Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My husband is the classic middle child the peacemaker often overlooked by his parents. Hes come to grips with where he falls in his family structure.
My problem is that this pattern seems to have extended to the next generation. Whenever we share exciting news about our son, my husbands parents always counter with something even more incredible that one of his cousins has done.
I grew up with a grandmother who greatly favored my cousins, and it was incredibly painful. I dont want my son to feel the same hurt. How do we bring up this touchy subject with my husbands parents?
Firmly, kindly and with concrete examples, but I dont have high hopes. Theyve been doing this for decades by now, and thats a big mountain for a few well-chosen words to climb. You can also:
Æ Limit your sons exposure to people who openly play favorites.
Æ Gently assert your concern on the spot. (Thats wonderful about Cousin lets give each his own moment in the sun, though, no?)
Æ Recognize that you and your husband turned out well in spite of the undercutting and not get too worked up about the situation.
Æ Recognize theres no such thing as a childhood without hurt, and make a calculated decision on how much you can or want to prevent, and how much you brush off as part of life.
Re: Overlooked: My mother was the least favored child, and my sisters and I were the least favored grandchildren. The good news is that I didnt realize this until I was an adult, because my parents took care to limit our exposure to Grandma and were very caring and nurturing. My mother, however, still has a large reservoir of resentment toward her mother. So, my two cents is to limit exposure to the grandparents, and do your best not to take this personally.
Well said, thanks.
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