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Are Grandparents that dip their toe in and out of their Grandchildrens lives damaging?

(53 Posts)
Sad4kids Sun 10-Nov-13 09:00:10

As in when it suits them?
Kids are 9,7 and1
Both sets moved away nearer coast to semi retire
I feel hurt when I see other children enjoying quality time with their Grandparents
We visit them about twice a year, and they us, but when they visit us they stay elsewhere and only spare us an hour or so of a 3 day break
Bizarrely this goes for mine and DH s parents
I feel like cutting them out altogether, harsh I know
DH thinks I'm being ridiculous
But to see snippets of their 'too busy' grandparents is better than not knowing them at all?
What do you think?

NorthernShores Sun 10-Nov-13 09:03:58

I thought it was quite usual for grandparents to drop in and out. They're not the parents but extras in the family.

I'd love for either or ours to be more involved but I don't think they will be.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 10-Nov-13 09:04:03

It's not damaging, no. Children IME are quite capable of taking people as they find them. If the GPs are the distant sort, children will take them on face-value, enjoy the rare meetings as a treat, but find other people to be close to instead. Please don't make the mistake of looking at other family set-ups and thinking all is rosy. Some people find too-involved GPs to be suffocating and interfering

ToTheTeeth Sun 10-Nov-13 09:04:56

Of course a little bit is better than nothing. They're not being abusive or cold, just busy. They have their own lives, but that doesn't mean they don't want your kids in it.

Everything shouldn't revolve around your children.

MisForMumNotMaid Sun 10-Nov-13 09:09:00

You sound as though you're almost mourning the loss of parents. It is sad that they're missing out. But thats the point they're missing out. Your DC don't know any different - its just what GP are to them.

Cutting them out sounds like a recipe for hostlities to me. Possibly not even dealing with your own frustration.

You never know in a couple of years time they might enjoy having the older DC to stay on their own as teens. Or they might carry on as they are. I don't think it can be damaging if they're not abusive in their short visits.

Do you have other mature family members that could possibly enjoy the involvement with the DC - lonely Great Aunts/ Uncles could be candidates?

Sad4kids Sun 10-Nov-13 09:11:41

Ok thanks for the perspective
I'm still sad for them though
I think that they are great kids and deserve better than shoddy treatment
I don't wish to drip feed but my mum let them down twice in the summer after realizing that she'd 'double booked herself'
So I've told her not to bother promising anything to them again
And DHs mum seems far more pre occupied with her other grandchildren sad

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 10-Nov-13 09:15:49

In an ideal world, grandparents would be scrupulously fair to all their grandchildren and children, spend exactly equal amounts of time, care and money on each and find a sweet balance between too-involved and too-distant. But it's not an ideal world. Rather than wasting time being offended, it's far less stressful to get on with making your life and your family how you want it to be. In time, when you're the grandparent, you can apply your own standards....

ToTheTeeth Sun 10-Nov-13 09:19:14

What Cogito said. Also children are different, but more importantly so are people's expectations. I'm afraid it is just normal that if your MIL's other children have been raised to behave in a way that she finds preferable then she will prefer to spend time with them.

PatTheHammer Sun 10-Nov-13 09:19:17

It can be hard to understand when they are your kids and you love them so much why anyone would NOT want to see them more often.

On the positive side your DC can understand that they live quite far away. We have one set of GPs who live a 25 minute drive away. My children hardly see them, sometimes up to a 4 month gap. They see my parents far more and they live over 100 miles away.
They are 'extremely busy' despite both being retired. They are lovely to them when they do see them, but just not very interested (it's DHs dad and step-mum). As the kids have got older we have just stopped asking them over (they very rarely come here, we have to invite ourselves over there). My DC just seem to accept that they don't see them often but they never ask why.

I don't think it's damaging at all as Cogito says, however we are lucky that dh's mum wants to be very involved so she sees a lot of them, attends school functions, has them for sleepovers etc. Do you have any close family members like aunts and uncles that could fulfil this sort of 'role'?

