22 Feb
When Grandma is Full of It

I know Kate from Twitter. She’s funny, quick and mouthy, so I immediately thought of her as guest advice dispenser. What I didn’t know (because who can read those Twitter bios) is that Kate is a wonderful artist, making collaged art of fabric sewn together with colored thread. And she’s very funny on Twitter. What’s not to love? -Marinka

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

My mother-in-law told my 6-year-old son that the reason he’s left-handed is because he had “an identical but right-handed twin who died” in the womb. My son has now become quite withdrawn and has got it into his head that the imaginary friend he had as a toddler was in fact his dead twin. My mother-in-law is normally pretty cool, but she can’t seem to understand that her words have caused upset, as she says the twin idea is a legitimate scientific theory to explain left-handedness.

How do I sort this out?

P.S. My husband is away in the military and isn’t here to help.


Shocked Mom


Dear Mom,

If you were actually carrying twins and lost a child during pregnancy, I am deeply, deeply sorry for your loss (and you can stop reading now, I have no advice on how to handle that). But if your mother-in-law told this horribly disturbing story to a six-year-old as a way to explain left-handedness, then…wow. NOT cool, Grandma.

For argument’s sake, let’s say being left-handed requires an explanation. Grandma has her theory, which we both know is not legitimate or scientific by any stretch. If you didn’t contradict her, your son might have assumed you agreed and Grandma was right.

I can understand you don’t want to start an argument. But you can see that your son is struggling to make sense of what she said, and he needs guidance from you.

Maybe he’s creating a story to fit Grandma’s theory because he has nothing else to go on. Or worse, he’s under the impression that every theory is valid, so there is no way to rule anything out to find the truth. Remember: All PEOPLE deserve respect, not all IDEAS.

You don’t have to confront Grandma face to face; let her believe whatever she wants. Just make sure you explain the facts to your son. This is an opportunity for you to teach him a very important survival skill called “Critical Thinking”, also known as “Not believing things that are obviously bullshit.”

Now, you may worry that applying logic to stuff adults say may lead a child to question authority, which may lead to the loss of respect for all adults including Mommy and Daddy. But picture the other extreme – a child who believes anything adults say, who trusts them so completely and without question he climbs into the car of the first stranger who loses an imaginary puppy.

Notice I never said Grandma is crazy or stupid or a liar. Maybe she is cool. I’m just saying her idea is wrong and it is okay not to believe it. You don’t have to pretend she’s right out of respect for your elders.

In short: We love Grandma. Grandma’s theory is 100% wrong.

Please, take this burden off your son’s shoulders. His only defense against the bullshit of the world is the ability to spot it, and permission to disregard it.

Good luck to you and my thanks to your husband for his service,

Kate, Guest TMH

14 Responses to “When Grandma is Full of It”


Comment by Desperate Dietwives.

Before ever thinking of confronting your MIL, I advise you sit comfortably with your son when you see he is thinking of the “dead twin”, wrap him in your arms and sweetly explain to him that there is no dead twin in the womb.

Tell him that Grandma told him this story (a story as likely as Snow White or Cinderella) just to try to give him an explanation. Tell him however that it is not true, that our brains sometimes work differently – which doesn’t mean they work wrong – and that his brain and his body are more comfortable with using the left hand. Assure him that it is perfectly all right to be left-handed and that you, Dad and Grandma love him just the way he is. Then tell him about all the happy expectations of the whole family when you first knew you were to have a baby… in short, make him feel very loved (which is just the truth) and patiently answer all of his questions about his left-handedness or about whatever comes into his pretty little head.

You don’t have to slight your MIL in this process, just let him know that reality is not as upsetting as he thought it was.

If after your cosy talk he confronts his Grandma and she confronts you, just calmly stand your ground and tell her that you will not allow her Cinderella-like tales to affect your son’s peace of mind. Stress the child’s welfare and tell her that, however convinced she may be of her “scientific” theory – which by the way no ecography ever validated – her Grandchild’s happiness should give way to it, in her heart.

Good luck! 😀

Mo Reply:

I like your response better than the actual advice from the guest advice dispenser…


Comment by thepsychobabble.

I vote you do the above.

And then slap your MIL upside the back of the head, because really? WTF?

Cate8 Reply:

YA! I am a crazy gramma but this is just horseshit

jade Reply:

def think the slap upside the head is the best advice for MIL…but agree with the above to talk to kid!


Comment by Coffeeless.

This is exactly the kind of crazy, inappropriate thing that my M-I-L would come out with, like the time she explained to my kids her theory that house spiders were the spies of Satan. Thanks for that, Grandma.


Comment by Plano Mom.

Love the advice. This is an excellent opportunity to teach that it is entirely possible to love and respect someone you completely disagree with. Wish a few politicians could get that.

Meg in NYC Reply:

Well put!


Comment by Anne-Marie @ Do Not Faint.

My friends’ grandma used to eat candy in front of them without offering any, thinking she was being sneaky by unwrapping it in her purse. They aren’t deaf. They could hear it. So rather than confront her mother-in-law, Mom told them “Yes, I do teach you to share. No, it’s not nice to keep sweets to yourself. I understand that it hurts your feelings, but Grandma just doesn’t want to share. It’s no fun, but it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love you or that we don’t love her.” Or something like that. It was a good lesson in “Sometimes the people we love do and say stupid stuff.” Of course, that’s an easier example. But it went on for *years* this candy thing. They are still mad about it.


Comment by Wendi.

How about “Grandma’s twin who has common sense died in the womb so that’s why she says things like that”?

Plano Mom Reply:

I love it. Precisely the perfect smart assed response I would think of about 3 days after the opportunity to say it.


Comment by Jean.

I read that article that tried to explain left-handedness like that. Doesn’t work so well when I have two sets of twins, one set are both righties and the other set is one lefty & one righty. Kinda blew that theory out of the water. Morons. As for the grandma, well my mil has had some weird theories herself, we just tell the kids that she’s old-fashioned & isn’t always up on the latest info. (though I like the first person that respondeds answer too!)


Comment by N and Em's mom.

My ex-husband and his twin brother were both left-handed. Senility is also a legitimate scientific theory for this special brand of dumbness being perpetuated. Just keep repeating, “Grandma’s getting senile” and one of you will feel better.


Comment by pegapooh2000.

Why on earth would you tell a child this, true or not?? How horrible!! Hopefully this little boy can be reassured that … if his twin did die … that it wasn’t his fault or if this story isn’t true that Grandma shouldn’t have said that and it’s wrong. Horrible!

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