You are here

Stop offering ourselves up for mistreatment?... - Advice columnist on rude adults

Pilgrim Soul's picture

I thought this was an interesting take on what to do when adults ( Son and DIL, who behave more like SS and SDIL) are rude to the loving grandmother, but she wants to see the grandkid anyway. Think of their rudeness as an obstacle, a traffic jam, says Carolyn Hax.
I am not sure i could do that.


Dear Carolyn: I need help handling my son and his wife, so I can keep my dignity and still see my grandchild.

Son and Wife are in their mid-40s, building a successful law firm and live about 45 minutes away by car. I see them once or twice a month, mainly because I pick up my granddaughter to spend time with her, otherwise there would be much less contact. Son and Wife encourage my contact with their child, it gives them a break, of course.

My problem is that Son and Wife do not find it necessary to return my e-mails or phone calls, or other common courtesies. For example, I have e-mailed asking if Granddaughter may go to a certain event. If the answer is no, they simply will not respond. I e-mail asking them if I left my camera case at their house, I receive no response. I bought Granddaughter a Halloween costume, with her mother’s knowledge and approval. When I came to bring it to her on Halloween, she was already wearing another costume.

How do I handle this situation and keep my granddaughter and my self-respect? —

Grandma Almost Ready to Give Up


I get it, I do. It is a healthy reflex, when someone mistreats us, to stop offering ourselves up for mistreatment.

But that reflex ill serves us when access to children or grandchildren is involved. You want to protect yourself and punish this couple by denying them your compliant presence, but we both know they’ll barely flinch — while you’ll suffer greatly in denying yourself time with the child.

The solution that won’t cost you so dearly, if you can do it without reservation, is to untie your dignity from the process of seeing the girl.

Try this: If you routinely hit traffic as you drove to see your granddaughter, then it would be an obstacle, but you’d never take it personally.

If you were hit by storms, or your car struggled with the hills, or your lower back got achy, then you would factor those obstacles into your decision to go, but would also never think to take them personally or regard them as threats to your pride.

The way you describe your son and his wife, they’re at the most demanding point in their careers. Not that that’s an excuse but, for our purposes, it’s just a values-neutral* fact. And so a byproduct of their hard-charging ways is that common courtesies are lying dazed in a ditch wondering what hit them. I highly doubt it’s just with you.

And so, for the purpose of nurturing your bond with your grandchild, I don’t think your dignity will mind if you treat her parents’ rudeness merely as the traffic you must endure to see her. Aggravating but impersonal, and ultimately irrelevant to your cause. I could argue that the parents’ rudeness is a reason not to give up, to provide the loving presence of someone who isn’t in a rush.

Surely you want a relationship with your son, too, and have bruised feelings there, but I urge you to keep those out of the grandchild equation.

For what it’s worth, there’s probably a mode of communication Son and Wife prefer and therefore respond to better. Ask them. Text, perhaps? Or directly with Granddaughter’s caregiver, for cases and costumes and such?

*Of course rudeness is not values-neutral overall; the ignored communications are a face-slap. The parents’ values are simply not relevant to the grandparent-grandchild bond — that is, unless an emotional adult reflexively makes them so.

whatamess's picture

This is very good advice, yet I think it would be hard, if not impractical, to do in a lot of our situations. This one has a lot less pointed behaviors whereas a lot of what we deal with IS personal!

Pilgrim Soul's picture

Hear, hear! They are adults in name only. Their relationships are all about them. I have seen my OSD23 "fire" her BF of 3 years presumably for failing to make her feel as special as she needs to feel in order to get out of bed every day! For crying out loud, the guy was sweet, smart, supportive to the point where he followed her to the end of the world (literally). I loved having him around, he was much nicer and much more appreciative than the 3 skids taken together. She then "fired" her dad this year for similar reasons - you just do not know me at all... you do not understand how special i am... how can you hope to be in my life.

Life will take her down a peg or two... can't wait to see that happen.

Justme54's picture

WOW!! Just when you think nothing will never comes the Karma bus! And how sweet it is.

SugarSpice's picture

great post. this should be a manifesto of disengaging. i have a bil who only calls when he needs money.