and me) she would understand. Of course we'd have to spend Christmas Day at her house to make up for it. ;)

                                                                                                  1. c
                                                                                                    CanadaGirl Jan 20, 2014 04:49 AM

                                                                                                    I think you are behaving perfectly acceptably. I empathize with the issue of your children's behaviour during the meal with your MIL. My children are the same ages as yours, and I find that they show off in the prescence of my in-laws. For various reasons, my boys behave differently around them than they do others, and it isn't always peaceful to eat all together.

                                                                                                    Our family dynamic is different (in a good way) when it's just the four of us. We have a bit of the opposite scenario, where we have always just had birthday meals at home with my husband and children. My MIL complains about this to my husband every year.

                                                                                                    1. m
                                                                                                      mousethatroared Jan 20, 2014 06:02 AM

                                                                                                      Hey all, I just wanted to thank everyone for their opinions and advice. I wish I could reply to folks more personally, but the question got more responses than I expected and I expect no one actually wants to hear from me THAT much.

                                                                                                      I'm kinda amazed at all the different opinions, I guess I was kinda thinking that there was ONE answer that everyone knew and I was just out of the loop. But now I see there are different valid approaches.

                                                                                                      I think that I'm going to give my MIL a call later today and say that things were kinda chaotic yesterday but I had meant to ask her if she wanted to come to dinner with us that day. She may say no, because it's not really her kinda place or because she felt excluded or hurt. It's doubtful that I'll know, since she not a real straightforward person. But overall I think it'll be better if I ask, to a least try to smooth over possibly hurt feeling.

                                                                                                      Ultimately, I'm not happy with spending my birthdays (on the actual date) on my MIL's terms, though. I know the actual date doesn't matter to a lot of people, but for reasons that are too boring to go into, it does to me.

                                                                                                      I do compromise on other holidays and special dates, I think it's perfectly reasonable for me to hold one date aside to schedule as I please (baring emergencies or rare events such as weddings) In the future, I think, I'll have my husband call well before my BD and invite my MIL over for cake on a specific date before or after the day. Hopefully this will head off any unexpected invitations and it has the side benefit that she doesn't feel obligated to fix a dinner or entertain if she is tired.

                                                                                                      Now, I just have to remember this conclusion for next year. I should put it on my calendar. :)

                                                                                                      As to my MIL's relationship with my son. This is something my husband and I have been talking about and trying to improve for a while. Unfortunately it's not easy. More subtle approaches don't really seem to make an impact. When directly addressed, my MIL seems taken aback denies any favoritism and seems to believe we are just misinterpreting. We may see a brief change, but that dissipates pretty quickly. It's actually not unusual for her to forget unpleasant family incidences (and she seems to be genuinely forgetting) so it seems the most practical to just try to work around this characteristic.

                                                                                                      I do think that I will make less effort to rein in my son when I think he's being fine but I can see that my MIL is unhappy. I may instead say something like. "Yeah, wow! kids have so much energy, eh? I hear DH and siblings gave you a run for your money sometimes."

                                                                                                      11 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: mousethatroared
                                                                                                        coll Jan 20, 2014 06:10 AM

                                                                                                        Glad you got so much out of so many different replies! Now you do what YOU think is right.

                                                                                                        1. re: mousethatroared
                                                                                                          h
                                                                                                          HillJ Jan 20, 2014 06:26 AM

                                                                                                          Happy (early) birthday! Good luck to you and your family.

                                                                                                          1. re: mousethatroared
                                                                                                            LindaWhit Jan 20, 2014 06:58 AM

                                                                                                            I think your approach by calling your MIL to ask her to join you is a good one. Hopefully it smooths things over with her. If it doesn't, then that goes on her. You've made an effort to include her.

                                                                                                            And I think holding out one day out of many you spend with your MIL to spend it the way you want is very valid as well.

                                                                                                            Good luck with the call.

                                                                                                            1. re: mousethatroared
                                                                                                              b
                                                                                                              brandygirl Jan 20, 2014 11:18 PM

                                                                                                              Good decicion, mousethatroared. Best of luck, and happy birthday!

                                                                                                              1. re: mousethatroared
                                                                                                                The Oracle Jan 22, 2014 04:29 PM

                                                                                                                How did the conversation go, mousethatroared? Did MIL take you up on the invite?

                                                                                                                I also wanted to say THANK YOU for giving me the BEST idea for future birthdays (calling well ahead and inviting family members over for a cake on a certain date). Brilliant plan and everyone feels wanted/included!

                                                                                                                1. re: mousethatroared
                                                                                                                  16crab Jan 24, 2014 02:35 PM

                                                                                                                  Sounds like a very good decision. I, like other posters, will be curious as to how it all unfolds.

