GP's Overstepping Boundaries? (Long)

sheepdawg9July 16, 2002

My parents live out-of-state but my mom has always been very vocal about her opinions. A lot was overlooked just to keep peace and being around her you have to walk on eggshells and everything has to be her way. Small example: One year at Thanksgiving she threw away all the margarine because it wasn't 'real butter' and she only eats 'real butter'.

Anyway, the straw that broke the camels back is last year my son refused to do his homework or schoolwork. He was in 4th grade and we've had this battle since he was in 1st grade. We tried everything imaginable including testing for ADD, parenting classes, rewarding, bribing and taking him to doctors. Finally my husband and I decided that he would have to learn the consenquences of his own actions and decided to not press the issue with him anymore. We did explain to him what we were doing and what the possible outcomes for not doing home/school work could be.

Well, according to my mom we were bad parents for letting him (possibly) flunk. She called him up and made a deal with him that if he passed she would give him $200. I called back and got hold of my dad. I stated my reasons why I didn't want this 'deal' to take place and he said he would tell my mom, all the while siding with me. After that mom called back and made the same deal with my daughter. Being furious I waited the weekend then called. I again got hold of my dad (mom being at work) and asked why mom would do this. He stated, "Well, you know how she can be".

I then e-mailed mom expressing how hurt we were that she delibertly went against our wishes and how she didn't have the right to make deals with the kids without our consent, especially in this case since it's been a struggle for years and bribing in the past didn't work.

Fast forward a few months and I find out that my dad didn't pass on the message to my mom and that he also deleted the e-mail I sent because he thought it was 'no big deal'.

Yes, my feeling were hurt that what was a major struggle for us was not a big deal to him and I was equally shocked that he lied and tried to pass the blame on mom.

Anyway, a huge fight ensued about what their grandparents rights are regarding raising and disipling our kids. As a result my husband and I have been disowned by them. That's fine, but then my mom turned to my kids and said the we (my husband and me) won't let them call, write or visit them until they're 18. Of course my kids were upset as well as us because NOTHING of this sort was mentioned. My husband and I explained to the kids that the relationship between the parents and grandparents was severed but they can continue to see them if they wish. Later my husband and I decided that the visits would be supervised since who knows what my mom would say if we're not around as she can be very manipulative (see above). My kids are fine with this but the grandparents are not.

My son's B-day comes and go and she doesn't call. She calls the next day and talks to my son, who answered the phone. She told him that we are preventing any relationship between them. I explain (again) to my son that he's welcome to call them anytime and if he wants to visit them let us know in advance so we can make arrangements with work.

I'm tired of her trying to sabatoge the relationship between my kids and me and my husband, but it's not a surprise.

Sometimes I want to end ALL relationship with her when she does this, but that would mean ending the kids relationship with her and that would just hurt the kids and come back on my husband and me later.

Was I overly sensitive to the situation and should have just ignored it? I still strongly feel that they didn't have the right to bribe them when we specificly said not to.

Do any other grandparents make parental choices if they don't like the decisions being made or how do you handle it?

BTW - my son went the whole first quarter not doing any work and then when he saw we wern't making a fuss and he was in jeapory of repeating a grade he made a whole turn-around and made it through the rest of the year with flying colors.

Any feedback pro or con would be appreciated.


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You have done the right thing and have handled the situation in a most appropriate manner. What your parents have done must break your heart, but remember, they love their grandchildren and want the best for them. Unfortunatly, their way of approaching the situation is different than yours and is unsolicited interferrence to your parenting. Your mother did overstep her role as a grandparent, but it sounds as if she is the type of person who oversteps in most situations. It also sounds as if it is difficult for her to accept that you are now an adult and make decisions regarding your family that may conflict with what she would have done in a similar situation. Taking this into consideration, you can understand why your father did not want to make waves. After all, he does have to live with her! They must have done something right raising you, because you have handle this situation in an extremely mature manner. Parents have the final word raising their children. Grandparents should not offer advice on parenting unless they are asked, although it is often very hard to hold one's tongue when one sees something happening that one does not agree with. However, your mother was way out of line in her actions.

