Carolyn Hax: Time with grandkid worth parents’ rudeness

November 24, 2013 

Carolyn: I need help in handling my son and his wife, so I can keep my dignity, and still see my grandchild.

Son and Wife are in their mid-40s, building a successful law firm, and live about 45 minutes away by car. I see them once or twice a month, mainly because I pick up my granddaughter to spend time with her; otherwise there would be much less contact. Son and Wife encourage my contact with their child; it gives them a break, of course.

My problem is that Son and Wife do not find it necessary to return my emails or phone calls or other common courtesies. For example, I have emailed asking if Granddaughter may go to a certain event. If the answer is no, they simply will not respond. I bought Granddaughter a Halloween costume, with her mother’s knowledge and approval. When I came to bring it to her on Halloween, she was already wearing another costume.

How do I handle this situation?

GRANDMA ALMOST READY TO GIVE UP

I get it, I do. It is a healthy reflex, when someone mistreats us, to stop offering ourselves up for mistreatment.

But that reflex ill serves us when access to children or grandchildren is involved. You want to protect yourself and punish this couple by denying them your compliant presence, but we both know they’ll barely flinch — while you’ll suffer greatly in denying yourself time with the child.

The solution that won’t cost you so dearly, if you can do it without reservation, is to untie your dignity from the process of seeing the girl.

Try this: If you routinely hit traffic as you drove to see your granddaughter, then it would be an obstacle, but you’d never take it personally.

The way you describe your son and his wife, they’re at the most demanding point in their careers. Not that that’s an excuse, but, for our purposes, it’s just a values-neutral* fact. And so a byproduct of their hard-charging ways is that common courtesies are lying dazed in a ditch wondering what hit them. I highly doubt it’s just with you.

And so, for the purpose of nurturing your bond with your grandchild, I don’t think your dignity will mind if you treat her parents’ rudeness merely as the traffic you must endure to see her. Aggravating but impersonal, and ultimately irrelevant to your cause. I could argue the parents’ rudeness is a reason not to give up, to provide the loving presence of someone who isn’t in a rush.

Surely you want a relationship with your son, too, and have bruised feelings there, but I urge you to keep those out of the grandchild equation. For what it’s worth, there’s probably a mode of communication Son and Wife prefer and therefore respond to better. Ask them. Text, perhaps? Or directly with Granddaughter’s caregiver, for cases and costumes and such?

*Of course rudeness is not values-neutral overall; the ignored communications are a face-slap. The parents’ values are simply not relevant to the grandparent-grandchild bond — that is, unless an emotional adult reflexively makes them so.

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