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Difficult grandad ignoring granddaughter - advice needed please?

(28 Posts)
BonnieB Tue 16-Apr-13 13:47:36

Briefly as possible - I'm at a loss and need some help with this and who better to ask than some grans/granddads.
We were all shattered by my mum's sudden and unexpected death 4 years ago. My dad ( in his nineties and fit as a fiddle) has gradually recovered with lots of help and some medication for his anxiety and depression. He lives independently, drives, visits friends and is feisty and determined to keep going, but also lonely. The problem is that he has one grandchild (my daughter) who is 13 and since just after Mum died, he has ignored her! I'm an only child too! We visit every school holiday and stay with him and I phone every other day as we don't live nearby.

At first I put his behaviour down to depression as he was not himself at all. He stayed with us for long periods and I spent a lot of time visiting him so that he was not alone. He made some new friends and things improved a lot. But we have just come back from yet another visit, and he totally ignored his granddaughter again and I am in a rage! She is a lovely girl but has difficulty communicating and is very shy, so won't start a conversation and doesn't know what to say anyway! We have explained this (and he knows anyway as it's not new) but he ignores it and always brings the subject back to himself. He just looks straight past her and can sit at a table for a meal and not even look at her once. Yes I have tackled him about it and he gets very angry and defensive and refuses to talk.

I should mention that my mum was the loving gran and although he did take an interest it was mum who made a fuss and did everything. I am angry and upset and feel stuck - I either don't visit him (which I don't want to do, of course), or else condone his behaviour by carrying on as if everything is ok. No one else knows - his friends have no idea and we don't have a big family so it's just us. There is no logic to it and he blames his GD for not making an effort to speak to him! Unsurprisingly she doesn't want to go any more and neither do I or my husband to be honest! We even considered moving to be nearer to help him out but this situation is spoiling the whole relationship. He is very self-centred and tends to blame other people - it is impossible to have a calm discussion - I have tried but he refuses to discuss it and just says that he wishes that things were better. He can and does make a huge effort with friends and is charming and helpful to others which I find puzzling and very upsetting. Does anyone have any advice please?

liminetta Tue 16-Apr-13 14:08:01

I am very sorry for your situation.Although I have not had your particular experience; I can sympathize because we (my daughter and her two children, both girls), and myself, have had our own similar problem.My daughter left her husband down south, and came to live near myself and my husband ten years ago when the children were young.As we have no other family apart from my sister, who is a widow, I hoped that she would get involved with the children in some way.But alas we were sadly disappointed, and she practically ignores them.I must say that in the past, she has had depression, and over the years I have tried to understand her behaviour, much as you have done with your father.But i feel that now is the time to stop.Stop being angry and upset.Stop trying to change his behaviour, and moving near to him will only bring you more heartache.Explain to your daughter that his attitude is wrong; that you yourself will never understand it, and if she dosnt want to go again, nobody is going to make her.Your father has had his life, and should not be allowed to ruin yours.I hope this helps!

Nonu Tue 16-Apr-13 14:11:22

Very difficult for you Bonnie , I though would be inclined to side with my daughter , especially as she is shy , I think when they are young they can get tongue tied and don"t really have many social skills .

To me at any rate I think the adult should be more understanding .
You say he can be charming to his friends , perhaps a littlle charm would not go amiss at home .

Hope things can be sorted for you , as you are stuck in the middle so to speak .


FlicketyB Tue 16-Apr-13 14:28:21

If your daughter, at the age of 13, is tongue tied with her grandfather it rather suggests that he has never taken much interest in her and your mother's affection possibly masked his complete lack of interest.

I think what you need to concentrate not on the why but the response. liminetta's reply is absolutely right, I do not think it can be improved upon.

Bags Tue 16-Apr-13 16:07:17

How odd! And how sad for you and your daughter, bonnie. I agree with those who say that you might do best to concentrate on the response to your father's behaviour. In your shoes I think I would tell my father that I thought his behaviour towards his grandchild unacceptable and for that reason we wouldn't be visitng him so often because it was too upsetting. If he got defensive and started saying it was the child's fault, I would remind him that she is a child and he could at least be polite to her. Ignoring her is most definitely very rude. If he is charming to other people, he obviously has no excuse for not being charming to his own flesh and blood.

nanapug Tue 16-Apr-13 16:20:54

My immediate thought was "who is the adult here?", I am afraid I would tell him in no uncertain terms that if he doesn't improve you will stop visiting. I would actually write to him stating what it is you want to say, including the fact that he is able to be charming with friends and that he needs to remember that she has lost a much loved Grandparent. Maybe I sound harsh but your DD should not have this sadness, and your priority should be her well being. Sadly he needs to realise that his behaviour is unacceptable, and needs to change or suffer the consequences. The more you make her try to talk to him the worse it will get for her. I hope it works out but if I am honest I wouldn't hold my breath sad

Mishap Tue 16-Apr-13 17:24:34

If it were me I would visithin alone and let your DD go to friends to play or to stay. There is no reason why he should behave this way, but he is the one missing out, and your DD should not have to suffer; nor should she be put in a position where she has to deal with him

I can see that you would not want to lose all contact with your father, so make it your job to visit and not hers.