RandomMess Sun 10-Nov-13 09:22:53

PILs are the same (I'm NC with my parents) and they live locally! Yes it really hurts especially when they make time for the favoured GC who are the same ages and in reality much harder work sad

PatTheHammer Sun 10-Nov-13 09:25:47

Sad4kids- if your MILs other grandchildren live near to her, the preference is probably due to convenience. They fit around her routine and are geographically close. It's probably very little to do with how your children have been raised or behave.

LovesBeingHereAgain Sun 10-Nov-13 09:30:58

I've felt abit like this re tge inlaws, they've hardly seen my dc although they have made more effort since ds arrived. They've had dd for a few hours a couple of times recently so I think they are just over too old for they baby/toddler stages anymore

Joysmum Sun 10-Nov-13 09:42:24

Kids take things on face value. I have A SIL that we rarely see and lives in another country. She forgets birthdays etc too. My daughter has never thought anything if it and just loves it when she she's her aunty. It bothers me, it doesn't bother my daughter.

Sad4kids Sun 10-Nov-13 09:49:45

patthehammer thanks! but no her other grandchildren live across the street from us! and I have no worry that it's about the children's behaviour, she is just favours them in general I think. And no there is no lovely older aunts or uncles.<shrug> it is their loss, but that doesn't help how I feel. We have tried to gently broach the subject with out being rude and putting them under pressure, but they are always bright and breezy with their denials and excuses.
I'm well aware that the world doesn't revolve around my children, but I'm simply wondering if going no contact ( we are already not through choice low contact) is better for them?

LegoCaltrops Sun 10-Nov-13 09:57:58

Know what you mean. My DM has never made much effort to spend time with DD (often doesn't see her for more than a month), but spends lots with my niece (sees her most days). Dsis & I both live locally to DM. I don't drive & it's too far to walk, & I don't have time & energy on my rare half days off from work. DM & Dsis (who both drive) seem most put out as DD doesn't recognise them. The only time DM took DD she cried the entire time, & now cries when she sees DM as she is clearly scared of DM.

Of course, it's all my fault. hmm Apparently I should have given up work to be a SAHM (which I'd love) but sadly that's not am option.

I have parents who take the levels of uninterested to new heights (mine when here do not stay even an hour) but even I have not shut the door on them by going no contact. I would keep that door still open, your behaviour here needs to be above reproach. DS has a relationship of sorts with them though he is not really bothered about them either way now. It has though over the years bothered me far more (I had a close relationship with my own grandparents) but I cannot change another's person's behaviours. What has been hard is that although people do say well its their (grandparents) loss if they do not see their grandchildren very often they (the grandparents) themselves may not actually see it as this.

PatTheHammer Sun 10-Nov-13 10:01:39

I think not seeing them at all might be more damaging. At the moment they are not going to mourn for a relationship they have never had.

Perhaps next time your in-laws are due to visit consider taking your family away, offer them your house to stay in but make clear you have plans to be away.
Sounds counter-productive but it makes it clear that you are not at their beck and call and it can be on your terms as well as theirs. They may not notice but it will also get across to the kids that its quite normal not to see granny and granddad.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 10-Nov-13 10:02:07

'No contact' would be for your benefit, not the DCs. If you don't like these people, be honest about it rather than using the DCs as an excuse. You could discover they don't particularly like you much and that's why they stay away ... hmm

janey68 Sun 10-Nov-13 10:03:07

I think you're confusing two different things.

Any grandparent who is cold, or indifferent, or who promises something and let's the grandchildren down, is not behaving well, whether they live 100 miles or a 100 yards away.

Likewise, a loving, interested grandparent is a wonderful addition to a child's life whether they live near or far

My own grandparents lived a long way away, near the sea, and like your situation it was usually twice yearly visits. However, it's quality not quantity that matters. I adored seeing them, it was a really special time, in fact a lot more special than if they'd been along the road and I was seeing them every day.

MarshaBrady Sun 10-Nov-13 10:03:26

It's harder on you than your dc. I imagine they will be fine with this and think it's the norm.

