Dear Annie: I am the mother of four adult children. I have many happy memories of all their childhoods, celebrating birthdays, graduations and other milestones. I feel I have wonderful relationships with three of them (and their spouses).
The fourth has been challenging, to say the least. He rarely visits and seems uncomfortable and angry around me. Everything I know about his life I find out from his siblings. He has some substance abuse issues that he refuses to acknowledge. I think that’s part of what is going on. It’s certainly not where I imagined we would be at this stage of our lives.
My question is, how do I proceed? He doesn’t seem open to or capable of letting me in. Is there hope for a relationship when it’s one-sided? Do I just ignore the behavior and hope he comes around? I love him dearly, but liking him is becoming more difficult. — Sad and Hopeless
Dear Sad and Hopeless: Where there is love, there is hope. Your relationship with your son is certainly one that can be saved. Since your three other adult children have a good relationship with him, ask them to see if they can help him acknowledge his substance abuse issues. Treatment of that has to be first and foremost. Before that is done, you are not dealing with your son; you are dealing with the substances that are altering his brain and personality.
Ignoring his behavior won’t do him any favors. It sounds like he is hurting, and when you are hurting, there is nothing like a family member showing that they care. Even if he pushes you away, just come back to him with love. Maybe your other children will be able to get through to him.
Dear Annie: For years, I have tried to have a relationship with my two daughters-in-law, and at some point, I finally gave up. Now, when we get together, the family gatherings are not horrible. But at best, they are superficial.
It is very difficult to have conversations when they text nearly the entire time — which I never address — or converse back and forth between each other and ignore me, even when I interject into conversations. It is as if I’m invisible or in a cone of silence.
When the holiday or event is over, then it’s goodbye with a kiss and a hug and out the door until the next major birthday or holiday. I have, in the early years, tried to meet them for lunch — on my dime — or go shopping, but they have always respectfully declined.
This apathy has carried over into my grandchildren. All of them are so close and personable with the other grandparents, who are wonderful people, and I do understand how daughters are just naturally close to their moms, so it stands to reason that the grandchildren would be closer to them since more time is spent there.
I am a grieving mom and grandmother who has tried, to no avail. I feel loved at a distance and pray for a better connection and relationship. I am thankful for the moments I have had, even with the feeling of distance. At least they haven’t gone out of my life completely. — Grieving Grandmother
Dear Grieving Grandmother: You are wise to be grateful for the good moments you have had. If you focus on what you appreciate, you will attract more of that. In the meantime, where are your sons? I would suggest that you take them to lunch, rather than your daughters-in-law, and let them know that you are feeling left out.
Along the same lines, if your daughters-in-law are texting and ignoring you during a holiday dinner, why not use that as an opportunity to talk to your sons and grandchildren? Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.