I am a grandmother of 3 and a social worker who supervises a home visiting program that teaches, among other things, parenting skills. I am lucky that my son and daughter-in-law often ask for my opinion on parenting dilemas. However, the only time I give advice is when it is asked for. And, believe me, I would like to give it more often than it is asked for!! But, I respect that they are the parents of my grandchildren and that their decisions on how to handle situations are theirs. The only situation that warrants unsolicited advice or intervention is when the child is endangered. No set of parents are perfect and we all need help along the way. Your parents need to understand that they can offer advice, but you and your husband will be the final word.

For all of your sakes, I hope that this situation finds an amicable end. Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2002 at 12:02PM
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Ok, I might have missed it during the speedread, but have you actually directly verbally told Mom that this behavior is unacceptable?

Not email, not a letter, not tell dad to tell mom.

Just asking, because in the long run, all we have is family. And there is nothing wrong with defining what is acceptable and what isn't. But it just sounds in a quick read that you have avoided a direct conversation out of fear it may turn confrontational.

Just keep it simple. "Mom, I love you and want you to be part of junior's life. But you are Grandma, and it is not acceptible for you to make important decisions about his education. Trust us that we will do what is right, and feel free to give us feedback, but do not interfere."

Then assuming the relationship is started up again, if you catch her interfering, directly tell her, "Remember I told you that this interference is not acceptable."

But stop avoiding the conversation that has to occur. Next time it may be a bigger issue than it was this time. And junior might just decide to play you guys against each other. Best to fix it now.

If you absolutely have to sever ties, change your number, so that she can't call junior any more.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2002 at 7:59AM
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In the past when things came up I have told her directly but....things never worked out and ended in months in her not speaking to me or being very cold. I learned it best to just keep quiet on the small things and let it pass.

The first time I talked to dad on the phone I thought it was good he answered as he could act as a buffer. That mom would be more understanding if it came from him. Maybe Karenmi was right in saying he didn't want to make waves, that is why he never passed on the message. I now see it was my responsibility to tell mom directly and not cop out and have someone else do it.

As far as the phone conversation with the kids, I think it's about time I stood up to her and this is how I will handle it. When she calls and wants to talk to one of the kids I will tell her that she can but I don't appreciate her lying to the GK's about the situation and it's not going to be tolerated anymore, therefore I will be on the phone listening in as a monitor. If malicious things are said to the kids then the phone privalige is over and she can write letters.

Even though I won't like to invade my kids privacy by listening in I don't want to draw them into this battle by questioning them what was said. Plus if I explain it to them I don't think there will be a problem. My oldest daughter is already running out of the room when she sees Mom in one of her moods (permament PMS).

Truthfully, I'd be glad to wash my hands of the whole situation and if it weren't for the GK's I would sever all contact with her (her 2 sisters and brother haven't spoke to her since she got married and moved out of the house so I guess it's a family affair).

On a closing note this is one of the 'small things' that was overlooked. Even my dad was upset with mom and I've only seen him mad once before. In hindsite I should have taken more of a stand but I think it would've ended up the same:

One X-mas they were visiting. I rarely spanked my daughter (son a baby at the time) and my husband never did as he was abused and very uncomfortable with the idea. Our style was going to the corner or a time out. Anyway, all we ever heard was how my daughter spends her life in the corner and 'what kind of a mother are you'?
One time my husband told my mom that our daughter made him so mad he wanted to spank her, but he didn't. At this Mom shoved him by the shoulders and he fell onto the couch. She then got within 2 inches of his nose and said if he ever touched her grandchildren she would kill him and then take custody away from me. At that point dad stepped in and led her away. Dad thought it was best to get mom out of the house so they packed and left.

Damn if you do and damn if you don't.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2002 at 2:03PM
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Sounds like you're on the right track, but...

"I will tell her that she can but I don't appreciate her lying to the GK's about the situation and it's not going to be tolerated anymore, therefore I will be on the phone listening in as a monitor. "

Don't say, "I don't appreciate your lying..."

Say, "I will not tolerate any....."

Be very specific that it is not acceptable. (the former sounds less specific and makes it sound a little... I don't know... but it just should be worded short and specific.)

"I would love for you and my son to keep in touch, but any lying is not acceptable. Therefore, I'll stay on the extension. Any lies will result in the phone call being terminated."

A friend of mine gave me some advice similar to that in one of my familial relationships, and I realized that by me doing what you said ("I learned it best to just keep quiet on the small things and let it pass. ") I was actually encouraging the unacceptable behavior. Maybe no one has ever stood up to her before.

It's a hard road ahead of you. Best of luck!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2002 at 2:16PM
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