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Can you divorce Grandparents?

(44 Posts)
Tlb Mon 24-Sep-01 10:56:04

I do not like my parents, for a variety of reasons but in the main I have been made to feel throughout most of my life (and we’re talking from a very young age) that because they HAD to get married because of me that I have consequently been blamed for the poor state of their miserable existence (“If it wasn’t for you I could have been so and so…”). I got out at the age of 18 and went to University - Bliss!! Contact over the years has been kept to an absolute minimum and relations have never been great.

I have over the years attempted to open up and reconcile our differences only to have this all shoved in my face in some stupid thoughtless gesture or phrase. I would be much happier if they were completely out of my life and I never had to see them again frankly. However for the sake of my daughter (a 2 year old) who is their only grandchild we see them about three times a year. Last weekend was the last straw. We took them to lunch, when they arrived I wasn’t at the table, they completely ignored my husband and zoomed straight in on our daughter and didn’t greet him until he’d made his presence felt. They treat our daughter like a puppy and even my mum said she’d ‘entertained’ them nicely on Sunday morning. Sunday lunch was a family affair then our daughter needed a nap so she went to bed. Immediately my father got up left the table sat in our sitting room and put the TV on, my mother shortly followed suit and sat there for the next two hours and completely ignored my husband and I.

I have had enough I don’t ever want to see them again – I feel like sending them video clips and that’s it – its not as if they even have a great deal of affection for our daughter (they are pretty thoughtless around her and act pretty selfishly actually – although they make a fuss) I honestly think that they enjoy this lavish attention and affection that they get from an innocent 2 year old as they have no friends and don’t get on with other members of their family – she is literally the only beacon in their sad pathetic little lives right now and makes them feel good about themselves.

My husband can no longer stand how much this is angering and upsetting both of us because to ostracize seems incredibly harsh but what other choice do we have – I have tried explaining to them how we feel and why we have reacted the way we have and they really don’t understand. Help!

Batters Mon 24-Sep-01 11:18:28

Tlb you are in a horrible predicament. You say that you stay in contact for the sake of your daughter, but think what benefit is this awful situation actually having on your daughter? What is she learning about families and relationships at the moment? I am not saying I think you should stop all contact, but surely the situation needs to change in order for your child to actually gain something positive from her grandparents? And what will happen in a few years time if your parents lose interest in your daughter - will they start treating her as appallingly as they currently treat you and your husband? Have you tried writing your parents a letter saying how upset you feel and why and setting out rules for when they come to visit. Make it clear that if these rules are not kept, they could lose access to their grand daughter. I hope these thoughts have been helpful, and that things change. Your family deserves better treatment than this, good luck.

Tlb Mon 24-Sep-01 11:39:23

thanks Batters - we were discussing this morning about what to write in a letter but it all seems so clinical - I agree with you in the long term about their influence and worry that their negative attitude will eventually have an affect on our daughter.

To add to all this I would never actually trust my parents alone with her and that issue is going to come up when she is older too and I will simply say no - fills me with complete horror especially my father.

I'll have a good think about what to write maybe thanks.

Inky Mon 24-Sep-01 12:13:51

No great words of wisdom, but my sincerest condolences. My only thoughts are
a. why flog a dead horse? Like you said - they treat her like a puppy. As we all know, she isn't, and there'll come a time she's old enough to realise this for herself if the situation is allowed to continue. So why let it continue. And why take the risk of them hurting her?

b. They're treating you badly. Don't put up with it.

C. I wouldn't make a big song & dance. Just don't invite them to lunch/whatever & don't accept their invitation (if they make one). Eventually they may ask why they haven't seen you for so long and then maybe spell out (again) what the problem is and most importantly how to solve/improve it.

They've made your life a misery. Why give them an opportunity to hurt your child too? I'd just leave it until they get in touch and then let them know your terms, and make sure they stick to them if they say they will.

Amanda1 Mon 24-Sep-01 12:26:03

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Robinw Mon 24-Sep-01 12:34:51

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Lisav Mon 24-Sep-01 13:21:45

Tib, I contributed a lot to the thread 'Am I the only one with a miserable mother?' As my mother treats us all appaulingly. My 2 sisters have recently gone through some pretty bad times and my mother has not been there for them. All through my difficult teens my mother has focused only on herself and failed to see that my stepfather was mentally abusing me, making me feel like dogpoo, lowering my self-esteem and confidence with put-downs, sarcastic comments and ignoring my presence completely. He still does this and she still seems oblivious to it.

