Question: Dear Luise: Our family has always been close. Our son married a girl that came from a divorced home. The mother has been married several times. She told me that she fell in love with the closeness of our family. Things have been up and down since they have been married. They now have 3 girls. Since the last baby was born, she has been very bitter towards us. Our family has helped them a great deal. They have since had to move in with her family, due to financial problems. She does not seem to want to keep a job. We have offered to watch the children so she can work. The baby is almost a year old. My son and the children come over one night a week for dinner. When we call to ask to have the kids for the day or take them to dinner, the answer is always “they already have plans.” It doesn’t matter how much advance notice we ask! When I ask my son what is going on, he won’t give me an answer. This all started on Easter. She told me I have always caused trouble and said a few hurtful things. This came clearly out of the blue. I cried for days. We were hoping things were changing for the better. She came for Thanksgiving and Christmas but since then she as returned to her old self. We can only see the kids the one night again. Our hearts break for our son. He loves his kids so much. I have been told she talks to him unkindly. I have tried to be extra nice by asking her to lunch and buying her little things. She does not answer the phone if I call. The children cry to see us. We love them so much. Her mother is very controlling. Her family can come and get the kids anytime they want. We have tried talking but get nowhere. I pray things will soon change. We are almost to the point of looking into grandparent rights. Please give us some advice. I tell my son we need an answer, “why?” D.
Answer: Dear D.: Many grandparents who have visited my website would think they were in heaven if they could have dinner once a week with their grandchildren. That doesn’t mean you have a wonderful situation but you haven’t been permanently shut out, which happens more often than most of us realize.
Your son’s choice of a mate and the way they run their family unit is their business. They don’t have to explain the “whys” to anyone. After the novelty wears off, many wives don’t choose to fit into their in-laws’ lives or simply aren’t able to. They cull their spouses out of the herd by sticking closely to their own families of origin, ideal or otherwise, and can’t seem to get beyond that.
There are lots of reasons why this happens, but that doesn’t change the end result. Your son has gotten caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place and you are adding to his stress.
Your daughter-in-law tried to tell you what wasn’t working for her on Easter. Perhaps not kindly or even well. It may have been your only chance, however painful, to hear her out, respect her point of view and to seek an honest compromise.
Let your son know that your love for him is forever and so is your love for your grandchildren. If your daughter-in-law can’t accept your love, that’s just how it is. Ask him if there is anything more you can realistically do to help him cope.
When our adult children leave home we can only hope we will be part of their lives from that point on. There’s no guarantee that will happen. Blessings, Luise