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I feel emotionally detached from my kids and grandchildren.

(77 Posts)
WhyWhyWhyohWhy Wed 31-May-23 15:15:03

First post so apologies if I did something wrong here.
It’s took a while and lots of thought to come to this conclusion but I really don’t feel a lot for one of my 4 offspring, his wife and 2 grandchildren. I’m sure that in some way I love them but I just don’t feel very strongly. The children are now 3 and 5 and belong to my DS and DIL who are mid to late 30’s professionals and frankly we have so little in common. Though we live quite close to each other we don’t see an awful lot of them to build a relationship unless they need babysitters due to their ‘busy lives’ however if I ask what they’ve done over the weekend they’ll say not a lot really which is a very non committed answer, later it will come out that they went to a place close to us where we might have met for a brief catch up.
My DIL is a nice person and we get on well, My DS has done well for himself and they seem to be quite happy together, I notice that my DS just goes along with everything that DIL wants, no longer sees his friends and is often left looking after the children whilst DIL is visiting her friends all over the country for the day often on a weekend. He does most of the cooking, washing and general running around after the kids as well as holding down a demanding full time job.
The couple have a very different parenting style to us in that whenever the children want to do something the parents always tell them it’s not safe. There are no toys in the garden for the kids to play with and the things we have purchased to bring fun into their lives are pretty quickly sent off to charity shops etc. They do take the kids out to a local play park, a museum or the theatre. It’s clear that the kids are pretty bored and can be a handful as a result. When we babysit we like to play, have fun with games, DH even has a bit of rough and tumble with them, we feel it’s important to help them learn to risk assess for themselves. When the parents come back obviously the kids will tell the parents what we have been up to to which my DIL will say “oh I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that” and we feel like naughty children ourselves. The five year old is scared of own shadow, has little confidence and is quite whiny and manipulative and seems to need the 3 year old for security, the 3 year old is quite Pleasant in nature but is often in the doghouse having been bubbled up for something by the 5 year old which provokes a reaction and a telling off by the parents.
I rightly keep my opinions to myself because the way they live their lives and raise their kids has nothing to do with me but I do wonder if not feeling anything much for them is normal. Obviously there is a lot more I could mention but it’s not meant as a character assassination of them rather a why do I feel the way I do about them because I feel quite bad about it as we have other grandchildren that we feel differently about.

seadragon Wed 31-May-23 16:10:55

When I can do nothing about a situation in our extended family I 'dissociate'/disconnect actively to protect myself. It's a survival strategy I had to learn because of a very challenging childhood. I am conscious that it can make me seem cold and detached but if there is something I can do to alleviate a challenging set of circumstances within the family then I know, from past and indeed current experience that they do talk to us if they are struggling and we will do our utmost to help working with other family members if necessary .......if we can.

VioletSky Wed 31-May-23 16:22:00

I'm sorry to say this but they likely sense your feelings and that is why you are seeing less of them and aren't having that opportunity for closeness

The thing is that other people's different lifestyles aren't really a good reason to not care about them as long as they aren't actively engaging in behaviours towards you that are negative.

I think of you change your demeanor and support their lifestyle and parenting choices more than you would be rewarded with a closer relationship.

We don't raise children to live their lives in ways we approve of but to go forth and find their own routes to happiness. If they are happy, be happy for them

Hithere Wed 31-May-23 16:26:14

No, you do not keep your opinion to yourself when you do things the parents disagree with

When you babysitting, do you know what rules to follow?

You just have different personalities and dont mesh as well

What commonalities do you share with your son? I would cultivate those and strengthen the relationship with him

Everything else will follow that pattern

Hetty58 Wed 31-May-23 16:55:13

WhyWhyWhyohWhy, you obviously disapprove of the way they treat their children, also with the division of household chores - even the lack of garden toys. I really doubt that your attitudes and opinions are, in fact, kept to yourself. They are bound to show.

The detachment is a normal reaction. You can't adapt to join in with their 'normal' - or impose yours on them, so you withdraw instead and keep out of it.

You don't know that the 'kids are pretty bored and can be a handful' - you only know how they behave when you are present. Show me any 3 and 5 year olds who aren't a handful and then I'd worry.

'if I ask what they’ve done over the weekend they’ll say not a lot really' - exactly how I'd reply to a (nosy) parent, as I'd never tell them much in case they 'turned up' uninvited!

