cereta: Laura Cereta (cereta)
Lucy ([personal profile] cereta) wrote in [community profile] agonyaunt2017-05-22 06:23 pm

Carolyn Hax: Drama, thy name is Grandpa

Dear Carolyn,

I am at my wits' end with family drama. I will spare you the very long and ugly details and start with the most recent heartache.

My husband's daughter from a previous marriage invited our son and his wife and 2-year-old to spend the weekend with them since they were going to be in town for a wedding. His wife accepted. My husband has been estranged from this daughter for over two years. She lives down the street from my husband and me.

When my son and his family arrived, they went to lunch with my husband and stayed through the evening with us. It was a lovely time. Our little granddaughter even went into "her room" and told her dad she wanted to sleep in her bed. It was cruel to see her cry when she had to leave and go to my stepdaughter's house.

My husband is furious. His feelings are crushed and he is angry they would subject her to such nonsense. My husband feels they have been disloyal to him by staying with his estranged daughter.

I have expressed to my son how I felt about his staying with his half-sister. Not because of her so much as how wrong it feels to me to not stay with us. After we are dead and gone, he will have time to stay with his half-sister.

My first thought was to leave town before they got here so I could avoid the whole ordeal. Now, my husband and I have hurt feelings, plenty of tears to go around, and lost sleep over this.

Heartbreak seems to follow wherever my stepdaughter is concerned. I don't want to alienate my daughter-in-law because she will cut my granddaughter out of my life. How can I manage to keep the peace and not "betray" my husband in the process?

-- C.

Your argument, recapped: It's your stepdaughter's fault that she wants to spend time with her brother. Except the part that's your daughter-in-law's fault for saying yes.

Maybe you won't like it in those words, but that's what you're saying -- and it's impressive that you're able to present this without attributing any drama to the man who was "crushed" and "angry" and suffering "tears ... and lost sleep" at the "ordeal" of witnessing the "cruel" and "disloyal" "nonsense" of a child "subject[ed] to" ...

[theatrical pause]

A planned visit to her aunt's house.

After spending an entire day with you two.

Drama, thy name is Grandpa.

I can understand your powerful incentive not to see this; even thinking it opens you to accusations of betrayal from your wounded husband, no doubt. And more tears and sleepless nights and garment-rending and whatever other tactics he uses to keep you emotionally at his service.

But the longer you remain faithful spokesbot for your husband -- or for Stockholm Syndrome -- and declare with a straight face that your son can't sleep at his sister's house until you're dead! (you really said that!), the more soul-rebuilding you'll need when you see the view I've got from here: that you've been devoured by your husband's narcissistic fantasy world.

Even if I'm way off, your family dynamic is still way off. Please find a well-recommended family therapist and go. Just you. Unspool those "very long and ugly details."
neotoma: Neotoma albigula, the white-throated woodrat! [default icon] (Default)

[personal profile] neotoma 2017-05-22 11:57 pm (UTC)(link)
Trying to dictate someone else's emotional attachment is a good way to get yourself shuffled into the 'low/no contact' zone.

Especially since Son and Daughter-in-Law are on good enough relations with his half-sister to feel comfortable staying with them for a wedding.

Unless there is something huge and awful in the 'very long and ugly details', it does seem like Grandpa and Grandma are trying to be controlling jerks.
misbegotten: A blue whatchmacallit shoe that looks like the TARDIS (Default)

[personal profile] misbegotten 2017-05-23 12:04 am (UTC)(link)
Oh. Em. Gee. Cut the sister out of their lives until the grandparents are dead? Grandpa isn't the only drama queen in the family.
jadelennox: Buffy's Dawn: bratty kid sisters (btvs: dawn bratty kid sisters)

[personal profile] jadelennox 2017-05-23 12:19 am (UTC)(link)
So everytime my sister comes to town to visit, she stays with my mum. She might even prefer staying with my mother, usually. But my mother: is 72; doesn't watch any of the television my sister and I watch; doesn't go out in the evenings; and is up at 5 AM and asleep by 10. In short, she's a generation older than me and my sister. Every once in a great while, my sister -- whom I see once a year (the Atlantic is a large body of water!) -- spends one night of her trip with me. And every freaking time, my mother "jokingly" whinges about how my sister doesn't love her anymore, how she must have done something wrong, can she come have girls' night with us, oh-you're-just-planning-on-watching-scifi-telly-well-maybe-I-will-too. For one nighe out of a 7-14 day trip.

And all three of us are friends.

So yeah, LW, who actively dislikes her stepdaughter, seems like a super-believable awful stepmom to me.


Three cheers for Carolyn.
the_rck: (Default)

[personal profile] the_rck 2017-05-23 01:01 am (UTC)(link)
I'm trying to figure out what the hell could be important enough to justify the parents acting like this. I'm wondering if the step-daughter married a woman or converted to a different religion or, you know, put out the wrong lawn sign at some election. She lives 'down the street' from her father and step-mother which inclines me to think that she's financially stable and not, you know, a meth addict or a convicted mass murderer.

I'm just getting really unpleasant vibes off of this letter. A family therapist sounds like a spectacular idea for the parents.

And it might not be a terrible thing for the son and daughter-in-law to limit their child's exposure to her grandparents on that side.
sathari: (River in progress)

[personal profile] sathari 2017-05-23 05:46 am (UTC)(link)
...the thing that sticks out to me is, if kiddo wanted to stay at Grandma and Grandpa's for the night while Mommy and Daddy went to Auntie's down the street also-for-the-night (and Daddy and his sister got some possibly-rare sibling-bonding time without the non-negotiable needs of a two-year-old needing to take precedence), why did that not happen?

Because I think that question will frankly lead to answering a LOT of what else underlies this family dynamic. No matter which members are most at the center of the dysfunction junction.

(Disclaimer: Sleepovers at Grandma's Place Down The Street Without My Parents Present were one of the "Yay, I'm a big kid now!" hallmarks of my pre-school-aged life. Even though, you know, there was still a grownup there and all.)
jadelennox: Buffy's Dawn: bratty kid sisters (btvs: dawn bratty kid sisters)

[personal profile] jadelennox 2017-05-23 01:55 pm (UTC)(link)
when I read the letter, I wasn't convinced that was an accurate assessment of the reality. To me, given how toxic the LW sounds about the stepdaughter, and thinking about intergenerational mind games I've seen played, that read as Grandma saying, "look, sweetie, your room is all set up, and here's a third and a fourth cookie! Don't you want to stay with Grandma and Grandpa and this new toy we bought you?"
sathari: Forceghost!Anakin (Default)

[personal profile] sathari 2017-05-24 06:13 am (UTC)(link)
Yeah, that's why I worded the question as I did. "Why did that not happen" = "welcome to the nature of the dysfunction".