— O. Morris • email@example.com • April 2017
We’re Not Feeling The Love
It’s spring break, and I’m once again faced with an ongoing problem. You see, my mother treats my sister’s kids much better than she treats mine. My husband has noticed, and, even worse, the kids have noticed as well. For example, my sister’s girl and boy get taken on extravagant trips during this yearly vacation. Last year, my mother took them to Disney World while my kids got only an Easter basket and a phone call. It really makes me angry, but when I confront her about it, she tells me I’m just imagining things. What can I do?
Sick of It
Dear Sick of It,
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but if I’m being completely honest, there’s probably not much you can do. I mean, listen, you can continue to confront your mother with all that anger and rip your heart out, or you can do some constructive things that might end up with a much more positive outcome.
First, I would teach my children to be respectful to Grandma even if they honestly think they’re getting the short end of the stick. Nothing good can come from them giving her the cold shoulder. Unfortunately, you can’t control your mother’s behavior, but you can teach your children to be gracious and thankful for the basket and phone call, not jealous and greedy, no matter what someone else is given.
Next, I know you’ve told your mother how you feel, but try your best to take yourself out of the equation and explain to her how hurtful this situation has become for your kids. Tell her about their pain and how you know she might not realize what she’s doing. If she cares about your children, maybe this would prompt her to stop or at least see things through their little eyes. Try your best to be calm, and by all means, make sure this conversation is not an attack. After all, the reason you’re bringing your feelings and those of your children to her is not to say whatever horrible thing that comes to mind followed by a wig snatch, but rather because of your love and concern.
Since your children realize the unfairness of the situation, talk to them about it as well. It’s important to give your babies validation! Then help them to gently forgive Granny. Kind words from a mom to a child can make a world of difference even though you’re struggling with your own feelings of despair about favoritism. Even when there’s an obvious discrepancy in treatment, mothers need to explain to their children that Grandmother loves each child equally. Soften the blow by telling the children that maybe Grandma feels she has to take the other kids on trips to prove love but knows your children don’t require that kind of show. Listen, your little ones are your main concern; you don’t want them to be warped or in need of therapy to get over Grandma’s slights.
Let’s be real honest here: More often than not, knowing that a relative is playing favorites hurts Mom’s feelings more than the child’s. It might be some comfort to you when I say I’ve heard this same story from countless friends. Sometimes things change, but if I’m being honest sometimes, I’ll tell you they don’t.
The sad fact is that consistently inviting the same grandchildren to outings, whether intentional or not, can sabotage a grandparent-grandchild bond. Left unaddressed, years of built-up resentment can expand into a chasm too wide to cross. Though it is true that some personalities just click more easily than others and you’re not actually obligated to feel equal affection for each grandchild, you are obligated to keep your preferences to yourself.
The truth is no matter how delicately you approach the subject, some slings and arrows may come your way. But there is too much at stake to worry about bruised egos.
Here’s the bottom line: In real life, we deal with flawed people. Life is not a television show that can be wrapped up in 60 minutes with a happy ending. Your children should be helped to understand that.
Peace and love to you. I’m not certain of that many things. But one thing I’m very sure of is that every grandchild is a blessing, and each one should feel the same amount of warmth from the shining light of your love. I happen to be a Grandma myself and want to be remembered with joy and laughter. Not being remembered in a good light — OMG I don’t think that’s the legacy any Grandma plans to leave.
Have you had this same experience? Write to me! firstname.lastname@example.org