Grandma Gives Positive Solutions to Mother’s Day Disappointment and Family Discord

Mother's Day giftCarolyn Hax, on May 24, 2015 in the Miami Herald, wrote concerning a letter received about Mother’s Day disappointment. Family fallout from holidays can last forever. Disappointment over expectation is what Carolyn Hax addresses in, “She’s upset over Mother’s Day card.”

Here is the letter:

Dear Carolyn:
My son knows that a card says a lot. Last year, my Mother’s Day card was just basic from my son, grandkids and daughter-in-law. I didn’t say anything. This year my grandson is 5 and he made a card, which was thoughtful, but not from my son. Now reread the first sentence. I have discussed this with my son in the past and I am really disappointed and hurt that he thinks that card would take the place of one from him. He’s 42 and also thinks a text is good enough for a happy birthday, etc. But Mother’s Day – I was a single mom and I gave him a wonderful upbringing and all I ask for is a card. Also I live in Florida and he lives in Virginia and has two small boys, 5 and 2, whom I don’t see much. What should I do. – Hurt in Florida

This Grandma loves Carolyn’s response:

“You can stop feeling sorry for yourself, for starters. You asked me to reread the first sentence, but I went hog wild and reread the second sentence, too. Allow me to fluff it up with italics: Last year, my Mother’s Day card was just basic from my son, grandkids and daughter-in-law.”

“You got a card last year! But it was not good enough. And you got a card this year! But it was not good enough. You are not going to like hearing this, though please be assured I sincerely do want to help you see your grandkids more: No one wants to visit people who find fault with everything. Multiply that lack of motivation to visit by 11 when it involves air travel and kids under 6. People like to feel appreciated – as you well know, right? If you want to cultivate a close relationship with your son and his young family – and reap all that comes with it, from visits to cards to genuine warmth and affection to whatever displays of appreciation come naturally to your boy — then you need to replace the self-pity and disappointment with unpursed lips and gratitude that reflect awareness of what you actually did receive.”

This Grandma’s mantra has always been that our role is to be the support of the marriage of the parents of our grandchildren for their best interests, to promote family togetherness, and to perpetuate close family ties. We must act like a matriarch. We do not do that by positioning ourselves as queen bee, as the hurt grandma seems to be. We do that by seeking to give more than we receive, and to have no expectations as expectations breed disappointment. The hurt grandma said she has discussed this issue with the son before and got nowhere. This Grandma heard from a long (we never say old) psychologist friend that doing the same thing again and again, and expecting a different result, is insanity. Why participate? Appreciate what you do have and get, as Carolyn Hax says. I would recommend a telephone, or better yet, a FaceTime thank you with the grandchild and a small gift sent to both grandchildren that you are thinking of them and appreciate the card. Grandchildren love to get things in the mail. Take a selfie of yourself smiling and holding the card, get two copies and two inexpensive lucite frames, write a thank you message on the card and sign your name with love, and send them to the grandchildren for their room. Start on a positive path of sharing of joy.

You reap what you sow. The son has a family and his family must come first. He is in the building stage of life, which, in and of itself, is busy and stressful, with much responsibility and little free time. There is so much grandma joy in giving unconditional love and respite and seeing our children and grandchildren happy. Since your son texts you, ask for pictures of the grandchildren to be texted periodically. Respond with the joy you will feel in sharing your son and his family’s life.

What did hurt grandma do for her daughter-in-law for Mother’s Day? Remember that the parents of our grandchildren are the gatekeepers and we must always honor the gatekeepers. It is not too late. Saying the gift is combined for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, send a gift of a free movie ticket for each member of the family (summer children’s blockbusters are coming) or a meal at a favorite restaurant which you can get on line, for the family, or for the parents of the grandchildren. If expenses are tight in the son’s family, and you are able, include enough money to cover a babysitter.

Remember that each multi generational family has a family culture, even though it is never really thought about or expressed. Family dynamics, interactions, functioning or non-functioning can be patterns that gone on for decades or generations. Your son may respond to you in the same way as he has done his whole life. Think about it. We cannot go backwards. We can change ourselves, not others. We can only make our own happiness.

If hurt grandma’s grandchildren are already five and two, grandma has a lot of work ahead of her on two grounds, finding what makes her happy in her life in Florida to share, and trying to give to the son and his family in Virginia, joyfully share the small moments in their lives, and make each of their lives better however you can. Miles disappear when our hearts all want to come together. As a long distance grandma for over a decade, I know grandmas can make that happen.





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