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Long-Distance Relatives: The Good and the Bad

By Serena Beltz

When my husband I first started discussing the possibility of getting married and having kids, two years into dating, he was adamant that we would be better living closer to our families. In our case, that would be no easy task -- he is from NE Pennsylvania and I grew up in San Francisco. And in his case, it would warrant a job transfer -- again no easy task since his firm doesn’t have offices in the Bay Area…yet. We wanted to live close to family because we wanted our kids to know their aunts, uncles and cousins without having to spend enormous amounts of money to travel. That would not be the case however.

As time would tell, we got married and had two kids and we are still firmly rooted in our home in Chicago. We have joined a new parish, our kids will be going to the parish elementary school and we have finally accepted the fact that Chicago, after 13 and 11 years respectively for each of us, is finally home.

What brought on the change in mindset? Reality, in its sometimes cruelest forms. My husband’s family is amazing -- they have come out for christenings and birthday parties, both by plane and by car (a 15-hour drive on average). My mother-in-law, now retired, takes any opportunity of an e-saver fare out of Allentown to come visit us for a long weekend, at least 2-3 times a year. I trade parenting jokes online with my SIL’s, one of whom is on Facebook, so it doesn’t seem like she’s so far away. There are a total of 6 cousins on that side of the family and I can pick up the phone or send an e-mail without hesitation when I’m overwhelmed with motherhood at its most chaotic. It’s a give, it’s a right, it's family.

My family, however, let me count the ways… My mother, a widow of 4 years, left with full airline benefits since my late father worked for United Airlines for 40+ years, has come to Chicago TWO times in the last 13 years: my wedding and my older son’s christening four years ago. She can fly for free at her leisure but blames her age (75) and her cats (okay, my cats from my college years who are now respectively 20+ years-old each) as her reasons for not visiting. I could care less about her wanting to see me -- it's her two only grandchildren that I’m concerned with, two grandchildren who deserve a relationship with their “Aubelita” besides talking occasionally on the phone.

On a recent trip to SF, I realized that my worst fears were a reality. My mother spent the four days we were there chastising my children for not being good ENOUGH, for their curiosity in a house that their mother had grew up in but was unfamiliar to them, and chastising me, for my parenting skills that she believed were subpar. Looking back at photos, I realized that it truly was my late father that wanted kids and not my mother -- she had them out of obligation and it’s no wonder that trickled down to her grandparenting skills.

If she didn’t want kids, then how could I expect her to want to be a grandmother -- a hands-on, in your face, you-are-gorgeous-children grandmother like my MIL?

Reality check. It’s not where you’re located. It’s the emotional support you get from your parents no matter where you are. I used to joke my mom was good at one thing: writing checks. She’s never missed a birthday, anniversary, or holiday. But that’s the extent of her involvement with us. I can’t pick up the phone and call her when things have gone awry as they do on any given day with a 2- and 4-year-old: she’s incapable of the empathy and love needed to provide that emotional support. So far as I’m concerned, it’s her loss.

We continue to parent from a distance from our families but with a better frame of reference. We utilize sitters rather than grandma for a break, but when grandma does arrive from the East Coast, you can bet she’s going to have an absolute blast with her grandkids. When we visit the East Coast, our kids have free reign under the “supervision” of a 13- and 11-year-old. They are safe, they are taken care of, they’re with family, even if it’s only a few times a year.

As for the grandma on the West Coast, I have resigned myself to the fact that my children are better off without her. She has made it clear that her grandchildren need to follow a certain code of behavior and I’m sorry, they are children, not robots. It’s hard for me to fathom in the long term my children not knowing her, but in the end, it’s the best scenario for all of us.

Serena Beltz writes for Chicago Moms Blog along with two blogs of her own, Chic Simple Moms and Multicultural Mama.

By Stacey Garfinkle |  August 5, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Guest Blogs , Relationships
Previous: Keeping Our Mouths Shut | Next: Does Childrearing Wisdom Work on Spouses?

Comments


"When my husband I first started discussing the possibility of getting married and having kids, two years into dating, he was adamant that we would be better living closer to our families."

Better than what? Is there a word missing form this sentence?

"If she didn’t want kids, then how could I expect her to want to be a grandmother -- a hands-on, in your face, you-are-gorgeous-children grandmother like my MIL?"

You can't. There are no guarantees in life. Get over judging and comparing your mother to your MIL. Do you look forward to your kids judging and comparing you to others? Sheesh.

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 5, 2009 7:32 AM | Report abuse

I think this is a great blog. (Incidentally, there was just a long'ish thread on DC Urbanmom about the "grandma not wanting to be grandma).

Anyway, I am in the same boat. Grandparents never wanting to visit or help. Annoying but the worst thing is that they will not have relationships with my kid(s) like I had with my grandparents. I'm sad for them (the kids). And, I don't understand the attitude of the grandparents. At all.

My friends and I are finding what you describe to be pretty common among our parents. I don't know why that is. And, it is a struggle to accept it. I've found that by lowering my expectations of them, I'm no longer so disappointed.

Posted by: liledjen4901 | August 5, 2009 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Annoying but the worst thing is that they will not have relationships with my kid(s) like I had with my grandparents...

I've found that by lowering my expectations of them, I'm no longer so disappointed.

Posted by: liledjen4901 | August 5, 2009 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Why not have DIFFERENT expectations of them? Each person is an individual.


Posted by: jezebel3 | August 5, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse

i don't understand how she could realize

"...that it truly was my late father that wanted kids and not my mother..."

by looking at old photos? (i'm picturing a frowning mother with her arms crossed watching an overjoyed father play with his daugher)


regardless, her article resonates with me. wife and i live 2,000 miles from our respective parents and see them once or twice a year.

i would love for them to have a relationship with our kids, but if they're not willing to make an effort to make it happen, it's their loss. my kids have plenty of loving influences in their lives. i'm not going to force it with the grandparents.

for us, the notion of the huggy grandparents is a little capra-esque and outdated. in an ideal world, what fun it would be to have supportive, sane, loving grandparents in their lives. unfortunately, we don't live in the ideal world.


Posted by: interestingidea1234 | August 5, 2009 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Have you shared these feelings with your mom? Geeze, my first thought is I hope your mother doesn't read this! Can't imagine how hurtful it would be for her to hear this second hand and have her friends and family hear your thoughts before she does.

Secondly, it seems as if we still have some growing up to do. You can be mad at mommy for not doing what you want her to do and being who you want her to be; or accept her as she is, maybe try to look at things from her perspective, after all, I'm sure you think you are a pretty terrific person, she had a hand in that.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | August 5, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

We chose our current home in large part to be closer to my In-laws, who are wonderful. They love our kids and the kids adore them. Plus, they're very generous with their time, especially when we've really needed them. It's a great relief knowing that in an emergency, we have reliable care for the girls. Because they're so great, I find it easy to overlook faults/flaws that I know I'd chastise my own mom for. And I'll bend over backwards to make sure they get to spend as much non-babysitting time with the girls as they want.

But my own mom is similar to today's poster. She's always complaining that she doesn't see her grandkids enough, but then she refuses to visit. We've offered to fly her down -- no, she's afraid to fly. Ok, then how about the train? No, it takes too long. Driving? No, she can't drive that far. And besides, she doesn't like that my guest room is on the third floor. When she does see the kids, she's perfectly nice, but she simply refuses to expend any effort into seeing them (even when we trek to her place, she's usually "busy" most of the time we're there and sees the kids for 2-3 hours a day at most).