As my family is a large one, anything I say to my mother will reverberate around the family and create such bad feeling and tension that it's not usually worth saying anything at all. It is worse when you get kids of your own, as you don't want them treated in that way. All my nieces and nephews call my stepdad 'grandad' - but my daughter never will. I don't want to pass my feelings of bitterness and resentment onto my daughter, but the thought of her calling that man 'grandad' makes me feel physically sick.

What I now do is make as little contact with them as possible. I have to keep in touch for the sake of the rest of my family, but I rarely speak to my mother on the phone and I have on occasion visited my family without seeing her.

I don't know what advice I can give to you on this, family relations are so important and when they go wrong it's so hard to find a right solution. Perhaps only seeing them when you have to, but stay in the right by sending Christmas cards and so on, don't give them any ammunition by acting out your resentment to them. Never show your anger to your daughter, when she gets older she will work out for herself whether they are worth bothering with or not, but do not stand in her way or do anything that gives them cause to criticise you in any way. That way you are always in the right.

I don't know what else I can say, but good luck and I hope your relationship with your daughter can make up for your bad relationship with your parents.

Tlb Mon 24-Sep-01 14:00:08

thank you for your messages - I am torn as I am at heart a big softie and wouldn't want to hurt anyone and children should have access to grandparents.

I just feel that my parents are trying to redeem themselves for their own pathetic attempts at parenting by trying to be nice to our daughter now and it is not rubbing as far as I am concerned - I am sure that my own experiences with them colours my view on how they treat their grandchild. I live three hundred miles from them and haven't been up to Yorkshire in over a year as it is too horrendous an experience for words.

Basically I am on just one massive guilt trip here and I want someone to say it's OK not to have anything to do with them ever again. Amanda1 has done what I am not sure I have the balls to do I always end up thinking maybe it's me and I am being too harsh in judging them as whenever they have met any of our friends (wedding and christening only of course!!) they have all said that they seem perfectly pleasant people.

Mind you they don't even send Christmas cards to my IN-laws and yet they receive Birthday and christmas cards from them.

I also think that if I were to write a letter then they would also turn it around and say I had a problem too as they simply cannot comprehend that they have behaved badly.

I had it out with my Mum last year and really let rip - my mother denied everything and said she had never said anything like that ever and blamed my dad for everything.

My father didn't speak to me for 6 months because he and my mum had started an argument with each other and were really going for it over the head of my then 18 month old daughter. I told them to shut up and stop arguing as I had had to live through those arguments and I was damned if my daughter was going to as well - They thought I was in the wrong then too.

Amanda1 Mon 24-Sep-01 14:26:30

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Hedgehog Mon 24-Sep-01 14:31:47

Hi Tlb,

I believe I also contributed to the "am I the only one with a miserable mother". I recently plucked up the courage, wrote my parents a long letter explaining how I felt and why I no longer wished to have any further contact with them. I also informed them that I did not wish them to have any contact to my children as I always felt that it was a negative experience. I however said that at some time in the future I would like a caring relationship but that I felt that this was not possible at the moment, but, should their attitudes towards me change, I would be happy to reconsider my position- but that they would have to ask themselves some very searching questions, i.e; do they really want to have a daughter. So far there has been icy silence, but I feel a lot better in myself for having "got it off my chest" and putting the blame where it belongs. I feel that I have moved a step forwards as a result. Perhaps one day there will be the opportunity to make a new start but at the moment I am happy to be left in peace and not have to put up with constant recriminations.

In my letter I wrote point by point what I FELT about their behaviour, going back to my childhood (which certainly was not happy). Any attempt to speak to them about it had met with blank denial and refusal to face facts to being told that I had made it all up, but that, although it allegedly never happened, it had somehow hardened me for my adulthood. I felt that I had to make a clean break with the past, this I did by writing the letter, in order to move forwards in the future. Who knows, perhaps they will consider the contents of the letter.

I certainly wish you every possible luck with whatever decision you make.

Tlb Mon 24-Sep-01 15:08:25

Well I have just attempted draft no 1 of my letter. My husband is concerned about the backlash. I am also pregnant with our second but I didn't tell them (there is very little bump to notice yet)

If I go ahead it means fantastic peace and masses of guilt. My father will go mad and possibly take it out on my mum and my mum will cry buckets and will immediately write back saying she will change. Then what - I have said lots of this to them before and as you have already discovered (Hedgehog and Amanda1) they deny it or say it is all blown out of proportion.

I really appreciate your input on this thread - the more the better really as I feel the time has come to take some decisive action - this situation has meandered along uneasily for years.

