The Mercury News Weekend
Cousins get all of the attention
DEAR AMY >> I have cousins who receive almost all of the attention from our grandparents.
One cousin is at an Ivy League school right now (on scholarship for football). He also has an internship with a firm on Wall Street.
The other is a highlyrated high school basketball player.
I haven't been blessed with those talents athletically, but I am making my own path to success.
I am in college, and I will be graduating in May. Then, I will go to graduate school.
No matter what I do, though, I never seem to receive the same level of attention and respect as my cousins do.
My grandparents might talk about my successes for a few minutes, but then move on and talk about my cousins for the rest of the time.
I am happy for my cousins and want them to be successful, but it hurts me knowing it feels like my accomplishments and successes are going underappreciated.
This has happened my entire life.
How do I tell my grandparents this without causing heated arguments? — Underappreciated
DEAR UNDERAPPRECIATED >>
If you fear that expressing your sincere feelings will bring on a heated argument, then I'd say that the issue with your grandparents is deeper and more complicated than an attention imbalance.
Parents oftentimes actively promote closeness between their children and grandparents, starting very early in life. Your parents might have been more lowkey than your cousins' parents.
These cousins seem to be succeeding in ways that we in Western culture latch onto. Excelling in sports and heading to Ivy League schools will provide a shorthand for obvious “success” in the sometimes superficial and obvious ways that some parents and grandparents seem to covet and value.
If you want to let your grandparents know how this affects you, you can express your feelings — using “I statements”: “I know that my cousins are doing well, but I'm doing really well, too. I feel like I'm often in their shadow when it comes to you. It would mean a lot to me if you understood that. Your good opinion means a lot to me.”
A few statements like this should open the door. I hope that your grandparents choose to walk through it.
Remember, though, that the most important approval you will ever receive is that which you give to yourself. Keep going on your own path to success.
DEAR AMY >> My wife and I had a great laugh over “Baffled,” the man who shaved his beard off and then wondered what it meant when his wife didn't notice.
I have had various beards and goatees over most of the 50 years of our marriage.
Every spring, I perform my annual “clean shave.” It has become a running joke how long it takes my wife and/or kids to notice.
I think the record for not noticing was about a week.