When my older daughter was a baby, I used to knock myself out too visit 2-3x a year, just so my mom would have some kind of relationship with her. But when the baby was born and my mom still refused to come, I stopped making an effort. I'm not spending my time and money to drag two small kids 9 hours away to someone who can't even be bothered to get up before noon whilr we're there. So she'll meet the baby at Thanksgiving when we make our annual visit. If my mom wants additional access, she's been told she's always welcome in my home.

Posted by: newsahm | August 5, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Um.... wow. Serena, your mom is who she is. Not that great at relating to her grandkids, and comfortable with having a relationship at a distance. Get over it.

Posted by: bubba777 | August 5, 2009 8:24 AM | Report abuse

As the author of this blog piece I am very appreciative of everyone's comments.

interestingidea1234: you're picturing right. my mother is always the one stepping back in photos. She often described being a stay at home mom as "prison." I remember hearing that when I was in elementary school.

Nothing like growing up with that to make you want to jump into motherhood yourself.

jezebel3, I like the idea of DIFFERENT expectations, which in the case of my mother, means ZERO expectations.

liledjen4901: when I posted my original piece about our disatrous trip to SF on multiculturalmama.com, it was amazing how many of my friends were willing to open up and let me know they were in the same boat. I don't get it either. My mom brags to everyone within earshot that she has two grandSONS (we are part Hispanic and part Chinese) so perhaps it was just the "dog and pony show" she was after.

Posted by: smy509 | August 5, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

It may not be the same as you experienced growing up, but remember that this is all that your children will know.

Just be proactive with phoning, writing, photo sharing, and most of all talking about your parents to them. We lived a 12 hour drive away from either set of parents, but still our kids LOVED and talked with them often. As young adults they still love the last living one and have wonderful memories of the other ones.

Posted by: peonymom | August 5, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

At least your kids have one set of involved grandparents, which is more than many.

I think a close extended family is just so much more fun (provided that everyone is relatively sane). My parents live 5 minutes away and my kids see them several times a week- playing at the baby pool in their backyard is one of our standard summertime activities.

My SIL lives a 3 hour drive from us and visits about once a month, which is great because her daughter is my kids' only first cousin, and is only 6 months older than my twins.

I was an only child, and all my grandparents (and most of my cousins) were thousands of miles away. I'm glad my kids will have the opportunity to be with their extended family more than I was as a kid.

Posted by: floof | August 5, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Nice blog! I didn't really spend much time with my grandparents growing up, but you'd have to blame the Army for that one. We went from Thanksgiving 1968 to June 1972 without seeing the Denver grandparents - they didn't have the money to come to Munich, and we certainly didn't have the money to come see them. The Louisiana grandparents were pretty much the same; they just never had the finances to travel the world and catch up. But we interacted as much as we could and saw them whenever possible - who else drives from Denver to Baltimore by way of Louisiana; or passes through Denver on the way from South Carolina to Kentucky? They were important to us and we knew they always loved us. DW grew up with her entire extended family pretty much in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase-Rockville area, so she was close with all of them. We're pretty lucky that our kids have the same type of relationship with their grandparents, even though my family's not local.

And I'd like to extend a "thank you" to both Serena and newsahm for the kind words about their MIL's. I'm so sick and tired of women who write that "his mother is a crazy beeyotch but my mother walks on water" that I can't see straight! It was a pleasant surprise to see this slant.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | August 5, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

We live 7+ hours away from Grandpa, who's a great guy but not very comfortable relating to children. Still I know from my own experience that he'll be wonderful with them when they get to be teens and college students -- he'll be much more comfortable relating to them as adults and they will enjoy being treated that way.

My former MIL is four hours away and dealing with my FIL who has Alzheimers and she'd enjoy doing more with my girls except for her other burdens.

My ex has his limitations and I am grateful he's at least stayed involved in our daughters lives.

But the big surprise has come from his young fiancee, who has embraced my girls and been eager to help in their care -- even calling me to ask what they needed for back-to-school since she was seeing some great sales. My girls just love her and she's picking them up from their camp program tomorrow so I can attend a friend's retirement dinner.

Expectations can be a bit of trap really. I ended up getting the most help from a source I never expected!!

Posted by: annenh | August 5, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

To: World
CC: Mom
RE: My Mom Stinks

Hey everyone! I have mother issues. She's the worst.

-Serena

p.s. Hi Mom! Thanks for feeding Boots and Rusty!

Posted by: 06902 | August 5, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

06902: interesting comment..BTW, my mom won't read this because she can't be bothered to turn on the computer.

We've offered to take "Boots" and "Rusty" home with us everytime we've gone to visit over the last 8 years. She refuses.

Posted by: smy509 | August 5, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Wow, such a timely posting. My kids are 8 & 6 and I am just coming to terms with the fact that my expectations have to be different for my parents then my in laws. It really does help (and my different expectations are also zero). Let me throw something else in . . . all of our parents are divorced and remarried. The "new" grandparents (who were around since my kids were born) are significantly less interested in our kids then their "own" grandkids. This translates to less time with our kids. Does anyone else notice that?

Posted by: MomTo2Kids | August 5, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

It amuses me to see all of the comments about "your poor mom" and "just get over it." Sometimes moms are rotten, and there's nothing wrong with acknowledging that. It doesn't sound like Serena is sitting around whimpering over it; but she has every right to be annoyed at her mom's lack of interest in her daughter and grandchildren.

FWIW, I do complain about my mom -- she was a terrible parent when I was a kid and she's not much better now. But I will also tell her the same things to her face when she goes into her perpetual lament of "why do all of my kids hate me?" So at least I'm not being underhanded. :-)

Posted by: newsahm | August 5, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

What really struck me about this post was how quickly Ms. Beltz dismissed her mothers reasons for not coming to visit. My grandmother was very active, traveling by car and plane with her sisters and friends for many years after my grandfather died. But she finally got to the point--when the sisters and friends were no longer able to travel with her--that she said she couldn't didn't feel comfortable traveling out of town. She was not going to attend my cousin's wedding because she didn't feel able to make the flight. But when my father flew to her and accompanied her on her flight, she said, "I should have done this years ago." It had just become too much for her to handle on her own. Maybe that is where Ms. Beltz's mother is.

And the cats are no small thing either. I found that in some ways it was easier to travel with kids in tow than it was making arrangements for my cat when I traveled. At least you take the kids with you!

But yeah, some people aren't fond of kids. I know I had expectations and dreams of how my parents would relate to my kids. For the most part, they have been realized--but every situation is different, and it must be disappointing to travel so far and find that your parent isn't interested in developing a relationship with your child. Perhaps some are like annenh's father, and are just not kid people.

Posted by: janedoe5 | August 5, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

My mother never wanted kids, yet she turned out to be an amazing grandparent with the ability to make us feel like every grandchild is her favorite without slighting the others in the least. She has a special relationship with each one and they in turn know they're loved the best of all. Dad was a distant father, but he's in his element introducting the kids to DC museums and concerts.
In order to escape the toxic bitterness surrounding my in-laws, the best I can say is I'm very disappointed to have such a strained relationship with them. FIL throws an amazing pity party when he's not the favorite person in the room -- taking it out on the poor grandkid who dared to hint he was less than perfect. He took grave offense at being asked to stop touching/tickling/teasing the kids and has been engaged in an emotionally abusive game with DH since. MIL has been beyond nasty to our kids (to include hitting and shaking them in anger). They're great grandparents for the grandkids they seem to like (tho I suspect my MIL really doesn't much care for grandkids unless it makes her look good), so we just keep our distance and remain thankful for what we do have.

Posted by: StrollerMomma | August 5, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

One thing to note--I have told my mom how I felt more than once and she tells me that "I should have never moved away from home." She has traveled--just not to see us which is what hurts the most--and has someone to watch the cats.

