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Grandparents involvement or lack of!(19 Posts)
Bare with me, writing concisely has never been a strong point of mine!
So DH's dad is remarried and lives on the South coast. In the last 22 years we've been together, he has always been 'old' - never done much in the way of social stuff, wellbeing, getting out etc. They have never been big on family get-togethers and have never shown much enthusiasm towards my 2x dd's, although when we do see them, expects them to kiss and hug him - quite frankly fil and stepmil are strangers to my girls, and I argue with dh that we should not force DD's to kiss them if they are uncomfortable with it. DH disagrees. This is another matter all together.
Anyway, we suggested a last minute couple of days down on the beach and stay at their house. Hadn't seen them since Easter (we see them 2-3x a year). I thought it would be nice for them to see DH and 2x granddaughters whilst we had a few days away from house stuff. They agreed and said they'd make up the spare room.
We have just returned from the most exhausting 2x days. It was as though they just have no idea what to do with children (between them they have 18x grandchildren). They literally sat there and watched DH and I run around getting breakfast / packed lunches ready / entertaining children whilst other showered etc. Not once did they get up and offer to help us out. They just sat and watched us trying to give them their breakfast which made it very awkward. They were then surprised when I said my window of opportunity for my own breakfast was whilst the girls ate and I got myself a bowl of cereal and watched me eat that! DD2 is not very good with strange men at the best of times so the audience really didn't help! All v stressful. FIL kept putting his head into DD2 and asking was she ok. She let it be known she didn't appreciate this!
Anyway as we went out on day 1, FIL waved a £10 note out of the door for ice-creams on the way back - as if to say, stay out a bit longer! Very kind of him, but would have preferred for him to come to the beach restaurant and have an ice-cream with us. Day 2 FIL and stepMIL were supposed to come and meet us on the beach, but texted to say they'd done a few jobs and were exhausted so would see us at home. Later we found out they had been doing the gardening inc cutting the grass. So just to recap, we've driven 2.5 hours to see them for 2x days (DD1 car-sick in the process, not to mention the actual cost in petrol - pennies are so tight for us at the moment) but not actually spent any proper time with them as they made it abundantly clear they found it exhausting with the 2x DD in the house. They complained because DD2 woke in the night and they heard her (literally 2 minutes of shouting as I had a bottle of milk on standby!), complained because she woke early. What? Do they not know what children are like? If an 18mth old wants to be awake, she's going to be awake! It's not like bribery works at this age! FIL barely listened to anything we tried to bring into conversation like DD1 school / clubs - she was so excited to tell him about her new dance class, but he changed the subject to what he did for DH and clubs (minimal as far as DH is concerned but totally different story told!)
Do they not want to spend time with their granddaughters? Why do they not want to join in with family time and memories? They moan we don't see them enough but really, why should we bother going again? Surely as a minimum they should have walked to the beach (5 mins away) for an ice-cream??
They said they had got food in so not to worry, but on day 1 for dinner there was a slice of pie and salad. I'm not being ungrateful but there aren't many 7 year olds and under who will eat a plate of lettuce and tomatoes (apologies I probably do sound ungrateful and I know there is the argument that children should eat what is on their plate, but had I known, I would have taken something to fill up their tummies a bit more). For one meal I know it didn't hurt but I do try and give my DD's nutritious and filling meals.
DH is furious as he sees my parents hugely involved in our DD's lives and is upset his dad doesn't seem to be bothered.
Where to go from here? DH is ready to tell FIL we won't be returning for a long long time. I feel this is a tad heavy handed but I have so much going on in my own family that I don't really have the time to worry about it. I have said it is up to him and I will support his decision. It just feels such a waste of our energy visiting family that clearly don't want to spend time with us especially the small people. I am disappointed for them my girls really - not having interaction with their paternal grandparents. My parents are so involved with all their grandchildren I find it very difficult to understand other parents not wanting this. Maybe my view is wrong.
Any thoughts or challenges to my way of thinking would be appreciated. Any alternative ways of dealing with this would be helpful.
No asvice, but I get it. My parents (who aren't together), don't really want to do anything with my kids who are 2 and 3. They like looking at them for about 10 minutes then seem at a loss and expect cuddles even though they aren't regulars in their lives and get a bit grumpy when it's not reciprocated.
Maybe the GPs are just not 'feeling' it, tired, ill, children too young, I don't know. It can be extra hard for you when you're not at home with your routine and people don't think to help. My MIL is the opposite.
It's hard when the grandparents don't take much interest in their grandchildren, you can't make them. I always remember want my mum said to me when I told her she was going to be a grandma.
I happy for you if that's what you want but don't expect us to look after it ,with done with all that now, where as mil couldn't do enough and sometimes got on my nerves.