It's no good feeling angry - elderly chaps can ,be very stuck in their ways and you have no choice but to take him as he is unless you are willing to risk a showdown and a rift. Not really worth it - let your DD enjoy her life uncluttered by his rudeness.

My FIL was always funny with the DDs when they were teenagers - disapproving tuts and raised eyebrows. We just all ignored it (and laughted about it when he was gone!) - and needless to say, we didn't go out of our way to visit too oftern!

Butty Tue 16-Apr-13 17:30:56

I'm wondering what he was like with your daughter, before your Mum died, as you said his behaviour changed towards her following his wife's death.

He sounds angry about life. Is he do you think? (I'm guessing he wouldn't want to show this to his friends).

Maybe it's because your daughter is not yet old enough to 'dance attendance' to his self-centeredness.

Maybe he can't allow himself to love again.

Just throwing out a few ideas.

So Bonnie, I do hope you can come to some understanding with this - as it's clearly a difficult and unhappy situation for you all. No wonder you feel so angry.

BonnieB Tue 16-Apr-13 17:45:02

Thank you all for your words of wisdom! - I agree with you all and it confirms back to me that it is really unacceptable. I've been feeling guilty and yes he absolutely is an angry old man and was an angry young one I'm sure. In fact if he saw these responses it would probably make him think. I don't want to cut off contact and I will write to him. I've had the phone put down on me a few times and it probably won't surprise you to know that he does sulk and has threatened to cut off contact with me! Someone said to me that old men can revert to being toddlers and that's just how it feels! It's the last thing that my poor DD needs right now - she needs a boost to her confidence instead. I know that my mum would have been horrified and I find myself having very uncharitable thoughts about him. Thanks again.

shysal Tue 16-Apr-13 18:11:18

Bonnie , my mother was much the same when her great grandchildren came along. She had suffered from depression on and off all her life. I came to the conclusion that she just couldn't summon up the energy to take an interest, even saying she didn't want them to visit.To be fair she was both deaf and almost blind, so communication took a lot of effort on both sides.
At your father's age he may just be too tired to make that effort, so don't take it personally.

Deedaa Tue 16-Apr-13 21:23:15

I'm afraid he sounds very much like my husband. He isn't interested in much outside his own problems and I don't think he'd be bothered if he never saw his grandchildren. He certainly wouldn't make any effort to communicate with a child who had trouble talking to him. I just carry on regardless now. I enjoy my two, soon to be three, grandchildren and consider that it's his loss if he doesn't get the same pleasure from them.

yogagran Tue 16-Apr-13 22:45:48

Bonnie do you have any siblings who could share this burden with you. It must be so difficult to cope with this on your own

Eloethan Tue 16-Apr-13 23:29:31

I think people who are a bit self-centred when they're younger, tend to get much more self-centred when they're very old. Also, some people, if they're on their own a lot, have more time to think about themselves and to find things to be dissatisfied about.

Although I love my mum, I notice similar traits in her. She doesn't show as much interest in her grandchildren or great grandchildren as she did when she was younger. Also, she tends to find fault generally and with things that I do for her. It can be annoying and upsetting but I try (not always successfully - I get ratty at times) to make allowances for the fact that she's 92 and spends a lot of time on her own.

If your dad and your daughter have never been particularly close, and it was your mum who was the mainstay of the family, your dad might feel at a loss to find common ground. Perhaps he finds it difficult to initiate a conversation with your daughter because he doesn't know what to talk about - and probably your daughter feels equally uncomfortable.

I'm not sure if you're saying your daughter is upset by his attitude, or is she just bored and uncomfortable when visiting him? If she is upset, perhaps you could explain that some people when they are very elderly become a bit self-centred and seem to lose the energy to care about more than one or two people.

Maybe Mishap is right and it would be better for you to see your dad on your own and let your daughter do her own thing, or to keep visits short. But, given that you sound like a loving and conscientious daughter, I think it would upset you if you drastically cut down your visits to him.

absent Wed 17-Apr-13 07:51:06

BonnieB Does your daughter resemble your mother in appearance?

Riverwalk Wed 17-Apr-13 08:10:58

Bonnie your father was over 80 when he became a grandfather for the first time - that's some age gap to overcome.

It must be hard for you, particularly if you know of other granddads who are kindly towards their grandchildren, as most are, but they are probably 30 or 40 years younger than your dad.

