Note: Amy added a followup to this letter a few days later saying she received many responses from readers approving of this grandma’s tactics. Yes, grandmas can give advice to their grandchildren but they should offer it with kindness, love and empathy. See her response at the end of this post.
In response to this, my mother-in-law grabbed my daughter’s wrist and held onto it tightly, so she could not move away from the admonishment she had in store. My MIL leaned in and said strongly, “Be careful not to get raped and pregnant.” Then she laughed.
My daughter didn’t know what to do with that, other than justify herself and her choices: where she went to school, who she hangs around with, what she does and why. All of which are so mild. She spent the remaining two days dodging her grandmother.
I haven’t addressed these issues with my MIL. I’ve been very angry. My daughter wants space and is so hurt. She can’t believe that someone would do these things to their granddaughter. I’m leaving a response up to my husband.
We’ve had these sorts of issues before where my MIL says hurtful things. When we tell her, she goes into full-on victim mode. She blames others and barely takes responsibility.
Thoughts on how to tackle this?
Dear Disgusted: Your daughter made a rookie mistake in talking to her thoughtless and hurtful grandmother about something as personal as her birth control method.
I’m not saying these topics should be out of bounds between all grandchildren and their grandparents, but this particular grandmother sounds like a loose cannon. Lesson learned. (And if someone, even a relative, grabbed me like that, it would be the last time I came within an arm’s length of them.)
I’m going to assume that your daughter might be too intimidated to advocate for herself. So yes, I suggest a conversation with your mother-in-law, starting with “What on earth were you thinking?” Tell her that your daughter found her remark bewildering, inappropriate and hurtful, and that you agree with your daughter’s response.
And then let it lie. Don’t insist on any further action (apologies, etc.). Let her stew in her juice. If she tries to fix this, she’ll probably make things worse, but that’s on her.
You might encourage your daughter to see her gram as the equivalent of a blowhard frat bro. Standing up for herself when the older woman offends her might be good training for dealing with others who might want to rudely invade her space.
Additionally, you should work with your daughter to find a form of birth control that helps to control her symptoms, in addition to preventing pregnancy.
Dear Amy: “Disgusted” was complaining about a grandma telling her college-age granddaughter not to get raped or pregnant. This sounds like obvious and great advice, to me. Hopefully the girl will remember her gram’s advice and take heed!
Dear Dennis: I am publishing this response as an example of many similar responses I’ve received, all of which convey the attitude that “telling a girl not to get raped” is an acceptable way to convey concern.
We have a lot of work to do.