I can see both sides here. I had my children when I was young and all 4 grandparents were aged 35-45. They all lived away so we didn't see them often and when we did they weren't 'hands on' at all. They behaved in a similar way and it angered me at the time. I am now in that age bracket myself with older teenage DDs and I could think of nothing worse than being a grandparent at this moment in time (or for the foreseeable future) I find time spent in the company of very young children an ordeal and very tiring. I feel as if I have done my bit and I really hope that I change when (and if) my own daughters have children but I might not. I am a teacher and I do like children generally, I just find babies and toddlers hard work. Anyway, the point of my comment is to illustrate that being in a similar frame of mind myself, I now view my own parents and their behaviour towards my daughters when they were younger in a different way. I know that all 4 grandparents love my daughters and that they have good relationships with them now. It's natural for us to think our children should be the centre of our world but we can't expect others to feel the same way.
Who was the driving force really behind this last visit?. The writing was on the wall already given your FILs behaviours before now and they are certainly too tired/old/uninterested now. It was a huge error to visit them in the first place let alone overnighting there.
How does your DH himself get along with his parents these days. Is there really a relationship here?. Does he have siblings, if so are they treated differently?
You cannot foster a relationship with people who for their own reasons are simply not interested. It will also not do your DDs any favours to be foistered on relatives who are basically strangers to them but at the same time want your children to kiss and hug them. I am with you on that point but why does DH think otherwise?
Re your comment:-
"Anyway as we went out on day 1, FIL waved a £10 note out of the door for ice-creams on the way back - as if to say, stay out a bit longer! Very kind of him, but would have preferred for him to come to the beach restaurant and have an ice-cream with us"
Why did you write "very kind of him". No it was not. He was indeed saying stay out longer.
It is not a tad heavy handed for your DH to tell them that you will not be returning for a long time (should be no more visits ever). Not all relatives are kind and loving like your own parents are, they really are not.
If one set of grandparents are nice i.e. your maternal grandparents, concentrate on them. There is no law to say that you have to spend any time with people who are uninvolved and uninterested in you all just because they are family. That's just silly.
I wouldn't tell them there is a problem. Just don't make any effort.
The thing is, there is really different expectation on each side.
Maybe they thought you were there for a beach holiday, using them as accommodation.
Did you ask them what they wanted to do, as in 'Right what are we all going to do today, then?'
The thing is, sadly, it works both ways. DDs don't know them, and they don't know DDs. Effectively because of circumstances they are 'someone else's children', rather than grandchildren. The noise, mess and disruption that children bring is really wearing when you aren't emotionally connected and aren't used to it.
It's really sad, and should be different, but it's not necessarily a deliberate coldness on their part, IYSWIM.
Usually you CHOOSE to have your own children. You don't CHOOSE to have grandchildren. If they want to be more involved, that's nice. If they don't, well that's their choice. And if they have 18 grandchildren, unless you all live very close by, it would be very difficult (not to mention expensive) to see them regularly.
It's a shame, but there can be all sorts of reasons why grandparents aren't very "grandparental". In many cases, it really is a thing that having spent 20+years being "parents" a couple want to spend more time just as a couple again. There's not much you can do about it I'm afraid but roll with it.
I don't agree with the not choosing thing. The law of averages would make it likely
you will have grandchildren if you have children.
I really don't get the not bothering thing. Then the next minute I read how many old people are lonely. You reap what you sow in this life.
Mrs Of course you stand a good chance of being grandparents if you have kids yourself but you don't actually chose to be a grandparent. It happens to you. Or not. How many people out there choose to have kids as a means to another end, ie to be a grandparent?
Plenty of people have kids who probably shouldn't have. They weren't maternal or paternal and didn't change after the event. Or one parent really wanted kids and the other didn't but they went along for it.
I think, as a child who has no choice about being born, we have a right to a good relationship with our parents and for our parents to do a good and loving job of bringing us up. If we get great grandparents it's a huge bonus. But I don't believe in demonising grandparents for not being what we expect them to be.
Are the other grandchildren older than yours? My ds is very much (by 11 years to the next youngest) younger than the PILs other 5 gc and to be honest, they were effectively bored of the whole thing by the time he came along.
It hurts that they aren't interested in him (or DH tbh, he's their very much youngest son) - they've had him one night in 11 years, less than 12 hours in the day on their own. Never been to one of his school things, come to an event or anything.
But by not expecting anything of them, it has got easier - and for you with another set of grandparents it will be easier for your dd's
Could you not look at it as ye deciding to see them. To see if they are om. To catch up with their lives. To keep a bit of a bond between dh and his df. Handy too they live by a beach so nice to go there in nice weather. Have no expectatations whatsoever. Make it about them. People dont change but our expectations can. You might be surprised in years to come to hear your dc talking to their friends about all the lovely holidays they had by the sea. Bring your own food next time as nothing as bad as hungry dc. And at least they are not interfering. Go when it suits ye. But keep the contact. Some people are clueless with dc but being too hands on is a pain too..
You invited yourself to their house though. If they'd wanted to spend time with you ( and put in all the effort that goes with hosting) they'd have invited you.
Don't you sort out your children's breakfast every other day? I don't understand why you would need help with it.
As pp have said they're probably fed up with the demands of being with children and rather enjoy the peace and quiet.
My parents were the same except my DCs didn't get the ice cream money. It never bothered me tbh.
