Many readers responded to my column “Family Wants to Exclude Grandmother from Family Trip.” Several readers commented with anger and disbelief that the daughter of the grandmother who was paying for the trip wanted my help in how to tell her they didn’t want her on the trip. I was struck by this comment in particular: “At first I was surprised that you [Dr. Gramma Karen] didn’t mention the fact that the grandmother was paying for the trip. The more I thought about it, I realized that if you focused on the grandmother’s paying for the trip, that would make it seem like the family owed her a place on the trip. I think you stayed away from the money part intentionally and focused on doing the right thing instead of payback.”
This reader’s insight does, in fact, align with my intent: Yes, it is nice that the grandmother is financially able to be generous, but the money aside, I was hoping to help the daughter shift her thinking from how to exclude her mother to how to include her.
Examples of Accommodation
“I have to say I was more than a little outraged at the daughter as I read the column. Disney, of all places, has the resources any family could want or need to make a wonderful experience for all.” In fact, several readers point out that at both Disney Land and Disney World, groups with a wheelchair-bound member are given special treatment by allowing them to go to the head of the lines. This special consideration is greatly appreciated, as people confined to a wheelchair are often in discomfort and cannot easily tolerate long, slow moving lines. Fortunately, many resorts and amusement parks try to accommodate guests’ special needs.
Another reader points out how inclusion can happen with some creative solutions: In my family, my siblings and I have very fond memories of our father, known as “Pop-Pop”, taking his grandchildren out for breakfast on Sunday mornings. Sometimes there was only one or two around, but if all six were around, he’d take them all. And we’re talking starting at toddler age!
He would pile all the kids in his car with no diaper bag, no equipment — just him and the kids. And not once was there an errant poop or pee or any misbehavior! This was special time for him, special time for the kids, and a welcome break for us parents. This went on for years!
After Pop-Pop had a stroke and could no longer drive, the grandkids continued the tradition by driving him to breakfast. Such joy on everyone’s faces is etched in our minds. It’s certainly not always easy, but with a little imagination and forethought, it’s easy to change things up to create special times.
The fact that this daughter is trying to exclude her mother is so selfish and heartbreaking. She is depriving her kids of special time and memories with their grandmother.
Sometimes there are those offers that are hard to turn down. “I am reminded of two summers ago when my daughter and son-in-law were taking my two grandchildren (then ages 12 and 14) to a water park. In years past, when the grandchildren were younger and I had full mobility, I would go along and help take care of the kids. Now I am on a walker, and the kids certainly don’t need me to supervise them.
When they invited me to go with them this summer to the water park, I said they should just go without me as I would just slow things down. My older grandson said, ‘You’ve always gone with us. It you won’t go, then I’ll stay home with you.’ Of course, I will be going to the water park!”
Then there is this heartwarming comment: “When my 13-year-old daughter heard my mother and me discussing the column about the grandmother and her wanting to take her family to Disney, and how the family did not want her to go because she has difficulty walking, she said, ‘Grandma, you love Disney World and you’re in great health. You could be that grandmother’s companion.’” Yes, this is a very sweet offer, and it speaks well of this young girl.
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In closing, I want to share how one family handled an incapacitated grandmother and her granddaughter’s wedding. This particular grandmother fell as she was getting dressed on the morning of her granddaughter’s wedding, breaking her hip and ending up in the emergency room, tended to by her son-in-law.
The grandmother insisted that her situation not ruin her granddaughter’s wedding, so with the son-in-law and two other family members sworn to secrecy, the wedding took place. People were told the grandmother had an adverse reaction to her routine pills and would get to the wedding as soon as possible.
After the wedding and reception, everyone was told the truth about the grandmother’s absence. The bride, groom, and wedding party decided that if the grandmother couldn’t come to the party, they would take the party to her. To the delight of the grandmother, as well as the staff and other patients, they arrived at the hospital in their full wedding garb.
Indeed, this wedding party did what it needed to do: it prioritized inclusion and accommodation over exclusion. All it takes is the right motivation and some creativity.
I hope these readers’ comments motivate others to first give some thought on how to include someone under challenging circumstances, rather than to immediately assume they need to be excluded.
Ask Dr. Gramma Karen is published every other Tuesday.
E-mail queries to [email protected]
Dr. Rancourt’s most recent book is
It’s All About Relationships: New Ways to Make Them Healthy and Fulfilling, at Home and at Work
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