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Nervous about first visit with grand daughters and dils/ds

Started by Tara, May 12, 2011, 12:11:50 am

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Hello WW

I would welcome a bit of advice. 

I have written before about my ds and dil having twins and planning to visit. 
Much good advice was given and appreciated.  Since that earlier post though
shortly after my DIL gave birth to the girls and I returned from a pilgrimage to
India,  my DIL wrote me a hateful poison pen letter and returned a pair of earrings
I sent her.   It was very surprising and threw me  into a state of shock and anxiety.
I since then took a time out and studied and consulted with Josh Coleman author of
"Parents who Hurt"  He helped me write a letter to my DIL who still hasn't spoken to
me but my DS has been in touch and has said that she doesn't want to have a relationship
with me, that she will be "cordial" and that I wouldn't be cut off from the grand girls.   
Also, since the girls were born he has been saying he is having flash backs of good memories
of his childhood  (a first).

Now I am preparing for a visit in a week & 1/2 to see them.  About  3 weeks ago I wrote an email to
both my DIL and DS saying I was looking forward to seeing them and would like to know
how they would like the weekend to go, when and where they would like to get together.
DS wrote back and said that it would be good to wait till we were a little closer to the date.
I was advised to try to clarify the time and places in advance because my DIL wrote in her poison
pen letter that if I was privileged enough to see the girls it would be totally
on "their terms, not mine"  ironically, it has always been on their terms.

I am approaching this visit with trepidation, mainly because both my DIL( and DS) are   unpredictable and I don't know
if we will get down there and she will not uphold her commitment to be cordial.  Or something weird
out of left field will occur.  We are staying at a hotel, where prior to the birth and poison pen letter
I had been invited to stay at the house.  My DS says that during their marriage she has never had anyone
over and I don't think hes talking about spending the night even.  My DIL has also cut off all of DS extended
family and told me she more of a peace of mind as a result.

I'm did some research and found places to go kayaking and am thinking that it is good to have some back up
plans.  Josh Coleman says being invited to visit is progress but I should accept DIL as she is and not expect
her to be close or open to me.    So, my plan is to try to stay centered, be open and warm and take a moment
at a time.  Also, to set limits of she starts to be rude or abusive.  My DS says that ultimately she is a 'hard core
republican and you mom are a liberal"  At one point I had the worst feeling that she was taking some gleeful joy in tearing into a
liberal.  I am also a Buddhist so this is another area of difference as she is Catholic.  This is fine with me...
My DH is also a catholic and we honor and support each others spiritual practices.

I would really appreciate thoughts you might have about 'staying safe' in an unsafe environment, being open hearted
and myself but keeping expectations to a minimum.  As my son says 'baby steps'.

lancaster lady

Hi Tara ,
I'm so glad that you are all getting together , but the more you think about things going wrong the more nervous you'll become .
I remember my first 'visit' after my family trauma and how nervous I was .
However nothing was mentioned re emails , phone calls , or texts . I took the visit as a chance to see my GD and no more .
I greeted my DIL as normal ''Hello how are you '' and that was it . t he rest of the time I just concentrated on my GD.
I must say this visit was only two hours long , how long are you staying ? I would make the first visit short and sweet and take
it from there . Don't plan anything .Once you see how the land lies , then you will know how the visit will progress .
Let them suggest meals together or outings .
If it becomes nasty , which I hope it won't , then just leave quietly .Do not engage in any mud slinging .
Tara , I know how you're feeling , however your DS will be there too , one friend in the camp !
Good luck and hug those babies for me .... :)

Keys Girl

I don't have any grandchildren, but here are my suggestions.

1. Refuse to talk about politics and/or religion.  Those are both contentious subjects that will get blood boiling in some people until if flies out of their nose and ears.
2. Don't talk about anything to do about the care of the babies, which could be interpreted and unwelcome, unwanted advice and critical remarks.
3. When in doubt say "Oh, that's very interesting"......it's a neutral remark.
4. Take it in short shifts, like 2 hours at a time, and then retreat to the hotel for a hot bath.
5. Take lots and lots of photos, and say things to your DIL like "Oh, you are so photogenic"........while she is holding the babies, and then don't forget to zoom in on those precious little faces.
6. Have plan B, kayaking, whatever, a good book, in the case the DIL's hostility/insecurity flares up.
7. If she starts making hostile remarks, interrupt her constantly, "Excuse me, I forgot something in the car" and walk away.  Keep an extra little gift in the car just for these occasions.  Chocolate treats, etc. (Keep a dozen in there, you never know).

