Old Folks Behaving Badly


I am married with children. Two months ago my wife visited a friend with the boys, then called my MIL to say she would drive and visit within the hour. She was apparently 20-30 mins late due to traffic. When I called MIL to ensure wife was safe, not knowing wife was not there yet, MIL burst out cursing at me: “@#$@% Jack, you know exactly where Wife is! Stop @#$%^ lying to me!” I was pleasant yet she repeatedly cursed and told me I am a liar - I had no idea why the outrage. Never lied to her before, told her I could not reach Wife’s cellphone, so I ended the conversation after her silence. Later Wife told me MIL was mad about Wife being late, not that anything was planned/missed. MIL left a VM two days later saying only `sorry she was upset and she “expects all will be back to normal” between us.’ I’ve been annoyed since as this was some “straw man argument” created by MIL and that she simply does not respect me - otherwise if she cared she wouldn’t have done this and certainly wouldn’t have apologized via vm (5-10 second vm) two days later. I will never forgive her for this – and she’s likely forgotten so the issue is moot anyhow. She does not get along very well with my BIL, primarily for political reasons (before entire family: "I like Steve but he's a @#$%^ [insert-party]!" I keep my political beliefs quiet. FIL is soft-spoken, does not care about emotional issues enough to involve himself. Wife always falls back to same arguments to substantiate MIL’s behavior - she’s a NYer and had a poor upbringing when a child after the Depression. Yet MIL left NY in early 1960s and bad upbringing was left behind. I wish to advise her that her meds, yoga and especially her therapist are doing her a disservice. Very feisty, frantic speech, arms/hands waving, rude, loud most of the time. Boys now pick up on her NY accent and make fun of her with several “woids” (which of course I love). She knows we do not want her cursing before the children, so she reduces that. Concerns go beyond this: bathes 3-4 times per week (“I didn’t do anything today”) and has a musk-like odor that kids carry home and I can smell the next day, have to bathe the boys. She never wants to hear my side of a story about anything (my folks are like this too) unless I claim info originates from someone else (“appeal to authority”). I’m polite with her and chats at family gatherings are fine. I get along with her as I do my folks but the outbursts/arguments have me baffled.

Any idea why my folks in their mid-80s are becoming more and more irritable and only want to do the talking? Until recently I had great hour-long chats with them. Getting very sarcastic (“No Jack, we left the front door wide open for intruders” now run through each and every conversation). Several cars, both drive and SUV has more dents, scratches and Pop blew up at me when I suggested he replace it when the loan expires with a smaller crossover or sedan that’s easier to navigate/park – even though I lightly insinuated all damage was solely due to others hitting his parked vehicle as it took up a large area. Are they annoyed that the end of their life could be closer and they’ve lived well thus far? Invited folks to sons’ (both are six) basketball game of which they had only had two practice sessions (never touched a bball before), and they openly griped, shook heads the whole time about how they lack drive for the game as compared to many others kids who play well and have been playing 1-2 years. Ridiculous statements such as we should make them practice in a small cleared-out garage rather than on a court at school or outside at the end of our cul de sac. I had to lie and say we just bought a big bball hoop for the street (although a neighbor invites us to use his) so folks wouldn’t run and buy another expensive toy when the boys only have a passing interest. Any thoughts? I am concerned to be losing my respect for these older “Senile Delinquents” and try to keep conversations lighter and more sporadic to once/week and visits to once/month - perhaps as a means of sorts to “punish them” for bad behavior as we just get griping about the boys, their development and how [poorly] we raise them. Never any praise. I care about everyone but find far too much resistance when trying to directly sorts things out in what I think is a polite and rational manner. Thank You! :)

This discussion has been closed for comment. Start a New Discussion.


Sorry, but this is a very long and rambling post covering a good many subjects. It’s proving difficult for us to untangle the knots and discern just what the problem is. Family counseling might be called for here. I’m sure it’s not beneficial to your child(ren) to witness any of this apparent turmoil. If you have an issue you’d like to discuss with us, please repost with definite questions.

I'm 49 and *I* shower "only" 3-4 times a week. Unless I got sweaty/dirty doing something, or otherwise stink, or my hair is full of product.  Just sayin'. 

“No Jack, we left the front door wide open for intruders” sounds like an awesome response to whatever was asked. (Sounds somewhat suggestive of a frustrated response to being treated like a child, IMHO.)  Me, I love a good dose of sarcasm.  I wish my mom still had enough of her mind left to make sarcastic remarks.

Your writing style is very strange and difficult to comprehend - "in need of a good editor," as my stepmom used to say - so you might want to check that snobbishness a tiny little bit.

John, how does your wife feel about how you treat her parents?

As a New Yorker, I can tell you that you that you seem to be some kinda jerk.

Wow Jeannegibbs,,I was pondering if I was going to touch this one with a 10 foot pole,, you hit it girl!!
He's bothered that MIL only washes 3=4 times a week, but says he has to wash the kids when they get home? So apparently they are not getting washed nightly either? Making fun of the way their Grandmother talks? ( Glad she's not southern...) Thinks her Yoga classes are harming her? I wish my mom would do something like that!
Then on to his parents.. they have "several cars", and buy the grandchildren expensive toys... I feel some jealousy here maybe? Sounds to me like they love and want the best for the kids!
I think the respect truck has left the garage... And I feel sorry for this

Let me get this straight. You wife's mother is in therapy, takes meds, tries yoga. Presumably she has some mental health issues. She blows up on you for no rational reason, over the phone. And for this you can "never forgive her"? Huh? Her emotional reason for the outburst, btw, was probably worry over her daughter, imagining her in a ditch somewhere. Our fear often comes out as anger.

It sounds to me like you are annoyed that you have a MIL with mental health issues, even though she appears to be addressing those issues. Yes, it is annoying to have to take the MIL you get, and not the one you would custom order. (Never forgive her, huh? Wow!)

Many older people bathe once or twice a week, especially if we don't do anything to get dirty or sweaty. Playing in the sandbox with grandkids? Yup, take a shower. Sitting in front of the picture window knitting, probably OK to skip the shower. Your MIL is above average for bathing, really.

Did you know that there actually is such a thing as old people smell? https://www.agingcare.com/articles/old-person-smell-174839.htm My dear grandmother did not smell unclean when I hugged her, but her whole house had an old people smell. I received an afghan from her house that had that smell. I almost didn't want to wash it because it reminded me of this person I loved. You have to wash your kids after they have been there? Surely you are washing them everyday anyway, so this shouldn't be a big deal, right?

I hope the making fun of her talking the kids do is very good-natured. Surely you are not encouraging your children to be disrespectful of their grandmother.

It sounds as if you pontificate on subjects you know very little about (for example, bathing schedules for seniors, odors, whether we can "leave our upbringing behind,"). I wonder if that might have something to do with the lack of respect people have for your opinions.

My thoughts? Stay polite with MIL. Engage her at family gathering. Wash your kids after they've spent time in her house and don't make a fuss about it. Keep your nose out of her hygiene. Absolutely stop arguing with your wife about this. Even if you cannot "forgive" and accept this woman you should not make your wife (who loves her, I suspect) be defensive about her mother's behavior.

This discussion has been closed for comment. Start a New Discussion.