PatTheHammer Sun 10-Nov-13 10:05:16

Out of interest, what is it like when you visit them? Or does that never happen as they are 'too busy?'

Sad4kids Sun 10-Nov-13 10:50:32

When we visit them it is pleasant and the children enjoy it, thus stopping me from going no contact.
Its when they half heartedly visit us thats pissing me off I think,
It is definately harder on me than the DC, Must keep gritting teeth then ?
And it is hard to not get sucked in by other peoples children seemingly enjoying regular healthy contact with their GPs
It also makes me mad that my Mum has photos of them all over the place at home and work and yet is too busy to see them in the flesh,I feel that they are just some sort of boast to others for her fully prepared to be told IABU

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 10-Nov-13 10:54:01

You can't help the way you feel. But have you ever asked them to visit more often? Ever told them you wished they were closer? Ever had a look at moving to the area in which they live... (if the mountain won't come to Mohammed etc.)?

ZooTimeIsSheAndYouTime Sun 10-Nov-13 11:01:13

I think children will accept the situation no matter what's on offer with no side effects. It's you who sounds disappointed and rather hurt by their choices and therefore limited contact. Some will say you shouldn't expect gps to be involved etc but I disagree and would also feel saddened by their choices. Not much you can do admittedly sad

ZooTimeIsSheAndYouTime Sun 10-Nov-13 11:03:39

I also think for me at some point it'd have to come out and I'd inevitably say something, but that's probably not a wise approach if you value family harmony.

DontmindifIdo Sun 10-Nov-13 11:09:43

I think you have to accept that if they don't make an effort to be part of your DC's lives, your DCs won't think their Grandparents are important to them, unless you make out the family relationship is important IYSWIM. The trick is to not plan around when GPs are avilable and don't tell your DCs until they are basically about to walk in the door (and you've called to check they are still coming) before you tell them.

Different families have different relationships, those who's GPs see the DCs all the time will have grandchildren who love them, it's hard to love a stranger, it's not something your parents or PIL will have from your DCs, but that's their loss.

Sad4kids Sun 10-Nov-13 11:16:08

Zootime You have summed it up exactly
The children deserve better and it is hard when dd asks why they dont spend more time here, I have a choice then of either "saying something" or letting things carry on as they are OR being away next time they are in the area. Neither ideal but hey ho
thanks

damejudydench Sun 10-Nov-13 11:19:40

If you are as unhappy as this when they visit maybe they feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. I can pick up on other people's energy easily and normally know when something is wrong/someone is happy. Without realising it, it's very likely you are subconsciously pushing them away.

Try to be welcoming and make plans so that they have to stay a bit longer when they visit. You might find that the mood changes and things shift.

Also, be glad that they are not in your face all the time. There are plenty of threads on here of being constantly pestered by the GPs. I know which I would prefer...

2rebecca Sun 10-Nov-13 11:58:18

I'd be more sad that my parents were only wanting to see ME for 1 hour in a 3 day visit. Surely you should be more important to them than your kids, the parent child bond doesn't stop just because you have had kids.
We moved away from both sets of parents when I was a child and visits to them and them to us usually consisted of the adults chatting whilst the kids amused themselves. The era of grandparents endlessly playing with kids is a very recent one.
When my kids were young if my parents visited they'd chat to the kids, and play with them a bit but mainly wanted to chat to me and hear my news.
I think it's sad for what it say about you and your husband's relationships with your parents. Your kids will be fine. I don't see any advantage in never seeing them again just because you don't see enough of them. Life doesn't have to be all or nothing. Try and rebuild your relationship with your parents instead of focusing on their role as grandparents.

cjel Sun 10-Nov-13 12:04:14

I don't see anything in your post that suggest they are being shoddy!!!!
We lived hundreds of miles away from mine when i was little and gor to see them christmas, easter and maybe august bank holiday. It was great to see them a few hours and I never felt i was being treated shoddily.

You now have your family unit and anyone else you have is a bonus not a right. Be glad you have the at all an enjoy what you do have instead of dreaming of something unattainable. Jut because they don't see them much doesn't mean their love is less.

