Dear Carolyn: My mother-in-law treats the son from my husband’s first marriage like a king, while pretty much ignoring our daughter from our marriage. I have tried ignoring the behavior, but when his mother expects us to fund cruises and trips for her to take with the son that she won’t even invite our daughter to, I believe it’s getting out of hand. My husband says he is through with her, but I think he needs to articulate what will happen when my daughter gets old enough to realize she is definitely not Grandmom’s favorite.
Also, she treats all of the other female grandchildren completely differently than she treats the lone male grandchild. Is there anything I can or should do?
I don’t suppose the grandson is significantly older than the granddaughters? If so, then the girls might grow into Grandmom’s affection.
Otherwise you need to protect both kids: Deny her access to them, except in carefully measured and monitored doses, and say why.
Her request that you fund cruises is so easy to deny that it hardly warrants advance planning. “No, Betty, you can’t take just one of your grandkids on a cruise, not even at your expense.” I’d add, “ … unless you plan to offer each of them the same opportunity,” but I wouldn’t send one of my kids to a grandparent who wasn’t excited to be with him.
If Grandmom’s bias is against girls, that makes it easier to explain to your kids later, believe it or not — because it’s clearly about her self-loathing and not about a particular kid. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that any access to your kids has to be predicated on her behaving herself, as much as you can realistically expect.