                                                                                                                  I am reminded of a birthday of mine many, many years back. My birthday is a big deal to me, and yeah, the actual date is important. There's a lot of back story, but the short-ish version is that my husband is Jewish, I am not, and it was a huge deal for his family in not a good way. We celebrate all Jewish holidays down to the letter, but I've foregone other holidays with the exception of a very, very light Christmas at my brother's. Anyway, it's not been hard to adjust to the Jewish holidays, it's been hard to adjust to the rules of them - that things must take place on a certain date, after sundown, etc. When I was growing up, my extended family might do Christmas or Easter the day of, or the day before or after, or a week before or after. It just depended on when the weekend fell and who could travel when and the actual date didn't matter to us.
                                                                                                                  Well, my birthday is in April. One year, early in my marriage, it fell on the first night of Passover. I knew I would have to attend Passover and celebrate my birthday later, and although I didn't like it, I knew it was one of those things I would just have to suck up. En route to his aunt's house, my husband pulled into a restaurant that we always passed en route to his aunt's house that I always said I wanted to go to. Unbeknownst to me, he had told his mother and aunt that we would be celebrating my birthday instead of coming to the Seder, and that we would be at the second Seder the second night at his mother's house (this is what happens every year).
                                                                                                                  His mother and his aunt were devastated, but they got over it. My husband earned major points and I got to be the innocent bystander who knew nothing about it! More importantly, it made it a lot easier down the road when we moved 45 minutes away and had young kids to say we would be at one night but not both.

                                                                                                                  In any case, I thought I would share. Happy Birthday to you - I hope it all goes smoothly and yes, write next year's plan on your calendar!

                                                                                                                  1. re: 16crab
                                                                                                                    coll Jan 24, 2014 03:05 PM

                                                                                                                    That is so awesome!

                                                                                                                    1. re: 16crab
                                                                                                                      b
                                                                                                                      BobbieSue Jan 26, 2014 05:54 AM

                                                                                                                      Great story, and you make an important point, which is, it's most difficult to say no that first time. Kudos to your husband!

                                                                                                                      1. re: BobbieSue
                                                                                                                        16crab Jan 26, 2014 01:01 PM

                                                                                                                        Yah, he's a keeper :)
                                                                                                                        My birthday hasn't fallen on a Passover Seder since, but if/when it does again, he set the precendent :)

                                                                                                                      2. re: 16crab
                                                                                                                        Monica Jan 27, 2014 06:58 AM

                                                                                                                        My husband is Jewish and I am not. My MIL says she is not well enough to cook so I did the cedar last year and now the problem is, she expects me to do it again this year. uhhrrgg..

                                                                                                                        1. re: Monica
                                                                                                                          l
                                                                                                                          LeoLioness Jan 27, 2014 07:34 AM

                                                                                                                          Well, just because she "expects" something doesn't mean you have to do it, right?

                                                                                                                    2. Monica Jan 20, 2014 06:59 AM

                                                                                                                      One thing I have realized over the last 7 years of marriage is that once you start working things around the MIL, she will always expect everything her ways and complain later if she doesn't get it her way..I've learned that I needed to set some boundaries...at the end, I am happier, my husband is happier. she is certainly getting used to it too. The World doesn't revolve around MIL, especially if she is unstable and wants to be babied all the time like mine.

                                                                                                                      1. m
                                                                                                                        meinNYC Jan 20, 2014 09:07 PM

                                                                                                                        Ask her along this year. Next year, well ahead of your birthday, ask if you can have your birthday dinner at her house on some other day than your actual birthday. Then have your kids and hubby celebrate your birthday on the actual day at a restaurant or leave the kids home with a sitter and go out with hubby alone. My mom babysat on my birthday so hubby and I got to go out alone to a fancy place. Sounds like your MIL is not cut out for babysitting but you might be surprised
                                                                                                                        how things work when she is alone with the kids. Everyone might be more relaxed and on better behavior.

                                                                                                                        1. n
                                                                                                                          Nanzi Jan 21, 2014 11:12 AM

                                                                                                                          Our daughter and family have often said they would like to have it just the 4 of them. I give them the leeway they want and plan it for another day. I don't have any problem with them being 'just '. And I have no problem with my grandsons behavior anywhere, they are just wonderful.
                                                                                                                          We have found a restaurant that we all enjoy and are certainly relaxed at. And the boys are relaxed here, maybe bored sometimes, but we open up our computers to them and have happy campers.(Their mother dictates what they may and may not watch.)

                                                                                                                          1. l
                                                                                                                            latindancer Jan 21, 2014 10:40 PM

                                                                                                                            I don't think you're wrong.

                                                                                                                            Do your children get upset with their grandmother when she 's behaving the way she does with them?
                                                                                                                            I was, for many years, in the same position as you. Although my MIL didn't behave the way yours does I sometimes just wanted to celebrate without her on my day.
                                                                                                                            Now that she's passed on, with a little bit of wisdom, I've come to the conclusion that the days go fast and nobody knows what tomorrow will bring…
                                                                                                                            If I could do it all over again I wouldn't have not included her. I miss her and realize I may have hurt her by not including her as my ego got in the way…I wish now I could be assured that I didn't.

                                                                                                                            1. z
                                                                                                                              zoeann Jan 22, 2014 12:28 PM

                                                                                                                              You were not rude or wrong. It was rude of her to press the issue and ask if you had plans after you had already declined. If you want to smooth any ruffled feathers, and it would still be relaxing for you, invite her to go out with you. However, it is certainly not necessary. Courtesy doesn't mean giving in to emotional blackmail. :-)

                                                                                                                              1. j
                                                                                                                                Janet from Richmond Jan 27, 2014 07:05 AM

                                                                                                                                I understand where you are coming from. Go out for your birthday and enjoy. I think your MIL is well intended and over-sensitive.

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