Dear Annie: When I was growing up, we were all afraid of my mother. My own kids recently confessed that when they were little they were always afraid of Grandma because they never knew when she would completely lose it and take it out on them.
My mother seldom takes any interest in my kids except to find fault. When my teenage daughter recently went through a severe depression, I told Mom, thinking she might be understanding because my father committed suicide. Instead, she gave me a long lecture about all the things my husband and I were doing wrong. I told her she was cruel and hung up. I thought she might apologize, but she never did.
My husband and I moved across the country several years ago, but we still visit and stay at Mom's house several times a year. We didn't invite her to my children's high school and college graduations because the kids said they'd rather not have Grandma attend. Because we already live so far away, I'm tempted to put an end to whatever connection we have. I think that would be best for my children and also for me. We have so many sentimental notions about grandmothers. I kept hoping mine would act like one of those, but it has taken me this long to see that she is not capable of it.
Here's the problem: I worry that my youngest child, who doesn't know her grandmother that well, will think we deprived her of this relationship. My mother has shown more tolerance toward my youngest, saying this child is the only one who likes her. Should I keep in touch for my daughter's sake? I feel terrible knowing that I was in complete denial about her when the older two were growing up. What if my mother can't behave any better toward this one? — Worried Daughter
Dear Worried: You live across the country, so this does not have to be an all-or-nothing solution. It's possible your mother will have a better relationship with your youngest child, although you'll need to keep an eye on it. Instead of cutting her off entirely, we suggest you try shortening your visits and having fewer of them. Once a year for three or four days is sufficient, and if possible, stay in a hotel.
Mom sounds as though she could benefit from therapy, but you cannot force her to do that. You can, however, help your children understand that Grandma has issues of her own and sometimes doesn't behave appropriately. Your kids are old enough to learn how to cope with her. And by the way, if your father committed suicide and your daughter suffers from depression, we hope you have spoken to her doctor about a possible genetic link.
Dear Annie: Your advice to "Played for a Fool" was good, but it wouldn't have helped me. My two stepchildren owe us thousands of dollars. They were offered the money with the condition that it be paid back monthly, and the amount was affordable.
However, if the parents of these children feel no obligation to collect, any deal is moot. The children are essentially stealing, and it is their character that is in question. It destroys trust, and I find it difficult to spend time with them, especially when I hear about what they bought with my money. — Smarter Now
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2015. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.
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