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The Ball’s in Your Court

When emotional neediness ruins a relationship, start over!

By Susan Hoffman

Dear Susan,

Both my sons have distanced themselves from me because I leaned on them for emotional support after their dad left me. 

I now realize that it was a huge mistake to expect my kids to take sides. Instead of talking about it with me, they fled. When I tried to communicate as well as apologize, they just clammed up and kept saying, “We don’t want to get involved, leave us out of it.” They completely disconnected themselves from my life. No second chances. 

We used to be so close as a family — their children, my grandkids, loved spending time with me. I was a hands-on, involved grandma. After this happened, I feared that the children would think I had abandoned them even though I continued to send the customary birthday and holiday cards, never knowing if they even opened them since there wasn’t an acknowledgment. 

Last week just by chance, I saw one of my sons along with two of my granddaughters. We were at the same shopping center and saw each other in the parking lot. It was so strange — we all just behaved as if nothing had happened. My son and I embraced each other, and the oldest granddaughter (now 7) ran to me and hugged me tightly, a moment that I will never forget. Her 2-year-old sister held back because she had forgotten me after a year. 

The encounter was far too brief and held no expectations or promises of future contact. Is the ball in my son’s court? What can I do to see them again?

—No Expectations Grandma


Susan responds:

Dear N. E. Grandma,

Well, either you stake out the parking lot on a regular basis hoping for another opportunity to present itself, or you take control of the situation.

Remember the ball is always in your court. Waiting for someone else to make a move is not productive, nor is it a healthy solution. It has been said that waiting is the lowest form of living.

There are endless possibilities for every situation, never just one solution. Don’t let too much time go by after this coincidental meeting. Your son was amicable and approachable, which is much better than him running from you, so seize the opportunity.

You don’t have to necessarily resolve the past conflict in order to move forward. Let him save face by you not bringing it up; he’s already indicated by his behavior that he prefers to avoid the discussion. So go with it and start over by taking action.

Make contact with him now (call him, email him or write) and tell him what you want. If you don’t ask for what you want, then how will you ever get it? Express to him your desire to reconnect, and promise to avoid dredging up the past and to remain in the present. You can apologize again for dumping your problems on him with the guarantee that it won’t happen again.

Don’t make excuses, don’t defend your actions and don’t tell him what’s good for him or the kids. Make sure that he understands that he is just as important as the grandkids; suggest that he give you a second chance to make amends. What have you got to lose?

Susan Hoffman is the director of Advocates for Grandparent Grandchild Connection and the author of the book A Precious Bond.


Special Announcement:

A new DVD produced by AFGGC, also entitled A Precious Bond, is the first documentary film about unreasonably denied grandparent visitation rights. The film shows children happily interacting with grandparents, grandparents speaking openly during support group meetings, individual grandparent interviews. A psychologist, a family law attorney and a legislator individually contribute information.

     Visit apreciousbond.com for more information or to order (by donation) the film or the book.

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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