And I am dreadfully confused and upset about the future - I'll keep you posted - I think a letter is the best way long term.

Robinw Mon 24-Sep-01 21:01:56

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Hedgehog Tue 25-Sep-01 07:35:37

Hi,

I don't feel the slightest bit guilty since I wrote my letter, in fact it has actually removed the feelings of guilt because, by writing the letter, I went through my own feelings and thought deeply about what I felt and the reasons why. I haven't shut the door completely on my parents but I have made it clear that I am no longer willing to accept their selfish and thoughtless and sometimes downright cruel behaviour. The ball is now in their court, so to speak. I think people get stuck in behavioural "ruts" and sometimes it takes something really drastic like a "divorce" letter to make them (and ourselves) actually aware of their behaviour and I am hoping that some good will come of it.

My children do not miss my parents and fortunately we live in different countries which makes visits rare, their last visit was a complete disaster and left me feeling so angry, hurt and disappointed that I felt that something had to be done to change this untenable situation, which is why, after weeks of thought, I sat down and wrote the letter. I feel so much freer as a result.

I don't know if you have come across books by Louise Hay, this is probably touching on a contraversial and sensitive subject, but in the recent months I have been working on my own attitudes and on making me feel better about myself- all I ever heard as a child was how inadequate and repulsive I was, these feelings followed me into my adulthood- and I find that it is slowly working and that my attitude to myself is becoming much more positive, which is being echoed in all other aspects of my life.

I wish you luck and strength in whatever you decide to do.

M.

Copper Tue 25-Sep-01 13:10:21

TLB
Can't you just not see them for a year or two? Make some excuse about being too busy, or not feeling too good, or not having room, etc. Either they will be concerned (which might be a good thing) or they will just drift out of your life.

Tlb Tue 25-Sep-01 13:25:46

I read the whole thread about having a miserable mother and it put a lot more things into perspective.

In fact Copper I've taken on board a lot of what people have said on this thread and it makes sense to minimise their presence in our lives as much as possible as you say just ignore them for a year or two (could be interesting with no.2 making an appearance next year!!).

Robinw it came out fine and I agree with your sentiments exactly although the less contact the better - I think as my daughter grows older she will eventually be able to decide for herself and by then it probably won't matter so much anyway.

I have also decided no more mothers and fathers day cards as I always feel such a complete hypocrite for sending them. So I am NOT going to send a letter unless I receive one to which I can then let rip. Nor am I going to make any contact with them or see them for as long as possible - none of this feeling guilty s**t as you say they are responsible for their own mess, why take that on board too.

Thank you again for all your comments (keep them coming) you have been very helpful and understanding. With an issue like this it has been an eye opener as to what a lot of people have gone through and in some respects I feel quite humble to be advised by people who have put up with and survived far worse parenting than me. A possibly cheesy sentiment but genuinely meant - thank you.

Tlb Tue 25-Sep-01 13:28:07

PS hedgehog

Thanks for the tip on the books - I'd forgotten my dusty old Susan Jeffers books 'feel the fear and do it anyway' Which incidentally I made my mum read!

She's my sort of positive guru so I think I'll revisit those at some point.

Sis Tue 25-Sep-01 14:41:44

Tlb, just to say, whatever you decide on, keep reminding yourself that you made the best decision that you were able to in the circumstances. We all know the benefits of hindsight but don't mistake hindsight with what you actually knew at the time of making a decision. Just to underline the point - remember guilt is a serious timewaster!

Good luck with whatever happens.

Liza Wed 26-Sep-01 16:30:15

Tib

I have read your message and thoroughly sympathise with the way you feel.

But as a mother of three and grandmother of four I would be absolutely devastated if any of my children said they never wanted to see me again. Two of the three have constantly told me that I was not a good mother, and I have always maintained that I would be a much better grandmother than I was a mother. This is because I was too busy trying to fulfill myself in terms of education and also the result of a painful divorce when my children were very small.

But whilst all talk of duty and obligation is now completely taboo, what about some compassion and understanding? Try to imagine the circumstances under which we lived which forced your mother to get married and stay with a man she probably did not love for all her life. Divorce thirty years ago was not that easy an option, especially for women, and she did, after all, bring you up and nurture you for 18 years. Does not that produce some element of gratitude in you?

I have been most depressed to read the responses to your plea for help. Your generation has more than any other in history in virtually every aspect of child rearing, and I wonder if it ever occurs to you or your peers that your parents might be ever so slightly envious of all that you have, particularly the knowledge about children. It used to be said that one could be as awful as possible to one's parents and they would still love you - it apparently does not work the other way.

