We live in Massachusetts and our two grandkids live in Northern California, and now the parents will no longer let us see the kids. It’s mostly our daughter’s doing — she has some serious mental problems; she may even be bipolar. She and her husband got angry at us when we explained that we would no longer be able to pay for the private school for our granddaughter; then they tried to guilt us by bringing our granddaughter into it. Soon the whole family was against us.
Our grandkids are right in the middle, but we know that they really love us and are being brainwashed by the parents. I mean, after all, they are only 7 and 9 years old. One summer they spent a month at our home, and when it came time to leave, they cried and begged to stay; so I know they miss us. And that’s why we decided to just go to California and knock on their door.
Well, after four days in California we came up empty. We showed up at the house, and our daughter wouldn’t let us inside; we showed up at the school, and our daughter blocked us. We even talked to the principal, the pediatrician and the neighbor to try to get them to talk some sense into her and make her see the damage that she’s doing to the kids.
We don’t understand. Everyone loves us, and no one can understand why our daughter is keeping us away. All I could get out of her is that we should apologize if we want to see the kids, but for what? She said we should be able to figure it out…. I guess we will just have to give up.
— Signed, rejected and neglected grandparents
Dear Rejected/Neglected GPs,
Your situation is indeed a sad one, especially for the children. There is no doubt that you love them and want to be a part of their lives; however, you are going about it the wrong way.
Everything you are doing to reconnect is backfiring, yet you continue to do the same things. You are looking outside yourself for solutions rather than relying on your own resources. One way you are doing this is through triangulation, by inviting other third parties into the mix. You have contacted a slew of people to actively advocate on your behalf; and yet when your daughter cracks the door open, you don’t seize the opportunity to do the work. She flat-out told you what it would take to see the kids, yet you ignored it and instead chose to bulldoze your way into their lives.
It is imperative that you take responsibility for your actions and then change your behavior rather than expecting her to change hers. That’s what this is all about: hoping that the other person will change what they are doing in order to get the results that you want. Life doesn’t work that way. When you are ready to adopt the tools necessary to help you change your behavior, then you may start seeing the results you want.
Below are specific guidelines:
If you can’t figure out what to apologize for, then maybe you should apologize for showing up unannounced. You said yourself that she was angry about the tuition stopping; maybe start a dialog about that.
All of this could have been avoided by using a different approach, such as letter writing or emailing as a way to begin opening up communication lines. Grandparents must present themselves as nonthreatening people.
Susan Hoffman is the author of A Precious Bond and director of Advocates for Grandparent Grandchild Connection.