Serena Beltz

Posted by: smy509 | August 5, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

One thing to note--I have told my mom how I felt more than once and she tells me that "I should have never moved away from home." She has traveled--just not to see us which is what hurts the most--and has someone to watch the cats.

Serena Beltz

Posted by: smy509 | August 5, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse


Zero expectations = zero pain.

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 5, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

"but she has every right to be annoyed at her mom's lack of interest in her daughter and grandchildren."

Why? What gives one adult the RIGHT to be annoyed at someone else for being themselves? To say otherwise is to support a juvenile and controlling approach to others.

Some people are not baby people. They enjoy the company of teens and adults. Others are only baby people and lose interest and roll their eyes at adolescents and teens. No one has a RIGHT to be annoyed at another person for not conforming to her expectations of what a grandmother should be.

I say this as the parent of 2 kids in whom neither set of grandparents has a particular interest. They love them, but they don't know them. They are not hurtful, but their lives are full, they don't travel any more and that's that. We can not like it and not understand it, but we don't have a right to pout about it or to teach our children resentment and brattiness by having favorite family members and showing disdain for the non-favored.

Posted by: anonfornow | August 5, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately people are who they are and not who we want them to be. My wife and I both had close relationships with grandparents growing up and we were hoping for the same for our kids, although none of the grandparents are local so we knew it would never be the same.

My wife's parents have been totally disappointing. They have always favored my wife's sister over her, and know that SIL also has kids, it's abundantly clear that they are the favored grandchildren. My daugther's birthday was last weekend and my wife told MIL exactly what she wanted a few weeks ago. So MIL e-mails last week and says they have no idea what to get her so they got her a book (turned out to be a $4 cheapo) and they'll send us $15 to pick out something for her (we're still waiting for the money). And could we wrap the book because they didn't want to pay for the gift wrapping. They are coming out for Christmas but leaving on Christmas Day because the flights are cheaper.

My mom was the over-the-top spoiling grandmother, which was great for the kids. Unfortunately she died last summer. And my dad (they were long divorced) is the have-fun-and-screw-around-with-the-kdis grandfather, which is also great, but we only see him once or twice a year.

Posted by: dennis5 | August 5, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Okay - I'm going to try this again....

As fellow Chicagoan Ann Landers would say kwitcherbi**hen. My kids (18 and 14) have NEVER had grandparents. It is the great sadness of my life that my parents didn't live to see my kids. To have at least one set of involved grandparents is a blessing -

Posted by: GroovisMaximus61 | August 5, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Touche, Groovis.

Posted by: anonfornow | August 5, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

"To have at least one set of involved grandparents is a blessing"

Groovis, this is absolutely true, and I'm sorry if I've given any impression that I'm not grateful for my in-laws and their involvement in my kids' lives.

"Why? What gives one adult the RIGHT to be annoyed at someone else for being themselves? To say otherwise is to support a juvenile and controlling approach to others."

I disagree. Why should anybody get away with poor behavior because they're "being themselves?" Spending a rare visit chastising her daughter and grandchildren,as Serena's mother did, is unacceptable and hurtful behavior. Is Serena just supposed smile blandly and take it silently because that's who her mom is? Maybe you can do that, but I'm just not that nice a person.

Posted by: newsahm | August 5, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I am disappointed in my parents for their role (or lack of one) in my kids' lives. If that makes me a bad or selfish person so be it. My dad makes it clear that he is disappointed in the way I run my life. That hurts my feelings, but I understand that he is entitled to that opinion and perhaps that is why he chooses to stay away from my kids and showers attention on his step grandkids. I am very grateful for my MIL who is spectacular and an amazing grandmother and mother. That reminds me I should send her flowers just because . . . Everyone has a right to their feelings . . . it is how they express them that is important (IMHO).

Posted by: MomTo2Kids | August 5, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

i don't think the distance thing is the entire issue. i grew up in kensington, both sets of my grandparents lived within walking distance in aspen hill. a 15 minute drive, tops from either of them to us.

but they were so vastly different. to one side, i was a curious little girl whose questions were answered and i was indulged. to the other i was a talkative, busy annoyance. as i got older, the second pair became easier to relate to, but the way my sister and i were treated were so vastly different. as kids, we loved them in their own ways because they each offered different diversions and environs.

distance doesn't matter, if someone wants a relationship with you, they'll find a way.

Posted by: r3hsad | August 5, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

I find this topic very interesting and timely. Just last night my aunt and cousin visited from out of town. My cousin is a few years younger, an only child, and has lived out of state since she was born. We had a little family dinner and it struck me how fortunate I am that my parents always made sure we never had to move away from our extended family. We were looking at pictures of the last couple years and I noticed how many things my cousin missed out on-even now that we are adults let alone when we were kids. Unfortunately, if her parents were to suddendly die she would feel very alone not knowing either side of her family very well.

Posted by: sunflower571 | August 5, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Wow! I thought I was the only one with parents who didn't want to be involved with their grandchild, my son. We moved to the DC area so that my son could grow up near his only living grandparents. We live only 10 miles away and rarely hear from my parents, much less see them. It's nice to read that other parents have the same issue ... and feel the same heartbreak for their children.

Posted by: somdmom1 | August 5, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

One other thing... I hope the grandparents who are just not "kid people" are not going to be terribly upset when they get to be old and housebound and their grandchildren never come to visit. If you don't want to have a relationship with them when they're young, they aren't going to feel much of a tie to you when they're older.

Posted by: floof | August 5, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I didn't have a close relationship with my grandparents (by their choice, distance, and death) I don't understand why people are saying that they feel heartbreak for their children. If the children never had the relationship, then they won't miss it (or feel heartbroken). I think it's the parents who feel heartbroken and rejected...not the kids.

Posted by: pipe1 | August 5, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Given that Ms. Beltz has written a column about how she's not going to whine about her mother but instead is going to adjust her expectations, it's fascinating how many commenters tell her to "stop whining" and "adjust her expectations." It pays to read all the way toward the end.

Ms. Beltz, I'm sorry about your situation. I can understand why it would make you sad that your mother doesn't want to be part of your kids' lives. Keep your own emotional health in mind, too, as this must have been a traumatic realization for you.

Posted by: tomtildrum | August 5, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

I didn't have a close relationship with my grandparents (by their choice, distance, and death) I don't understand why people are saying that they feel heartbreak for their children. If the children never had the relationship, then they won't miss it (or feel heartbroken). I think it's the parents who feel heartbroken and rejected...not the kids.

Posted by: pipe1 | August 5, 2009 10:28 AM

I did not have a close relationship with my grandparents growing up and you are right, I did not know any better . . . until I saw the relationship my husband had with his grandparents and that made me sad. However, I think you are right at least in my case . . . it is my disapointment, not my kids at this point

Posted by: MomTo2Kids | August 5, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

"Unfortunately, if her parents were to suddendly die she would feel very alone not knowing either side of her family very well."

Sunflower, that's not necessarily true. While I very rarely lived within a thousand miles of any relatives growing up, I felt that I knew them reasonably well through occasional visits and communication. When my father died I didn't feel separated from his family.

And let's be honest, with this interweb thingy today, there's no reason not to be in constant contact with distant relatives. My kids are Facebook friends with uncles, aunts and cousins in California and on Guam; they constantly e-mail their grandmother in North Carolina; and they tweet cousins in Georgia - and even the cousin in Afghanistan. You've got to really try to not have a relationship today.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | August 5, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

"Have you shared these feelings with your mom? Geeze, my first thought is I hope your mother doesn't read this! Can't imagine how hurtful it would be for her to hear this second hand and have her friends and family hear your thoughts before she does."
Posted by: moxiemom1 | August 5, 2009 8:21 AM |
_________________________________________

I think that was the point(?)

