Dear Carolyn: My husband’s parents favor their daughter and her children over my family and his brother’s family. Their daughter is aware of it, and brags about it — “I’m Daddy’s favorite so I get to park in the driveway.” This is a grown woman in her 40s. She claims constantly that she has no money, when she and her husband make more money than my family and my husband’s brother’s family. We all live on a tight budget. They have multiple flat-screen televisions, computers and fitness equipment. And yet my husband’s parents constantly give her money and their credit cards. They try to keep it from the rest of us. We live five minutes away from my husband’s parents, yet we never see them. They travel 40 minutes on a weekly basis to see their daughter and her family for whatever reason.
We have tried to spend more time with them. For example, we invited them to a Memorial Day picnic, and they accepted. But when they found out their daughter didn’t have plans, they canceled on us to spend time with her. This behavior leads to hurt feelings for me and my husband’s brother’s wife.
It doesn’t seem to bother my husband as much. He thinks it is wrong but, frankly, I think he is used to it because he grew up that way.
I tried to blow it off and accept it, but now my children are older and they see the favoritism. This brings my hurt feelings bubbling back to the surface. My husband’s mother’s way of dealing with the favoritism with the grandchildren is she buys my kids things, but she doesn’t spend much time with them.
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I have approached my husband’s parents twice and they defend why they feel they need to “help” their daughter, even though I explained that giving her money all the time isn’t helping her. I tried to tell them they are missing out on my kids’ and my husband’s brother’s kids’ childhoods, but nothing trumps their daughter and her problems. How do I handle it and protect my children in the process?
Tired of Favoritism
Oh my goodness, just stop, please.
Stop trying to get better treatment.
Stop believing that you are owed better treatment.
Stop serving your kids up to these people just to be treated as second-best.
Stop taking it personally that your in-laws are twisted.
Stop bean-counting TVs and treadmills.
Stop banging your head against a wall.
Stop teaching your kids that banging their heads against a wall is an appropriate way to handle a problem.
Your kids are indeed getting shortchanged on grandparents. That stinks. It’s not fair. It’s a stupid way for your in-laws to behave.
But none of these facts of sympathy will change anything about the reality of your in-law situation. So instead of trying to change that reality, please start working with your reality to construct a healthy environment for your kids.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at washingtonpost.com.