Dear Readers: In an earlier column Grandmother’s Hurtful Behavior towards Grandson Kathy, a distraught mom, described her mother’s angry, unpredictable, often bullying behavior towards her 12-year-old son Davey. Many readers e-mailed me to share their comments and to say how concerned they were for this mom and her family. Kathy agreed to provide an update.
When I asked Kathy what changes, if any, she and her husband decided to make regarding their relationship with her parents, she responded: “My husband and I decided to pull back a little from how close we were [with my parents] and how much time we spent with them so these things don’t happen [grandmother’s unpredictable behavior towards Davey]. My mother feels too close with my son; she actually told me she feels like his second mother, so obviously some distance needed to be made in that regard… I discussed the situation with my mother about her behavior. However, she hasn’t changed and went right back to how things were, badmouthing everyone in the family … We decided not to spend Easter with my family this year.” (In fact, Kathy did not have any contact with her mother for two months.)
How did you explain to your children any changes that you decided to make regarding your parents? “I mostly talked to my son about the changes we were making. I let him know that I never want him in that position again where my mother can hurt him. I explained that if having a relationship with my mother made him uncomfortable after the way she hurt him, it was okay and he didn’t have to forgive her until he was ready. I told him that I want him to be able to talk to me about how he feels about these things. My younger daughters were very upset about what their grandmother said to their brother, but I discussed with them how wrong their grandmother’s behavior was and how sometimes adults say hurtful things. They are too young to understand fully, but my middle daughter was very standoffish with my mother the first time she saw her [after the incident] as she was very upset with her.”
What other changes have you made? “I have not let my mother watch my children or be alone with them. She is very upset by this. She won’t stop making comments about how it seems I don’t want her around the kids, which is comical to me. For five months now she has not come to any of my children’s activities. None of Davey’s hockey playoffs, his state competition, the girls’ soccer games, Davey’s school chorus performance…nothing. Their other grandparents have been to all of the kids’ activities. I asked my mother-in-law to watch the kids one weekend so my husband and I could have some time away. My mom is offended that I didn’t ask her. The only time we have seen my parents since this all went down is when we went to their home. They have made no effort, yet don’t understand why I won’t drop things when she wants me to come shopping with her.”
Did you get any professional help or other advice? “I mentioned counseling to my mother. She laughed. She has always said, ‘I don’t have any problems, it is everyone else, so why should I go?’ In the meantime, I have gone back to my counselor whom I haven’t seen in years. He basically thinks my mother will never change, so it is my decision about whether I go forward with her in my life.”
Where do things stand now? “The couple of months I did not talk to my mom were very peaceful and stress free. Having a relationship with my mom requires my constantly having hurt feelings about how she never does anything to help my family or be part of my children’s lives, yet she is always doing things for my brother and his family. I question myself constantly on why I even deal with her considering all she does is stress me out and upset me with her drama and complaining. I am tired of her making comments when I don’t get to talk to her every day. My life is very busy with my three kids. My disorders have flared up from the stress as well. I just don’t know why I put myself through this.
“I don’t feel my mom will ever change. I am the only one who is capable of changing. I just don’t know how much more I can put up with the same old thing from her or if I can change enough to stop letting her hurt me.”
Kathy, although you are still working through some issues about the future of your relationship with your mother, I hope you don’t lose sight of the incredible courage you have shown in the past few months and the significant changes you’ve already made. You have:
– Taken control of your relationship with your mother by making it clear to her that you will not tolerate her unacceptable and hurtful behavior.
– Demonstrated to your children that you and your husband will always protect them from potential and actual harm from others, including their grandparents, by not leaving them alone with them.
– Come to accept that your mother is most likely not going to change, so it is up to you to make any changes.
Because you recently had time during which you had no contact with your mother, you can now assess the quality of life you and your family experience when your mother is involved and when she is not involved. This comparison, as well as the ongoing guidance of your counselor, will no doubt help you continue to make decisions that are in the best interests of you and your family.
I know my readers join me in thanking you for initially sharing your situation and for giving us an update. Your actions will inspire others who are dealing with difficult and challenging family relationships to do whatever needs to be done to protect their children from those who can cause them any emotional and/or physical harm.
Ask Dr. Gramma Karen is published every other Thursday during the summer months.
E-mail queries to [email protected]