Priorities, people!

Dear Annie: I am in an interracial relationship and am a stepparent to a 7-year-old daughter. When COVID-19 came, my mother-in-law was without a job and in between places. We have only two bedrooms, one for us and one for my stepdaughter.

My mother-in-law had no place to go, so we offered her our couch. My husband, who was taking care of her financially, asked if it was OK for her to stay for a couple of weeks. Of course, that was no issue at all.

A couple of weeks turned into months. She constantly berated both of our parenting and undermined us all the time. Things came to a head, and my husband could not handle her being here with us. It turned into a very heated argument that led to the police forcing her to leave.

During the argument, I was scratched in the face. While she was removing things from the home, she called me every racist name in the book and left me feeling like I was no good. I have done nothing but help this woman. I even tried to help her find a job.

My husband has had no contact with her since. My concern is that there is a 7-year-old grandchild involved. My mother-in-law has not apologized to me, nor do I have any contact with her. I want to forgive her, but my heart will not let me. I don’t want my stepdaughter to miss out on her grandma, but the things she said were so hurtful. Is there any way to move past this knowing what her true feelings are? — Not So Black and White

Dear Not So Black and White: I commend you for putting your stepdaughter first after such an attack.

Often, people with such bigotries are not malicious but ignorant, uneducated and small-minded. This is not an excuse. It merely shows that there is hope for her to change.

I would discuss the subject in-depth with your husband and come up with some clear, firm boundaries to present to his mother — the first being that hatred, racism and violence are not welcome in your home. You will do your stepdaughter no favors by exposing her to those views.

After your mother-in-law goes through therapy to address her violent, hateful outbursts — assuming that she does — you can discuss baby steps for bringing her back into your family’s life. (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Well, now, that’s some bad advice.

My husband, who was taking care of her financially, asked if it was OK for her to stay for a couple of weeks. Of course, that was no issue at all.

Of course?! It should’ve been an issue. This letter writer seems to have the false virtue of taking people in. I hope she’s learned from this experience that things can go badly wrong when you do that. I’m not saying we should never take anyone in. But the family knew the mother-in-law before she moved in, and there would’ve been red flags. The letter writer’s cavalier attitude about letting her move in shows that she didn’t think it through, thinking perhaps that it made her a good person to give her mother-in-law a home.

During the argument, I was scratched in the face. While she was removing things from the home, she called me every racist name in the book and left me feeling like I was no good.

Violence and racism are both horrible.

I have done nothing but help this woman. I even tried to help her find a job.

And therein lies the problem. The mother-in-law doesn’t want to work; no, she wants to freeload. Wow, the letter writer was really naive there. Her efforts to help mother-in-law find a job probably made mother-in-law angry and feel pressured. [Shaking my head.] This is not a good mother-in-law.

My husband has had no contact with her since.

Points for the husband! I was upset that he wanted his mom to move in, but this action gives him major redemption.

My concern is that there is a 7-year-old grandchild involved.

Right. Protecting the kids is everything.

My mother-in-law has not apologized to me, nor do I have any contact with her. I want to forgive her, but my heart will not let me.

Oh, brother. You know, holding a grudge actually serves a great purpose: as long as you keep the walls up, the person can’t hurt you again. This letter writer seems so idiotic that I suspect she wants to forgive and forget… and then get scratched in the face another time while experiencing more racist comments. Forgiveness should never be a blind forgetting of what someone did to you.

I don’t want my stepdaughter to miss out on her grandma, but the things she said were so hurtful.

Whoa. That’s her concern about her step-daughter? Oh my. I see we’ve left common sense at home. Violent racists aren’t good influences for seven-year-old children. The child SHOULD miss out on her grandma.

Is there any way to move past this knowing what her true feelings are?

Hello, letter writer. This woman scratched you in the face and trash-talked your whole race. (Ooh, hey, that rhymed! Points!) The letter writer seems to have the weird idea that people should be unconditionally accepted. She’s asking how she can accept her mother-in-law despite knowing that said mother-in-law is a violent racist. Geez. Maybe some people shouldn’t be accepted?

Yeah, people misunderstand forgiveness. I think it’s better to err on the side of holding a grudge, because then you’ve got your walls up and (ideally) can’t be hurt again. This is far preferable to blindly forgiving someone who can and will move in for the kill when it gives them a thrill. (Go me with the rhyming!) It might sound wrong to err on the side of holding a grudge, but safety is a huge issue. This mother-in-law isn’t safe physically or emotionally.

Dear Not So Black and White: I commend you for putting your stepdaughter first after such an attack.

Well, I’m not sure she did that. This toxic harpy of a mother-in-law was living with the family for a long time before they managed to evict her. I mean, was that really a good environment for a little girl?

Often, people with such bigotries are not malicious but ignorant, uneducated and small-minded. 

Ohhhhh-kay.

Um, no? If you have someone who’s ignorant, uneducated, and small-minded, that person might be thinking some ignorant thoughts about race (or whatever), but they could still be polite enough to not say what they’re thinking. It’s not until you add in that malicious intent that you get someone like the mother-in-law here, who hurls insults and scratches people.

This is not an excuse. It merely shows that there is hope for her to change.

While there’s always hope, the mother-in-law needs to rise up on her own, because until she can prove she’s been reformed, she shouldn’t be anywhere near a seven-year-old girl. And it shouldn’t be the letter writer’s and her husband’s job to fix the mother-in-law.

I would discuss the subject in-depth with your husband and come up with some clear, firm boundaries to present to his mother — the first being that hatred, racism and violence are not welcome in your home.

Okay, and those are good boundaries. I approve… in theory. However, there are some things that people just know. The mother-in-law knows that racism and violence are wrong. She doesn’t need to be told these things.

You will do your stepdaughter no favors by exposing her to those views.

Agreed, but this is understated. Annie Lane needs to emphasize that the little girl should NEVER be left with her grandmother. Ideally, the little girl should never be with Grandma at all, but she should most definitely never be left alone with her. This goes beyond being exposed to views, and into the territory of potential abuse.

After your mother-in-law goes through therapy to address her violent, hateful outbursts — assuming that she does —

Can I just interject midsentence? This woman is unemployed, homeless, violent, and racist. [You all can’t see it, but I’m shaking my head right now and scowling.] Therapy isn’t on the agenda. It should be! 😮 But it isn’t.

assuming that she does — you can discuss baby steps for bringing her back into your family’s life.

Yes, if the mother-in-law redeems herself, that’s fine. But realistically, people who are that far gone usually don’t enjoy doing the hard work of introspection and therapeutic self-improvement.

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