Thursday, June 19, 2008

Grandparental Involvement (...or lack thereof)

I fought with my mother on Father’s Day. I wouldn’t even really call it a fight as it was more about getting something off of my chest that has bothered me for the last 4.5 years. I’ve bitten my tongue for a long time, and I don’t know if it was the heat, the hormones or if I had just hit my breaking point, but I finally said, in short, what I had been feeling.

I called to see if she and my father were interested in coming over for steaks that evening. She started our conversation going on about how tired she was and how she had worked a half day and was planning a nap; she had sent my father to the store for something. I knew before I even asked that the answer would be no, but I asked and let her respond and then said that I guessed I should have known because the answer is always no. I could tell immediately that her defenses went up because she accused me of being pissed off (which I really wasn’t) and then began making excuses about how it was hard for them to both work full time, how she was planning on getting up at 3:30 to be at work by 5:30 the next morning, and just a lot of garb. I calmly told her that I wasn’t pissed, nor was I attacking her, but was plainly pointing out the obvious. In a fluster she told me that she would have my father call when he returned and she hung up the phone.

Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut, however, this has been weighing on me heavily as my mother has been pushing to have the kids come over and spend the night. I sidestepped the question several times, but then she mentioned it to Bud on the phone and now it is all that he can talk about.

Aside from not seeing any reason to give up custody of my children for the night, there are so many issues here. Since Bud’s birth, my parents have watched one or both of the children a total of 3 times. That is three times in 4.5 years. Granted we have a built in sitter in FIL, however, I don’t see what prevents them from asking if we’d like to drop the kids off on a Saturday or Sunday, just because. I don’t understand why they don’t invite us over for dinner, or why they constantly turn me down when I invite them to our place. I get that they work full time. I get that they live 30 minutes away. I get that they are tired. I get that my mother does not drive. I get that they like to spend some of their free time up at the casino. But I don’t get why seeing their grandchildren does not supersede all of this. From the time I was a child my mother talked about how she couldn’t wait for grandkids so that she could spoil them; she felt bad that my own grandparents were just not the spoiling type. But here we are, and that is so not the case.

Am I being irrational?

Part of me wonders if it is my fault for being very independent when it comes to raising my kids; independent in general even. I moved out when I was 19, started my adult life with Hub, and never looked back. We moved in to our house when I was 20. We paid for our own wedding when I was 23. And when I was pregnant at 24, I didn’t even tell my family until I was almost 4 months along. I did everything myself as far as the learning went. From the time Bud was in utero, I wanted to learn everything; go through everything myself (well, Hub and me). I didn’t ask for help, even from FIL, when he was an infant. The same trend continued as we merged very quickly in to a family of 4, and will likely be the same as it the number increases to 5.

But the rest of me feels like it’s not me at all; that it is them. They work, and their free time is their free time and they’re going to do what they want with it. If they want to spend their free time sleeping, or gambling, or doing whatever it is that they do, and they don’t have time for their grandkifds—except for when it suits them- so be it. Maybe it shouldn’t bother me like it does.

It continues to do so, though, so where do I go from here? Make more of an effort? I clearly can’t speak to my mother about it because she gets defensive. In fact, that is why I had to move my blog because she thought that everything I wrote had something to do with her (and also used it against me, but that is a different story for a different day) Do I resign myself to it being what it is, and let my kids see them less than once per month and stand my ground on this overnight BS?

As much as he drives me insane, I suppose I should be glad that FIL is there, taking such an interest in the kiddos, more than willing to spend every waking minute with them and is agreeable to do whatever they would like.

Who would have ever thought that the grandparent game would be so hard? Or that it would have such an affect on me?


Emily said...

Even though the baby isn't here yet I KNOW this issue is one that I am going to have with my parents.

Your paragraph about their free time being theirs and they do whatever they want with it is spot on. My parents will complain about not seeing me enough, but (especially my dad) don't seem to realize that they ALWAYS want me to come to them and never take up an offer to come visit my husband and me.

On top of that, I know they are going to be jealous of my in-laws relationship with the baby.

I, no exaggeration, am dreading how this is all going to play out. Miserably is my guess. Because just like you they expect me to keep my mouth shut and not complain, or else they'll be angry.

Jess said...

