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Trouble between friend's GS and his grandad

(23 Posts)
Elegran Mon 01-Aug-11 11:41:44

A good friend's husband has had a chronic illness for more than 30 years, which has progressively robbed him of his ability to walk, made his hands clumsy and his speech slurred.

His beloved grandson accepted his condition uncritically when he was younger, and they would play happily together and look at books and so on. But now that he is 7 he notices that Gdad is different, and resents it when he cannot do things, and Gdad's patience wears thin easily when GS gets difficult.

The other day GSs mother was taking him to task about his attitude, and GS replied "God did not make him properly" which really disturbed his mother and grandmother, who are regular church-goers.

He has never known him except in his present condition. I have suggested to my friend that they get out old photos of Gdad as a fine fit young man and talk about the days before he got ill, and how his own children were upset when he could no longer do things with them, and had become bad-tempered because he was ill.

Does anyone else have any suggestions for them? The relationship was so good, but has started to go downhill.

jackyann Mon 01-Aug-11 12:02:26

I do think that is a good idea, and for GD to explain himself as well; some people say something like "the illness makes me bad-tempered but I hate to upset you" and suggest a shared word or phrase to say in those situations.
I am a bit concerned that maybe GD is asking too much of himself - better to see GS for short periods of time, and not try to do too much ( and then this doesn't ask too much of GS either)

As for the "God" remark - can't help feeling that he has overheard that one somewhere, if not from the immediate family.
If they have a deep faith, it can presented as a trial that GD & his family have to go through, but I always say you should only have conversations like that if you truly believe what you are saying.

Elegran Mon 01-Aug-11 12:16:45

jackann yes I thought he must have heard it somewhere, but his Gran says he just came out with it to his mother. I can't imagine any of the family saying that - they are not that kind of people. Someone at school, I suspect, and then you wonder where did that child hear it. Some people try to explain things like Down's syndrome in those kind of terms because they think children will not understand anything more sophisticated, but I always believe that children can take in quite serious concepts if they are expressed simply and clearly.

The family do keep contact between them to a reasonable level, and I think all was well until recently. GS is getting older and putting his horns out more now.

jackyann Mon 01-Aug-11 13:21:01

I was lucky enough to have parents & grandparents who were very honest with me. One of my grandmothers was very religious and did see God's hand in everything, but she was being completely honest.
I took that honesty into my own parenting, and having worked with children with disabilities, I agree that very young children can understand if it is explained clearly and they are given a chance to ask questions.

Although disability is supposed to more openly talked about these days than in the past, I think that my generation were more accustomed to it than policy makers think. We grew up with men & women who had been disabled mentally, physically & emotionally by 2 World Wars, and told that however strange they may appear, we should respect them.

Elegran Mon 01-Aug-11 13:57:14

My friends family are religious but not fanatical. They are very close (they supported each other from an early age when father was first diagnosed) so I think they will sort it out amongst them. Everyone has become so accustomed to the wheelchair and the daily routine that I don't imagine they think of the old days any more, but GS does not know anything of how it used to be. His mum is very sensible and explains things to him, and he is a nice affectionate little boy, so I don't foresee any long-term problems.
His uncle is being roped in to talk about how he felt when his dad was criticising him a lot as a child - (I don't think things were helped then by Gdad's own father having been rather stern with him to succeed and Gdad being disappointed that his own career was going down the drain and wanting his son to do well - which he has)

Charlotta Mon 01-Aug-11 18:02:20

I think that you should tell GS that it has nothing to do with God but an illness, which affects old people and not something he could catch.

The fact that God might have made him so could lead to supposition that Gdad had deserved it for some reason or other. Keep God out of it.

I am sure it is phase GS is going through and hurtful for his Gdad, everyone should keep calm, avoid being upset about a child's innocent remark and put it behind them. GS will soon have forgotten all about it.

Elegran Mon 01-Aug-11 19:08:50

Charlotta The God remark was an incidental, illustrating his view of his Gdad's faultiness, and his family did not bring God into it in he first place.

The main problem is that he is old enough to notice that Grandad cannot do a lot of things and easily becomes ratty, but is too young to completely understand the nature of his nerve illness (which is not Alzheimers but MS of long standing).