Posted by: pipe1 | August 5, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

If it makes you feel any better, we live in the same state and neighboring city to my FIL and his wife who also just can't be bothered. For me, the biggest surprise was how the very same people who hounded us for years to have kids show virtually no interest now that those kids are actually here. On the other hand, my father and his wife have blossomed into wonderful, caring grandparents who live across the country--who knew? I sure didn't expect that!

We've come to terms the grandparents our kids have, not the ones we wanted or expected, and so far its working out pretty well. They have 5 grandparents who clearly cherish their time with them and love them, and that's enough for us. Hopefully FIL and his wife will come around, but if they don't, it's their loss.

Posted by: sjneal | August 5, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

"Why should anybody get away with poor behavior because they're "being themselves?" Spending a rare visit chastising her daughter and grandchildren,as Serena's mother did, is unacceptable and hurtful behavior. Is Serena just supposed smile blandly and take it silently because that's who her mom is? Maybe you can do that, but I'm just not that nice a person."

It's not about being nice. It's about being an adult. If your approach to adult relationships is to sit in judgment at all times and communicate everyone's deficiencies to them, and to assume that not communicating one's views of everyone's deficiencies is "letting people get away with" poor behavior, then you must be mighty lonely. You communicate your issues. You let it go. No one is suggesting that smiling blandly or acting inauthentically is the goal. The goal is to create a life consistent with your own values, act consistently with them, and model successful coping skills for your kids when real live humans disappoint you. I've got a newsflash for you: not everyone you love in life will share your values or behave exactly as you think they should. Guess what? None of them will. Ever heard of the Irish proverb? Fix the things you can. Seek the wisdom to distinguish between what you can fix and what you can't. You can't fix other people, only yourself.

Even Serena's comments here have a defensive edge. It's very important to her that everyone agree with her that she's got the moral highground, her MIL is a wonderful person, and her mom is a dog who has disappointed her. Her MIL may be wonderful. Her mom may be a dog. What is also true, though, is that her emotions are destroying her own peace and she has not accepted that her mom is as she is. The battle for moral superiority rages and she's got to WIN. Let. It. Go.

Posted by: anonfornow | August 5, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Sometimes you do know what you are missing growing up without a close relationship with grandparents - by comparison. My childhood friend spent weekends with her grandmother at her lake house the whole time she was growing up. She took me with her many weekends I realized at a fairly early age that I didn't have that close bond with my grandparents. I wasn't crushed by this by any means, but it was my own realization.

Also, one woman's favorite grandparent to their kids is another woman's meddling in-law. It is all so situational. The battle between my SIL and mother lasted 10 years - but is now much better. I used to see only my mother's side of the story, but now as a parent I can see how she can "meddle" - but both my mother and SIL had to grow up and learn how to handle the situation. It's just too bad it took so long.

Both our families live locally, we spent holidays, birthdays (kids, anniversaries and lots of Sunday dinners together and I consider myself VERY lucky, but at times it is suffocating. We also have quite a bit of extended family locally as well and I do count my blessings, but I see families all the time that have no one in case of emergency and no relief. The best thing we can do as friends and neighbors, for people without close families, is help them out a little during stress times. Building a network and a community is vitally important regardless of the proximity of your family.

Serena, I liked your article. Your kids are lucky to have the hands-on grandma and I think there is room for a relationship with your mother as they get older. It is hard to come to realizations about your own parents but the good news is that it can evolve.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 5, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse


Check out Serena's August 2, 2009 posting:

http://www.multiculturalmama.com/

She is a very gushy/insecure/immature person. And she needs an editor and Spellcheck!

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 5, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

really disagree that you should feel sorry for children who grow up without close ties to their grandparents.

hopefully there are plenty of people in your child's life that provide love, friendship and support.

why does it matter if two of them are or aren't the grandparents?

i'd more likely feel sorry for the grandparents.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | August 5, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

What makes this relationship seem so juvenile is that it appears the author continues to define her relationship with her mother in terms of what her mother does for HER and how her mother responds to HER needs. If you truly want to have and adult relationship with your parents, then at some point you need to make it a two way street. Ask them what THEY would like, how can you help or accomodate THEM as you would with any other realtionship. If the author keeps acting like a child then my suspicion is that she will continue to have a frustratingly adolescent relationship with her mother.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | August 5, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I'll just throw this out there: my grandmother was similar -- didn't want to travel and got irritible over weird things -- right before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. If I make it to 75, I hope I have the energy to travel. But I wouldn't hold it against somehone who doesn't want too.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | August 5, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Some of these comments are very rough on S. Beltz.

Why not have expectations of your own parents? What's wrong with that? As an adult, I have expectations of my parents and they have expectations of me. It is human nature, so to counsel against having expectations is unrealistic. Additionally, even if S. Beltz's momm didn't want to be a mom, she became one, and we all know you don't cease becoming a parent when the child reaches 18, less responsibilities, but you are still a parent. So if mom is going to be a crummy parent/grandparent, then she shouldn't be surprised when she gets called out on it by a journalist daughter. She should expect it.

Posted by: rupalp99 | August 5, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for this post. We live here in D.C. and all three sets of grandparents reside in Oregon. We've found that there are different levels of chosen involvement and we try to respect the wishes and boundaries set by each pair.

I have to say that we've had a very wonderful experience with my Mom's husband of four years. Since our daughter was born (almost 2 years ago now), he has considered her "his" granddaughter, spent hours on the floor talking/playing/sorting things with her and chats with her on Sightspeed/Skype once a week with my Mom. It has a been eye-opening to see how different people respond in totally different ways to the same kid and a reminder to me to not push my own expectations on others.

Posted by: bellemay | August 5, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Moxie, This post by Serena has very little drama and is more realization. I think if she were to further expound she could give more detail, but in comparison to some of the mushy, silly guest bloggers (or Brian) - this post seems downright mature.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 5, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

What makes this relationship seem so juvenile is that it appears the author continues to define her relationship with her mother in terms of what her mother does for HER and how her mother responds to HER needs....

Posted by: moxiemom1 | August 5, 2009 11:45 AM
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As I read it, Ms. Beltz makes a nice effort to see the situation through her mother's eyes. She's told her mother how she feels, and she's refrained from complaining to her or trying to change her. What more can she do?

Posted by: tomtildrum | August 5, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I went to Serena's multicultural mom blog and read her post about her last visit with her mom. Obviously she has issues with her mom that go way, way, way beyond the fact that grandma is not a good grandma. These two women don't know each other in the slightest - and both seem to have thrown in the towel on their relationship. The kid thing seems peripheral.

So - here's my advice. Figure this out before grandma dies. My husband had a weird relationship with his dad that was good as a child but got a little ugly as an adult. While his father died many years ago, my husband is STILL conflicted about that relationship. He is STILL searching to understand and know his dad - and my husband is now officially a senior citizen.

There was weird behavior on both Serena and her mom's part during the visit - obviously Serena was baiting her mom by drinking. Her mom reacted in a predictably poor way. Serena's husband finally agreed that Mom is a badguy, Serena says she's relieved he sees things her way.

Much more here than meets the eye.

Posted by: GroovisMaximus61 | August 5, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

As I read it, Ms. Beltz makes a nice effort to see the situation through her mother's eyes. She's told her mother how she feels, and she's refrained from complaining to her or trying to change her. What more can she do?

Posted by: tomtildrum | August 5, 2009 12:23 PM
_______________________________

I guess she could complain about her in a blog for all to read?

