Sunday 22 January 2017

Dear Patricia: Cut off from my grandson after I dismissed his mother's fears

Patricia Redlich

Published 05/09/2010 | 05:00

I'M in a real pickle. I have a 22-year-old son who married a girl nearly two years ago because she was pregnant. They lived with us for the first six months and then moved out on their own shortly before the baby was born. I have always been very close to my son. I thought our relationship was fine.

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I did a lot for him and his wife, and was a big part of the baby's life, or so I thought. My daughter-in-law is very spoiled and plays manipulative games with friends and other family members when she doesn't get her own way. She has done it with me a few times, and I've always given in because I love my son and I want to see the baby.

Recently, I went round to babysit my grandson and talked of how much fun we were going to have in the park and the baby pool. He's just over a year old. My daughter-in-law cringed, I looked at her and said "no-worries", assuring her that he was fine with me.

I raised six children and have eight grandchildren. I thought she was just having a mommy moment and believed that was the end of it. And the baby and I had a great day. Now I am banned from seeing him. You'd think I'd cut his legs off. I'm also banned from seeing my son. In fact, my son won't speak to me, my husband or his sisters. It's like we were dead to him.

I've tried apologising, writing letters, calling to their house. I get nothing. We were even excluded from a belated family party to celebrate my grandson's birthday. We were explicitly told not to come by my daughter-in-law. And while she was at it, she chewed me up and told me she would never forgive or forget what I'd done.

She also assured me I'd never see the baby again. My son didn't even call me. The nearest we got were the pictures my daughter-in-law posted on Facebook. I felt the breath come out of my soul.

I am so hurt. I miss my son. I did nothing wrong. I don't deserve this. Even her mother had a threatening tone when speaking to me, so I am sure my daughter-in-law has seriously embellished her story. I don't know what to do. I'm getting so depressed that I'm starting to feel it health-wise. I had heart surgery not long ago and don't need this. I pray, but can't sleep and can't concentrate. It's been over a month now.

A LET'S get this straight. You did do something wrong. You planned an itinerary for a one-year-old baby without consulting his mother. Worse, you knew she wasn't happy about it, patronisingly dismissed it as a "mommy" moment, and went ahead with your plans. Worse still, you took advantage of her inability to articulate her distress, her failure to stand up to you, her helplessness in the face of being caught off-guard. You bullied her.

It doesn't matter whether you've raised six kids, or are grandmother to eight more. That's decidedly beside the point. Your daughter-in-law is the child's mother. Her word goes when it comes to your grandson. It doesn't matter what you want, or what you think is right. It's down to her. It may even be as simple as her wanting to be the one to introduce her son to the baby pool. None of that is relevant. You bullied her and, yes, I'm repeating myself, because you need to hear it loud and clear.

I do understand that you didn't set out to be deliberately nasty that day. But you did display your agenda on your daughter-in-law in very clear terms, however unconsciously. You don't think much of her. You don't like her. You appease her when you think it's tactically necessary. Your interest is your son and grandson. And with all that in your head, you challenged her on a very fundamental issue. You dismissed her as a mother. You showed serious disrespect. Not a wise move.

I am not trying to beat you over the head. These things happen. The first step to mending fences is taking your punishment on the chin. When we transgress, we have to pay our dues, accept the consequences, allow the validity of the other person's anger. We also have to feel real remorse. Whatever your feelings for your daughter-in-law, she didn't deserve to be dismissed as a mother. I am sure this didn't just anger her. It frightened her. A very mature and self-assured person might have felt able to confront you -- although I'm not so sure. How does any woman teach her mother-in-law proper boundaries? Would the mother-in-law listen? Look at your response. You don't get it, even now.

Instead, you are hurt and upset and pulling a sickie. And that is a very, very bad idea. Your energy needs to be engaged in combating your current illness, rather than slipping into the sick role as a way out of your emotional dilemma. You will sleep and concentrate and get well if you humbly accept you were wrong, and then believe that it will come out all right. Because it will, if you behave wisely. Your son hasn't stopped loving you. He's just trying to handle a hard situation.

Leave things be for the moment. Then, say sometime before Christmas, you could write to your daughter-in-law and say you are truly sorry. Explain that you see what you did, that it was unacceptable, and ask her to forgive you. A letter or email is better than the spoken word. It allows you to say what you need to say, and in the right tone.

Don't push for an immediate answer. Be patient. She has lots of reasons for wanting you out of her hair -- not least because she understands you don't like her.

Meantime, do your emotional homework. This woman is your son's wife. You would think less of him if he failed to stand by her. He is now a husband first and a son second, which is the way it should be. You must accept her status, even if she's not your cup of tea. Even more than that, every human being deserves to be treated with respect.

You get the picture. Now go take care of yourself. Loving our sons makes us want to be better human beings. And it will be fine.

Sunday Independent

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