By Carolyn Hax
Thursday, May 14, 2009

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

My mother-in-law gave my children a puppy for Christmas 2008. She did not check with me or my husband first; it was a surprise. The kids were thrilled, but the puppy had health problems and died.

Apparently, my 8-year-old begged Nana for a replacement puppy, and again without my permission, MIL showed up with not one but TWO pug puppies. I was annoyed the first time, but this time I am livid. Literally mad enough that my face feels hot whenever she calls the house.

Besides the fact that my husband is allergic to the dog fur, I am still chasing around after a toddler and don't have time to raise another "baby." I feel completely trapped because my two older kids are so in love with these dogs, but I DO NOT want to keep them.

Also, I haven't yet had a satisfactory confrontation with my MIL about this, and I'm afraid it's going to ruin our relationship if I don't plan it well first.


Why are you even considering having this confrontation with your MIL? Where is your husband, whose job it was, when the first puppy arrived, to say, "I realize you wanted to surprise the children, but it was unacceptable to spring this on us without warning"?

If he's not a full partner in holding the line -- with his parents, your kids, whatever else -- then such problems will outlast and outnumber the pugs.

If these are breeder puppies, return them, and if they're mill puppies, contact your local pug rescue group. All dogs deserve a home where they can get the attention they need.

If you'd still like your daughters to have a dog on your terms, then do it right: Research breeds that don't aggravate allergies, find a rescue group to help you find a lower-maintenance adult dog, etc.

Re: Fresno:

You're suggesting she just heartlessly give the puppies back. What about the fact that the kids would be heartbroken to lose two more pets?


Yes, it would break the kids' hearts. But that doesn't give the kids the last word on how these two parents run their home. An overwhelmed mother's needs supersede the heartstrings. They just do. If the parents handle it with sensitivity and transparency about their reasoning, it can be a valuable lesson for the kids in handling the word "no."

Too many people walk around with the clear signs that they weren't taught how to take "no" for an answer, and they suffer from it more than anyone.

Re: Fresno:

The MIL (perhaps consciously?) put the parents in the position of having to take the puppies away from the kids. Grandma gets to be the good guy; Mom and Dad have to be the bad guys. If this is an ongoing pattern with MIL, it needs to be addressed!

Anonymous 2

Ding ding ding ding!

This type of power trip is a too, too common byproduct of the "grandparents get to spoil their grandchildren" tradition. It's a sweet tradition, and a good one, but its abuse is rampant. I imagine it's often unwitting, but there are cases when it's deliberate, as I suspect this is. Either way, yes, the husband must rein his mom in.

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