Q&A: MIL Question--Do I have the right to be miffed?

MommyEm writes:

"I am currently miffed at my mother-in-law and need to know if it isjustified or my just being overly-sensitive (which is possible).  My daughter turned two in January and my MIL gave her a professionally framed collage of three pictures.  The pictures were a baby picture of my daughter (in the center), a baby picture of my husband (to the left) and a baby picture of my MIL (on the right).  I was dumbstruck when I opened it.  There wasn't a picture of me, and I hadn't been asked to provide one.  She said that she did it because she was struck by how similar all the babies looked.  Personally, I felt left out, and wondered if she thought she had given birth to my daughter while I was out getting a coffee.  To be fair to my MIL, I will give you my feelings about her, which color most of my reactions to her antics.  I have always felt a little uncertain about what my MIL feels toward me.  I find her to be a generous bully - someone who gives a lot, but expects the world to conform to her wishes. If you don't conform or do what she thinks is right you are wrong and an idiot. She is also highly religious, but not very nice in the things she says about people in private.  It's a very confusing set of personality traits - a person who will help you out every time, but you wonder if she only tolerates you because you fill a purpose (such as bearing her grandchild).  So, do I have the right to be miffed?"

First of all, I want to say that there are plenty of people who have fabulous relationships with their in-laws. They're just not writing to me to ask for my advice about in-law relationships.

When I read the first part of this email, I thought, "No, nothing to be miffed about." Maybe because the whole "generational resemblance" (whether physically or personality or talent-wise) thing is big in my family, and in my ex-husband's family, too. So it seems like a completely normal thing to me to do the Three Generations thing, whether in photos or storytelling or nicknaming, etc.

But then I read the rest of the email, and it started to come together a little more for me. Suddenly it made sense that maybe the photos weren't just about the photos, or about how much ME's daughter looks like her dad and grandma.

We have no way of knowing what the MIL's intention was. (She may not even be completely aware of it herself.) She might have had the purest of intentions with the photos, but her past behavior has caused mistrust in MommyEm, and that's important. And if she did have slightly ulterior motives in giving the photos, then she's certainly made her point.

At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter if MommyEm has the right to be miffed, because she *is* miffed. And feelings aren't right or wrong, blah blah blah. But, what should MommyEm do about it? I say there's nothing she can do or say about the photos that will make the situation better, and almost anything she could say will make the situation worse.

Add to that the fact that MommyEm's daughter *will* figure out exactly who her parents and grandparents are. And sooner than the adults think. So MommyEm doesn't need to worry that her daughter will be confused or taken in by her grandmother's less-than-linear actions.

So. Yeah. MommyEm has a right to be miffed. And she is miffed. But she needs to just let this incident go. (With the assurance that there will certainly be more miff-making incidents to come. ;) Do a little yoga breathing, hug her daughter, and know that she's the mom, and her daughter knows that. And then file this away to know what *not* to do when she's someone's MIL in 30 years.

Who's got tales to tell?