Bags Wed 17-Apr-13 08:16:15

I don't think age need be a barrier to pleasantness towards one's only grandchild! One of my neighbours didn't become a grandmother until she was in her seventies. She had only one son and she has only one grandchild, but she has loved, played with, helped bring up that child in a manner we could all aspire to. Love can cross age gaps. I nearly wrote age barriers, but age need not be an emotional barrier to anything.

absent Wed 17-Apr-13 08:22:03

Quite right Bags. My ma was 71 when absentdaughter – her only grandchild – was born and no one could have been more thrilled or delighted. Ditto when her first great grandchild was born when she was 91 years old.

BonnieB Wed 17-Apr-13 10:07:19

It's really good to have all this feedback and I wish we could 'adopt' a lovely granny for my DD to balance this out. Poor DD has put up with this without really complaining for 4 years and only now says she doesn't want to go any more. I do make allowances for D's age but the fact that he can make the effort to go and meet new people and make friends at his age shows that where there's a will....and he has more energy than me!!

Not sure why it's become too much now - but after 4 years of putting up with it I've had enough! One thing that's odd is that I'm sure I've seen a look of defiance on his face a couple of times when I've caught his eye - I mentioned it to DH who agreed with me. Don't want to be an amateur psychologist but what's that about? And is there a way back from this crazy situation? I feel he should apologise to DD and explain somehow. I've told her that it's due to his grief and he doesn't mean it - but I think he does and it takes some determination to ignore someone in your own home totally for a week, doesn't it?

Butty Wed 17-Apr-13 10:21:24

Bonnie - Did your father control your mother? Sounds like a big power play going on, but finding out why, if that's the case, is the difficult bit.

cathy Wed 17-Apr-13 10:34:12

There is truly only one thing you can do and that is to have a heart to heart with him, it could be absolutely anything and no point at all in trying to guess.

You know its very much the same in my home, I am very much the attention giver and my husband does least as possible-he loves our grandchild but does not wish to get involved with anything that he does not have to, we are all made different, we all have good and bad.

I do feel for you and hope you can resolve it

FlicketyB Wed 17-Apr-13 20:17:43

I had a grandmother who didn't like my mother and had little time for me, and then only to criticise, because in her eyes I was so like my mother. I wasn't wild about her either. But I adored my other grandmother, she was loving and supporting and we got on so well. My paternal grandmother's behaviour worried me very little, my mother understood the problem and I grew up in a loving supportive family so I just ignored it.

BonnieB you do not mention the other set of grandparents. Are they still around? What is there relationship with your daughter?

As we go through life we learn that there are some people who for no good reason seem to ignore us or even loathe us and most of us develop the resilience to see that the fault does not lie with us. Perhaps this is the opportunity for your daughter to develop this resilience and accept that for whatever reason her grandfather has no interest in her. The problem is not hers, it is his. She has other family and friends who love her and like her. I know this may be difficult to do because of her shyness and difficulties with communication. But perhaps if she can learn this now surrounded by her loving family it will give her tool that will help her through problems she may have as she gets older.

Faye Wed 17-Apr-13 22:13:48

My grandmother was quite nasty to me all my childhood and when I was six years old and she told me I was as bad as the twins (my brother and sister who were two years old at the time). I remember thinking what a strange thing to say about them, they were little more than babies. Her favourites were my eldest sister and older cousins. She didn't like my mother, her third out of four children.

I would not put my child through any more of your father's nastiness ever again. There is no underlying reason for his mean spiritedness to his granddaughter.

One thing I have learnt in my life is some people are odd and there is nothing anyone can do to change their behaviour. They are as they are and most are proud of it.

JessM Thu 18-Apr-13 03:29:41

The only thing I would add is that in his 90s he is very old and people do change cognitively in advanced age and their personalities can change as well. He may be depressed. Some depression and personality change is altzheimers related. Only an expert psychogeriatrician can diagnose.
In your shoes I would visit without your daughter and try not to judge him for his difficult behaviour. We cannot imagine what it is like to be that old, and to be missing a life-partner of long standing. It is kinder to yourself to be forgiving than angry.

absent Thu 18-Apr-13 09:41:07

Bonnie The reason I asked if your daughter took after your mother is I simply wondered whether your father finds the resemblance painful and that's why he doesn't look at her or talk to her.

HMHNanna Thu 18-Apr-13 22:56:00

He is getting on in years, and probably has problems of his own. Do you ask him if he needs help with anything? Does he have carers? Do you help him with day to day things? Do you do his washing ironing etc. ? When a man gets to his age , he will care about all his family, but even getting up and getting washed and dressed each day is a great achievment. Just give him all the help and attention that you can . Your daughter may be shy but surely you can help her to understand the needs of an elderly man. Maybe if you give him more help, your daughter will accept his frailty.