As Jackyann says, it is a question of respect, and at that age boys do ask that people earn the respect they give them - and my friends husband cannot do that for himself any more. I suspect the wee boy's respect has been eroded by overhearing the careless remarks of some acquaintance, but his family are working to renew it.

Charlotta Tue 02-Aug-11 10:45:20

Somehow the adults must try to overcome this situation. What is nagging me is my own aversion to my sickly grandmother. Me and my cousins were always being told to have repect but you can't respect someone just because you have been told to do so. However you can act as if you had respect which is all you can expect from a 7 year old child.
Remembering how I felt towards my grandmother I feel if that happened to me I would try to keep out of my grandchildren lives. When you talk to friends, a lot didn't like a particular grandparent and have memories of being cooped up with old men on Sunday afternoons. Thinking about my niece, she started wailing in the car at just the thought that her Gdad would expect to kiss her on arrival.
I realise that we are now on a subject which is not usual in GRANSNET where we all strive to be loving grandparents to loving grandkids. Perhaps that is the American dream, it was defintely not so in the first half of the 20th century.

jackyann Tue 02-Aug-11 16:31:03

Yes, Charlotta, it is a difficult subject, but I think that a family that shows respect to all members can come up with a way around it - and it is those tips that Grans are so good at!

My own mother didn't want to kiss her grampy's tickly beard, and asked if she could kiss his bald head instead! We have one photo of the two of them together and I always remember the story when I see it!
Nowadays, we say, quite rightly that children should not be forced to kiss or hug someone they don't want to, but that is only part of the story, and working it out like that is what families do.

I have worked with families where disability is an issue, and usually they come up with phrases to help everyone get around it "my silly wobbly hands" etc. "Blowing kisses" (useful during chemotherapy etc.) is an old way of managing emotional closeness without physical proximity.

I do think though, that this little boy needs a proper explanation, and a bit of problem-solving about how to deal with GD. I wonder if everyone is expecting too much of themselves & maybe of a little boy. He will, in the future, be glad that time was taken to sort this hiccup out.

I cannot remember being forced (I'm sure I wasn't) to sit with the old people in my family, but I do remember sitting & listening for hours. I am so glad that I did, as I carry the memories of those who lived in very different times and whose experiences taught me a lot.

bikergran Tue 02-Aug-11 19:21:35

Elegran Im sorry I havnt got a solution for you, but I can relaly sympathise with you and the way things my hubby who is 76 (im 55)......we have one and only grandson just coming up 5..and he has only ever know "grandad" as he is now..poorly, ill health, not being able to do anything other than look at books or run cars on the table..he does have a real! train set(grandad that is) so grandson was always keen on popping round and switching on the controls....but then that is now starting to wear thin...grandson doesnt bother too much with grandad some days.. as he cant do anything with him..he used to ask "grandad come n play football with me etc etc " but of course that has never happened and also grandad is getting more poorly and tired as the yrs go on...... not an easy solution anywhere..maybe as grandson gets older then he can sit down and perhaps build something at the table..hope you can find something to suit all..what about jig saws??

Elegran Tue 02-Aug-11 19:45:06

bikergran From what I know of my friend's husband, I don't think jigsaws were ever one of his "things" and his fingers are probably no longer up to the fine movements now. There is no easy solution. I think with jackyann that they will be explaining things to the wee boy in more detail now that he is getting a bit older. As Charlotta says, it may be a phase which he will come out of soon. I hope so.

My sympathy for your DH's condition. Life can be hard.

Thank you all for your replies. I shall point my friend to this page to see if it helps.

jackyann Tue 02-Aug-11 21:58:42

Can I clarify? I'm not sure that "detail" is needed - rather honesty, including expressing the wish that things were different.
Also, children need an open atmosphere to ask questions so that as they process the information, they can ask again (and again and again).

jackyann Tue 02-Aug-11 22:01:15

Sorry - can't do additions to posts & hand slipped:
see if anything here helps:

best wishes to your friend & all the family.