Posted by: pipe1 | August 5, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Another possibility is that your children do not behave according to the standards of your mom's generation. You say she remembers holidays with checks, so it does not seem to be the case that she doesn't care, or else she wouldn't even bother to keep track of when to send them out.
I know the current cultural trends in child-rearing cause a lot of stress for people who aren't used to the "curiosity" of young children whose parents feel that reining them in or insisting that they follow a certain "code of behavior" will stifle the little dears. Having the expectation that children treat adults with respect and follow basic instructions to not touch other people's things, attempt to eat with utensils and remain seated during meals, not scream and whine continuously, etc. is outdated, to be sure, but your mother simply may not be able to handle being in the company of your children if they are out of control. I have had visitors whose kids ransacked every reachable inch of my home while their parents appeared to believe this was a sign of intelligence and looked on with pride. I am not particularly upset by this, but nor am I 75 years old. Are you teaching your kids to be charming and pleasant, or are you just hoping people will think they are in spite of their actions?

Posted by: rh36 | August 5, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

"Having the expectation that children treat adults with respect and follow basic instructions to not touch other people's things, attempt to eat with utensils and remain seated during meals, not scream and whine continuously, etc. is outdated, to be sure"

I hope this is sarcastic...

Posted by: JJ321 | August 5, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

The nature of most blogs is to make them interesting, personal and a bit controversial - you are trying to entice readership while at the same time being honest and thought provoking. I'd venture to say that is what Serena is doing with her blog. Whether or not she has a contentious relationship with her mother doesn't take away from this particular article in which she makes some fairly generic comments on families - far vs near.

The whole discussion depends on whether you want to dissect the author or talk to the subject at hand, but personally I don't think the author's perspective on families (hers and others) is immature or whiny.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 5, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

ArmyBrat1,

I agree you can use things like Facebook and cell phones to keep in touch with family members but I don't think that can compare to seeing family members weekly or even daily. I am very fond of my family members who live out of state but nothing can compare to the family members who have always lived close by and been a huge part of my life.

Posted by: sunflower571 | August 5, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I am very fond of my family members who live out of state but nothing can compare to the family members who have always lived close by and been a huge part of my life.

Posted by: sunflower571 | August 5, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Interesting viewpoint. I love some people I haven't seen or heard from for many years. Proximity and frequency of contact has nothing to do with some kinds of love.

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 5, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

cheekymonkey,
Thanks for the lesson on blogging. And you are correct, the discussion depends on whether you want to dissect the author or talk to the subject at hand. In this case (in my opinion), the subject at hand is the author and her attempt to chastise her mother through a blog. This could've been written anon or in more generic terms instead of attempting to publicly shame her mother who has every right to interact with her kids as she pleases. Some grandparents are involved and some aren't. I think that by not letting it go, the author is having a negative impact on the kids. The kids will see it as grandmother doesn't like THEM when its all between the grandmother and their mom. Like divorce, the kids only see themselves as the problem.

Posted by: pipe1 | August 5, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I am not saying you can't love someone who lives far away. However, I am saying that life is short and it's nice to actually see the people you care about. I think some people are more worried about promotions etc than being near their family. Personally, my husband and I have made it a priority to advance our careers without moving-not to say we will never move but we are trying to stay close to our families. Both of our families made it a priority to stay in the area too. On holidays when I see how crowded airports are on the news, I can't help but be glad of the choices we have made.

Posted by: sunflower571 | August 5, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

"The whole discussion depends on whether you want to dissect the author or talk to the subject at hand,"

Way to go, cheeky, setting up a false dichotomy. Talking about the whole subject at hand requires addressing and dealing honestly with that fact that parents and grandparents are individuals with their own lives, experiences, values and expectations, and that some of those relationships don't measure up to some parents' expectations. It's interesting that you want to limit the discussion to exclude components of the topic which you find unpalatable.

Whenever someone wants to limit a discussion to the parts that are about how other people should change to meet their needs and their kids' needs, rather than how they also might change their attitudes, reactions, and expectations, it's revelatory.

Posted by: anonfornow | August 5, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Cheeky - the author isn't peppering her blog with interesting personal stories and bon mots. Her blog has lines like "As for the grandma on the West Coast, I have resigned myself to the fact that my children are better off without her." Ouch. When I read stuff like that, I think there has to be another side to the story. Her regular blog reads like the beginning of an Amy Tan novel.

Posted by: GroovisMaximus61 | August 5, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

On holidays when I see how crowded airports are on the news, I can't help but be glad of the choices we have made.

Posted by: sunflower571 | August 5, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse


Oh, brother. When I read your smug crap, I can't help but be glad of the choices I have made.

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 5, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Sarcastic? No, not really. When I say "outdated" I mean the majority of American parents no longer appear to subscribe to this viewpoint. Personally, I feel they are doing their children a disservice, as the kids are not able to enjoy the rewards of pleasing interactions with those around them, but for all I know, the kids will rebel by becoming considerate well-mannered teens and adults. Of course I long for the old days, when a tantrum-throwing child would be told "I'll give you something to cry about," or a grabby toddler would be instructed to "keep your hands to yourself," but it may just be nostalgia on my part.

Posted by: rh36 | August 5, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Of course I long for the old days, when a tantrum-throwing child would be told "I'll give you something to cry about," or a grabby toddler would be instructed to "keep your hands to yourself," but it may just be nostalgia on my part.

Posted by: rh36 | August 5, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse


LOL. As if those admonitions actually work with toddlers. But they do make for good fantasies.

Posted by: emily8 | August 5, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Some definite mother/daughter issues here, and from reading her other blog, I seriously doubt the mother is completely at fault, although she certainly does seem to do her share of damage.

I don't think the distance is the issue in this particular relationship. Who knows, perhaps the distance makes it easier to live in peace. These two women would be at each others' throats constantly if not for the distance. But even if distance is not the real issue, it certain serves as a convenient excuse.

My mother lives close by. I love her dearly, as do my children. I know she loves us as well. But I do a lot of things to make sure we co-exist in relative peace. For one thing, I try to ignore the little things that bother me about her. I think she reciprocates. And when we do disagree strongly, we try not to blow it out of proportion. And my secret way of handling things that don't matter to me is to simply agree with her. It makes her happy and saves time. And I really think we try to meet each other half way and accept each other for who we are. Perhaps we don't meet each other
s fantasy expectations of what a mother or daughter should be, but realistically, who really does. People are who they are. Best to try to see them for that rather than what you want them to be.

Posted by: emily8 | August 5, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Sorry Groovis, when Serena wrote about coming to a realization that the west coast grandma is not all that she hoped - and has the audacity (sarcasm) to say it - I find that honest. There is nothing inflamatory in her stmt that in her opinion her kids are better off. Perhaps they are?

If her blog is peppered with hyped up language - so be it - I didn't read it. I am responding to the article at hand, and as I recall I stated that if you want to dissect her other work - be my guest.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 5, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Does Stacey even edit these guest posts? If that is her job, shame on her for doing it so poorly.

Posted by: emily8 | August 5, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Leaving the question of whether or not Serena is a nice person for now, isn't it still reasonable for a young family to expect a bit of reciprocity?

In our particular situation, when we have a bit of extra money we buy plane tickets to the East Coast to visit my husband's family and when they have a bit of extra money they buy plane tickets to visit their townhouse in lake Tahoe. Our children are not allowed to visit them there because my MIL considers them too messy and loud and she doesn't want them there. Other relatives are invited to visit but not us.

I resent the fact that we haven't ever been to Disneyland and that we've never had the money to take our kids to a national park or even to Washington. All our money goes to visit the relatives who have never once scheduled any sort of fun outing for our kids -- they've never taken them to the zoo in their town, for example. They claim to love the children very much but I'm not sure how much longer we can afford this relationship. Also, our kids have lovely cousins all of whom live in my husband's hometown. we have lots of fun when we are there but no one ever comes to visit us. Is it unreasonable to ask for some reciprocity?