Please consider very carefully the action you might take with regard to your parents. Why not have one last chance at reconciliation. Perhaps tell your mother what made you so unhappy at her last visit and if she behaves in that way next time you will not see her again and ergo she will not see her grandchild. It might just help her to understand the effect she has on you and your husband.

Robinw Wed 26-Sep-01 20:34:04

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Scummymummy Thu 27-Sep-01 06:38:46

I think polarisation of the last 2 messages shows just what a difficult problem Tlb has shared with us.
I think Liza has been brave to put the "Grandma's point of view" to the thread though I agree with Robinw that at the end of the day Tlb's parents were the adults in the relationship and it was up to them to do their job and nurture Tlb to the best of their abilities. If they failed to do that (and it sounds like they did) then Tlb has to decide what is best for her to do now in the light of that failure.
I did find your post interesting though, Liza, since my Mum had a difficult relationship with her parents and I've always wondered why my Grandma was such a b**** to her. Your message got me thinking about what kind of opportunities, support, knowledge and modcons my grandma had to help her bring up my Mum. I would guess she had a pretty hard time and her relationship with my Mum was the poorer for it.

Croppy Thu 27-Sep-01 08:15:48

I have to say that I find the sentiment that you don't owe your parents anything for bringing you up depressing. My father died in 1996 leaving an enormous pile of debts and a destitute mother. My brothers have been completely immune to her position and done nothing to help. I have made enormous sacrifices over the last 5 years (including moving to the other side of the world for a year away from my husband in order to earn tax free income) in order to pay down the debts and buy my mother a house on which I now have a very large mortgage.

None of us ever loved our father and certainly don't miss him. My brothers are very bitter about their childhood for various reasons and see this as justification for the fact that the burden of supporting our mother has fallen 100% on me.

But I have to say, I do have enormous sympathy for her position although she is not the easiest person in the world. She was divorced with a child in the 50's and went on to have a very unhappy 35 years with my father. OK, this was her choice but as many of us here know, it is rarely that simple.

I have never ever complained about my incredibly onerous financial commitments to her simply because she is my mother and that is my obligation. My parents did the best they could for me by way of education and everything else, making many sacrifices along the way. They loved me very much, were always proud of me and yes, I think I do owe them something for that - even if my father was an appalling parent. I have also never complained to my brothers because they are my family and family is worth more than money ever could be.

I do sympathise with your position enormously Tlb. But actually, in my view if you try and be a better person that those around you rather than give into bitterness, it is you that benefits. Guilt can be a terrible burden, especially for women.

I do think that some of the messages here and on other boards veer towards a lack of understanding regarding the difficulties some of our parents may have faced during their lives, and specifically their inability to communicate this to us. Don't get me wrong Tlb, your parents seem to be behaving shockingly badly but I do think it is worth considering how unhappy they must have been for a long time to end up as they are.

Robinw Thu 27-Sep-01 08:34:01

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Batters Thu 27-Sep-01 08:47:13

Croppy, what you are doing for your mum is amazing, especially since your brothers are not helping out at all. But, you say your parents loved you very much. That IS the point. Not all of us know if our parents loved us, by the abuse some of us have suffered we can only guess that they didn't. I think in the main parents reap what they sow, surely your own situation goes along with that? You are confident of your parents love, and in return have made huge sacrifices.

Croppy Thu 27-Sep-01 08:54:13

Robinw I am not missing the point. My brothers do love my mother and have a good relationship with her - they just feel so bitter about my father that they don't see his mess as their obligation. I help my mother not because I love her but because she is my mother. If my mother had died and it was my father left in this predicament, without question I would have been there to pick up the pieces.


Obviously none of us would do things for our children on the basis of expecting something back - as you say, we do it out of love. It is precisely because our actions are done out of love rather than any expectation of "payback" that in my personal view, an obligation arises. To me it is just human decency.

My mother is 74 so obviously is not in a position to get a mortgage etc.

Croppy Thu 27-Sep-01 08:59:55

I agree with you Batters. I know my parents loved me but because of my father's extremely difficult personality, inability to communicate and horrific temper, he was unable to maintain any semblance of a successful family relationship.
My point is that we I think we do need to make allowances for our parents' difficulties and not just assess their behaviour solely on the basis of the impact they have had on us.

I just think a little compassion and understanding goes a long way (not that this necessarily applies to TLB).

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