I don't think you're being irrational. Part of it might stem from the fact that you are independent and they may feel that you don't need them, or that they are jealous of your FIL's close relationship with the kids, but part of it sounds like they just aren't really making your kids a priority. And I don't know if there's anything you can do about that. I mean, if it's really important to you that your kids have a close relationship with your parents, then I would say you should push it. It's up to you how much it matters.

Pickles & Dimes said...

Oh man. I don't have kids yet, but I can see this being an issue for us as well. My parents (mainly my mom) always drop hints about when we're going to visit them (they live 2 hours away), but the number of times they come to visit us? Three times in three years.

I hate that we're the ones who have to give up a whole weekend to see them. I finally convinced them to meet us halfway for lunches. When I first brought it up you'd have thought I suggested never seeing them again. Stupid.

You can keep offering times/dates for them to come visit you, and if they refuse, that's their right. But then if they offer to have you come over, you can either refuse or accept with the caveat of "Hopefully, this will be a give-and-take situation where we can take turns hosting each other. It's not fair for us to always come to you."

Saly said...

Shauna- this thing is that we don't even come to them, they don't ask us.

And Jess- I am in between about how I really feel about it all.

Nowheymama said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hey, it's me, Sarah, going semi-anonymous here because my in-laws found my blog. "It was...shocking," was their comment. Because I'm so controversial. ANYWHO, this is our relationship with my in-laws to a T, and it drives me nuts. We used to live 5 minutes away from them and saw them maybe once a month. So we moved closer to my parents. We are always expected to visit my in-laws and they rarely come here. Husband says, "That's just the way they are," and never says anything, but it clearly bothers him. If it were my parents, I'd speak up, but it's not, so I don't.
They recently called my husband *at work* to tell him that they are moving from 6 hours away to about 15 hours away from us, not to mention the BIL and SIL they currently live in the same town with. Ok, then. Do you realize how expensive travel for 5 is these days? Do you care?
I applaud you for saying something, Saly. Sorry for the book.

CAQuincy said...

Gah. I feel for you. My hubs and I have had similar discussions about the seemingly lack of interest of our folks, too. The only parent who seemed interested in her grandkids passed away five years ago (and never got to meet the youngest). After all of the BEGGING from one particular parent for grandkids, I thought there would be a little more show of interest when they finally came. There is a lot of bitterness around here.

I get not wanting the kids to stay the night, too. Just say that you want to wait until the kids are older.

And keep asking them over--even if it's always no. At least you're making the attempt.

My folks are 8 and 9 1/2 hours away--but WE are almost always the ones making the trip home. Then due to the folks' stubbornness, we THEN have to spread out a one-week trip into four different cities. No one is happy at the end of that week, and I find myself playing referree more than I used to when I was a kid and my folks were first getting divorced.

How sad that you aren't getting more aknowlegement when yours are only 30 minutes away....

Kristin.... said...

When we only had 1 child, the grandparents took her every other weekend, alternating. It was great. Then when child 2 came and didn't sleep thru the night until he was a bit older, the visits slowed down. And now, with 4 kids, the visits are more infrequent. Mind you, our families live within 45 minutes of us. My father comes every week to pick up my oldest at the bus and visit, but sometimes he drops and runs, and that's hard on the kids. My parents are always so "busy" on the weekends, running around to different stores doing errands and working in the yard, and it feels like a burden to ask them to watcht the kids. My in-laws are older, my FIL does NOT help, so to ask my MIL to watch all4 is a no-no. We don't even bother. They will take the older 2sometimes for an overnight, but that isn't working well anymore due to space issues at their house. My babysitter is good, but she leaves for college in 2 months, and once I'm done crying about it, I don't know what I'm going to do.
I grew up with grandparents in another state, 3 1/2 hours away, so I always thought that having my kids close to their grandparents would be great for them. But having to beg them to spend time with them sometimes makes me question that.

bananafana said...

you're not being irrational. I don't like giving up time with my kids so we hardly ever seek out a babysitter - if our parents want to watch them, they ask and they make plans. We're lucky that everyone seems to be happy with this arrangement. My FIL bought season tickets for him and O to Six Flags so he would have an excuse to steal him often and my mom will at least stop by for half an hour if she hasn't seen them in a week just to say hi (and she lives at least 20 minutes away).

desperate housewife said...

NOT irrational. I mean, not that they owe you babysitting or anything, but it doesn't sound like you're looking at it that way anyways; you just want to visit with them more. It does seem weird that they wouldn't be more interested and involved. Do they come to school functions, recitals, etc, at least?

