Care and Feeding

Dear Care and Feeding: My In-Laws Just Took Away a Huge Parental Moment From Me

I feel like they should have discussed this with me first.

Teenage boy leaning on a car.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Yellow Dog Productions/The Image Bank via Getty Images.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I am the stepmom of an awesome guy who is about to turn 16. I have been in his life for the past 10 years (his biological mother hasn’t been around since he was 4). I have a good relationship with his maternal grandparents—they’ve always welcomed me with open arms and encouraged my role in his life. But they’ve just made a huge decision that’s made me question my place.

I just discovered that they bought my stepson a car for his birthday without talking to my husband or me about it. We were looking forward to using this time as a teachable moment in saving money and working for the things you own, and we were going to match what he saved up to incentivize him. I feel like that opportunity has been taken away from us and that the purchase should have been discussed with us first. We didn’t even find out about it from his grandparents—we found out about it from our (very excited) son.

Even though I have a solid relationship with them, I feel like it may not be my place to confront them about it as his stepmom. I don’t want to sound ungrateful for their generosity but also feel like a boundary has been crossed. I’m not sure how to handle this. Please help!

— Stumped Stepmom

Dear S.S.,

Considering the amount of time in which you’ve been present in this child’s life, and the absence of his biological mom, I don’t think you should be worried about the mother/stepmother line much with regard to this situation.

You have every right to feel that a boundary was crossed, because it was. As one of the adults who is raising this child, you should have been consulted before his grandparents decided to buy him a car—and the same goes for your husband, who is the one who probably should be leading the conversation with the grandparents, because he’s the biological father and has known them longer. It’s important that they hear from the both of you that the two of you were a bit taken aback by this very grand gesture, and that while the kindness is appreciated, it has interrupted plans that you two made for your stepson. They should know that the two of you ought to be consulted about major purchases for your stepson in the future. You can have this conversation with your in-laws, you’d be 100 percent justified; it would just make a lot more sense for your husband to be the heavy here if you feel less comfortable.


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