You sound rather a martyr about the whole thing. You already knew they were uninvolved grandparents yet somehow decided that a visit would be a good thing. Btw, if you saw them at Easter (mid-April) it's really not that long since you last met. it's not clear what age your DDs are but if still waking at night and bottle feeding, then presumably young so you must be aware that staying at anyone else's house is just generally exhausting - you take all the night disturbance, early-morning waking etc and just move them to a different, unfamiliar location.
I don't know why you are making such a bit deal of them not helping you with breakfast - what did you need help with? You were two adults who weren't even on a deadline to leave for work? Adding two more adults into the mix would surely just have stressed your DDs even more? Isn't most people's "window of opportunity" for breakfast when their children are eating? Were you expecting them to whisk the children away while you ate?
It's disappointing to you that they are not more involved but there is no law that says they have to be and to be honest, I expect they feel rather awkward around you if you give off the vides that you are giving on this thread.
If you want to continue seeing them, confine it to shorter visits or ones where they specifically invite you. Build up the relationship with your children through calls of Skype if you want the children to feel more comfortable around them.
Not everyone likes children. Being related doesn't change that for some. That doesn't make them bad people.
This is horses for courses, some people on mumsnet seem to want the eastenders 'all about family' kind of thing, others do not and that's just how they are. Neither is right or wrong , you just have to accept that's how they are. I am NC with my mother for many years, but she never ever showed any interest in her grandchildren at all, she married a much younger guy and her life became all about that and cycling in France etc , she wasn't interested in me even, never mind grandchildren. I would just live with it OP and make the most of the GO that do want involvement
What a lot of interesting and varied viewpoints and comments, thank you. I have read through them over the course of today and they all offer a different way of thinking, challenging my thoughts as I needed them to. At the end of the day, I guess I am trying to create the same family bond with paternal GPs as my DD's (7yrs and 18mths) have with their maternal GPs. Maybe I am trying too hard. I need to face facts that every family is different, with different values and ways of doing things. DH's family is just not close. He barely speaks / sees his brother, phone calls between DH and his dad are very minimal and difficult - his dad barely listens to what he says before asking the next question. I just hate the idea of my DD's turning around later in life saying they didn't know them. But the effort we went to these previous few days, they still didn't get to know them any better.
We last saw them in between Christmas and New Year, not Easter - so a good 6 months ago.
As for the breakfast thing, I think this got lost in translation. I certainly didn't expect the GP's to whisk the children off whilst I have my breakfast, just surprised they just sat there, no breakfast, no cup of tea, just staring which actually made DD's on edge. DH and I had breakfast sorted, we'd laid the table for everyone so they could have joined in. Maybe now in hindsight they were waiting for breakfast on their own.
We've always been told to 'come down and visit whenever' although because of busy school / work schedules, some years it can go 6 months to a year without seeing them. So yes, we did suggest it but said if it wasn't convenient to say. They could have said no on this occasion if it wasn't right for them, we certainly didn't bulldose our way to a freebie 2 day holiday. We asked them the first morning what they wanted to do whilst we were visiting, but they said they were happy to just sit at home. They live in a small bungalow, the garden was off limits because of something FIL was doing to the grass and DD's would have gone stir crazy if we stayed in, so asked if we could go to the beach and meet them somewhere later in the day - no they didn't want to. The second day, same thing. If they had said they were going to do the garden, then we would have helped them, got DD's out there helping too. They suggested we go to the beach / parks again so took that as our cue to disappear for the day.
Quite simply, I need to stop trying. I need to just let it go and leave it to them to suggest the next visit, I'm pretty sure it won't be for some time now! The martyr word stung a bit, not sure I'm looking for sympathy, or praise come to think of it for enduring these visits. Definitely hate the thought that they think I am awkward to be around from the vibes I give off, I just still find it difficult coming from a loving family who enjoy being with each other - olds, middles and young. I am no longer going to feel guilty these olds are sat at home saying no-one visits them and they don't get out. If they really wanted it, they would find a way.
Thank you ladies for your varied views, they have really helped me see a bit more clearly that it's my expectations and views I need to change. xx
Why does there need to be a big pronouncement?
My PIL are interested and involved with my kids. My dad is not.
Over time, organically, the amount we see them has evolved on this basis.
Absolutely stop trying. They neither know nor understand the kind of family connection you are trying to create. It doesn't make them terrible people, or deliberately malicious, just culturally different from you. And you have the fuller, richer life I would say and you will help your DCs have it too.
You should let it wash by you - they are entitled to their own feelings about GC and how much they can cope with. Just see them now and again and do not let it get under your skin. I look after two of my GC regularly and frankly I am on my knees by the end of the day. I love them with all my heart, but they knacker me out completely!
And when several of the GC and their parents are around together, I sometimes sit in the eye of this whirlwind and let everyone do their own thing. Not through lack of interest, but because I am overwhelmed! You wait till you are their age and I think you will understand it all a bit more!
But no GP should try and force a kiss out of a child - one of my DGSs is a bit distant with physical affection and he sees me a lot so I am not unknown to him. But I respect his space as this is what he feels most comfortable with.
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