What you do is have the kind of celebration and give the gift you think is appropriate without regard to what your husband’s ex is doing. That also means you don’t respond to her patronizing and gloating. You just smile and say, “Samantha, I’m sure little Joshua is going to love his Nerf Vortex Nitron Blaster and his WWE Colossal Crashdown Arena.” Then you talk to your husband and say you understand he may feel guilty that he can’t shower his kids with the same extravagance as his ex. But living within your means and being grateful for what you have is an important lesson you and your husband should be teaching your kids. It's also one that will benefit them more than having a birthday celebration to rival that of Kim Jong-un. If Joshua says something about not getting the same birthday gala at your house as at his mother’s, tell him that every family celebrates their own way. Don’t worry about your children eventually noticing the disparity—they will come to understand that Joshua has a different mother, and all that entails. The confidence you convey in your own choices as a mother will benefit your entire family.
A couple of months ago you answered my letter asking for advice regarding a situation involving my hateful mother-in-law, whom I suspected of tainting my food or drink at family functions at her home. You had suggested swapping plates with my husband to see if my mother-in-law would react. However, as you noted, that would have required bringing my husband into my confidence. I did not feel it was wise to do that, because he already didn't believe that his mother treated me badly. But the next function was at Easter. She provided a traditional prime rib dinner, set up buffet style, and I could see no way that could be problematic. However, when we arrived at her home, the dinner table was set with place cards and in front of each was a ramekin of horseradish sauce and a small pitcher of au jus. When nobody was looking, I switched the ramekin and pitcher between my husband's place and mine. After my husband and I returned home, he became wracked with diarrhea, but I was not ill at all. In the morning I told him that I had switched the horseradish and au jus. He looked at me with such hatred in his eyes that I knew he had known all along what his mother was up to. His only words were to accuse me of poisoning him! I quickly packed a couple of bags and raced out of there. I have hired a divorce lawyer and I won't be looking back. Thank you and your commenters for your advice and concern.
—Alive To Tell the Story
I so appreciate your giving us this chilling, stomach-turning update. Thank goodness you got out before your mother-in-law’s condiments turned lethal. When you confer with your divorce attorney, do ask about the possibility of criminal charges. And Readers, on this coming Mother’s Day, if your mother thinks you’re beautiful just the way you are, and your mother-in-law is not trying to kill you, happily lift a glass of (unpoisoned) champagne and celebrate the women in your life.
More Dear Prudence Columns
“A Minor Flaw: I'm dating a man who was charged with soliciting a teen for sex; I wish I'd never discovered this!” Posted July 28, 2011.
“Cat Got Your Tongue?: A woman involved in the mysterious disappearance of a feline doesn't know whether to cover up or confess.” Posted July 21, 2011.
“Almost Famous: My rock-star ex wants his sexy photos back. Should I relent or play hardball?” Posted July 14, 2011.
“An Innocent Man: An ex-girlfriend falsely claimed I raped her. How do I reveal this hurtful incident to future love interests?” Posted July 7, 2011.
More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts
“Confronting the Queen Bees: Dear Prudence advises a teen who longs to stand up to her cruel classmates but fears retaliation—in a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.” Posted July 25, 2011.
“Bozo Boyfriend's Nose-Job Nightmare: Dear Prudence advises a man who convinced his girlfriend to have plastic surgery that left her disfigured.” Posted July 18, 2011.
“Should a Former Hottie Burn the Evidence?: Dear Prudence advises a woman whose ex-husband took nudie pictures of her and still has them—during a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.” Posted July 11, 2011.
“Boyfriend Is Thick as a Brick: Dear Prudence advises a woman who is reluctant to wed her dim-bulb suitor—during a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.” Posted July 5, 2011.