Good luck, I expect I may find myself in the same boat some day and pray that the Patience Fairy has come by to sprinkle some dust on me that week.
"Today I will be as happy as a seagull with a french fry." Author Unknown


Ok, my first thought was don't, under any circumstances, show desperation.  Do not say you've missed them, do not give them gifts, do not take them out to the fancy dinners or expensive outings.  Not that I am saying you would but I can see how some grandparents in this position would be so happy to be included that they show their desperation by extravagance.

Since they requested  you stay in a hotel, I'd plan on only spending a couple hours at a time visiting them, not every waking moment.  Remember Tara, we don't want to show weakness lol, so a couple hours in the morning, couple in the afternoon etc.

Basically you are to play hard to get.
People throw rocks at things that shine - Taylor Swift


Hi there Tara... it's been a while we were wondering how things were going in your life beyond the internet.

I have to disagree in part with Pam ... sorry about that Pam.. because I don't think giving a hug and saying that you missed them is a sign of desperation...I think you need to take the babies a gift, even if it's a check to contribute to their college saving acct.   You will not look like you are buying their love, or even buying the right to see the grandchildren. 

With the exception of #7, I pretty much think that Keys Girl is pretty dead on with her suggestions

More then anything Tara, be yourself... you have a lot to offer those babies and you are still trying to have a relationship with your own son... don't change your core self for anyone, especially someone who could be a little unbalanced as your dil is beginning to sound. 



From what I gather from your story, you've done nothing but be very cautious throughout this very process. So...I would just say keep up the good work. I think you should just stay positive, and think of the hotel as a way for you to get a break. I think you'll be fine! Just don't let your nerves get the best of you in the time being! My nerves work me into a frenzy before a big event...it's so much better if I distract myself.


It seems like we dm's are supposed to give up all expectations, twist ourselves up like a pretzel so as to not offend, all the while being ourselves. 

What I normally do is make myself sick in preparation for what dd may throw my way.   Then once I arrive, it just takes one glimpse of gss' for all those pent up emotions to melt away.   This visit has been a long time coming, Tara, let your love flow.  Enjoy those precious baby girls & allow your ds see the dm he's been missing.  Just be Tara...   :)


I agree with Keys girl and Pam.  They gave some really good advice.  I love that you are staying in a hotel so that you can have somewhere to go.  I also think your backup plans are really good to have something for you to do in between some visits.  I am very excited for you to be able to see the babies, and I have every confidence in you that you will have a great time with them, while being able to rise above your DIL's attitude.  I also think it is great that your DS recognizes how she is and is still communicating with you.

I do think since the politics thing is such an issue with her, she may try to bring it up.  I would be prepared with a polite line like, "I am really glad you let me come see the babies.  I know we don't agree on that subject, so let's just concentrate on having a nice time and not discuss those issues."  Something like that.  Acknowledge what she is saying so she doesn't think you are not listening, but nicely refuse not to be baited into that conversation.

I do hope they let you know what they would like before you go, so you can relax and just go with the flow and smoochie those babies.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


Tara, it's good to hear from you. I understand your nervousness; we MILs have a lot to lose if things go poorly with our DILs, the stakes are high. I think KeysGirl's points are well-made. Planning in advance so you have strategies in place is a great idea. An "escape" plan will give you peace of mind. Kayaking is a good choice since it's relaxing but requires your full attention & gives you a workout (gotta love those endorphins!) I hope you have a wonderful visit!

About the predjudice your DIL has against people who don't believe the way she does politically or religiously: I understand how your already tenuous situation is made more so by your DIL's unbending position since I have a co-worker who is very closed-minded about differing opinions or beliefs. This person makes it extremely difficult for me to feel comfortable at the workplace & it takes a lot of energy to survive day to day. I refuse to engage, so I always feel as if I'm not being true to myself. And no, there's no way to avoid this person or complain without losing my job....kind of like in a family. I put on my armour, gird my loins (can I say loins?) and try to stay centered.
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb


You don't have to say sorry for disagreeing with me Laurie.