Posted by: Justsaying4 | August 5, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

One grandparent lives 6.5 hours away -- and as both my husband and I work FT and so does the grandparent, we get together maybe 4 times a year. There's no easy way to fly there without changing planes and costing a lot of money, yet driving sucks up a day each way, so we have to either take time off and take the kids out of school, or wait for vacation time.

The other set is 800 miles away (my parents) and we see each other every other year or so. I have no interest in travelling there and my mother cares for my sister's child (the favored grandchild by a mile) full-time. Months can go by in between calls. Once my sister reproduced, my parents wrote my kids off for the most part.

I grew up pretty well estranged from my parents' families as well. We were long distances from almost all of them and so we rarely saw them, mainly due to financial costs of travel.

Posted by: drixl | August 5, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Is it unreasonable to ask for some reciprocity?


You can ask as much as you want, but if you aren't getting it, then you need to accept that and make some decisions over things you can control rather than trying to change other people. Perhaps you would feel less resentful if you did some of the things you want to do, like taking the kids to Disney or going on some family trips unrelated to family visits. Of course you will feel resentful if you do things expecting others to reciprocate and then they don't. Perhaps a better course is to do what you want to do and expect nothing in return.

Posted by: emily8 | August 5, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Justsaying4, it's not unreasonable at all. At the same time, some people have the feeling that since you are the ones who moved away, then it's your responsibility to do the travelling. I can see both sides of it.

Having said that, why are you choosing to spend all your vacations going to visit family that aren't willing to come visit you? For your next vacation, why don't you go to Disneyland or a national park or someplace you really want to go to instead of being resentful of taking another trip to visit family?

Posted by: dennis5 | August 5, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

jezebel3

Good for you to be happy about your choices, too. Why can't everyone just be happy for people if they are happy? But when I often here people complaining on here about situations that they have caused (of course there are exceptions like sick children) I can't help but feel glad about my decisions.

Posted by: sunflower571 | August 5, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Why don't you suggest your family meet you somewhere like Disney so you can see them and go at the same time?

Posted by: sunflower571 | August 5, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Justsaying4,
You cannot "force" your children on someone. They are yours and no one else views them like you do. You might think they are cute but your relatives might think they are messy and loud (like most kids). Childhood is too short to not visit Disney Land. When they get older, I'm sure they will be welcome to your relatives but for now, let them be kids, enjoy them, and forget about everyone else. I bet if you gave them a choice, they'd choose Disney Land.

Posted by: pipe1 | August 5, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

You can ask as much as you want, but if you aren't getting it, then you need to accept that and make some decisions over things you can control rather than trying to change other people. . . . Of course you will feel resentful if you do things expecting others to reciprocate and then they don't. Perhaps a better course is to do what you want to do and expect nothing in return.

Posted by: emily8 | August 5, 2009 3:25 PM


Spot on advice, once again.

Posted by: anonfornow | August 5, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

fr StrollerMomma:

>...FIL throws an amazing pity party when he's not the favorite person in the room -- taking it out on the poor grandkid who dared to hint he was less than perfect. He took grave offense at being asked to stop touching/tickling/teasing the kids and has been engaged in an emotionally abusive game with DH since. MIL has been beyond nasty to our kids (to include hitting and shaking them in anger)....

Were those my kids, MIL would be told, ONCE, that if she EVER laid a hand on my child, I'd be calling the police and have her arrested for child abuse.

Posted by: Alex511 | August 5, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

We will still send cards, photos, birthday and xmas gifts, send her flowers on random occasions, call just to say hi. I will continue to send friends that live close by to check in on her, answer all her questions about the car, bills, and everything my dad handled when he was alive.

No matter how frustrated I am, I still love my mother and I have told her that regularly no matter how many times the "claws" come out.

I just wish it was reciprocated.

Posted by: smy509 | August 5, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Oh and SMY509 is me, Serena Beltz, the author of this post.

Posted by: smy509 | August 5, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Serena - I know you really want to see your mom as the villain and yourself as the victim here, but you contribute to this bad relationship.
Read your own blog:
"I made dinner to see if that would help picking up crab legs and making Spanish rice to prove to my mom my kids ate more than she thought they did. It didn't matter. She didn't even join us at the table. I left her the dishes anyway."

Seriously, you visit your mother in her home, cook dinner in her house, and then leave her the dishes to wash, even though she did not partake of the meal?!!!

Stop acting like a selfish teenager and perhaps your mom will stop treating you like one.

Posted by: emily8 | August 5, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

I always admire people who have the courage to write about their life experiences honestly and openly. Leave it to Beaver stories are just that, stories. Real lives are full of experiences like Serena's; complicated, sometimes messy - it's what we take away from it all that matters.

Take jezebel3 for example. Clearly we have a person full of self righteousness, condescension, and bile. From the posts I would guess the person's own parents were found of kicking dogs - but what really matters is if jezebel3 learns to transcend his or her rotten childhood and appreciate honest and heartfelt stories from other people.

Posted by: helmutsorders | August 5, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

emily8, I washed other dishes while she was there but got chastised because I "don't do it the way it should be done." I left a total of one pot and three dishes with that dinner.

I fixed her shower, fixed her washer, took her to see her MIL who incidentially thought her great grandkids were FABULOUS and well behaved--she's 97. We fixed (2) windows on the greenhouse, ran errands for her, grocery shopped for her.

Spoiled teenager? She's the youngest of 9, has never lived alone, has never had to work or support herself and tells everyone that to this day. She feels like my father left her in the lurch because he handled everything. And even then, if things weren't/aren't done HER way, you WILL hear about it.

Case in point...
In 1991, I transferred to Cal Berkeley. My mom sent the tuition check in without the payment slip/my name on the check/school ID#. The registrar's office called my parents to tell them that I was going to be dropped from all my classes because tuition hadn't been paid before the 1st day of school.

My mother argued with the registrar that it was their system at fault (38,000+ undergrads) if they couldn't figure out who the Yuen (my maiden name) family was.
1991--before the age of solid Windows platforms and computers everywhere. She argued with my dad that it was the registrar's fault. He didn't agree with her but knew not to argue with her.

I negotiated a deal with my dad and paid the tuition a second time with a little help from him and my campus job. They found the MIA check 3 weeks later and I had any further correspondence from school sent to me and paid all further bills in person.

Posted by: smy509 | August 5, 2009 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Why are "leave to beaver stories" just stories? Do you honestly believe every family is dysfunctional or do you just tell yourself that to feel better?

Posted by: sunflower571 | August 5, 2009 6:35 PM | Report abuse

I did not write that every family is dysfunctional, learn how to quote. What I did write was

"Real lives are full of experiences like Serena's; complicated, sometimes messy"

And if you do not believe that then I think you, sunflower571, are wrong.

And I feel just fine thank you very much, though a bit sleepy. Time for a small coffee.

Posted by: helmutsorders | August 5, 2009 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Serena - I get it. Your mother is not perfect. She has flaws, foibles, and eccentricities. But guess what? So do you. If you keep on looking for her flaws, you will find them. And if you just want to be right, no doubt your criticism of her will make you feel better. You need to choose. Do you want a relationship with your mother on terms that are peaceful, or do you want to be right? If you want your kids to get to know her, you have to try to see things from her perspective. Perhaps she does not have the ability to be a copy of your warm and effusive MIL. And perhaps there are reasons for that. But that does not mean that she can't be part of your family's life in some other way that suits her nature and personality better. You seem to see your mother through the lens of a dissatisfied adolescent. For goodness sakes, you are still dredging up complaints of something that happened in 1991 as justification for the way you treat your mother. What you need is perspective, and maybe a little more self-awareness and insight into what role you play in this. You are not an innocent bystander here.

