DEAR ABBY: Our 23-year-old son, "Jason," told me yesterday about a letter he had received from his grandmother. In it she complained that she's embarrassed by his having fathered a child out of wedlock and said the situation is "very difficult" for her. She is deeply religious, but known for her affinity for gossip.
Our younger son, "Connor," spent last summer in jail for stealing from us and possession of a controlled substance, but he did not receive a similar letter.
Although I would have preferred that Jason and his girlfriend had taken more time to build their relationship and marry before adding a baby to the family, they are very happy about the impending arrival, and he has purchased a beautiful ring. I don't think my mother-in-law's attempt to shame him into marriage would make a solid foundation for their relationship, nor does a guilt trip make a healthy honeymoon getaway.
My husband, in a rare flash of wisdom, suggested (but not to his mother) that if the situation is too "difficult" for her, perhaps she ought not talk about it.
Should I tell this woman that if she can't be supportive, she should keep a respectful distance? Or should I let Jason and his father deal with her? I am too upset by her behavior in general to separate this issue from her usual judgmental, self-righteous and gossipy nature, and would like never to speak to her again, but I'm sure that's not a constructive solution to the problem. Thank you for your insight. -- IRATE IN NEW YORK
DEAR IRATE: Let's view the situation from your mother-in-law's point of view for a moment. Being "deeply religious," it follows that she believes sex outside marriage is wrong, and the baby is "proof" that her grandson had sex -- unprotected, yet! -- with his girlfriend. Being the town gossip, she realizes that others are talking, and she feels it reflects somehow upon her. From a "contemporary" point of view, having a baby without being married is no longer the shock and disgrace that it was when your mother-in-law was a girl.
Because you are angry, it would be better to let your son and your husband tell her to calm down. And, specifically, your husband should share his "flash of wisdom" with his mother. The fact that your younger son did not receive a similar letter from his grandmother is a reflection of her skewed sense of priorities.