How can I make my stepmom stop bragging about me?
January 24, 2007 7:30 PM   Subscribe

Should I tell my stepmother to stop bragging about me?

I got accepted early to my first choice college, which happens to be an Ivy League school. Since then, my stepmother has been going around apparently telling everyone she knows about this great "achievement" of mine. I know this because half the conversations I've had with her lately have consisted of "Oh, *insert name of acquaintance, usually someone I've never met* has a *insert relative* who graduated from/attends the same Ivy League college as me. This has been driving me crazy for several reasons:
If I had been accepted to the less prestigious state school that was my second choice, I doubt she would have told everyone and his dog about it. She's only doing this because I was accepted to such a well known school, which totally overlooks the amount of time and research I put into picking this particular school as my first choice and furthers the notion that an expensive education is a superior one. In a similar vein, she has absolutely no interest in my plans for a major. She really only seems interested in the fact that the school I'm going to is really famous.
I feel like she's using me to improve her own social standing in some twisted way. If I've met any of the people she's telling, it was only very briefly and definitely not for long enough for them to develop any interest in my plans for the future. I can't think of any reason why she would be telling these people about me, besides to make herself look good.
This isn't her accomplishment to brag about. I would be a little less bothered if she were one of my parents, who raised me properly and provided me with good DNA, but she contributed absolutely nothing to my application. I've never witnessed any of these conversations, but I'm sure she's found some way to take credit for my hard work and good luck.
So, what do you think? Am I justified in being annoyed with my stepmother for this, or does it seem like I'm just looking for an excuse for a disagreement? Is it worth the risk of irritating her (and consequently my dad) to get her to stop? If I do decide to call her on it, what can I say besides shouting "YOU'RE NOT MY REAL MOM! YOU DON'T GET TO BRAG ABOUT ME!" and running to my room and slamming the door?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Am I justified in being annoyed with my stepmother for this, or does it seem like I'm just looking for an excuse for a disagreement?

The latter. There is a strong undercurrent of resentment in your post that does not seem warranted by the immediate situation. If you don't know the people she's talking to and what she's saying isn't negative, what's the big deal?
posted by Urban Hermit at 7:38 PM on January 24, 2007

Am I justified in being annoyed with my stepmother for this, or does it seem like I'm just looking for an excuse for a disagreement?

The latter.

Is it worth the risk of irritating her (and consequently my dad) to get her to stop?

No, it is not.

She's proud of your accomplishment, and you're mad that she isn't proud for the reasons you'd like? You just need to breathe a deep breath and hold your tongue. Or you could try to get her interested in the things you're excited about the school- the research, the libraries, whatever. Maybe she's not aware of the things you're looking forward to learning.

Oh, and the names she's dropping? PICK THEM UP. Networking works, my friend. It's good to have friends in high places. It wouldn't kill you to have coffee or lunch or whatever with so-and-so's niece, if she's trying to set you up with that sort of thing.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:38 PM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Part of being an adult is becoming aware of the foibles and limitations of other adults, and learning what to do about them. Since you're asking, in this case the right thing to do is nothing.

This isn't her accomplishment to brag about. I feel like she's using me to improve her own social standing in some twisted way.

You're right. However, you'd be wrong to assume that anyone else she talks to couldn't figure this out for themselves. Let her dig her own hole.

Besides, in the grand scheme of things it's almost never a bad idea to let others share in your successes. You have a stepmother; but at some point in the not too distant future that relationship will be changing. Would you rather have a proud friend and an ally? Or a nasty bitter enemy who recalls the way you rudely checked her and who has the ear of your father?

I've done it both ways in my life - I, too, went to a fancy Ivy League school - and I can tell you that the former is infinitely preferable.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:43 PM on January 24, 2007

I agree with TPS about the networking.

After I was accepted at an Ivy League school, my mother often came home a bit bewildered that all the mothers in the neighborhood had congratulated her for my achievement. She said it was my accomplishment, not hers. Which would lead me to believe that this sort of "mother's rights" bragging is pretty normal, even if it is a bit cringe-inducing. See if you can just let it go.
posted by occhiblu at 7:43 PM on January 24, 2007

I understand what you mean, although I have a different situation. Years ago when my career first started to take off, some members of my family started bragging about me & over complimenting me in a way that I couldn't stand. It really ticked me off because these people were nowhere to be found when I needed support earlier, but after I accomplished things they were the first to cling to them & say "We always knew you could do it." I'll admit it, I wanted to scream "Well, so where the Hell were you when I needed to hear that?"