Swistle said...

I puzzle over similar issues with my MIL, who talks about how she's DYING to see the children, but then when she's here she doesn't interact with them. Or she'll say she can't WAIT for us to have a girl so she can make smocked dresses---and then we have a girl, and there are no smocked dresses. Or she'll say she loves the children SO MUCH, but I don't see any real interest from her in spending time with them or getting to know them, or in fact even in liking them very much: most of her remarks are critical.

I've gradually come to the conclusion that some people THINK they will love grandchildren and want to spend time with them, but then when the grandchildren arrive they find they actually DON'T feel that way.

Misty said...

I am pretty lucky with my folks seeing the kids every weekend religiously. Sometimes my mom gets on my nerves and just likes to tell me "no" for the sake of saying "no."

And my MIL and FIL, while divorced, neither one of them see my kids more than 3 times a year, probably. They just aren't really involved. So, if either one of them wanted to take my kids overnight...I would laugh them out of the house. No freaking way. So I don't think you are being irrational. And I can understand why all this bothers you.

My boss is a counselor and she is big on the "Oh well" factor. There is a statment that she says all the time: It would be great if X, but X is not happening. Oh well. Like, it would be great if my in laws were more involved. But they are not and nothing I can do will change that. Oh well.

I will grant you, the "Oh well" thing doesn't always make me feel better. But I think it is all about letting go of the things you have no control over. Wish I could help, hon.

Anonymous said...

Hey sister friend,

I think what everyone is dealing with here is differing expectations and differing needs and wants. It must be hard for all of you to not get the visitation or support from your parents with regards to kids. I know that having lost my Dad and all of my grandparents that in my heart and mind that it's a priority for me to (eventually) have that influence on my kids' lives.

That said, I may run out of time :(

But also, knowing how my Mum was when I left home and how she is with my brother having left home, I suspect that she will be a bit like your Mum. I don't think it's that the kids are not a priority but more the fact that they want to do what they want to do, when they want, how they want and so on. They've gained back their independence. It's their right after going through child rearing in some ways.

I'm not saying it is right nor wrong, it's just the way life pans out. The worst bit about that is that no matter what, you end up with hurt feelings and confusion because your expectations and wants are different to your parents'.

How to resolve it? I like what misty said. Consider the idea of "oh well" or letting go. You can't change what you can't control; but that doesn't mean you should give up. It's a case of what's paying off for you. Maybe change your mind about what it means when she turns you down - it's not you, it's her, and keep reminding her that it's not too late to get involved.

I love you and miss you and think of you every single day.

If I can help in any way, you know where I am.

AKA Paprika xxxxxxxx

LoriD said...

My parents are really involved. They would drop everything to have the chance to spend the day with their grandchildren.

My MIL, however, makes nice gestures, but has never been alone with any of the kids for even a minute. At this point, I would never send them for an overnight visit. AND, if we want to see her, we always have to go and see her... in her store... which is a ceramics store that ONLY has breakable things. She has been to our house about 5 times total since Lisa was born, all of those visits within 2 weeks of the birth of a new child. I think some people like the idea of being grandparents (showing pictures, buying things for them), and some are just really good at being grandparents (spending time with them).

Anonymous said...

I don't think you're being irrational at all. As someone already said, I think you have differing expectations. As long as you've made the offers for them to come, I think you just have to let the rest go. Whether or not they choose to accept your invitations and be a part of your kids' lives is beyond your control. If they choose not to participate, it's their loss really, and your focus can remain on your family of 5, not your parents.

Penny said...

I have much of the same issue with my mother. My own solution after a long time of trying to improve things was just to let things stay as they are. I'm done with trying to get more out of my mom than what's there. It's disappointing and sad on some levels but also a freeing. I can let go of my anger and reconstruct a relationship with her that is based on reality.

Mommy Daisy said...

This is a lot how my mom views the relationship her parents had with us when we were little. They did their own thing. My parents are very family focused. My son is the only grandchild, and they love spending time with him. They respect our schedules, but they do ask to keep him from time to time (more now that he's a bit older, because I hardly left him when he was a baby). I know that my mom does NOT want to be like her mother was. And now that my grandmother is alone, she wants to be more like my mom. That's OK to some extent, but then she's upset or jealous when her plans don't always work out. My mom says it's too little too late. So I totally understand what you're saying. I hope they don't regret it someday.