Dear Annie: My husband and I used to be close to my mother-in-law. We took trips together and enjoyed one another’s company. But since our oldest child was born, things have changed. Even though she has an open invitation, Mom rarely comes around. She often won’t return phone calls or respond to emails and texts.
Mom says because we won’t let her babysit her grandchildren, she has no interest in seeing any of us. Annie, we have used babysitters maybe twice in the past six years. We have told her we would love to spend time with her as a family, and she says that will never happen. When my husband tries speaking to her in person, she gets angry. We are heartbroken.
A few years ago, she was constantly buying expensive toys for our oldest child. We kindly asked that she stop, except for birthdays and Christmas or to give the kids money for their college accounts. This upset her, and as a result, none of us gets any cards or gifts for anything, even though we continue to buy presents for her.
A few years ago, we borrowed money from Mom for some home repairs and have been paying her back monthly, according to the terms. She’s never cashed one of our checks. We don’t know why or whether we should just give her a cashier’s check for the remainder and be done with it. Mom refuses to come to our house and will only meet us in a restaurant, where she seems pleasant. Then she says she’s going to the bathroom, and we see her walking out the front door without saying goodbye.
We are baffled and not sure what to tell our children, who are starting to notice. My husband says this is how she has always been, shutting him out whenever he wanted to get close. His father died when he was a child, and he feels like an orphan. What do we do? — Frustrated and Hurt
Dear Frustrated: Your mother-in-law needs to control your lives. The more she keeps you wondering about her next step the more control she has. You need to step away from her manipulative behavior.
If you can afford a cashier’s check, do it. Always be polite and kind, but stop asking for her attention and affection. She doesn’t know how to give it. She only knows how to buy it, and you won’t let her do that. When she sees that she cannot gain leverage, she will either come around or cut you off entirely. That is her choice, and there is little you can do about it. Please find other, more caring people to fill the gap.
Dear Annie: We never received thank-you notes after giving a wedding shower gift and a wedding gift to a young couple who are children of friends. Is there any appropriate way to inform newlyweds that such thank-you notes are needed? — Worried Friends
Dear Worried: In this day and age, it’s nearly impossible not to know this already. However, some newlyweds mistakenly believe they have a year to write notes. This is not true. Guests have a year to give wedding gifts, but thank-you notes must be written immediately. Of course, when inundated with gifts all at once, these things take a bit of time, even if done promptly. So if you don’t hear within three to six months, it’s perfectly OK to call the couple and ask, “Did you ever receive our gift? We are afraid it was lost since we haven’t heard from you.” (And gifts, as well as thank-you notes, are indeed lost on occasion.)
Dear Annie: This is for all those who worry that their grown children’s homes aren’t clean enough. My daughter-in-law had a plaque in her house that read, “My house was clean last week. Sorry you missed it.” — Oregon
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.