Dear Annie: Loving grandmother kept at arm’s length
Dear Annie: I’m very frustrated, and I would like your opinion, please.
My daughter-in-law doesn’t seem to realize that some of the things she does really hurt me. I’ve always been there for my son and daughter-in-law. I try very hard to be a good mother-in-law. I never interfere. I never show up without calling, and I hardly ever ask them for help because I know how busy they are.
I have changed my plans and moved my work schedule around so I could baby-sit, take my grandchild to some activities or watch their house and pets while they’ve gone away (which I’ve been happy to do because it makes their lives easier).
Her mom is not reliable and not allowed to baby-sit because she can’t be trusted. I’m asked to do most things, which I don’t mind, but I feel as though her mother gets invited to so much, whereas I have to ask. She just shows up at their house anytime and sleeps over for every holiday, and that seems to be OK with them.
I try to make time for my grandchild, but it seems that unless I’m baby-sitting, I don’t get the same respect and leniency as the other grandmother. I’m often told they need family time when I ask to be more involved, which I keep to a minimum so as not to intrude. On one very special occasion, her mother knew what I was buying for my grandchild (which was supposed to be sentimental between my grandchild and me) and basically bought the same thing and gave it to her first. My daughter-in-law was aware of the gift I had gotten and how excited I was but allowed it all to happen anyway.
Her mother is included in getting my grandchild ready for special events. Yet I’m told things will be too hectic. I can’t say anything because my daughter-in-law has a short fuse at times, and my son doesn’t get involved.
I’m just afraid I’m losing the closeness that I had with my grandchild, and I’m really at a loss as to what to do next. Please help. — Left Out in California
Dear Left Out: It’s time to stop bending over backward for them and start standing up for yourself. Flexibility and generosity are great attributes -- but without communication, they’re a recipe for resentment.
Talk to your son about how you’re feeling. Let him know that you respect their need for space and family time but you don’t want the only time you see them to be when they’re dropping off your granddaughter to be baby-sat. And you shouldn’t only get to see your granddaughter when you’re baby-sitting her. Express your desire to be there for special events. And set personal boundaries, such as deciding not to rearrange your work schedule just so you can baby-sit.
Whatever happens, know that their deferral to her mother is most likely a matter not of playing favorites but of avoiding fights. It sounds as though she has some serious personality issues that they’re just trying to manage.
Dear Annie: I would like to add to your advice to “True Lies.” You said he “may be confusing criticism with honesty” when giving advice. To this, I would add the Buddha’s take on telling the unvarnished truth. He observed that telling the truth only is not enough. He said that in order for your input to be effective, it must be both kind and true. Kindness works. — Dr. Stewart A. Denenberg
Dear Dr. Denenberg: True wisdom. Thank you for sharing.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.