WithRedWine Sun 10-Nov-13 13:24:08

I think it's harder for those of us who had regular contqct with our own gps as children. I saw both sets every week without fail as a child. My dcs see both both sets every 6 mths. It's all v distant.

cory Sun 10-Nov-13 18:11:24

My parents live abroad so contact is restricted to holidays twice a year, usually us going to visit them.

As for MIL, contact means sitting for a few hours in her nursing home until she gets too tired.

Dc are still close to their grandparents.

I had a similar level of contact with my grandparents who lived a 5 hour train journey away. I still remember them with love and gratitude.

GrendelsMum Sun 10-Nov-13 18:30:29

I'm another one who saw GPs about 3 times a year when young - and I don't think they ever came up to visit us (presumably didn't feel up to the journey). As far as I was concerned, that was just how it was - I didn't feel that they ought to be visiting once a week.

DragonMamma Sun 10-Nov-13 19:13:46

I'm actually in a similar kind of situation with my father - I recently went NC, mainly because my DD was being particularly affected by it. He lives 3miles away and we were seeing him so infrequently even though she would beg and beg him to come and see her. He'd promise to spend time with them, then would make weak excuses at the eleventh hour as to why he couldn't and she was so upset and couldn't understand why he didn't want to see her.

Of course, I was gutted he'd turned out to be a totally crap grandparent after being a pretty good dad up until I turned 20 and then decided to withdraw any emotional support stating 'he'd done his bit'.

So I do understand where you're coming from and personally I couldn't stick it any longer - felt my Dc's deserved more than his scraps of time, as and when he could be bothered to deign us with his presence.

DragonMamma Sun 10-Nov-13 19:16:54

Oh and I recently, after 5 months of NC, sent him a text because DD was still asking after him, asking whether he would be prepared to commit to spending time with her and he replied he was on holiday and would contact me when he got back. That was 2 months ago and we haven't heard a peep.

Retroformica Mon 11-Nov-13 06:30:58

What you are describing (little time together) is very normal for a long distant relationship with grandparents. However it is unacceptable that they have favourites.

I think you should lower your expectations personally. The lower your expectations, the less hurt you will feel.

What is your kids behaviour like also? Is there anything they specifically find difficult when with your family?

Retroformica Mon 11-Nov-13 06:37:49

Kids see my IL's and GP's 3 times a year. My parents make a huge effort although they find young children tiring, they have a very find special relationship despite the distance. While MIL makes little effort when with the kids and as a result they quite like going to her house but don't really have a deeper link. It's still healthy for them to know three roots though

headoverheels Mon 11-Nov-13 06:45:05

When I was 2 and my brother was 3 my mum was seriously ill - in hospital for 6 weeks, followed by recuperation time at home. Obviously it was an incredibly difficult time for my parents and various friends and relatives helped out with us two. My mum felt very let down by her parents who did not help at all (my dad's parents were both dead) and it caused a strain on their relationship.

Of course I can see my mum's point of view now, but kids just don't see it that way. I loved my 'fun' Grandma and my life was definitely better for having her in it than not, even though I clearly wasn't a priority for her.

Lavenderhoney Mon 11-Nov-13 07:31:31

My dc see their gp"s once a year when we go to their country. They like them, and recognise they live elsewhere. The other gc live practically next door to them, and they are heavily involved in all childcare and decision making. This would not be for me! Its bad enough for a couple of weeks at the parenting HQ.

My parents are dead, but when alive, same scenario as above without the judging.

I think your arrangement sounds fine tbh, just encourage the dc to chat to them when they or you call, and visits when you can. You could just ask them if they happy or want to see/ do more, but the grass is generally greener I think.

MigGril Mon 11-Nov-13 12:39:56

We have this, I feel like you very sad about the whole thing. My dad lives to far away so we only see them a couple of times a year. But he sees my nice and nephew quit a lot as they are physically a lot closer. We can't realy help that and they seem to get on well when we do see them.

