Bugging out: Holiday stay sparks tension

Dear Carolyn:     

Both of our sons came home for Thanksgiving. We put up our older son and his family in a hotel and had our younger son, his new (second) wife and their baby stay in our guest room.     

How I wish I had switched! On Friday morning, the new wife said she had bug bites. I said that twice in the past I had bites also and thought they were from bedbugs. We had done some Internet searching and gone to my dermatologist and discovered bedbugs are not medically dangerous and not the result of uncleanliness. We gave her hydrocortisone and sympathized with her.     

That evening, they moved into the hotel. Our son said his wife was absolutely adamant that they get out of our home. She has the reputation of being a "strong" woman, and she earns a very high income, so she is able always to get her way.      My husband and I felt embarrassed and disappointed that she reacted that way, but we are aware that a first-time, 45-year-old mother probably had mother-bear hormones at play, and we don't blame our son too much for giving in to her demands.     

But what did that accomplish? She washed everything they brought in hot water, as did I with everything downstairs. My husband thinks she threw away their suitcases. We will buy plastic cases for the bed, but what else can we do?     

Our relationship with her is significantly impaired, and she wants me to tell her she did the right thing. I think she overreacted. Does this portend more trouble down the road?—Anonymous         

Expect more trouble, but not just because of your daughter-in-law.     

Your contempt for her is breathtaking. Look at your modifiers: "new (second)" wife, "absolutely" adamant, "very" high income, "always" get her way, "first-time, 45-year-old" mother.     

Maybe you preferred Wife 1, or someone 29 and "traditional." But, oh well! You got a bride with money, mileage and professional chops. Unless she's oblivious, your contempt registered— and no doubt escalated the bug drama. Either find a way to like her, find a way to respect her, or get used to serious tension.     

While you're at it, summon a little respect for the position you put this family in. Bedbugs may not be "medically dangerous," but they're a repulsive, blood-sucking, time-sucking nuisance. I hit the Internet, too, and bet she did the same.     

Her "overreactions" populate lists of recommended precautions in the event of exposure. And it's still possible the family brought home some skeevy hitchhikers despite their precautions, which could mean costly and disruptive professional pest control.     

I know you meant no harm. But now you're blaming her for the fallout, and you're making that mistake with ill will and forethought.     

Instead: Call your son; admit you were cavalier about the possible infestation; apologize for exposing them to a headache they don't need, especially not with a baby; offer to pay for any treatment their home may need; and get your home inspected by a reputable specialist. You can't expect his wife to drop her dukes until you drop your own.          

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.          
(c) 2013, Washington Post Writers Group
     

6 comments

What a cavalier and moronic response from this ditsy "advice columnist". Who knows if what bit her tender tush were really bedbugs or just everyday "Skeeters".
I would say that these people after writing their letter to this unsympathetic harpy can least be thankful for one thing. They now have the assurance that this high maintenance 45 year old first time mother will never darken their door and that perhaps, after the divorce, their son may be able to come for a nice visit with them. Give it a few years. It'll happen: one doesn't become a first time mother at 45 without a whole litany of self indulgent Karma as baggage.
I love the cartoon. It speaks volumes.
The woman treated her in laws as though they were dirtbags. Now they know the character of the person their son had the misfortune to hook up with.

That mother-in-law is an idiot on so many scores. First, on every snarky thing she says. Second, because she should have told the daughter-in-law it was spiders, not bedbugs. Tell someone it might be bedbugs, and of course, they will go running. Not medically dangerous? Are you kidding me? Then why did Nike close its flagship store in NYC for this problem? Why was the entire eastern seaboard freaking out during that horrible, bug-ridden season? I think this moron-in-law was just upset that this obviously more successful and more intelligent woman did not pay for her and the father-in-law to stay in a hotel also.

Awful MIL. I can't believe anyone thinks it's okay to just knowingly keep bed bugs in a house, but I guess disgusting people like that are why we have such a bed bug problem. The contempt this MIL has is radiating off the computer screen. If she wants to have a relationship with her son and grandchild, she should probably be nicer and have a less infested home.

You say: "she wants me to tell her she did the right thing."

So tell her she did the right thing, and that if you had been in her shoes, you'd have done the same.

End of story.

What kind of moron knowingly puts guests in a room with bedbugs? I can only imagine what the rest of the house was like. Cobwebs? Spiders in the corners? Fleas from the dog.

May not have been bedbugs at all, but the psychosomatic reactivity of a habitual control freak now out of her control zone.