Posted by: emily8 | August 5, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

"I resent the fact that we haven't ever been to Disneyland and that we've never had the money to take our kids to a national park or even to Washington. All our money goes to visit the relatives"

Sounds like my husband's extended family- I don't think they took a "real" vacation his entire childhood. Every single trip was spent going back to his homestate to visit relatives who would never come to see his family because the east coast was "too scary." And you know what? After all that, he still has virtually no relationship with any of those people, beyond sending Christmas cards or attending the occasional wedding. I'm sure they all would have been happier if they had just gone somewhere fun once in a while.

Posted by: floof | August 5, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

emily8: I never said I was an innocent bystander and I know I play a part in this. I am definitely eccentric, neurotic--there is a lot of her in me! And some of it good!

It's hard as a mom to not get the emotional support I know she got from both her mom and MIL when she had young kids. She had a much more difficult childhood--she grew up in war torn Hong Kong during WWII and lost everything. She now has one sibling left out of 8. The fact that she is not embracing her grandchildren, the next generation, is heartbreaking to me. It's ironic and she knows all this, but we are raising our kids similarly--regimented Catholic school, rules and regs, the whole 9 yards. But we're not doing it "her" way to quote her.

I also find it ironic that I had a wonderful relationship with HER mom--I was her baby's baby and when I lost that grandma at the age of 7, it haunted me for a long time.

Again, we will love her, send her photos, updates and such. She will always be my mom and my kids grandma. But we will probably never stay at her house again--she made it verbally clear that we were a burden while we were there.

And in the end, that's ok, I just need to let it be ok. She is who she is, and I am who I am and I can accept who she is, she has just made it very clear she CANNOT accept who I am.

Posted by: smy509 | August 5, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Emily, What you typed in your last post was exactly what Serena's article was about today. Did you read it?

Lots of judgemental people on here today, telling a grown woman that she is acting like a teenager, whiny, selfish. Sounds like her mom is a bit of an ass and she has finally (and thankfully) accepted it. I suppose you all have such clarity of thought that there would be no emotion if you were in a similar situation. How nice to be so full of wisdom about parent/child relationships that are in turmoil, I can think of nothing more simple. Yeah, right.

Regardless, tomorrow Brian will post something pitiful or inane and will make this all look like brain surgery.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 5, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

I thought that this was an interesting and revealing story. My own isn't as bad, but does have some elements of wistfulness. We live in the DC area with one set of grandparents in KC and the second in Costa Rica (the maternal grandfather passed away when Primo and Secondo were six months old, so it's only abuelita).

I won't go into details, but my parents have often expressed regret at not knowing their grandsons better, but have been unwilling to travel to DC. This might be reasonable, given their age, except for the fact of numerous trips to one of my brothers who lives several states away. I've come to terms with this situation and am careful not to express my private opinions to my parents (or the brother whom they prefer to visit).

It sounds like you've come to terms with your situation. I would recommend to Serena and *anyone* who writes a guest post for this blog. DON'T READ THE COMMENTS and if you do, avoid troll feeding.

BB

---

Jez wrote: "And she needs an editor and Spellcheck!"

Heh heh heh. And you need to understand that (a) it's A spell checkER and (b) you don't capitalize words in the middle of a sentence. If you're going to be the local grammar nazi, Jez, then you need to edit your own posts.

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | August 5, 2009 11:41 PM | Report abuse

"I made dinner to see if that would help picking up crab legs and making Spanish rice to prove to my mom my kids ate more than she thought they did. It didn't matter. She didn't even join us at the table. I left her the dishes anyway."

Seriously, you visit your mother in her home, cook dinner in her house, and then leave her the dishes to wash, even though she did not partake of the meal?!!!"

I see this situation totally differently. Serena cooked dinner for her mother, who was too busy having a snit to come eat with the family that had flown across the country to visit her. Serena, feeling hurt and annoyed that her attempt at pacification didn't work, retaliated by leaving the dishes. Granted, not the most mature thing to do, but hardly the parade of rude that you've made it sound.

Maybe the difference here is personal experience. My mom sounds very much like Serena's, and it can be very difficult not to sink to her level. I remember one Thanksgiving weekend where my mom was so angry that we were staying in a hotel (because the prior year, when we'd planned to stay with her, she called me the day before we were to leave to say she wasn't comfortable having my then-fiance in her house and that we couldn't stay with her, after all) that she simply refused to see us at all. I'd probably have been tempted to exact a little petty revenge, too, had the opportunity arisen.

(now, of course, when we visit my mom, I no longer plan around her. We leave our schedule open to spending as much time as she wants to spend, but have plenty of backup plans in place if she decides to be in a snit, instead.)

Posted by: newsahm | August 6, 2009 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Her mom drives her batty, she writes about it, people jump all over her for not being in COMPLETE. CONTROL. AT. ALL. TIMES. It sounds like she just hasn't yet reached the place where she gives up. Insanity? Hopefulness? A bit of both? I don't know. I do know that I'm not in complete control at all times, that some things I can't control drive me batty, that not every decision is weighed and considered with the utmost care. In other words, I'm just you're average Jane, and I can relate the poster, even though I have a terrific relationship with my parents and inlaws.

Posted by: atb2 | August 6, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Serena: I've been thinking about your situation and I'm going to repeat myself -

get this thing with your mom figured out while you have the opportunity. I'm even more convinced that there are a lot of layers here by what you posted at 6:28 last night. You are still holding onto an incident that occurred in 1991! Maybe you need to take a trip together or just spend some time with her - no kids, no husband. Give yourself a chance to really get to know your mom as a person, not just as your mom. If it doesn't work out, at least you won't have any regrets later in life.

Posted by: GroovisMaximus61 | August 6, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

groovismaximus61, there ARE more layers. I posted again at 7:36.

There are cultural layers, generational layers, ect.

A relationship goes two ways: this relationship is one way and has been for a LONG time.

Posted by: smy509 | August 6, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Groovus, Again with the completely rational, unemotional response to a highly charged and emotional realtionship. I applaud you if you can hold it together, think clearly and accept your mother's irrational actions - but sorry, the rest of us can not.

I agree with atb2, I have a really great relationship with my parents and inlaws but can see how hurtful and agnozing this type of situation could be. It is called empathy Groovis, do you have any?

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 6, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Well, Cheeky... I said this yesterday - my mom is dead. She's been dead for 18 years. Not a day goes by that I don't miss her. She wasn't perfect by any means but I have absolutely no regrets about our relationship when she passed away. I also said yesterday that my husband's dad died a number of years ago and they had unresolved issues. My husband is still very conflicted, years later, about their relationship and wishes that he had done more while his dad was alive. My advice is to try and minimize the regrets that may sneak up on you later in life.

Posted by: GroovisMaximus61 | August 6, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Yes Groovis, and in the meantime you diss Serena for bringing up something from 1991 when people prompted her for more information. She shares a little bit of history (and I am sure there is a whole lot more) and you give her hell. By saying that you miss your mother daily - you admit what I said - that the parent-child relationship is very emotional. Why are you giving a woman grief that is experiencing something you never did and is having a hard time with it?

If your only point was to say 'come to peace with her before she is gone" your job is done, but you had to stick a fork in it with the continued snarks.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 6, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Oooo! Good point, Cheeky.

DH's father committed suicide when DH was 7. He's never resolved those father-son issues. He's made peace with his past by writing (songs and essays) about it.

His mother was a depressed-alcoholic-psycho-b!tch-from-h-e-l-l after her husband's death. DH and his sister both ended up in foster care. They have had much more peaceful and calm lives since she passed.

