Why can’t I see my grandchildren?

Posted on: 21 January 2008 by

Why are Olive’s son’s children virtual strangers?

Olive Writes:

I have four grandchildren.  My son has two boys and my daughter has a girl and a boy. The oldest is seven and the youngest seven months.  I get to see my daughter’s children at least once a week and often baby-sit for them but I hardly see my sons’ children at all, although they only live a couple of miles away.

I’ve asked my son’s wife why she won’t pop in with the boys, Eddy who is four and Phillip aged two, some afternoons but she says she’s busy with social arrangements.  I’ve begged my son to let me see them over the weekends when he’s free but he says he’s got other commitments.  I’ve offered to baby-sit for them but am told that they prefer to pay a babysitter so they’re not ‘tied’ down to time. 

I know her mother sees these children at least once a week, and is often called on to baby-sit or help if one of them is ill and I’d like to do the same yet she never calls on me, although I live much closer than she does.  I try to treat all the children the same and spend the same on all of them on their birthdays and at Christmas but I can’t make my son’s wife understand that I’d like access to ALL my grandchildren regularly, not only my daughter’s children. 

How can I persuade my son and his wife that I want to know and love them all equally?  I fear these children will grow up hardly knowing me or seeing me as a ‘second-rate‘ grandma.  What should I do?


Andy Advises:

The clue to your problem is very evident in your letter.  You refer constantly to ‘my son’s wife’, never ‘My daughter-in-law’.  You are jealous of her mother’s contact with your grandsons, but it would appear that you are only interested in this young woman as a ‘brood mare’ who has supplied you with two little grandsons.  And now you’ve got them, you want to be as close to them as you are to your daughter’s children.  Yet your letter shows little real warmth or regard for the woman who loves and cherishes your son and happens to be their mother.  She needs to be made to feel that she is more than your ‘son’s wife’.  She is a very important member of your family in her own right.  

I think you have to accept what you have already discovered for yourself, as a result of your own relationship with your own daughter.  It’s natural that daughters are closer to their mothers than any daughter-in-law and mother-in-law can ever be with few, rare exceptions.

You make no mention of how your daughter’s mother-in-law treats her?  Is she as close to her as she is to you?  Does she baby-sit for your daughter and son-in-law as often as she would like to?  How does she treat your daughter?  I bet you’d be the first to criticise her if she showed your daughter anything but the utmost respect. Just as your daughter needs her mother-in-laws approval, so this young woman is needy of your approval, and most of all your love and respect, as a person in her own right.

If you want love and respect, you have to show it.  Little wonder that your son is currently siding with his wife, apparently against you.  You can’t expect her to run round to your home at a whim or for your son to spare part of his precious family weekends to bring your grandchildren to your house.  How about you popping round to their place instead?  But always phone first. 

Why not invite her out for a shopping trip and ‘girly’ lunch together, just the two of you.  Don’t criticise her in any way or nag about contact with your grandsons.   Treat her as you would treat your own daughter. If she admires something on your trip, you could maybe offer to buy it as an ’extra’ Christmas present.  I’m sure there are times when you buy your daughter little extras.  Make her feel special and spoiled.

You could tell her, as a by the way, that if she and your son want to pop out one evening, and her mother isn’t available, you’d be more than happy to baby-sit for them at the last moment, especially as they are only round the corner, and make it clear you don‘t mind how late they get home.  

You could suggest that you’d love to take the boys to a film, or to McDonalds for a treat during the Christmas holidays to give her time to do some of her chores or even go sales shopping.  It takes time and patience to mend a relationship such as this one which has obviously broken down, but it can be done.  Work at it with care.  Show your daughter-in-law the same kind of consideration you show your daughter. 

Finally, don’t despair.  With families dispersed all over the world, there are many grandchildren who rarely get to see their grandparents on a regular basis these days, but that doesn’t diminish their love for one another.  Even if you don’t get to see these little boys as often as you would like to, they are growing up and I’m sure they will always know that you love them just as much as you love their cousins.


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