Annie’s Mailbox for June 29, 2011: Son upset over including ex-wife in family functions
June 29, 2011
Dear Annie: In no uncertain terms, my son and his second wife have told me that it is wrong to be in contact with my son’s ex-wife. They’ve said my ex-daughter-in-law should not be invited to my home or to family functions, and that including her shows a total lack of support for my son.
I am not close to my ex-daughter-in-law, although I hold no animosity toward her. But, Annie, I’ve known her for 30 years, and she is the mother of my grandchildren. Shutting her out does not seem reasonable, nor is it a good example for my grandchildren.
I see my son and his current wife very rarely. They do not invite me to their home. They do not bother with my other children and have a limited interest in family gatherings. I am not part of their lives. They say it’s because I still see the ex, but even when I don’t include her, they still don’t come around. My son refuses to talk about any of this, and his wife seems only too happy to attack me.
What is the best way to handle this situation?
— Danged if I Do and Danged if I Don’t
Dear Danged: Of course it is wrong for your son and his wife to tell you who you can and cannot contact, but that won’t change their response. We don’t recommend inviting your ex-daughter-in-law to any function where your son or his wife might be present. That is simply asking for trouble and will be interpreted as a deliberate slap in the face. We suggest less blatant ways to stay in touch with your ex-daughter-in-law, such as e-mail and phone calls. Visits should be saved for those occasions involving the grandchildren where your presence together would be expected.
Dear Annie: That letter from “Dutiful Daughter” described my mother perfectly. She said her mother, now in her late 80s, was becoming increasingly difficult and rude. You suggested an evaluation to check for dementia.
We did that with our mother, and the doctor says she is mentally fine. She has just become rude. And apparently, because of her advanced age, she thinks she has earned the right to be as nasty as she likes. My siblings and I dread taking her anywhere. So now that we know it’s not dementia, how do we handle her?
— Not Dutiful for Much Longer
Dear Not Dutiful: With honesty, boundaries, consistency and some behavior modification. When Mom is rude, point it out to her, nicely, and say that you don’t like to be around her when she cannot treat you decently. If she continues, get up and leave. There is no reason to subject yourself to constant nastiness. Although it will probably take a little while, either she will learn to behave more politely, or you will see her less often. Win-win.
Dear Annie: I want to respond to “Heartbroken in Canada,” whose children ignored her on Mother’s Day.
That was my eighth Mother’s Day after the sudden, tragic death of my only child at age 14. Every breath I take is a struggle without her.
How does one celebrate Mother’s Day after the death of a child? Gratitude. I am grateful for having the opportunity to be a mom, even for only 14 years. I am grateful the last words I said to her were “I love you.” I am grateful she did not suffer. I am grateful to “The Compassionate Friends,” an organization that supports bereaved family members. I am grateful when a friend remembers to say “happy Mother’s Day” instead of nothing.
If your children are alive and breathing, celebrate. Until you have suffered a mother’s worst nightmare, be grateful. You may someday become a grandmother. I lost that gift when my only child died.
— An Angel’s Mom
Dear Mom: Our deepest condolences on the loss of your daughter. Thank you for reminding our readers to appreciate the blessings they have.