DEAR AMY: My husband’s family never honored any holiday or milestones such as Mother’s Day or birthdays or anything like that. My family, though of modest means, celebrated all of that. I thought I had raised my four children to honor those traditions. This past Mother’s Day broke my heart. My four kids, though well-meaning, put forth the absolute least amount of effort. And my husband, whom I dearly love, defended them. When Mother’s Day arrived, nothing happened. Late in the day, one of my kids said, “Hey, Mom, how about I take you to dinner?” At 4 o’clock in the afternoon I’m really not in the mood. One of my other kids called me; hey, she was so tired but — oh, my goodness — she wished me a happy Mother’s Day! And my son who is living out of state called to wish me happy Mother’s Day. Big deal. Am I wrong to be hurt? My husband is defending the kids: “Oh, they care, they did this, they did that.” But, really? I have made 100,000 dinners for all of them in celebration. And none of them could take the time to do that for me? A perfect Mother’s Day to me would require very little planning. Very little. If one of my adult children had said to the others, “Let’s do a potluck barbecue at Mom’s for Mother’s Day,” it would have been great. To me, investing time is much more important than mailing a card that arrives a day late, or receiving a box on my doorstep. I felt ignored and unappreciated. Yet they would describe all of our relationships as good — and even close (and, frankly, so would I). I don’t want to be selfish, and I hate being so hurt, but I am very upset that my husband does not have my back. I just want to run away. I don’t know what to do.
DEAR SAD MOM: Mother’s Day is surprisingly complicated. Let me start not by defending, but perhaps explaining your husband’s reaction to your upset. He was not necessarily defending the kids’ feeble efforts, but trying to deflect you from focusing on their efforts by reminding you that they care about you and love you very much.
He did the wrong thing for you in this moment, however. In this context, “having your back” would mean that he would have been as furious and upset as you are. He went another way.
I hope you will reach out to your adult children, as a group, and be completely transparent with them (copy your husband on this email): “Guys, I’ve made 100,000 special dinners for you over the years. I don’t have high expectations for gifts, etc., but I do want to see you (if possible) on Mother’s Day. It’s the one day when I am highly conscious of my role in your lives, and making a modest plan to get together would make me feel appreciated and very happy. I feel like a baby reaching out to you in this way, but, well, I’m being honest with you, and I hope you’ll take this in the spirit it is intended.”
DEAR AMY: I was married for 30 years. We divorced 15 years ago. My ex-husband’s parents are in their 90s and frail. I have not seen his siblings or parents for all these years, but my two children have kept in close contact with them. I have no desire to attend the funerals of the elders when they pass away. In your opinion, am I correct to stay away?
DEAR IN-LAW: Yes, you are right to stay away from these funerals. First of all, you don’t want to go. Secondly, there is a high likelihood that no one really wants to see you there.
You should encourage your children to step up in every way for their grandparents — now and later.
It would be kind of you to send a note of sympathy to other family members, recalling a fond memory or two, and expressing your gratitude for the role these grandparents have played in the lives of your children.
DEAR AMY: “Ghosted Uncle” was wondering why his teen niece and nephew (whom he barely knows) are “ghosting” him when their mother moved them nearby. Thank you for pointing out that kids cannot always be the first to provide adults with the attention they crave. The more mature person should demonstrate how to have a relationship.
DEAR BEEN THERE: Yes. Thank you.