Grandma has issues, but is cutting her off the best thing to do?
DEAR ANNIE: When I was growing up, we were all afraid of my mother. My own kids recently confessed that when they were little they were always afraid of Grandma because they never knew when she would completely lose it and take it out on them.
My mother seldom takes any interest in my kids except to find fault. When my teenage daughter recently went through a severe depression, I told Mom, thinking she might be understanding because my father committed suicide. Instead, she gave me a long lecture about all the things my husband and I were doing wrong. I told her she was cruel and hung up. I thought she might apologize, but she never did.
My husband and I moved across the country several years ago, but we still visit and stay at Mom’s house several times a year. We didn’t invite her to my children’s high school and college graduations because the kids said they’d rather not have Grandma attend. Because we already live so far away, I’m tempted to put an end to whatever connection we have. I think that would be best for my children and also for me. We have so many sentimental notions about grandmothers. I kept hoping mine would act like one of those, but it has taken me this long to see that she is not capable of it.
Here’s the problem: I worry that my youngest child, who doesn’t know her grandmother that well, will think we deprived her of this relationship. My mother has shown more tolerance toward my youngest, saying this child is the only one who likes her. Should I keep in touch for my daughter’s sake? I feel terrible knowing that I was in complete denial about her when the older two were growing up. What if my mother can’t behave any better toward this one?
— Worried Daughter
Dear Worried: You live across the country, so this does not have to be an all-ornothing solution. It’s possible your mother will have a better relationship with your youngest child, although you’ll need to keep an eye on it. Instead of cutting her off entirely, we suggest you try shortening your visits and having fewer of them. Once a year for three or four days is sufficient, and if possible, stay in a hotel.
Mom sounds as though she could benefit from therapy, but you cannot force her to do that. You can, however, help your children understand that Grandma has issues of her own and sometimes doesn’t behave appropriately. Your kids are old enough to learn how to cope with her. And by the way, if your father committed suicide and your daughter suffers from depression, we hope you have spoken to her doctor about a possible genetic link.