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Grandparenting

I'm not the mother he expected, and probaby won't be the grandmother he expcts either

(81 Posts)
mothercat Mon 09-Dec-19 21:29:39

New here and this is my first post after reading through several of the forums. Looking to commiserate.

Son and DIL are expecting first baby, our first grandchild.
Things are getting tense with our son. He's 33 y/o and increasingly over the years he has let me know that I am a disappointment as a mom. As he sees it he is always having to rein me in for something I have done that makes his life miserable. DH thinks it started when he wanted to get a personal loan to cover living expenses while he went to school so he didn't have to work and could concentrate on his studies. We (DH and I) said "no" because he would need us to cosign and we were not in a position to pay back the loan if he couldn't.
I think it goes back further to multiple other incidents where we would need to help him with money, travel, etc. and weren't in a position to do that or felt that he was making bad decisions.
It seems that no matter how I try to help, even when it's something he specifically asked for, it is not good enough. Now with the baby coming I have become so gun shy that I tend to not get involved for fear of once again being harshly criticized and that just reinforces his feelings of me being inappropriate.
Of all 4 of my children he was the golden child, had everything together, looks, ability, drive and I thought I was being supportive, but he doesn't see it that way and now I'm really afraid to say anything about anything. Trying not to comment on anything he and DIL do or say regarding pregnancy, birth, and baby, but that looks like disinterest and lack of support to him.
I feel like I can't win.

willa45 Mon 16-Dec-19 20:27:49

My daughter (dog lover) once commented that female dogs are more nurturing towards their young than female cats.

Not sure how true that statement is but I can say for sure that cats are more independent by nature. I remember telling DD jokingly to be thankful that she had been raised by cats grin

love0c Mon 16-Dec-19 17:30:41

Hetty58 If only I could laugh. My eldest says the most unkind and untruthful things to us. My husband says it is because he has a huge chip on his shoulder and has done for the last three years. He reckons it is because he knows he has made some really bad decisions which he will have to live with. Therefore he takes it out on us. He is usually sorry but I feel once he has said it, it's there. I get terribly upset.

Hithere Mon 16-Dec-19 16:29:35

Hetty58

The present complaint is a very common one.

If gp are upstaging the parents, it is valid
If gp are giving a present the parents wanting to give, like a first bike, for example, it is valid
If parents gave a limit of quantity, monetary amount and passions, they have a reason for it.

It has nothing to do with the amount of money you have now vs when your ds was a child.

Hetty58 Sun 15-Dec-19 20:40:14

The latest insults:

DS criticised how much I gave my grandson for his birthday!
(OK, more than mine used to get - but I can afford it now)

DS wondered how tall he would have grown if he had been 'properly fed' (he was). He's six feet two and sixteen stone. How big did he want to be?

I just laugh these days!

Starlady Sun 15-Dec-19 20:24:39

I'm another one who thinks it's a good thing that DS told you what's been bothering him, mothercat. And it's good to know it wasn't about money either. I'm sorry that he felt abandoned when you went back to school/work, but I know that wasn't your intention and, IMO, it's good that it's out in the open.

Kudos to you for not trying to defend yourself! I know that must be hard. But it would only have led to arguing, etc. The important thing is that now he felt "heard."

I'm also glad there is no concrete reason for him to fear that you would break plans w/ your new GC, etc. Please make sure that, in the near future, you plan any dates w/ DS and family carefully, so you don't have to change plans, etc, you know, just not to give DS any ammunition or whatever the correct word would be.

Enjoy your new grandbaby!

