Part-Time Grandkids

22 Jan

Dear LetterBalm: Our son and his wife have been married for more than 10 years with three young children we idolize. Over the years, our daughter-in-law has clashed with us frequently. During those bouts, she cuts off all contact and refuses to speak to us or allow us to see the grandkids. We don’t even know why she gets angry. She treats our other son and his family the same way. We don’t want to put our son in the middle, so we haven’t challenged her. (He walks on eggs around her.) When she relents, she lets us spend an hour with the grandchildren every couple of weeks – our son drops them off and picks them up. The children are old enough to ask questions. They miss us and want to know why we don’t see them so much. What can we say to them?

–M.I.A. Grandparents

With a Momzilla like this, it’s amazing the kids even get to ask questions. Unfortunately, your daughter-in-law is a very troubled woman. She may be bipolar or have an emotional disorder, physical condition or chemical imbalance that has gone untreated. She also may have depression or serious self-esteem issues. Ms. L.B. thinks it’s likely she’s had a wretched upbringing. A lot of possibilities. If your son can’t convince his wife to get a full physical workup and engage a therapist, there isn’t much you can do. You certainly can’t let your hair down and pump the kids for information because their mother will grill them on every minute of their visits with you. So, continue to be warm and welcoming and make that occasional hour count. Stick to benign statements like these:

  • We love you and your mom and dad very much and are so happy to see you when you come to our house. We have fun, don’t we?
  • Maybe we don’t see you for long visits, and we miss you a lot, but you’re so special that even a short time together makes us very happy.
  • Your grandma has baked her special double-chocolate cookies that you love so much. Why don’t you take some home for your parents?
  • We don’t see you very much, but we want you to know it’s not because of you. It’s for grown-up reasons. We’re a family and you’ll always be our special grandchildren.
  • Even if we don’t see you very much, you’re always in our hearts. We’re a family, and we love all of you very much.
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