Grandma has is­sues, but is cut­ting her off the best thing to do?

The China Post - - TV & COMICS -

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.

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