Hithere Wed 31-May-23 17:37:55

The answer to the question "how was your weekend" is similar - not a lot

I am not lying, it means it is a chill weekend and there is no plan, we are taking it easy

We rush so much during the week with everything that weekends may go with the flow
We may or not see friends, we may or not go to movies....

M0nica Wed 31-May-23 18:45:03

I feel too many people are trying to blame you for the problem, which is quite unfair.

We have no control over what our children are, genetic inheritance is a random throw of the dice and some children it can be difficult to understand and, even, love, even when you are their parent.. All you can do is treat them fairly and with kindness.

When children move from home and set up families, then their choice of spouse also comes into play in the relationship.

I think the simplest thing to do, is to accept how you feel, or do not feel, about your son and family and not worry about it. Feeling bad about yourself is a wasted emotion and should be banished from your mind and your vocabulary. I have often found that acceptance of a difficult situation and acknowledging the emotions that a problem can stir up can solve even difficult problems.

The only thing you must do is treat each of your children and their children equally, where presents and where possibly visiting time, and certainly money are spread evenly - and then just accept the way you feel. You are not the first to feel as you do, and you certainly will not be the last.

VioletSky Wed 31-May-23 20:23:18

This may help you OP

M0nica Wed 31-May-23 20:28:37

Oh dear, someone else loading all the blame on the grabdparent/parent again.

WhyWhyWhyohWhy Wed 31-May-23 20:49:08

We are extremely respectful of our kids space and never would turn up unannounced, and I’m seriously not nosey, it’s not my style. Usually I ask what they have been up to after being asked the same question by them out of politeness. We go along to meet on their terms, when we are invited. And I honestly do not give a flying fig what they do, their parenting techniques or lifestyle because I have a full life, secure relationships everywhere else. I am interested in their lives but am very much more interested in living my own with more years behind me than in front.
With regard to the kids being bored, they do vocalise that they are bored and that they don’t want to visit museums and theatres. They see what other kids have in their outdoor spaces and they want the same. I just feel partly that not caring is as much a part of the problem in that if I did care I would feel more than I do. I hope that makes sense.

VioletSky Wed 31-May-23 22:15:08

I think you need to unpick this with professional help

Its very sad and if it can be at all helped so you don't have to feel guilty and your son and grandchildren feel loved, that's the only route I can advise

I don't think I'd recommend ever just walking away from child unless they were abusive to you

Grammaretto Thu 01-Jun-23 02:31:19

These children are aged 5 and 3! They are hardly more than babies. What are you talking about asking them if they want to visit museum s and theatres?

I would be alarmed if my children's babysitter was rough and tumbling with them when I wasn't there.

You say you have little in common. Nothing odd about that. You are a different generation but you sound disapproving of your DiL. Why shouldn't she visit her friends?

denbylover Thu 01-Jun-23 04:46:47

Crikey it’s rough in here this afternoon. Sorry WhyWhy that you’ve received the above comments, I can see you were looking for constructive, not blame and criticism. Perhaps that’s why so few of these situations are posted now.

Allsorts Thu 01-Jun-23 05:02:43

I bet you wish you hadn't posted now, the same person , comes on here and thinks every grandparent is an abuser. You are judged be at fault whatever.
You try your best with your son and wife, I would just keep to their rules and way of parenting and say nothing. It's their lives and if it suits them that's all you can hope for. They keep in touch and you see them and you have other children and each other. So really you've nothing to worry about. Just take it as it comes.

Calendargirl Thu 01-Jun-23 07:15:43

I think you need to unpick this with professional help

Does every situation nowadays need ‘professional help^?

No, I don’t think so. Too much reliance on ‘experts’ for everything.

Juliet27 Thu 01-Jun-23 07:38:59

These children are aged 5 and 3! They are hardly more than babies. What are you talking about asking them if they want to visit museum s and theatres?

The Op wasn’t asking the children if they wanted to go - she said…

‘They do take the kids out to a local play park, a museum or the theatre. It’s clear that the kids are pretty bored and can be a handful as a result’

NotSpaghetti Thu 01-Jun-23 07:49:23

One of our sons comes over with the children quite often when his wife is out with friends.
You could suggest a trip to the park with him "if he'sat a loose end"- or maybe suggest you do a lunch at a weekend or "early dinner" midweek to give them all a cooking-break.

The fact that they trust you to babysit is good news. You are probably not as distant as you sometimes feel.