ReadyMeals Sun 15-Dec-19 10:27:50

The problem is that with all today's emphasis on parenting and counselling, young adults get the impression their lives must have been ruined by a parent not doing totally what the child felt they needed at any particular time they can remember. Obviously if you think your life is only a shadow of what it could have been if your parents were perfect, then it's quite understandable you're going to be angry. In fact I believe that if we'd all had exactly what we felt we needed all through our development, we'd all be either too complacent to do anything for ourselves, or complete overindulged psychopaths. A sense of proportion is needed, and an acceptance that even parents are human and have needs and interests of their own.

pinkquartz Sun 15-Dec-19 00:41:40

I think that sounds really positive.
He has said what he felt and the grudge he has hung onto and you did right not to defend yourself,

I do remember when my DD was young and I was busy working and in full-time study that I thought i was being a positive role model but that its not how she saw it.

We do our best but kids see it so differently. It can't be helped.
I often feel mum is always in the wrong though i have had positive feedback from DD as well.

I hope you have a lovely time with your new DGC

mothercat Sun 15-Dec-19 00:20:03

So today was the baby shower. DS & DIL arrived yesterday evening. Things seemed tense but friendly enough.

At the end of the shower today DS pulled husband and I aside. He said that he didn't want to be angry with us anymore and forgave me. He was very emotional and trying hard not to cry, but what does one do when they are forgiven but have no idea for what?

What eventually came out is that he felt abandoned, not listened to, not heard starting at 15 y/o because I was finishing midwifery school and trying to start a business. He realized that he was having troubles with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder and felt that I wasn't hearing him and he wasn't getting the help he thought he needed when he most needed the support. This is a pattern that is repeating with his professors in grad school.

He felt that now was the time he needed to talk about this in relation to me because he is trying to be proactive in protecting the baby. He doesn't want the baby/toddler/child have a date with grandma and then I cancel or disappear at the last moment. He wanted to be sure that if that was going to happen there would be fewer or very select visits to avoid the baby having hurt feelings and being disappointed.

I didn't point out that I have no history of doing such things as I don't have any other grandchildren but since this speaks to his own feelings of abandonment I thought it was important to simply accept his feelings.

In fairness when he was growing up I was finishing midwifery school, joined an unbeknown to me troubled practice, then left to start my own birth center/home birth practice. When you are the solo practitioner you are on call all the time and family events will be missed. We had multiple family meetings before I applied to midwifery school, before clinicals, before I joined the practice, and before I opened my practice trying to explain how hard this would be for everyone, but something I really felt I was called to do. DS doesn't blame the husband because "he was working all the time." I didn't ask what he thought I was doing as I didn't think that would help the conversation.

In the end he got to speak his peace, I acknowledged his feelings and how hurt he felt and didn't offer any defense for my actions. I need to process all this and now I just hope he doesn't think my need to do that is indifference or "shutting down" as he said I usually do when he tries to talk with me.

Starlady Sat 14-Dec-19 23:49:43

Nannan2, I feel for you, but, IMO, trying to blame others for one's own mistakes is very common among teenagers. Maybe your other kids didn't do that, but your 17-yr-old is not alone, believe me. How do you handle this w/ him? Is there a way you can (gently) remind him that these things are his responsibility, etc? And perhaps help him figure out ways to prevent the same errors from recurring? B/c I think there is still time for him to learn that he has to own his personal mistakes and learn from them.

Dragonfly, I had the same issue w/ my mum when I was growing up. I came to believe she did it b/c she didn't feel she could do anything about the other kid, she could only advise/correct/teach me. I get it - and I get the idea of learning to see the other person's POV. But I still don't see how the other kid could always be "right," so to speak, and I could always be "wrong." And I would have appreciated more support in those situations (she was very supportive in other ways). So, IMO, you are very lucky that DD has come to see this your way.

Merryweather, you said, "Why am I not enough, what do I do? How can I get some acknowledgement or approval."

Sigh... sometimes, IMO, we have to give ourselves our own approval and that has to be enough. Good for you that you've learned to stop even trying to get it from her. (BTW, I think your degree and career sound wonderful!)

Kryptonite, you said, "He has even mocked me in front of the in-laws and made fun of my hair post-cancer. It can feel like punishment."

