DEAR AMY: I have four adult children and three grandchildren. They all live 2.5 hours away and have very successful, fulfilling lives. My husband and I couldn’t be prouder. They usually call every week or so and I send an occasional text or email. The problem is our daughter-in-law, who wants nothing to do with us. She is the mother of our only grandchildren. She refuses to visit, especially on the holidays. When we visit, she is pleasant, but seems to barely tolerate us. We want to see more of our grandsons but we are not permitted to babysit, and if I ask to take them to the park, etc., she ignores me, hoping I will let it go (which I do to keep the peace). I have spent many a sleepless night trying to figure out what I have done to her and cannot think of a thing. Honestly, in the 10 years they have been married I have never said a mean word or offered advice, even with new babies. I say nothing to my son. I know he sees her treatment of us and feels guilty, but fighting about it isn’t worth it to him. I agree that his wife has to come first, but we’re not sure if our other three children plan on having kids, so these may be our only grandchildren. The boys love to see us and I have heard the oldest asking if he can go home with grandma and grandpa and mom always says no! We just came home from a visit and it was worse than ever. I am depressed over the situation and do not know what to do.
DEAR ANXIOUS: You have kept silent in order to keep the peace, but this doesn’t really seem like peace, so much as a cold war. You have nothing to lose at this point, and so I hope you and your husband will be brave enough to have a conversation with your son and daughter-in-law, respectfully asking them if there is a specific reason they seem so hesitant to let you play a larger role in the lives of their children.
You might want to draft an email where you say, “We notice that when it comes to the kids, you seem hesitant about letting us spend very much alone-time with them. We’d love to be more involved in their lives, and hope you can help us to find ways to do that. If there is something you think we need to do differently, please let us know. We are absolutely bananas about the boys and want to be closer to all of you.”
You are trying. Good for you.
DEAR AMY: Seven years ago my older sister died at 45, after a difficult battle with cancer. I recently visited her two daughters (now 26 and 23) who live in the Midwest, never went to college, and are making do at restaurant jobs on their own. They told me they haven’t been in communication with their dad, who lives in the same city, since he remarried last September. According to them, he is focused now on his new wife and her daughters and can only see them if his new wife is present. He is upset because one of them stepped out during the wedding because she was having a hard time and returned shortly after. His reaction seems unwarranted. I’ve been told by other family members that I should intervene and encourage their dad to connect with his daughters again. Is this my place? I also feel like I should step in with more support to my nieces, but living in New York makes that difficult.
DEAR UNCLE: Yes, you should be in touch with your nieces’ father. Tell him that you had a great visit with his girls and that they expressed a wish to see him more often. That’s it. Don’t give advice and don’t step in further. Just put it out there.
You can be a supportive presence with these young women, even from a distance. Text them now and then, and (if you can swing it) send them tickets to visit you.
DEAR AMY: After reading your advice to “Only an Acquaintance,” I would like to add that many couples facing infertility find it helpful to join a support group. Resolve.org is a good resource, based on my prior experience as a nurse in an infertility clinic.
Vicki Levy, RN
DEAR VICKI: Thank you for the recommendation!