I'm not saying don't give them anything at all.  Rather be cautious of over-doing it.  Just from reading here and other reuniting stories it seems to be a theme and the DS/DD use that as a reason to cease contact again.  Citing the MIL is being pushy and didn't learn anything from the estrangement.  It seems to be very common for the DIL in particular to be very insecure about the gifts in these type of situations.

In any case, it's just my 2 cents :)
People throw rocks at things that shine - Taylor Swift


Not trying to step on Mod's toes.. so I felt the upfront apology was acceptable.

Tara email me please when you have time


I do see what you're doing Laurie. And I'm not the mod here.  It's not personal and you should know me better than that, I'm only doing my job.  Normally I would never say anything about these type of things and just ignore it -- but I am disappointed as your friend that you would chose to act like this after a simple two line warning. 

It's difficult enough doing this type of job with new people, it's extremely hard to navigate older posters, keep friendly relationships with our old posting buddies and at the same time still carry out our job effectively.  Be nice to your friends.
People throw rocks at things that shine - Taylor Swift


Hello WW

Thanks very much for your support and suggestions. 

Pam, I get the point about the gifts and Laurie's too.  It feels complicated within myself as my DIL returned a gift
I sent her after the girls were born...yet just 2 months earlier sent me a sweet thank you card for the twin stroller I
bought for her and DS.  I have been thinking about what kind of gift to bring  and typically would never go for a visit to one of my
grandkids w/o one. 

It does seem like its a  balance between being my warm relatively easy going self and being cautious and as Pam says not showing desperation..

I think two hour shifts sound about right  LL and I'm interested to see what they will propose.  Usually, in the past we
have gone out to dinner one night in a nice restaurant.  Making things more complicated that if she decides to cook
she is a good Italian cook and I don't eat wheat, white sugar or cow dairy.  LOL I guess.  I'm going to mention this to
my son on the phone. 

Holly, yes I do need to not let my nerves get the best of me in the next week.  My sister and her partner are arriving tonight
for 3 days so that will be nice.

I've been totally out of touch as I have been working with my talented but very temperamental graphic artist on some pieces for my business and in addition we have a black mold problem in our bedroom that can cause neurological problems including MS , etc. etc.
Luckily when it appeared on the window seal again this winter I scooped it into a baggie and sent it off to a lab to be evaluated.
its been complicated and expensive to research the situation, hire a company and deal all the protocols to deal with black mold. 
Thank goodness it is about over and we only need one more sealant procedure all just in the nick of time for my sister and new
partner who I have never met to arrive this evening.   8) 8)  Its been wildly stressful

Pooh, I cut and pasted your line of what to say in case DIL brings up politics.  Thanks Keys Girl for your suggestions.  I don't think that she will bring up religions differences (me being Buddhist)  My DH is a Eucharistic minister for the Catholic church (he gives out the
wine and host on sunday)  her father does this too

Rose:  beautifully said about bending self in a pretzel to be accommodating and then at the same time 'be oneself'

Pen:  yes stakes are high and sounds like you know what its like to be around someone who getting along is required and yet views of the world are quite different.    One time I made the very big mistake of writing her a face book email and asking what her thoughts were when she wrote right after President Obama was elected that he was like Hitler.  Boy, I will never do that again.  Lesson learned.

Laurie:  Hi.  Thanks for our kind words about not changing my core self.  I do feel that I have allot to offer but its not seen by
this DIL.  Luckily I have my step daughters and dtr in laws.  My 7 year gd  is coming this summer for a visit and has asked if
she can come for 2 weeks.  This Dial totally supports our my ideas about what to do like river trips etc. and says we pamper
gd so much and she has a wonderful time.  she said that she went to back to school night and the teacher brought out a
paper gd wrote about 'my most special time' and she wrote about her visit with us last summer.  My dil said she was totally
surprised and is delighted. 

Well any way, thank you for your support and ideas.



I admire you for trying. It feels like a lost cause to me in which you are seen as and treated as pond scum. A Liberal and a Buddhist? OMG! (Where did being a person and a grandmother go?) Those babies will catch in soon enough. I would keep my distance while keeping my door open to my son bringing them to see me if and when that works for him. If not...I would hold them in my heart and not enter into the emotional slaughterhouse your DIL has established. Sending love...
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


I'm not being unkind.. I am being polite.. please don't misunderstand the two.. and besides this topic is not about Laurie's feelings it's about Tara's so i will refrain from hijacking her posting.