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Reality Check: Stand Up to Mom-in-Law?

Q. We've chosen a church for our baby's baptism that my mother-in-law won't be happy with and may even refuse to attend. If my husband breaks the news, he'll cave in to her demands. Should I tackle her?

A. Hopefully no one will have to actually tackle Grandma to get her to be reasonable. Be gentle but firm: The key point you'll need to communicate is that your mother-in-law's presence at your son's baptism is important to you, your husband, and your baby boy, who in time will look at photos and videos of the event and ask why Grandma wasn't there, if she wasn't.

Of course, there's an implied threat in this: that in the years to come, Grandma's behavior will seem awfully petty and disappointing even to her own grandchild.

When you do tell your mother-in-law your plans for your son's baptism, don't make it seem as if the particulars of the event are open for discussion  -- meaning, don't use defensive prefacing. Call or drop by with your husband so you can tell her together. Keep it short and sweet, let her know the place, day, and time, and that you're looking forward to having the whole family there. Then ask her to bring her famous macaroni salad (or whatever dish you all know everyone loves her to make) for lunch at your home afterward. Sure, flattery goes a long way, but more important, a little request like this may remind her that, in the end, you are a family, and families are supposed to stick together despite their differences.

And if your approach and appeal aren't enough and she presses you to discuss the particular church you've picked? In that case, just try making it clear to her that, as the parents, it is your responsibility to choose a place of worship that best suits your beliefs, and you respect the fact that she did the same when she was a new parent.