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Ask Dr. Shirley Schaye Your Own Question

Dr. Shirley Schaye
Dr. Shirley Schaye, Doctor
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1673
Experience:  PhD-Psych; Certif. Psychoanalyst NPAP& NYFS; Memb.APsaA;IPA; Pub.Author; Teach/Supervise Therapy
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I am 63 & my youngest son is 36. My grandson is 2. We live

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I am 63 & my youngest son is 36. My grandson is 2. We live on opposites sides of the country but I have made a point to try to get there for a long weekend at least every 8 - 12 weeks. We facetime every 2 - 3 days. Out of the blue (and I mean left field from my perspective), my son confronted me. I'm still very confused. As a woman on my own, I experienced incredible joy with the birth of my grandson and until now my relationship with my son, his wife and their son was wonderful. His complaints were nebulous (he was having much difficulty expressing himself) but they seemed to range from me not wanting to share (I presume he means my grandson??), him not getting enough attention as a child. I asked him for specifics but he said he didn't think that would be productive and would be too hurtful. He mentioned that as as child, I had told him then when he had a child, I wanted to be the child's favourite grandparent - that I wanted my son to ensure that I would have the most contact. I have no recollection of this. I still work, however there had been some talk about me spending more time with them. He said in this confrontation conversation that he'd really have to think about that. He wanted to know if I could relate to what he was saying. At the time, I said I didn't have a clue. Which was true. The next day I called and tried to present a more collaborative attitude and said I was quite willing to admit some insecurities that had made me less than perfect. (referring specifically to shared parenting with their father). He thanked me for that but the conversation went sideways when we talked of foregiveness. I admit my mistake in sharing too much about my feelings about my Mom and the whole idea of foregiveness as being very personal and one-sided. He said I was trying to "direct" the conversation and he didn't like it. I am baffled, hurt, feel a little like I've been punched in the stomach. Am I completely insensitive that I didn't and don't see the problem? How could I believe everything was wonderful and he's struggling so much and I'm the source of the problem? I do want a relationship with my son, his wife and my grandson. How should I best navigate through this?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Shirley Schaye replied 2 years ago.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

Thank you for contacting Just Answer. I am not sure that I understand what the problem it is that your son is confronting you with. Are you able to spell that out more specifically?

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

What did your son confront you with that is making you confused?

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

I'm not sure that I understand what his complaints are about --- you not wanting to share your grandson --- with whom? What about that he is now bringing up that he didn't get enough attention as a child???

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

Why is he bringing that up now?

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

What about made you less than perfect and I quote you, "referring specifically to shared parenting with their father"? What about that?

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

And what about you sharing too much about your feelings about your mom --- do you mean when he was a child or now.

Customer:

You and I are both confused. I asked him for clarification and he said that he thought details would not be appropriate. He said that I had an attitude of "non sharing" regarding my grandson (I am speculating but maybe he thinks I am competitive with the other grandparents, my ex husband and his wife parents). He said he notices when I am sad and that disturbs him. He says he tries to be fair. For example, in January his wife's parents went on a two week holiday with them. I admitted "grandparent envy" as a joke. And I was jealous in a healthy way i thought. I would have loved to go but wasn't invited and I wasn't able to leave work. He did say he would try to seek help and talk to someone to try to clarify his thinking. Meanwhile, he doesn't want to talk to me. Are you able to read this as I type. I notice you are asking more questions?

Customer:

Regarding timing and why he is bringing it up now? I don't know. But perhaps parenthood has got him thinking?

Customer:

He did say that he felt a lot of stress in him childhood. He said that came from both of his parents. He also mentioned that these feelings of "stress" come from both his dad and me.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

Yes, I see what you wrote. Thank you for elaborating. It's becoming clearer and you put your finger on it. In my field we and I'll introduce you to the term call this projective identification. What that means is I started to think and feel what it is that you are feeling. CONFUSED. You did help clarify it though.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

Yes, parenthood would get him thinking --- also you and his dad are divorced so that brings up a lot of conflict in him.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

How old was he when you and your husband divorced?

Customer:

As for the joint parenting....our three sons went freely back and forth between their fathers and mine on a schedule of month about. My boys were very sensitive to the nuances of comments in the two households. He was 3 when we divorced.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

Anyway, to cut to the chase and answer your question, "How should I best navigate through this?"

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

So that had to bring up a lot of conflict in him --- from age 3 and it is resurfacing now as you so wisely said, now that he has his own child.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

Let me answer your question as soon as I get back. I have to see one patient and then I'll return at around 10:00 AM.

