Carolyn Hax: Daughter-in-law accepts her family’s heirlooms, but not his
Last week we visited them in person, and the nursery has several items from our daughter-in-law’s mother. When I asked her about it, DIL said with an eye roll that her mother had been given the same instructions to not send anything — but she sent things anyway, and now DIL felt unable to toss the family heirlooms. She thanked me for being “the parent who respected their wishes.”
But I’m frustrated! I followed the rules, and now my family’s heirlooms will end up in a dump, while my DIL’s family heirlooms will be in my granddaughter’s room, creating a sense of connection and family history.
I would like to talk to my DIL again about accepting some of my items. Am I out of line?
Frustrated: Yes. Way. Or, you’re tempted to be.
The only “sense of connection and family history” that matters is the one you create rocking your beautiful grandbaby. Experiences, not stuff. If you pick this fight over competitive stuff-forcing, then you risk that most important thing. And for what? Seriously. The “parent who respected their wishes” is in-law Olympic gold. Or DIL is a smooth operator, but still.
If I could, I’d go back to your son’s childhood and counsel you not to save any baby things, except for your own use as mementos — not if you intended to bubble-wrap the items with your expectations. That just puts too much of your happiness in the hands of other people, changing tastes, changing safety standards, square-footage challenges and countless other things you could never control.
But I can’t go back, so instead I’ll counsel you to stop the competition with the DIL’s family now. Immediately and permanently. And if you can’t, then make an appointment with someone who can help you do it. The proposition you’re weighing is lose-lose-lose (the DIL’s good favor-your son’s backing-your grandbubble’s sweet presence). Let. Go.
If the stuff is up to current safety standards, then specifically let it go to needy parents. Make your first call to a local emergency shelter. What a lovely gift your nursery items would make.
Re: Heirlooms: Feel free to use all those items in your own house (as long as they are still safe). That way the grandbaby gets to experience them and you don’t burden the parents with unwanted items.
Anonymous: Oh right — the nursery-away-from-home idea. Just don’t set it up and hang all your hopes on their coming over to use it. That’s just Expectations 2.0. Better to wait to see if they visit enough to justify it, then set up a baby room.
Other readers’ thoughts:
- Why focus on the other mother going above and beyond when that’s literally the opposite of what DIL wanted — meaning those items may make DIL cringe with regret rather than create a positive connection? Take the brownie points instead.
- Speaking as a seventh grandchild: You’ve held on to them for this long, so why not a little longer? There might be more grandchildren, they might have more space, they might toss the stuff they have or lose it to divorce or disaster or any other of a million things.