What I learned was that the best possible reaction is to just calm down and learn to respectfully accept compliments even when you really don't want to. Bitterness only hurts you. You can't control other people, you can only control how you respond to what they do. So take a deep breath, smile, and be gracious. Quietly accept the good words (that you no doubt do deserve), and it will make you look much better as a person than a screaming temper tantrum will. Plus, if someone IS trying to pick a fight with you, the most infuriating thing you can do is to be super nice to them in return & not take the bait.

If she's walking around bragging as much as you say, I guarantee you that she's probably getting on the nerves of the people she's trying to impress, so don't worry about her. Don't take any bait for arguments, just accept that you kick ass and go about making your future life a great one that people want to be proud of you for. Concentrate on the good in your life... for your own sake.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:51 PM on January 24, 2007

I went through a very similar situation with my stepmother. When I graduated college, she went around bragging "Sass graduated with top marks from ______, I'm so glad I advised her to do a double major, it was costly for us but worth it."

When I heard she was doing this, I blew a gasket, because a) she didn't ever ask me about how college was, let alone give me advice on my major, b) she did not pay one dime towards my tuition, and actually convinced my father NOT to help me out, and c) she arrived to my graduation late and left 2 minutes before they handed me my diploma.

In the end though, I knew, KNEW that while she sucks and she's not my mom and [insert a half hour of ranting angst here] - it wasn't worth arguing over. It wasn't worth losing my father over.

Pick your battles and wait for something truly important. Better she brag about you and possibly hook you up with some alumni connections who can help you get internships, etc., than to sit and stew and blow up over something you can't change.
posted by SassHat at 7:54 PM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

You're justifiably irritated, but there's not really anything you can do to get her to stop.
posted by oaf at 8:05 PM on January 24, 2007

My son felt the same way (He goes to the Air Force Academy.) Some of it was my gushing, most of it was his grandmother's.

From the viewpoint of a mom, you need to realize that we really are proud of your accomplishment. And getting accepted to a good school IS an accomplishment. Sometimes we gush without meaning to (I have learned to tone it down for him) but most of the time we parents are just tickled for your good news and want to share it.

(I'm a new grandma and I pull out pics at the drop of a hat. It's kinda the same thing.)

Please try to relax and enjoy it. Mentally roll your eyes at her if you must, but I recommend you simply having a sense of humor about it all. But if you really are having a hard time with this, it's okay to pull her aside and gently ask her to tone it down a little.
posted by konolia at 8:19 PM on January 24, 2007

When I got into an Ivy League, everyone was shocked. All the people who told me not to get my hopes up (i.e. they didn't support me through the application process...this included my college advisor at school) all of a sudden were patting me on the back (and including my acceptance in my high school's "our college advisors are amazing" pamphlet). Needless to say, I was peeved. However, I soon began ignoring them, and just looking forward to the next four years of my life,
Your stepmom may just be proud that she happens to exist in your life. My mom used to go on and on about a friend's kid that got into Harvard. For some odd reason, the ancient eight cause this kind of verbal diarrhea. The glowing praise was annoying and awkward for me, but it starts to fade into background noise after a while. People still say, "OMG, you go to an Ivy?!?" but now all I hear is "blah blah blah".

For the record: I only considered public schools other than my current school. I didn't even know my top choice was an Ivy until the end of Junior year. I just wanted a kick ass program in my career of choice. Good luck my (future) Ivy compatriot!
posted by nursegracer at 8:43 PM on January 24, 2007

Take the bait, spit out the hook. Always.
posted by Methylviolet at 9:19 PM on January 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

Perhaps it would be wise to remember that there are tens of thousands of kids who won't be going to university at all next year because their parents can't afford to send them and/or believe university is a stupid and expensive waste of time. There are even parents who would do everything humanly possible to prevent their kids from attending university, up to and including refusing to pay (even if they could), sabotaging their kids' sleep patterns so they fail their exams, and kicking their kids out on their 18th birthdays without anything but the clothes on their backs.

Don't take your good luck for granted, and don't sabotage your parents' good will by complaining about something any proud parent would do. Your stepmother is not saying "Look what a good person I am," she's saying "Look what my stepson did."

I also fail to see what if anything (other than your ego) is harmed by somebody bragging about you.
posted by watsondog at 9:32 PM on January 24, 2007

You can't possibly come out of any conflict over it not looking like a petty little turd. Even if your stepmom is the wicked witch of the west this conflict is basically you going "I'm sick of you saying such nice things about me blah blah blah" and your stepmom saying "I'm just proud of you boo hoo hoo" and guess who wins? Remember, even if her motives are self-serving, she doesn't see it that way.