Customer:

I feel a little like my life has been shattered. I do realize this is his journey. But I was experiencing incredible joy in my relationship with him and his family. I am shocked! Blind sided. How do I support him (and me at the same time)

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

Basically you are on the right track. I'll be much more specific when I'm back.

Customer:

ok

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

We'll continue at 10:00 AM. I promise. This is not uncommon B E L I E V E M E ! ! ! ! You'll see what I mean when I get back.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

Hi, I am back.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

Well you know first of all I want to say this before I say anything about what to do.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

There is a saying, " When you have a daughter she's yours for life, when you have a son, he's yours until he chooses a wife." I wanted to share that because I truly believe that that colours a relationship between a mother and son and there is that saying, of course, because it is so...ooo very common. So that I think has changed things between you and your son.

Customer:

perhaps although she is an amazing woman, I think.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

If you want things to work out and you don't want to antagonize him don't bother confronting him too much. It will just alienate you from your son. I understand that you feel shattered but you don't want to push him away further.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

It doesn't have to do with her --- the wife, but with the son.

Customer:

I am a little torn about how much I reach out and how much I stay passive and let him work through this. when I reached out yesterday, he seemed to appreciate it.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

Son and his mother.

Customer:

but the conversation when sideways as I said

Customer:

we are having two conversations...yes, son and mother.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

So you sound like a very wise sensitive woman. You get it. So that's what you are going to have to do. Use your intuition --- you'll know when to say something and also when saying something will just push him away so keep quiet.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

I know it doesn't sound like a great solution but trust me you are most certainly not alone with this. Most of us who have grown up married sons experience this. I understand how hurt you are like for example going on vacation with her parents but not inviting you. It does shatter one.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

But if your son is not able to acknowledge what he is doing there is not much you can do.

Customer:

I question my wisdom....to be blind sided by this??? I adore my son, his wife and their son. In fact, when their son was born I felt a little revitalized and have enjoyed so much the opportunity to unconditionally love him. I feel a little like the rug has been pulled out. But I know this isn't about me particularly. Self doubt creeps in...was I that horrible a parent?

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

I'll say it this way --- if a friend, or a boyfriend or a husband acted this way to you one would want to say who needs this? If you cannot sit down and talk this through with me don't bother me. I don't need such a relationship.

Customer:

Your point is that there is no choice in this relationship?

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

When it's your child --- oh boy, I think we are talking about something very different. Most mothers don't want to alienate their children.

Customer:

Not just not to alienate....but I want an enriching, positive relationship.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

There is no choice unless --- now unless, he wants to sit down and talk this through with you. If he doesn't, you certainly know that you can't make him.

Customer:

we are on opposite sides of the country. but who makes the next phone call? do a pretend nothing is going on? ingore the elephant in the room? let him initiate any sensitive discussion? that's the problem.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

So, yes, don't alienate him. Of course, you want an enriching, positive relationship with him --- so don't alienate him. That will help him come around. I can't tell you how, over the years, how often, I have dealt with this issue.

Customer:

Hmmm. one always hopes they don't fall into a categories or statistic. Having company doesn't help me deal with it necessarily, but I think your advice is let it be? don't initiate? let him come to me?

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

If he doesn't call, call him. Ignore the elephant in the room unless you feel that he will talk about things. If you see that he won't, all you are doing is pushing him away by forcing the issue.

Customer:

ok, thanks.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

I wish I could tell you otherwise. You, yourself see that pressing the issue just pushes him away so why would you want to push him away.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

We have no control over our adult children.

Customer:

right. I don't. just wondering if there is anything constructive I could do. It's agony letting him work through this. Patience is not one of my virtues.

Customer:

but i'll try.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

If we did, then, as I already said, one would keep confronting it. Believe me --- you don't know me but let me tell you, " I ain't some passive lady" --- quite the opposite, quite the opposite. I always say what I think in a relationship. I feel that if I can't then who wants to have a relationship with a friend or husband where you can't say what you think and feel. I certainly don't ever want that. But, as I already said, it's different with a married son --- unless you don't care whether you push him away or not.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

So do try with him. You will see the moments when you can enter and when you do seize on the moment.

Customer:

unfortunately, I have an appointment and have to sign off. I will try to keep your counsel and show patience and ignore the elephant. that's my take away. i will connect with you again if there are further developments.

Customer:

Linda

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

By the way, where in Canada are you?

Customer:

Toronto area...Burlington

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

Please do, anytime. I am here for you.

Customer:

thanks. bye for now.

Dr. Shirley Schaye :

I am Canadian, too --- from Montreal.

Dr. Shirley Schaye, Doctor
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1673
Experience: PhD-Psych; Certif. Psychoanalyst NPAP& NYFS; Memb.APsaA;IPA; Pub.Author; Teach/Supervise Therapy
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