Question: Dear Luise: I am an aging Mom of adult daughters. I have recently tried to re-unite the three of them. To my surprise, they actually agreed to get together as a family. To make a long story short: It did not go well, but the victim was not a sibling in this case it was me. They told me how awful I was, and that the reason they are “messed up” (their words), was because I was such a horrible, mean Mother when they were growing up. First off- I know how horrible I was. I have told them all, many times how sorry I was for my bad behavior back then. No one ever heard of P.M.S. back when my children were young. They have been shown love in many ways as adults by their Mother. I am not a monster anymore and haven’t been for many, many years. They hate me, they don’t want to have anything to do with me,(not the youngest), but they all three treat me terribly. My Grandchildren show me no respect because of their parents’ feelings toward me. I am invited to family events, but I am invisible to them. My children do not care what they say to me. They tell me not to talk if it is something they don’t want to hear. I just take it, because I want to be with them. Last week I couldn’t take it anymore, I asked my eldest child to take my eldest granddaughter away (they were staying with me, they were from out of town, and she is in her twenties now). I do not have any idea why my granddaughter would behave the way she did toward me (I have never been around her). She was very hurtful, and without provocation. I am not just sounding off, I really do need to get help with this. I know you will suggest that I should let them fly, but at my age I really do need them. What do you suggest? I have another appointment with a counselor, but I hate to continue crying about it, I am not getting anywhere. P.
Answer: Dear P.: You gave them life. Your girls seem to have forgotten that. For reasons no one may be able to understand after the fact, it wasn’t easy for any of you but they are here because you said, “yes” to motherhood. You also didn’t adopt them out; you gave them each other and a family unit. Those observations aren’t going to change anything but they are the bottom line regarding your self-respect. No one can take that from you. You can forfeit your self-respect if you focus only on regret but the truth is that you did your best and no one has any way of knowing how hard that was for you.
Saying you are sorry doesn’t remove their memories. It really doesn’t do much of anything. They have their own little group and they may be feeding on each other’s complaints. You gave them the impressions that you hated them. If your youngest has maintained even a minimal degree of loyalty, that’s something. And if you are invited to family events, it’s time to see that invisible is a whole lot better than not being invited at all. My point is that not liking the situation doesn’t change it. Self-pity may come up for you but it is not productive.
Your disrespectful granddaughter was probably mirroring what she had heard about you from her mother and Aunts. You didn’t have to do or say anything; she was operating from the basis of well-founded gossip, probably with her mother’s blessing. You certainly had the right to end a visit that was abusive. Good for you.
Within you is your love for your girls…and love is a powerful thing. In your present situation is also your need. You spoke of needing them and not being willing to let them go. Your counselor is the place to take this, not the web. It is too well established and time is needed to sort it out. Crying sometimes helps, too. You can release that way and not turn your feelings into a time bomb.
You can guess about PMS but that may not have been it, or all of it. That was then and this is now and what you need to do now is move beyond hypothetical excuses to some level of resolution. If they are unwilling to work with you regarding reframing their relationship with you, work on how you can accept all of this and heal. You can’t call a family meeting and stop it. It seems to have a life of its’ own…so turn toward your own healing and leave their healing to them. Blessings, Luise