Listen: what your question screams to me is "bad unresolved issues with stepmom!" Maybe something there needs to be dealt with but if so this is the wrong battle. You'll be leaving home soon and leaving a good portion of whatever problems are there at home. Now might be a real good time to start letting go of some things. Let this go.
posted by nanojath at 11:26 PM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

You have an opportunity at your age, and it's huge-- you can choose to grow up. You're obviously smart enough to understand that getting caught up in petty crap with your stepmother isn't healthy for you. On the other hand, you clearly have a strong emotional connection to your mother and resent the hell out of your stepmother, and it's awfully easy to create this kind of resentment out of what is, at its base, essentially innocuous bragging.

Here's a suggestion: when you start feeling these strong resentments, ask yourself whether whatever it is she's doing to piss you off actually affects you in any way. If yes, by all means approach her in a respecful way; i.e. "Dear Stepmom. I wish you wouldn't tell those scientists dad works with that I'm majoring in fashion design, because I really want to be a bio major and I am hoping to approach them for internships later on, and the implication that I'm not going to be a bio major will undermine my case down the road."

And if whatever is pissing you off doesn't affect you, except emotionally? Let it go. The fact is, nobody here really knows if your stepmother is a wicked evil bitch unjustly taking responsibility for your success, or a proud pseudo-mom who's just excited for you. But we do see your response, and its pettiness doesn't reflect well on you. Take the high road and learn to be an adult. You'll be miles away from most of your peers, and you'll avoid a lot of the early-adulthood BS that so many people go through with their parents/families.
posted by miss tea at 4:02 AM on January 25, 2007

I can see this somewhat from the other side; my wife has 4 half brothers, 3 of whom went to top-notch schools (Ivy League, service academy) and the fourth of whom is on track to best his older brothers academically. My wife and I both brag on her half brothers from time to time, not to be annoying name-droppers, but because they are good guys and we are genuinely proud of their accomplishments. You might be reading too much into your stepmother's behaviour; relax and enjoy your good fortune and let her bask in a little reflected glory. Even if she contributed nothing at all toward your achievement, she still sounds better than many step-parents I have seen; at least she is not derailing your education.
posted by TedW at 6:39 AM on January 25, 2007

Seriously, this screams, "your not my mother." Bragging about their kids acomplishments is a mom thing and your step-mom is doing it. I may well be reading too much into this, but I figured I'd lay it on the table.
posted by I Foody at 6:43 AM on January 25, 2007

It's annoying and embarassing, but it's also harmless, and giving her pleasure. Let her enjoy it. Consider it your secret gift to your step-mom for all her little life headaches.

I seriously doubt she's trying to burnish her reputation through you. She's most likely simply happy and proud for you and wants to tell everyone about it.
posted by xammerboy at 9:42 AM on January 25, 2007

I recommend the book "Letting Go: A Parents' Guide to Today's College Experience" to families all the time. From a section on acceptances:

Some families have become so emotionally involved in the admissions process that they take credit for the acceptance themselves. Their public comments ... can deflate even the most competent students's self-confidence.

I see this a lot, and actually do believe she's probably trying to burnish her reputation a little, in a way that's ultimately pretty harmless. Ivies are status brands, and she probably feels some pride in being associated with your school's brand. She's also likely very proud of you, and likely fielding a lot of questions about your college choice.

You're not petty because you find it frustrating--this is, after all, your experience, and one of the first major decisions you've been able to make for yourself. Having a polite conversation about your frustration might help her to see your side, but I don't know that it's ultimately worth it. I agree that getting her to see the Ivy in terms of its FIT for you--class size, facilities, faculty, activities, whatever--might help her to get over some of the brand-whorishness.
posted by hamster at 10:25 AM on January 25, 2007

I know plenty of people who wished their biological parents cared enough to even know the name of the university they're going to, much less brag about it. Be glad your stepmother cares.
posted by jeversol at 1:21 PM on January 25, 2007

My stepmom turned out to be one of my biggest advocates at a few critical times in my life. Now she is the only one of my (three) parents who is able to help me with career networking (not because my mom and dad don't care, but because she's the one who has these connections)--and she does, whenever she can, without my ever having to ask.

It could be much worse. She could be jealous of your accomplishments, could position you in opposition to her kids (if she has any), could try to undermine you by (as someone mentioned above) suggesting that your father not support you through school, etc.

Relationships with stepparents are always going to be fraught. Whenever you can, try to minimize that. This is one of those times that I think you can.
posted by CiaoMela at 1:43 PM on January 26, 2007

« Older My best friend: TV   |   Old west Mythbusters Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.