Every family is different, and that includes not only who “qualifies” as family, but also how that family dynamic works, from how they express love to how involved they are in each other’s lives.
But while we can understand that, seeing how differently a family can operate can still be startling, admitted the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
The Redditor, who has since deleted her account, was surprised when her essentially-estranged mother-in-law (MIL) showed up with a princess-themed birthday present, though her grandchild was actually a boy.
Realizing her MIL didn’t know her grandchild’s gender after being alive for an entire year, the Original Poster (OP) could not help but laugh at the situation.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for laughing when my Mother-in-Law (MIL) brought the wrong-gendered toy to my son’s first birthday?”
The OP wasn’t close to her mother-in-law.
“To be clear, I don’t care about gender roles.”
“My MIL does to an extent, and while she would be accepting of a teenager coming out as trans or non-binary, she is pretty into gender with younger kids and thinks that society is confusing kids with all the gender-neutral stuff.”
“We don’t see MIL very often. She just isn’t interested in our lives.”
“The only reason this annoys me is that she used to hound me for grandkids, and obviously that isn’t why I had kids, but she led me to believe we would be getting family support, and then she disappeared.”
“I don’t know why I am even surprised. She has always been a flake.”
Her MIL wasn’t close to her young son, Avery, either.
“We have a beautiful one-year-old boy, who we chose to name Avery, because we love it.”
“I know it is considered more of a girl’s name, but it was originally a boy’s name, and we really liked it.”
“MIL met him once at the hospital for about 15 minutes and hasn’t seen him since, except in passing one time at a party at her dad’s house, which to be fair, he was wearing yellow.”
But it became clear on Avery’s first birthday how little the MIL knew about him.
“MIL apparently thought he was a girl.”
“She showed up to his first birthday with a large pink fairy themed baby tent (IDK (I don’t know) what they are actually called, but a tent-like thing with multiple tunnels to crawl through) and a pair of diamond earrings, because she wanted to be ‘the first person to buy her diamonds, even if she can’t wear them yet.'”
“When MIL walked in, she looked h**la confused (we had a blue pirate theme).”
“MIL explained the mix-up to me and apologized for the gifts.”
“Her husband thought it was hilarious, and I couldn’t help it and began laughing.”
The MIL thought the OP was mocking her.
“She glared at me and said she would return the gifts, but I said no, it was fine. We aren’t super into gender anyway.”
“I took the tent (but not the earrings, she can return those due to the price) and put it on the table with the other gifts.”
“MIL told me not to and that I was being a child.”
“I told her it is a nice gift either way, and if she didn’t know her grandchild’s gender, that is on her.”
“I couldn’t help it and I laughed again but assured her it was fine and told her to go and enjoy the party.”
“She did get laughed at a lot by other people and had to admit that she is a very very uninvolved grandmother.”
The MIL was furious when she left.
“When she left, she told me that I did that on purpose to humiliate her and I shouldn’t have laughed ‘because what about her feelings,’ and that putting the gift on display was cruel.”
“She accused me of thinking that her life needs to revolve around my baby and stormed off.”
“My husband thought it was funny, but also that she might be touchy because she is very image-conscious, and her ex was there, who is a great (excellent) grandfather.”
“AITA for laughing?”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Uninvolved or not, some were shocked the MIL didn’t at least know her grandson’s gender.
“She…didn’t know the gender of her own grandchild? For a year? Or is this some passive-aggressive bulls**t because she thinks his name is too feminine?”
“Either way, holy s**t, you are so NTA.”
“I just don’t understand even talking on the phone, MIL ignored pronouns? Like how does a grandmother not know for a year?” – Spare-Article-396
“I guess I’m just floored by this. My husband is semi-estranged but he still knows the names and genders of his nieces and nephews. How hard is it to memorize like two facts about someone?” – MotherSupermarket532
“My first thought was that she was being passive-aggressive about the name/gender-neutral colors.”
“I have a very hard time believing she didn’t realize the correct gender. Usually, when a baby’s birth is announced, the gender is the first thing that is mentioned.” – baneline2
“But at some point, after the baby was born, and before she came to visit the new grandchild at the hospital, OP’s partner HAD to have communicated with his mother regarding the birth of the baby, obviously.”
“And I highly doubt that OP’s partner failed to mention to his mother the sex of the baby. He most likely did tell her that the baby is a boy/that she has a grandson.”
“She either didn’t pay attention, didn’t remember, or she should be evaluated for other signs of dementia.” – zesty_hootenany
“No, she thought she knew. Since she first heard the name she had always thought he was a girl and it seems due to her being not involved she simply never stumbled upon a situation that would correct her assumption.”
“I’m just adding this because there is a huge difference between not knowing something and knowing the wrong thing.”
“Most times when people are flabbergasted at someone acting on a totally wrong basis, they exasperatedly say, ‘Why did you do that?’ and the answer is always of the kind, ‘Because I thought it was like x, not like y.’ They hardly ever say, ‘I didn’t really know but also not care enough to ask and just went with what I hoped was the right thing.'”
“They are convinced they know something but they know wrong. And if you know something, you act based on it, especially if you have no ground to doubt your knowledge.”
“Grandma here totally f**ked up and it’s hilarious.”
“But she didn’t not know, she knew wrong, due to her wrong assumption, not listen or caring much, and it never got corrected due to her little involvement.” – MSAutarkia
Others thought the MIL needed to try a little harder if she didn’t want to be embarrassed.
“If she does embarrassing stuff, she should stand to it. Even if you aren’t involved, you don’t even talk with your own child in one year. And normally you hear something about the grandchild and a he or she pronoun. But of course, you must show interest and not make, ‘aha…hmn… aha… interesting….’ on the phone.”
“NTA. She deserved every laugh.” – EvilFinch
“Your MIL sounds like my father.”
“He only saw my oldest at parties and would hold him long enough to get a selfie, which he’d then send to whatever woman he was dating to show how great of a grandpa he was.”
“He never reached out to meet my youngest, who is over 2. I doubt he even knows my youngest kid’s name.” – babers1987
“She could have gotten a green or yellow or blue or red tent. Any color really. She decided to go headlong into the fairy Princess thing.”
“Avery is both a boy and girl name. She didn’t think to ask or bother to even converse about or see her grandchild for a year. That’s on her.” – EconomyVoice7358
“NTA. She got some natural consequences of being disengaged from her family and she didn’t like it. You handled the whole situation appropriately from my POV (Point of View).” – strywever
“No way she knew, she was embarrassed. She just assumed after not caring for a year and now she looks bad (for good reason) and is mad everyone knows she’s a bad grandparent.” – IBarricadeI
“You weren’t being cruel, and it is a funny situation to be in, regardless.”
“She clearly cares about her images and is taking it too hard, probably because she doesn’t want to be judged for not knowing, but that’s on her for not taking the initiative to find out what gender her grandchild is.”
“Maybe send her a message explaining that although the situation was funny, you still appreciate the gift and that it was nice having her there for little Avery.”
“However, if the gift was put on display as a malicious act to embarrass her, then it would be ESH.” – ShortSadSl*t
Once they got over the initial shock of the grandmother not even knowing the gender of her grandson for a whole year of his life, they sided with the OP and her reaction. It’s one of those situations where all you can really do is laugh or allow the moment to ruin your entire day, or in this case, the birthday party.
The grandmother could have handled her part with undeniably more grace, and maybe this will teach her to be slightly more involved in her grandson’s life, though hardly to the extent of “revolving her entire life” around the baby.