And, IMO, it sounds like verbal abuse. Have you tried saying something like, "How rude!" during those moments? It's one thing not to criticize how our AC raise their kids or live their lives, etc., quite another to accept verbal attacks.

"On a positive note, I have become much closer to my d-i-l. She has become very kind and inclusive and seems to understand. Unfortunately, I have heard him speaking disrespectfully to her and I do not hold back in 'telling him off' for this."

I'm glad you have such a good relationship w/ DIL, Kryptonite, and kudos to you for standing up for her! I just think you also need to do the same for yourself when DS is rude to you. Or maybe DH can/should speak up for you. Clearly, it hasn't ruined your relationship w/ DS to call him out on his disrespectful behavior, so it can be done.

Starlady Sat 14-Dec-19 23:20:21

So sorry to hear of so many AC who are full of gripes about their parents! My DD has had her issues w/ me but not to this extent. I guess this is another reason I should consider myself lucky. Hugs to all of you dealing w/ this problem!

A lot of these issues seem like cases of "mismatched expectations." IMO, a lot of these AC have a different idea of what mums/parents are supposed to do/not do than their mums/parents have. In some cases, they may need to be told that you (general parent) expect them to respect your life choices (career, degrees, etc.) the same way they expect you to respect theirs.

Mothercat, I agree w/ PPs (previous posters) that you should stop trying to "win" w/ this DS (dear son). Just be who you are and let the chips fall where they may. Well, except that I agree w/ your decision not to offer advice about the baby, etc. DS and DIL are adults, and now parents. Let them do things their way, even if you disagree. You can have your own opinions in your mind, of course, but unsolicited advice will likely be seen as "interfering." You can show "interest" in what they're doing ("How does that work?"... "How are you decorating the nursery?" etc.) w/o criticizing or offering advice.

As for not saying yes to certain financial requests, I don't blame you. Did you explain to DS at the time that you simply couldn't afford it? If not, if the topic comes up again, can you point that out now? No need for elaborate explanations, just "We couldn't afford it" or the like would be enough, IMO. I think that about the other AC mentioned here who seem to be dissatisfied w/ what their parents provided, etc.

But yes, perhaps the blame fell on you b/c DH stood in the background, letting you relay the decision. Maybe DS thought these were your choices alone? Perhaps DH should step up now, at some point, and make sure DS knows these were joint decisions, if the topic comes up, that is.

I must admit, I'm a little confused. You and DH seem to think DS' attitude is related to lack of financial efforts, but DS says he has had to "reign (you) in." That sounds as if you said or did things he thought were out of line or whatever. (NOT saying you did, just that he might think so). What kind of things did he believe he had to "reign in?"

IMO, sometimes, DS may just be expressing his tensions, etc. That would explain, for example, why he recently sounded off to you about the family not helping - and then turned around and thanked you for your help. He was probably feeling pressured, etc., the first time, and might have been talking about other family members (maybe even DIL's family), not you. The second time, clearly, he was calmer and focusing solely on what you had so kindly done for them.

Excellent suggestions from Smileless, IMO!

And, of course, congratulations to all and many joys!

Bbbface Fri 13-Dec-19 11:32:02

* I think you should try turning the tables and tell him that he is a disappointment to you after everything you have done for him. Tell him that you did your best and if that's not good enough we will just have to wait and see what sort of parent he will turn out to be.*