My mother's a bi-polar schizophrenic with a religious mania complex. When she's off her meds she thinks she's God, and she's more than happy to condemn her husband, children, and grandchildren to hell for our "sins" - whatever she imagines them to be. The best way to keep family peace is to discuss *nothing* with her more complex than the dinner menu. There's no resolving anything possible with her - only avoiding creating new issues that would add to the mountain of already existing issues.

I believe it will be a blessing to everyone concerned when my mother passes on. Pretty harsh, I know.

Sometimes a parent is so awful, that all a child can do is keep their head down and survive until they no longer have to live with the parent, and then work on putting the awful past behind them and leaving it there.

Posted by: SueMc | August 6, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

You are still holding onto an incident that occurred in 1991!

I had to revisit this. I guess maybe what struck me about this incident in 1991 is that it was a minor mistake. The mother sent a college tuition check for to the college in payment of Serena's tuition, without the appropriate paperwork that indicated who the payment was for, and it caused a bit of a glitch that was eventually worked out. I have a hard time seeing this as a sin worth holding a grudge over for 17 years. For goodness sakes, her mother made an administrative mistake. Serena feels so entitled that she totally dismisses the big picture, the fact thather parents paid for her college, truly a wonderful gift that deserves appreciation. Instead, she remembers the administrative mistake that caused her tuition check to be temporarily lost, and does not forgive her mother for not being prostrate on the ground begging forgiveness for this grave sin. If I lack empathy for this pettiness and completely self absorbed sense of entitlement, so be it. I am saving my empathy for people with real problems.

Posted by: emily8 | August 6, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

emily8: the 1991 incident was merely an EXAMPLE. I, with children in private school, will make mistakes, have made mistakes with when tuition is due, et al. I have, I will but the difference is I will ADMIT to my mistakes.

I NEVER once claimed I was perfect or that I didn't play a part in this debacle.

Hanging on to 1991? This debacle started before then. The issues started before then. This was not an overnight phenomenon. That was merely an example.

SMB

Posted by: smy509 | August 6, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Emily, Your empathy is staggering, join Groovis in the blame tent. You can twist someone's words only so many times. If you were to lay out specific problems I could probably pick them apart and blame you too.

I am just amazed at the misguided judgement here, is is absolutely childish - nanny-nanny-boo, I am better than you stuff. I look forward to the day when some of these posters have a problem and share it with someone (perhaps a friend, or someone on-line) and they smack you down for exploiting an "administrative mistake".

Thankfully there are posters like SueMc that have experience with difficult (to say the least) parents and can give some encouragement.

Serena, I guess all this comes with the territory, so thanks for soldiering on good luck with your mother.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 7, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

"I will but the difference is I will ADMIT to my mistakes"

Really, then admit this. That is is juvenile and ridiculous to be holding a grudge over a small and in the scheme of things, fairly inconsequential mistake that happened in 1991.

Perhaps you are more like your mother than you realize.

Posted by: emily8 | August 7, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

emily8, the 1991 incident was an EXAMPLE. I have let it go. YOU seem to be the one who can't let go of it. This piece wasn't about the 1991 incident, it was about the 2009 incident in which a family trip to visit grandma went sour and some realizations were made.

I am at times like my mother; she raised me, it's enevitable. The difference is, my children know they are loved and wanted even if they aren't following directions or getting into whatever it is that little boys get into.

I will remind them every day for the rest of our lives that I love them for the people they are, the people that they are becoming, and the people they will be.

And I will always love my mother, even if she cannot reciprocate.

Posted by: smy509 | August 7, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Emily, It is called cumulative incidents - honestly woman, why are you harping on this? Don't you have someone else to berate for behavior you deem childish (even though you don't know the whole story)......

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 7, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Serena - You clearly have not let it go since you are the one who brought it up.

Look, I am not saying your mother is an easy person to get along with, or that she is lovey dovey. Maybe she can't express her affection for you or the kids. Maybe the only way she knows of expressing herself is through negativity. Maybe like my husband, she was raised under difficult circumstances and has a hard time understanding that our children, who are privileged in so many ways, take these priveleges for granted and don't really understand how lucky they are.

And maybe, even so, she loves you fiercely, and can only show you that through sending your cards and gifts of money, as she apparently does on every appropriate occasion.

You keep on telling yourself the story that your mother does not love you because she does not show this to you in ways that you expect. Maybe she can't. People sometimes are damaged to such an extent that they have very limited resources for emotional engagement. I don't know your mother and her issues, or yours for that matter, but I do know that on the inside, people feel a lot more than the eye can see.

This is what I know. You were raised in a family that supported you, educated you, paid your college tuition, and gave you the basis for becoming a self-supporting, responsible citizen and loving parent. SOme of that is certainly you, but you did not do it in a vacume. You had help, advise, finanical support. Your mother was part of this. She may not have been the lovey dovey type, but she did her job. You and I know parenting is hard. Sometimes so hard people give up, go crazy, abuse their families, and behave in countless other ways that are less than ideal. Your mother is emotionally distant. She is critical. But my guess is she loves you. More than you know. Don't give up on her, or yourself, for your clearly want to have a relationship with her. You clearly long to fill that void. And that is completely understandable. She is your mother. You may need to find a different way to reach her though. Maybe she will never be the type to shower you with hugs and tell you how much she loves you. But don't close your eyes to the other, perhaps more indirect ways, that she may have of expressing this.

Posted by: emily8 | August 7, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Oh My God Emily, shut up. As if you are saying anything this woman doesn't already know.

Just because you stepped in it doesn't mean you have to keep stepping in it, back off and let it be.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 7, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Monkeybutt - it you don't like what I write, simply quit reading it.

Posted by: emily8 | August 7, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

It's hard not to react to you Emily because you are a Know-it-ALL and collosal pain in the monkey butt.

Have a great weekend harrassing friends and neighbors about their choices in life, I am sure you are a barrell of monkey butts at parties.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 7, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

LOL - Thanks, monkeybutt. Happy weekend to you too. Thankfully, I am going on vacation, so you at least will have a respite from my sage wisdom. I know you will miss me though. :)

Posted by: emily8 | August 7, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

In my opinion, it is not reasonable to expect a 75 years old woman to fly. None of my 75 year old relatives fly. They all stopped flying sometime in their 60s. Basically, I think it's your responsibility to go to visit your Mom.

And, as someone who grew up far from relatives in both New York and Ireland, I think where you live has a lot to do with it. One flight away in the same half of the country? Not too bad. 3000 miles away across the country? You're making a decision to see family a lot less, unless you happen to be rich and love flying. That's OK, but it's a decision. Family in Europe? Again, unless you're rich and love flying, don't expect to see them often.

Posted by: kent_eng | August 10, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Kent, why have a seemingly arbitrary rule about how old is too old to fly?

My grandmother was still flying when she was 98. (She passed away a couple of months before her 101st birthday. We had a grand party with about 400 of her closest family for her 100th.)

My parents are 78 and 76 - they're visiting my brother in GA this week, and some of my mother's cousins in AL. They live in CA and they travel all the time - sometimes flying, sometimes driving. Twenty years ago when Dad retired, they spent six months on a road-trip and toured Canada by way of Cancun, Mexico.

I can't even *imagine* my parents sitting around at home - just waiting and hoping someone would come visit them. They have plenty of free time, it's a big, old beautiful and amazing world, and they're healthy and well-enough off financially to explore it all.

I and my boys will go visit them in about two weeks when they're back home, during the last week before the boys start back to school. But I had to make those plans last month, to know when my parents would be at home, and also to get my vacation scheduled with my work.

Posted by: SueMc | August 10, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

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