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I Don't Want My Kids To Share Grandma

04/16/2015 10:20 am ET | Updated Jun 16, 2015
Samantha Rodman

Reader Want Grandma To Myself writes:

My mom has my thre nephews nearly every weekend, school break and most of the summer. She is widowed and retired, so I understand they fill her time. The problem is that she insists on having all three boys over when we visit (we visit two to three times a year due to distance) and she wants to bring one of the boys when she visits once or twice a year. My sister, the boys' mother, has a history of addiction issues. 

These boys do not come with parents, so it puts me in the position of caring for my three kids and my three nephews, which is a lot of work. I would also love time with just my mom and my kids. Our visit is scheduled for this summer and my mom wants the two of us to take my kids and my nephews to a local theme park. I have done this before and it was a lot of work.

I have tried talking to my mom about this. She gets upset and claims my kids have a "normal" family and the boys don't. That's why the boys get all of her attention. That's why my kids don't get a grandma... because our kids have a nice life and my three nephews have a harder life in her mind.

I asked if we could just take my kids and she doesn't want to go if my nephews don't come. I'm guessing that means she wants me to help her take my nephews on a trip. I've tried talking to her about this issue and she thinks I am being selfish. Should I just not visit? I don't want to be mean or take away the grandma my kids love. I do want to come to a resolution so this issue doesn't come up before every visit.

Dear WGTM,

Mothers and daughters often have very difficult and emotionally fraught relationships, and difficult relationships can get worse with the birth of kids. Even good relationships can become stressed over adult children's expectations or hopes of how their parents will act toward grandkids. I think this has less to do with your nephews or your own kids and much more to do with your own relationship with your mom.

I understand that you have a visual in your mind of your mom being solely focused on your kids during visits. But this doesn't fit with the reality of the situation. In this situation, your mother is not just a grandma to your nephews, but more of a second mother to them. It seems like she cares for them at least as often as their parents do. Additionally, she believes that your nephews have a hard life, which they likely do with a mother with addiction issues. When you ask your mother to leave your nephews, it is like asking a friend to come hang out with your kids and leave her own kids at home. Picture a friend with kids leaving her own kids with a sitter to come accompany you and your kids to an amusement park. This is how it feels to your mother to be asked not to have your nephews along. Expect that the nephews will be there as often as a best friend's kids would be there during a visit, i.e., 100% of the time.

I believe that you're missing a wonderful opportunity to show your children how to be giving and generous by splitting their fun time with their nephews.  Incidentally, they probably enjoy hanging out with their cousins at least as much as with their Grandma, particularly somewhere fun and child-centered like a theme park.  Do you have a partner or family friend that could help so it's not just you and your mom with all the kids?  Of course, I think your mother is probably good at wrangling the three boys since she's with them all the time, so really you're just watching your own kids, and hopefully doing this with a partner.

It would be almost impossible for your kids to even conceive of being angry or sad about Grandma bringing their cousins along on trips unless they have heard you voice this sentiment. Kids love to hang out with other kids and to them, Grandma and the nephews are a package deal. Furthermore, I don't see how your mother is less of a grandma to your boys because she is also a grandma to your nephews at the same time.

I think this probably speaks to unresolved childhood issues and feelings about your relationship with your mother and your sister. Any feelings of resentment that you had from childhood will now be exacerbated if you feel that your mother is treating your kids in any way similarly to the way she treated you as a child.  Additionally, if your sister's issues started in teen years and she got a lot of attention and care due to her addiction or other issues, you may be feeling a resurgence of jealousy, as many kids feel when a sibling's difficulties get them the bulk of parental attention.  These issues are likely motivating your behavior now.

Don't make this into an issue. What do you win, getting to NOT take your nephews to a theme park? Your mother getting sad and feeling like you don't understand your nephews' sad lot in life?  I think it is time to welcome your nephews fully into your heart and your theme park excursions, and work through your unresolved childhood issues with a therapist.  Many people have the opposite problem and want their kids to spend even more time with cousins.  If you speak to your mother about wanting more of her attention, for example via more frequent phone calls, this would go over better than asking her to leave the nephews (aka her kids) at home.

Good luck, and thanks for writing in. Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, Your Kids Will Have Nice Memories of Grandma With or Without Their Cousins Along.

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