Possibly the worse advice I have ever read

Booksnbeer Fri 13-Dec-19 10:34:19

First, I will tell you that you will never “win” with this self involved child. He is determined to blame you for everything and I’ll bet he is enjoying making you feel miserable to give himself the power. Please don’t fall for it! Second, you’re a grown woman - why would you stay silent and be so worried about saying the wrong thing to your own son? Would you tolerate this bad behavior from a friend? Would you want to still be friends with that person?? This sounds harsh I know. But I’ll bet you were a good mom and did your best like we all do. Punishing parents for their beliefs is childish and cruel. I’ve been there with a daughter....listened to her abuse, wouldn’t let me see my granddaughter etc. Called me a liar when I wasn’t able to go to the high school graduation because I was too ill from cancer treatments. I finally told her that I wasn’t going to tolerate this bad behavior anymore and that she knew where to find me when she wanted to apologize. I haven’t heard from her or my granddaughter in over a year. They moved two months ago according to family members - we don’t know where. What does your DIL have to say about all this? And what about your husband? Does your son blame him too? Does your husband stand up for you? This situation is happening all over the world. These “children” feel entitled to do and say as they please regardless of the truth.

I’m very sorry for such a long response! But I feel bad when I hear another parent being unduly harassed by their child. Enjoy your other children and let him go about his business without you as his punching bag. He will either change his tune or completely snub you....hard for you with that newborn I know. My daughter walked away and now it’s actually a relief to not be mucking about in her drama all the time. She is 45 and doesn’t have any friends - very telling, eh? I send you my very best wishes for happiness, peace and love in your life 🕊💕

MissAdventure Thu 12-Dec-19 19:05:33

I couldn't and wouldn't put up with it.
How bloody rude and disrespectful. angry

Kryptonite Thu 12-Dec-19 18:52:25

I have a similar story with my son, now the father of our most beloved GC. I could write pages. It breaks my heart and yes, I will put up with anything in order to see my GC. He has even mocked me in front of the in-laws and made fun of my hair post-cancer. It can feel like punishment. Sometimes he will say something nice, but this is soon balanced with something unpleasant. We come way down on the list of priorities behind in-laws and friends. We have done a great deal to help him and always supported him, including saving him from making a really bad life choice. I read somewhere that adult children can resent parents who help out especially financially, because it shows they couldn't do it for themselves and feel some kind of shame that they asked for help. I don't know. Now he has a very good job and plenty of money, home etc. On a positive note, I have become much closer to my d-i-l. She has become very kind and inclusive and seems to understand. Unfortunately, I have heard him speaking disrespectfully to her and I do not hold back in 'telling him off' for this. I don't understand where it has all come from. Some kind of insecurity? I feel afraid of him sometimes and find him hard to like. He was a beautiful, sensitive child, clever, capable, artistic. Occasionally he seems a little jealous of my affection for GC! I hope in time he will treat me with more respect. My husband is very upset indeed at the way I've been treated. I don't tell him everything because it will sour their relationship even more. sad

timetogo2016 Thu 12-Dec-19 11:35:12

He sounds selfish and ungrateful tbh.
Maybe your thread should have read my son isn`t the son he should be.

Newatthis Wed 11-Dec-19 16:59:52

What was his expectations of you as a mother? I think your decision not to bail him out financially was a wise one. Children can be really disrespectful sometimes and I sometimes wonder that if we said to them what they say to us and treated them the way they treat us then they would have good reason to complain. Most parents try to do the best for our children. Perhaps when he has his own child he will realise that parenthood is a lot harder than just doling out money!

Madgran77 Wed 11-Dec-19 13:39:19

*"My late Mum used to say "a mother's place is in the wrong".
I've often had that in the back of my mind with one of my AC over recent years."*

Yup. Recognise that one!

knickas63 Wed 11-Dec-19 09:45:33

pone thing that may be helpful is to try an communicate more with DIL around plans etc rather than your DS? At least then she will know that you are offering help and being reasonable. Having her 'onside' will take a lot of pressure off of your son. it sounds like he has massive 'middle child' issues. My son has this in a much milder form. He is the only son and the middle child. His sisters have had a few problems, and like your son - he was the 'golden child'. Never any problems, good looking, sporty, popular and now has a very good job and is in a much better financial position than his sisters. We have had good conversations, and he feels that he was often 'forgotten' because the girls needed me an he didn't. I have been able to reassure him how much he is loved and how proud I am of him and things are better. Perhaps your son is carry this chip as well?

