Gifts but no calls from grandparents

C. WishboneDecember 16, 2001

Help! My 'stealth' in-laws send birthday and holiday gifts for their two toddler granddaughters. However, they never telephone us to say hello or hear about what their granddaughters are learning, what new skills they've developed, what they're doing in nursery school, etc. In fact, we haven't heard from them in five months! They think that sending gifts makes them good grandparents. When they do come visit (they live in another state) once or twice a year, they act as if they're the best grandparents in the world--they buy them presents and play with them and take loads of photographs to bring back home to show to their friends. I find it very irritating because they never ask or take any interest in the daily activities of their grandkids, yet they want all the credit and benefits of grandparenthood. (My husband doesn't mind their odd behavior--he says the less contact with them the better, which is fine with me, but their attitude really annoys me.)

My in-laws are very self-absorbed people who don't seem to have a clue about the way normal grandparents operate. My own parents are wonderful grandparents (who also live in another state). They call regularly to follow every activity of my toddlers with great interest. How can I let the in-laws know that gifts alone don't make good grandparents and that the telephone won't bite? (They say that the telephone works both ways, whenever the subject of their not calling has been brought up in the past!)

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Is there a possibility that the cost of long distance calls is a problem for them? I know a lot of seniors who have to count pennies on a daily basis to make ends meet. If that could be the case, why don't you have your children make up a cute card (something to the effect of 'call us' or 'wish you were here') and enclose a phone card. Might make all the difference in the world.

At least they have the excuse of living in another state... My MIL never wanted to hear about our daughter--if we were over visiting and started relating an anecdote or recent achievement or DD tried to tell GM something tht had happened at school, she quickly changed the subjet to something my SIL's kids were doing. Well, the funny thing is, now she has Alzheimer's and she constantly talks about how beautiful my DD is--in front of the other GK's and they're starting to get a bit peeved hearing it constantly, especially when she can't remember their names when their in the room, but she keeps bringing up our daughter. So you see, you never really know how things will turn out and that old saying 'be careful what you wish for' can come back at you in odd ways. MIL actually was a nice person, just not involved equally with all her grandchildren--frankly, I'd give anything to have her back in control of her mind, even if it did mean ignoring my daughter. Such a shame to see what she's become.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2001 at 8:26PM
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Sounds to me that if you want your children to have a good relationship with them, then you will have to be the one who puts forth the effort. Their point about the telephone working both ways is valid. Unfortunately, grandparenting (like parenting) doesn't come as naturally to some people as it does to others. I would try to include them as much as I could by sending cards, letters, etc. They are definitely missing out on some important years - but please be careful that your irritation doesn't affect the way your daughters feel about them. Best of luck to you and be sure to thank your parents for showing love on a regular basis!

    Bookmark   December 16, 2001 at 9:38PM
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Wishbone, I agree with whazzup - the phone works both ways! My mother would always snip at me that "you never call!" It only took about 3 times of her saying that and me replying "well Mom, I think the phone you have still works both ways, doesn't it?" to shut her up. Now, she calls me about 1/2 the time, and when I get too busy and finally do call, she doesn't grouse about me not calling. Be honest - don't you call your parents more that you do your in-laws? If you want a relationship, or want your children to have a relationship with DH's parents, it needs to go both ways.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2001 at 1:35PM
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I relate to what you're saying. My MIL is pretty much the same way. When we are visiting her, she's attentive to the kids. But once we leave her house, she's very uninvolved. She won't go to any of the gk's school plays or concerts, she doesn't ask about milestones or much of anything personal about the gk's at all. I get peeved too. I don't agree with the last two posts about the relationship between grandmother and grandchild being your responsibility. The Grandparents are adults. They obviously know how much they're missing since they have raised children themselves. Maybe they CHOOSE to have only a certain amount of contact. Whatever the case is, you can't make them be involved grandparents. I had to learn to except that too. If the grandparents aren't spending the time to build a relationship, there really is not much you can do. But if they have a good relationship with your mother, that will help. They will still know a grandmother's love through your mother.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2001 at 2:41PM
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Well, I hope I didn't give the impression that the relationship between these grandparents and granddaughters is the DIL's responsibility. It works both ways. She should make sure that she is doing her PART to promote a good relationship between the grandparents and the granddaughters. After she has done her part then the rest would be up the grandparents, IMO.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2001 at 4:19PM
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In my husband's family there are 4 boys, 1 girl. We all live in the same town and all see each other weekly. My in-laws are marginally involved in the lives of the grandchildren from their sons, but are definitely majorly involved in the daughter's childrens' lives. They babysit regularly, worry about their colds, etc. I think the main difference is the fact that they are closer to the daughter. Daughters usually talk to their own moms a lot more often than MILs, and generally ask for advice or help more from moms and dads. At least that is what I have told myself to explain their behavior.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2001 at 6:41PM
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I have two DILs. One welcomes a chatty, "Hi, how are ya?" phone call and the other doesn't. She appears to want me to state the purpose of the call and hang up. That's fine. I don't call her unless I have a reason. I am 100% more aware of my older son's children, their struggles and victories, their desires and fears. DIL #2 has commented that I seem to "favor" the other son's children and our daughter's children. I love all my grandchildren equally but I know the other grandchildren and I don't know hers. The DIL often sets the tone of the relationship and a smart MIL accepts it. The DIL gets what she wants. I have a hard time believing this poster WANTS a close family relationship with the people she calls her "stealth-in-laws."

