Dear Annie: My mother-in-law was desperate to have grandchildren, but when our daughter was born, Mom turned out to be a horrible grandmother.
During visits to Grandma’s house, our daughter had to entertain herself in a spare bedroom because Grandma’s dogs didn’t like kids, and Grandma wouldn’t lock up her “babies” for the sake of ours. We planned family trips, but Grandma would always cancel at the last minute. We invited her to school plays and recitals, but Grandma said they were boring and told our daughter that she had no talent.
Mom has a terrible temper and would slap our daughter for things like talking while the TV was on.
My daughter is a young adult now. She is polite to her grandmother when she sees her and sends holiday cards with short notes, but otherwise avoids her. She considers Grandma to be a well-intentioned lunatic. The problem is, Grandma has decided that my daughter “owes” her attention since she was such a “loving, wonderful grandmother,” and she is upset about the very sensible boundaries our daughter is drawing for involving Grandma in her personal life.
I am being blamed for the distance between them and am expected to fix it. Grandma is hypersensitive. Suggesting that she might need to do things differently makes her furious. Any ideas? – In the Middle
Dear Middle: You need to stay out of this as much as possible. Your daughter should continue to send cards and thank her grandmother for any gifts, and you can encourage her to periodically phone Grandma or email her with whatever updates she is willing to share. Beyond that, express sympathy when Mom wants more, and ignore as much as you can. This isn’t your responsibility.