GrandmainOz Wed 11-Dec-19 05:34:34

My late Mum used to say "a mother's place is in the wrong".
I've often had that in the back of my mind with one of my AC over recent years.

eebeew Wed 11-Dec-19 04:38:58

I spoilt one of my three without realising it at the time. Now I have to be careful around her.

eebeew Wed 11-Dec-19 04:35:57

Andrew was the Queens golden boy. She spoilt him and now he’s arrogant, entitled and rude.

Saetana Tue 10-Dec-19 23:15:55

Seriously? I can just image how my mother, or my husband's mother would react to this - particular my MIL who brought her two boys up as a widow in poverty. Selfish springs to mind - do not indulge this type of behaviour - you will be making a rod for your back for the future. I have no idea what is going on with the younger self-entitled generation - and am so glad we decided never to have children.

Stella14 Tue 10-Dec-19 21:11:40

Join the club. I’m a disappointment too! I’m sorry you are going through this. Sometimes, we have to step back to maintain, or find, peace of mind.

Well said JuJuD. I have 3 adult children. My eldest who wasn’t spoilt. I had her aged 16. I was an unhappy single parent and had very little to give her. The other two were spoilt when they were young because their father I had the ability and funds to do so. My son cut me out of his life when I divorced his father - he was 28 and married. The youngest from the age of 13, now 37, continually made it clear that I irritate her. I was constantly criticised, repeatedly snapped at, and talked down to. My husband had pointed out to me many times that whenever I visited her, or for that matter she visited me (she lived abroad for a long time, in recent years at the other end if the country) I was depressed and stressy for weeks after. Eventually, I went into therapy to work on the issues and my feelings. My youngest behaved the same way in text messages as in person. I wanted my therapist to see the picture from both sides and then give me an opinion, so I showed her several text conversations. Together with my accounts of things, this led her to tell me that it seemed to her that I was in an abusive relationship with my youngest, with her being the abuser, and me the victim. She pointed out that in addition to my daughter’s constant criticism and undermining of me, I was displaying appeasing behaviours as victims of domestic abuse display. I had never considered this. I asked my husband and eldest daughter what they thought. They hadn’t considered it before either, but both said that, thinking about it they agreed with my therapist.

A little while later, I tried to talk to my youngest (again) about out relationship (didn’t mention the abuse theory). I told her how difficult I found it and said that I wasn’t prepared to continue on the same basis, that we had to go forward with mutual respect. Short story long, she became angry, nasty and I said I wasn’t prepared to have ongoing contact on that basis. The only times that she ever contacted me (for many years) was when she wanted something from me (she admitted that, like it was fine). I told her she would have to find another resource as her personal assistant and I walked away. That was 20 months ago. Recently, we have tentatively texted brief pleasant messages on birthdays etc, but nothing more. My mental health and peace of mind is much better for it. There was an occasion earlier this year when she asked for something from me. I told her that I would always do anything I could for her, but only if our relationship was to go forward on different terms. Cue another tantrum. So despite the occasional pleasant message. There is no movement on her part.

Lynda152 Tue 10-Dec-19 18:21:02

I feel for you as I have had many negative, upsetting comments from an adult child. My advice to you would be to put the past to bed and start anew from the baby shower onwards. It will change I bet once the baby arrives and your son is a parent having to make decisions for his own child. Make sure you say often, and to both your son and DIL, that you are aware things have changed so they must tell you what you should and shouldn’t do etc for your grandchild or to best help them. This worked for me. When the new parents doubted themselves over what to do re babies feeding, sleep patterns, choice of equipment etc I have always said that as a parent you always make the decision you think is best for your child at the time. Over time this has opened certain people’s eyes!

Hm999 Tue 10-Dec-19 18:13:39

'So what sort of grandmother do you and X want me to be?'