    Bookmark   December 26, 2001 at 3:42PM
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Have you guys packed up your stuff and went to visit your in-laws? Do you call? Relationships have two sides and people usually only tell about their side and leave out the others. I would sit back and try to see what I'm doing wrong so I can improve that and make the relationship between my kids and their grandparents better. Maybe they don't feel comfortable with you just like the the last poster commented on. Good luck.


    Bookmark   December 27, 2001 at 3:11PM
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also, if you're doing your part, don't let these things get to you. people are what they are, and sometimes kids just don't get a really close relationship with one set of grandparents. They'll really only resent it if you teach them to. The kids will know the difference between the two types of grandparents, and they'll either philosophically accept it as simply the way things are, or they'll bitterly resent it (or of course somewhere inbetween). Guess who gets to iinfluence which way they lean? You!

Do your kids a favor, and don't teach them to expect something that won't come, and don't teach them to let it get to them.

I'd also say, follow your husband's lead more. If it doesn't bug him, then don't let it bug you.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2001 at 4:17PM
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How well do you really know your in-laws? If you don't know them very well, then pay close attention when your husband says the less contact with them the better.

I have very little contact with my father, and I definitely feel the less contact the better. For years my husband felt we should have a relationship with my father because he is, after all, my father. Then last year we took one of our children to see a counselor over a medical issue. As part of the counselling the counselor saw us as a family, and asked about grandparent relationships. After discussing the relationship with my father, she affirmed that my attitude is a very mentally healthy attitude. My husband will probably never understand, because he has a terrific father, but we are really much better off not seeing my father very much.

Your husband knows his parents well, if he truly feels the less contact the better then he probably has some good reasons.

I agreee 100% with Talley Sue's answer above, if you're doing your part then let it be.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2001 at 8:51PM
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Have you ever said to your inlaws, "Gee, I feel you are both so important to my daughters' happiness..I WANT you to be involved in their lives..let's talk and visit more often." Maybe they're not the aggressive type. Their son doesn't seem to be helping with his attitude, and that is bound to put them off when they think about calling and visiting. Were they close with him in the past, or was there distance (actual or emotional) between them even then? My guess is they don't feel welcome, and that when they do make an effort, they get the message that what they do is never enough for you. As has been said, telephones work both ways, and so do relationships. Help create the one you want.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2002 at 10:55AM
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Maybe you should call them, just to see what happens. Perhaps they just don't like chatting on the phone; people are like that. Or maybe they feel like they're intruding - before I got married my mom and I talked at least once a week, every Sunday. Now that I'm married we don't talk nearly as much - I think she thought she would be bothering me if she called as often. Unless it is a bother to hear from them, maybe they just need reassurance that they're not interrupting something.But by the same token, I agree that daughters are usually closer - I would call up my mom for whatever reason, but never call my MIL just to talk.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2002 at 12:04PM
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I'd give almost anything to have what you want for your children. I seem to be in the opposite situation. All of my children live in other states. Son not married. One daughter is married and seems to never call unless she wants to talk about something she's into. My other daughter calls at least once a week. I call each at least once a week. My first daughter will say it's not convient or she's tired,it costs money or something. All 3 are on line and so I started Emailing and asking them to write when it was convient for them, do they no. I really feel sorry for my grandchildren because they are missing out on having grandparents. The others live in Fl and have their own live except for one week a year when they all meet at the beach with all the aunts, uncles and cousins. I think that's great but we can't do that. I've tried to adjust to their schedules and it still doesn't seem to work, can't get them to come once a year. So may people miss out on so much love that is just waiting for them if they'd only allow it but it really can't be forced on them. I miss them all so very much and yes, I do go and visit when I can... which is usually not more than a week a year. I've thought of adopting a family here where I live but I feel I'd be cheating my grandchildren. Be thankful that you have the parents that you have and that you are the mother and daughter that you are and let the others go. Your hubby knows what their like and if he's okay with it just love your family.
Blessings to you Sweetie,
Gig Ghee

    Bookmark   March 13, 2002 at 3:21AM
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