Hax: Grandparents are playing favorites

The Washington PostOctober 17, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My husband is the classic middle child — the peacemaker often overlooked by his parents. He’s 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 husband’s 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 don’t want my son to feel the same hurt. How do we bring up this touchy subject with my husband’s parents?

OVERLOOKED

Firmly, kindly and with concrete examples, but I don’t have high hopes. They’ve been doing this for decades by now, and that’s a big mountain for a few well-chosen words to climb. You can also:

Æ Limit your son’s exposure to people who openly play favorites.

Æ Gently assert your concern on the spot. (“That’s wonderful about Cousin — let’s 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 there’s 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 didn’t 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.

ANONYMOUS

Well said, thanks.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service