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proexpert37, Educator/Life Coach
Category: Parenting
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I am 38 and have 2 adorable kids and a loving husband. I have

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I am 38 and have 2 adorable kids and a loving husband. I have a phenomenal set of in-laws in another country and my father and his wife live close and are part of our lives. My mother and her husband live in a neighboring state and have been active grandparents for the entirety of my children's lives. My mother is a fairly functioning alcoholic and lives in a world of drama and dysfunction. I have carefully orchestrated my life to include them while remaining safely some distance away. Still, we make every effort to see them at least a few times a year.

That all changed when I was diagnosed with breast cancer late last year. Sometime towards the end of my treatment, my mother decided that I wasn't including her in my treatment as much as she'd like. My in-laws kept flying in to help care for me and my kids and she apparently became quite jealous. I accepted all help that was offered to my family during this hard time, and I never asked her not to come or prevented her from helping. She suddenly and without explanation decided to stop speaking to me as a result of her hurt feelings. I only know some of this through conversations she has had with my sister. My siblings have been appalled by her behavior and told her how they feel. Subsequently, she has alienated my brothers and sister and their families as well.

I have sent letters, texts, emails and voicemails to her and my stepfather all without response. My children's voice mail messages have gone unanswered. She did not call before, during or after I went in the hospital for a double mastectomy. She simply "flipped the switch" on me and my family and decided she was done with us. She and I have always had a somewhat strained relationship, but superficially we always managed to get along.

I realize that I have no control over her and her husband's decision to be estranged from my family. As much as I would like to have a normal relationship, it does seem healthier to have her out of my life. Maybe that is my coping mechanism for rationalizing such a hurtful thing from my own mother, but I truly feel that this is better for my kids in the long run. They don't have to walk on eggshells the way I did my whole life.

So, now my seven year old is starting to ask why they didn't call him or his sister on their birthdays, and when will they get to see them again. How do I explain this to him? I want to put off infecting his perfect little world with her craziness for as long as I can, but I know I have to explain this at some point. I was thinking of telling him that his grandparents are simply acting ugly, and that until they stopped acting that way, we weren't going to be talking to them or be around them. I just don't want him to blame himself, as kids are prone to do.

I'd love some help with how to handle this now and in the future.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  proexpert37 replied 6 years ago.
I will get back to you within the hour!!!!
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Looking forward to hearing your response.

Expert:  proexpert37 replied 6 years ago.

Continue to do your part of calling, emailing, and tenting. Your mother is getting those messages. You do not want her to come back down the line and tell you that you stopped communicating with her. Still show her that you care although it may be very awkward by any way that you can. Your children will continue to ask questions but simply tell them that Grandma has been really busy and she is working on some things. Unfortunately, we can not change the behavior and actions of others. But we can change ourselves which in turn will create a change in others. I do not think it will be healthful to completely shut your mother out of your life. I think the alcoholism may have a part to do with her behavior...which is another issue that must be addressed. She must seek help for that disorder which may have resulted in her present behavior. Oftentimes in MANY families, an individual will completely shut themselves off from the rest of the family for weeks and even years but they will eventually come around. Just give it time. Keep on doing your part. Let your mother know that you still care.


I hope that I have been able to shed some light on this issue...If so please ACCEPT. Have a great day.

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Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you for your input. I am currently sending unanswered letters and vms to my mother and I have no intention of closing the door to her. However, the specific advice I am looking for is about how to explain this to my kids. They have asked when they will get to see her and why she hasn't called. Telling them that she is busy will only work for part of their questions. When they leave messages, they ask why she doesn't call them back. We are coming up on Halloween (a big deal in my family) and soon after Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know that I can distract my children, but they will require some explanation to why their grandparent's vanished.
Expert:  proexpert37 replied 6 years ago.
With your children, though I am not sure of their ages, you will have to be as honest as you can without making things seem like they have done something wrong. Explain to them that Grandma just needs some time to be by herself for a while. Tell them that she loves her grandchildren very much and will see them when she feels better. You do not want to give them too much information because then the questioning will never cease. If they ask when will they see Grandma, you can just reply with an "I don't know" which is the truth. They will have to adjust to the fact that she is not around for now. If they are above the age of 13 or so, then you can explain the truth about Grandma's actions. The truth is always the best option, but as I said before, your children may not be of age to comprehend fully what is happening.

Edited by Erica.13 on 9/23/2010 at 8:23 PM EST
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