I think if you offer an odd meal with no pressure to stay on after you will all get closer and the children will do what children do best - they will squirm and wiggle their way into your hearts.

ronib Thu 01-Jun-23 08:01:48

Here are these little ones who just a joy in an otherwise bland world.
Have you noticed if your grandchildren are developing any special interests - insects, animals, diggers, cement mixers?
Do they like swimming, drawing, nature trails or playdoh or food?There’s bound to be some common ground for you all to develop. Or just listening to what they want to say about their latest craze is always an education.
One of my grandsons plays sticks with me (pretend swords) and we have noticed a real aptitude for fencing which was a bit unexpected. Also very skilled at drawing so a little enthusiasm goes a long way. Tiring - exhausting but great.

Grammaretto Thu 01-Jun-23 08:53:59

Juliet it was the 2nd letter I was referring to where the OP said the children do vocalise about being bored and that they don't want to go to museums or theatres
Never mind, I was only thinking that such young ones were being over, not under, stimulated.
WWW has other DGC who she does like and for some reason she doesn't really like these ones.
My reading of the situation is that she doesn't like their DM and her parenting style!

Hetty58 Thu 01-Jun-23 09:09:17

Maybe it's just a case of false expectations. There's no 'reason' why we should feel close to our adult children or our grandchildren. Our mothering job is done, after all.

I feel closer to the ones I see more often. I'm more involved in their lives so it follows. I have far more love for my friends than my family these days - now that I'm retired and I've stepped back - so there's no automatic, genetic link between us, why should there be?

WhyWhyWhyohWhy feels 'detached', but that's fine. Perhaps she expects to feel a deep and unconditional love for them? That's the only problem.

luluaugust Thu 01-Jun-23 09:21:35

The problems with DS not seeing friends and DIL going away for weekends are their problem not yours so try not to bring that into it. Toys are always moved on quite quickly nowadays with everyone leading a minimalist life style, the keeping of good toys just doesn't happen so much now and maybe they like a nice lawn not scuffed from slides and swings.
I wonder if you are just very well detached from your AC, the opposite to parents hanging on fast to AC and not wanting them to have their own lives. Try and go with the flow and don't over think things, if they told you they were all off half way across the world I wonder what you would feel then.
By the way watch poor GD in the rough and tumble a five year old can give a nasty kick!

Smileless2012 Thu 01-Jun-23 09:34:25

Welcome to GN WWWohW.

I think the first thing you need to do is forget about what's 'normal' when it comes to family relationships. Few parents I think have the same relationship with all of their children, and as it is with all relationships, a lot depends on personalities.

Just keep on doing what you're doing with one exception. Ask mum and dad for suggestions for presents then you wont see your current choices being re homed.

Keep on with what you're doing, seeing them when you can and entertaining the children the way you do when baby sitting. Try not to take the 'blame game' responses to heart. I found the post referring to you as baby sitters (you're the children's GP's) and not being happy with "rough and tumble" in their absence quite extraordinary.

Isn't that what GP's, especially grand fathers do with their GC?

The main thing is that you're maintaining a relationship with your son and his family, providing the opportunity for you to become closer with time.

You do care, if you didn't you wouldn't have posted so I think, maybe not consciously, that you're protecting yourself because your relationship with your son and d.i.l. isn't what you thought/hoped/imagined it would be, and differs to your other relationships.

Different isn't wrong, it's just different flowers.

Bella23 Thu 01-Jun-23 09:38:02

Go with the family's routine. Very few children are brought up these days like ours were. Accept the situation if your son does not like it he will tell his wife A lot don't seem to have a bedtime and are rolling around while the adults are eating, mine would have been tucked up in bed if we had friends around.
Just enjoy them for what they are 5 and 3-year-olds and play with them as you would have your own and maybe a bit less rough and tumble that's for their daddy.
I also find the less I ask the more I am told. It's been a hard lesson for me as well but I am getting there.

nanna8 Thu 01-Jun-23 09:42:33

I think what MOnica says is very sensible and that is exactly how I would deal with it. Don’t blame yourselves, just accept it is what it is and treat them all equally. I think that poem is, well, just plain nasty.

pascal30 Thu 01-Jun-23 10:04:22


I think what MOnica says is very sensible and that is exactly how I would deal with it. Don’t blame yourselves, just accept it is what it is and treat them all equally. I think that poem is, well, just plain nasty.

the quote seems quite sensible to me