Baggy Wed 03-Aug-11 07:38:36

I think I would play a game with the child where he has to pretend he's stuck in a wheelchair and can't get about or do stuff. A few minutes would probably be enough to get the idea across.

bikergran Wed 03-Aug-11 08:37:23

elegran ah yes shaky hands etc I forget, yes, as when you put all the symptoms togther there are quite a few (well with my hubby there is) shaky hands, out of breath, legs wont work,balance, slight hearing loss, eyesight problems, limited mobility, walking stick.........hmm yes games and playing do become difficult.......... not sure what else I could sujest as hubby struggles himself, (then of course grandma has to play) phewww!!!! and make up for

Elegran Wed 03-Aug-11 09:15:21

jackyann I did not exactly mean detail, but my mental thesaurus was out of order. Grandma has GS a lot, so can answer any questions, once he knows what questions he wants to ask.
Baggy Yes, there is nothing like trying it for himself. I had a bright idea once when there was a fundraising fair, to have people doing a "wheelchair slalom" sitting in a chair and manoeuvring it round obstacles, then spooning food out of a dish while wearing thick gloves and threading a needle wearing glasses smeared with vaseline, all against the clock of course. It was vetoed as being possibly making fun to the disabled, but I still think it could have been a winner - getting home the point while having fun.

greenmossgiel Wed 03-Aug-11 09:43:37

I worked for many years (all my working life, actually) with adults with severe disabilities. Some people had been born with their disability and were gradually deteriorating, and some had experienced a stroke or other neurological illness (multiple sclerosis, etc). When new staff were being trained, it was common practice for them to be taken out (the staff, that is), to shops and other possibly awkward areas for access. They would then use a wheelchair. They would be able to find out the difficulties that present themselves to wheelchair users out in the community, whether this was actual access into and around shops or attitudes of other people. I think it's a really good idea for the little boy to perhaps sit in grandad's wheelchair and if possible, wheel himself around a bit. Let him see grandad's special cushion, if he should have one, and have it explained to him why his grandad needs it. The little boy might be able to do something 'special' for his grandad? That only he is allowed to do? (Perhaps it could be pretended that grandad has had to wait for his grandson to visit before he could have this task carried out for him?) It's hard for little ones to understand why he has a grandad with an illness/disability when other wee boys don't have that in their lives. I don't think 'God' is the issue here - perhaps it's the only way he can understand how grandad's 'turned out'. What other explanation might there be to a wee boy? Perhaps by addressing the situation calmly and sensitively (for both parties), things will work out for them.

Elegran Wed 03-Aug-11 21:02:20

I think it will work out .

Thanks everyone for your suggestions and insight.

Elegran Sat 13-Aug-11 10:34:04

My friend emailed me after reading this thread. she says :-

"The answers were interesting. However, DD felt religion wasn't really an issue she was concerned about and that was something quite a few folk latched onto! We will, in time, hunt out the photos that would make a nice story of GD and what he did etc long ago until now when he is tired etc. Actually, on Tuesday they both got on like buddies until GD decided he wanted the TV on which doesn't go down well with GS - GD is trying to say he is getting fed up playing with him - difficult to be diplomatic in that situation without GS getting huffed!! Hey ho, not easy to resolve when GS comes moaning to me in the kitchen - worse than having two children when it's an adult and child having a problem!!"

(She often looks after GS, and has to juggle the demands of GS and GD)

Baggy Sat 13-Aug-11 11:36:48

I think a grandad ought to be able to say straight out to a seven year old that he wants to watch TV now so please could said child either be quiet and do something on his own (or watch the tekly as well, even!) or go away and let grandad have some time to himself. The child sounds like a spoilt brat to me!

supernana Sat 13-Aug-11 14:05:51

Hear hear! Spoilt brat sums this one very nicely. Even at seven years of age it's possible to have a sense of compassion and be expected to behave accordingly.

Elegran Sat 13-Aug-11 14:23:12

He is a nice wee soul, but he is an only child, and an only grandchild and likely to remain so. Trouble is, though I would not like to say this in front of my friend, the Grandpa's cognitive ability has been declining for years and it really is like having another child in the house. I don't think he is up to speaking as firmly as that to the child.

Baggy Sat 13-Aug-11 14:27:16

Then the other adult in the house should step in and speak for him then! Simple. And the child should be told not to be tiresome when he is being.