My Grandma Is Awful and I’ve Always Said So. Now I Feel Bad When My Kids Trash-Talk Her.

My Grandma Is Awful and I’ve Always Said So. Now I Feel Bad When My Kids Trash-Talk Her.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I come from a long (very long) line of dysfunction that has, thankfully, improved a bit with each generation. While my great-grandmother was cruel, violent, manipulative, abusive, and neglectful, my own mother was mostly just absent. I’ve tried very hard to break that cycle and have a warm and close relationship with my own children. My grandmother (who fell more to the neglectful and manipulative end of the spectrum) is still alive, but lives in another state and we are mostly estranged. I send Christmas and birthday cards, and occasional brief notes with photos of my children and we speak on the phone about twice a year. She hasn’t seen me or my children in a decade. Unsurprisingly, she has no idea who they are. When I force them to wish her a Merry Christmas during our semi-annual phone call, she has no idea which child is which. I do all of these things, by the way, not out of love or affection, but out of some perverse need to “take the high road” in the relationship and try to insulate myself against regretful recrimination when she eventually dies, if that gives you some insight into how things work around here.

Over the years I’ve been brutally honest about her to them. They know that she was a miserable mother and a pretty terrible grandmother. But now that they are starting to copy the way I speak about her (her drinking, her total lack of maternal instinct), it makes me a little uncomfortable and ashamed. I cringe inside and want to yell that they should respect their elders! I have no idea why I have this urge to defend her, but I have told them about her own cruel upbringing and tried to make them empathize and understand that she didn’t have much of a chance to turn out any other way. That hasn’t changed the way they speak about her at all. I think a lot of it is their way of expressing that they are hurt and baffled by her disinterest.

I can’t articulate why it makes me uncomfortable, so I can’t really reason this through with them. And I can’t hypocritically tell them that they can’t repeat the very same things they’ve heard come out of my mouth. Should I just let this go and try to be more mindful of my own language in the future?

—Don’t Say as I Say!

Dear DSaIS,

I think that you should likely explore seeing a therapist, with the goal of detaching from the remnants of this unpleasant and pointless relationship. Your children are, as you can clearly see, responding to your own internal inconsistency, which is making you upset in turn.

You do not know this woman. You don’t need to force your kids to continue this weird charade with someone you also trash-talk periodically (and somewhat deservedly). I want you to work on raising your children to be authentic adults who have friends and strangers and (OCCASIONALLY) enemies and know the difference between the three.

Drop your end of the rope with your grandmother (I very much doubt if she’ll notice) and if, next Christmas, the kids ask, “Aren’t we going to be forced to say Merry Christmas to your bad grandmother?,” you can reply, “I think it’s better for us to focus on our own family instead of throwing good energy after bad” and then teach them how to play euchre.

from Human Interest - Slate Magazine 

My Grandma Is Awful and I’ve Always Said So. Now I Feel Bad When My Kids Trash-Talk Her. My Grandma Is Awful and I’ve Always Said So. Now I Feel Bad When My Kids Trash-Talk Her. Reviewed by streakoggi on December 30, 2019 Rating: 5
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