But what upsets me more are my in-laws, who are both retired quit young and live about an hour away. We don't see them unless we go to them, the two times they have said they would come this year they have cancelled on us at the last minute. Which really upsets the kids. The kids really want to see them, but it's like they don't just have the time for us. They have no other grandchildren either. They just seem to busy and not bothered. As someone else said up thread it's hard on DH to as they spend so much energy and time on his sister who still lives with them at 33, but very little effort on DH and his family.

Damnautocorrect Mon 11-Nov-13 12:46:35

One set dipped in and out and it was fine, I wasn't close to them and it was what it was. I saw them 2/3 times a year.
When they died and the other grand kids spoke of all the lovely things they did with them I did feel a bit crushed. But as long as its fair than its fine.

BarbarianMum Mon 11-Nov-13 14:05:29

My grandmother lived abroad. I saw her three times until the age of 10, then after that maybe once a year/18 months when money allowed (she died when I was 17). She would send birthday and Christmas cards but we didn't speak the same language, so couldn't even chat on the phone.

Nevertheless I knew she loved me and the tiny amount of time I spent with her was positive. I loved her. She was my gran.

She did see a lot more of my cousin but that's cause he lived in the same town so of course I understood and it never bothered me.

Sad4kids Mon 11-Nov-13 14:56:16

Thanks for all your stories, it's really comforting to realise that the kids won't know any different as it's always been like it.
As someone said up thread it is harder for me to accept that they are just too pre occupied with their own lives, this turns to anger and frustration on my part,
But I realise that to cut them off would be spiteful
We could push ourselves to visit them more often
If anyone has any tips for me to just swallow my frustration and disappointment with them I'd be grateful
Because that is what I am I guess, disappointed that they can't/won't be more involved in our lives
Also to answer someone up thread, No, there has never been any family fallout or behaviour problems with the children etc.

madwomanintheatt1c Mon 11-Nov-13 15:02:37

It all sounds very normal.

And it sounds like straightforward sibling rivalry on the part of the adults grin but being attributed to the children's welfare. (Muuuuuuuuum, you love Freddie more than you love meeeeeeeeeee)

Of course it isn't damaging for children to only see their grandparents a couple of times a year. grin

I think involved grandparents are nowhere near as common as they once were, with greater mobility with work etc.

eatriskier Tue 12-Nov-13 09:35:41

I have been that grandchild. I had gps in a different country (but very close geographically). We understood this made contact difficult so for quite some time we didn't know or expect any different.

But when there are cousins involved it gets very tricky. An aunt had a kid and that changed everything. Dm mismanaged it in a way, but not that I can blame her. Gps started making multiple trips a year here to see cousin and promised us a visit but would never show. This continued when aunt and cousin moved to the same town as us. But eventually Dm stopped telling us as she couldn't stand our disappointment.

We don't think highly of our gps at all. There's a lot more to it than that but they're little more than scum tbh. We actually think being away from their games in the main was the best thing that happened to us. Apparently they are upset we think so little of them, my aunt thinks we should get over it as they are old. We said no, they need to get over it as we were kids and they are reaping what they sowed. The irony is that they have 3 great grandkids and have no relationship with them either (one is a cousins kid so not just mine).

Basically the best you can do is limit your kids disappointment, so just don't tell them anything. I wouldn't arrange anything either if it's that upsetting to you that you're thinking no contact. My Dm caused herself so much upset trying to force that relationship.

cjel Tue 12-Nov-13 10:03:48

EATRISKIER, I am sorry that you have had all this in your family, but I don't think OPs is the same at all. When they do get together they get on!!! The GPs in this case are not 'scum'

OP I think the only way to change how you think is being aware of the wrong thoughts when you have them and say to yourself 'where did that thought come from is it right for now or can I let go of it'!! Its not easy but becomes easier with practice.

OneMoreChap Tue 12-Nov-13 10:29:42

Lucky to have grandparents at all.

No, it's not damaging to the children.

Your attitude, on the other hand...

Loopyloulu Tue 12-Nov-13 10:53:32

It's you who is upset not your children.

