Dear Annie: My three children are all grown and married and are in their early to mid-30s. They have three children among them, ages 14 years, 10 years and 1 month.
When I first got married, many years ago, my parents hounded me constantly about when I was going to make them grandparents. Sadly, after I had my three children, they were “too busy” for my children, just as they had been “too busy” for my siblings and me. My mother was notorious for making “dates” with my kids that she didn’t keep. Later, my parents did do a lot with my youngest child, but not with the other two, who were teenagers by then. This caused a lot of hurt feelings.
Now that I am a grandmother, anytime we have holiday and birthday gatherings (which are the only times we all get together), I feel as if my mother takes over my children and grandchildren— as if she were their mother and grandmother. She even calls herself “Grandma-Grandma”! She acts as if I am not even there. When she’s talking to my daughters and I try to join in the conversation, I am ignored, even though I’m careful not to interrupt. This happens every time.
At my child’s birthday party this week, I had to wait my turn to hold my 1-month-old baby granddaughter. My mother brought her to me telling me that I shouldn’t walk while holding her. Then she stood over me the entire three minutes I got to hold her. I told my daughter that I wanted a picture of me holding the baby, as I hadn’t gotten one yet. So one of my kids took one, and yes, my mother even stood right over me with her face over my shoulder when the photo was taken, and then she promptly took my granddaughter back from me.
What can I do about this? It’s impossible to say anything to my mother because she has an unreasonable temper. But this is my grandchild! My mom is very close to my youngest child and my brother’s youngest child and has spent a great deal of time with them their entire lives, so it’s not that she hasn’t gotten to be a grandmother.
I’m not sure you can help me, but could you at least tell me that she is overstepping her boundaries and I have a right to feel hurt? — Just Wanting to Be Grandma to My Grandchildren
Dear Just: Of course you have a right to feel hurt. But simply sitting with those hurt feelings does nothing for you or your relationship with your family. If talking to your mother about how you feel isn’t a realistic option because she has a volatile temper, then talk to your children. They can help include you in conversations, ensure you have enough time holding the grandchildren and serve as moderators in general.
Even if your mother is on your last nerve, it’s rare and wonderful that four generations get to spend time together, so count it as a blessing.
Dear Annie: In response to “Crybaby,” who is embarrassed by how easily she cries, I’d like to say that I always keep a pack of gum nearby. Even a little piece of gum helps me stay calm in emotional situations. I had another woman give me this tip at work when I first started my career, and I have been forever grateful. Just use half a stick, and don’t chomp on it. That way, you don’t look unprofessional. I have shared this tip many times with women when they have to talk to their bosses, and it has helped them. — Under Control
Dear Under: I love hearing such simple, practical tips from readers. Thank you.