I don't know how old your parents are but I suspect that staying with you and 3 young kids if it's a small ish house could be their idea of hell.

It comes down to the relationship you had with your parents pre children. How was it?

You cannot expect a poor relationship to be transformed by the addition of grandchildren.

Do you get on with the parents?

It doesn't sound like it because they are coming to see you too not just the children.

At the risk of sounding unreasonable, maybe you ought to look at what your house is like for visitors- do your kids run riot and is that why they don't want to stay long? There must be a reason for them keeping their distance so maybe you need to have a serious look at what could be keeping them away.

Loopyloulu Tue 12-Nov-13 10:57:31

I also think it's ridiculous that you say your children 'deserve better'. As if! No child has a 'right' to a certain amount of grandparenting!

I didn't have any grandfathers- they died when my own parents were very young ( when my dad was 8.)

I had 2 gradnmothers one of whom was very distant emotionally and who I only saw every 2nd week when she came for Sunday lunch and it was all very strained.

My other grandma was ill from aged 60- heart problems- and although I was closer to her, her ill health meant I didn't do much with her except visit her for tea with my mum, and she stayed with us occasionally.

I don't feel 'deprived'.

I think you need to get over yourself on this one, TBH.

NorthernShores Tue 12-Nov-13 11:08:01

Loopy thats a little unfair. I think when you've had very close grandparents yourself, or all your friends have parents involved in their children there can be a real sense of loss for a relationship wanted.

Where I live now a lot of people live close to their parents and pop in daily! Or at least several times a week. People often mention they are going to take kids wo their mums for lunch or mum will step in if the kids are ill or help pick up from school etc. I can only imagine how lovely it would be to feel you are not doing it all on your own, or that there is someone who will come for a walk in the park with the kids.

I don't have this and recognise every families' different and stopped being grumpy about it. But it is such a lovely thing to see that of course it hurts if you hoped for that and didn't have it. Or are surrounded by it.

KeepCoolCalmAndCollected Tue 12-Nov-13 11:12:23

I understand exactly how hurtful this is, particularly when their other GCs live across the road from you, it must feel like you are constantly having your DC's noses rubbed in it.

I think you really do need to try very hard to come to terms with it. They sound extremely uncaring and tactless, but this is who they are, and you will not change them.

You may well find that if you can let go of this anger and not 'care' so much, they might be drawn closer to your DCs.

I did this with my inlaws, by having a good life without them - being very active doing stuff in the holidays etc etc., but importantly, I never cancelled on them (always told them how important they were - cringe cringe), but equally showed them that life was great and interesting without them, and that in no way did we rely them. In the end (it wasn't overnight), I suppose they began to see what they were missing.

It's horrible though and I really can empathise with you. Good luck.

Loopyloulu Tue 12-Nov-13 11:22:06

I didn't have that with either of my kids' grandparents so I fully understand.

My own parents live 300 miles away and would see my kids maybe 3-4 times a year- my mum would come and stay with us now and then as part of this but my dad never wanted to.

My in laws lived 300 miles away and never ever visited us except for the christenings and one other visit throughout my children's childhoods.

I would have LOVEd to have had my parents round the corner - god, life would have been so much easier with 2 kids at home under 5 and a DH overseas a lot. So I do understand. But as someone who is now 'average age for being a grandparent' I can see that all families don't work this way ( having frequent contact) and some GPs want to live their own lives.

It comes back to the OPs relationship with her own parents.

eatriskier Tue 12-Nov-13 12:52:26

cjel I haven't suggested the gps in ops case are scum. Nor have I said my family don't get on (just that my siblings some cousins and I see my gps for precisely what they are, the previous generation until recently did get on). But I am saying the very mumsnet thing of you can't change them but you can change your reaction. The op is at a point where she is considering no contact and continuing to force a relationship where one party isn't the into it doesn't lead into any good realm for op more than anyone. It doesn't have to be all or nothing but op can just calm it down, take and make no promises and just accept they aren't going to be wonderful gps. Not every parent, no matter how good they are, have it in them to be a good gp.

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