I'm having a baby girl any week now, and I couldn't be more excited, but it's left me thinking a lot about whether or not I want my parents involved in my daughter's life.
posted by anonymous to human relations (19 answers total)
My parents divorced when I was 3, and my father promptly moved out of state. I would see him once or twice a year for a week or so, generally for Christmas and my birthday, and he never called or wrote except when he was arranging a visit. My mom was pretty hostile towards him--she raised me to believe he was the scum of the earth, and he wasn't around to say otherwise.
When I got older, he made a little more of an effort to talk to me, and offered at one point to let me move in with him (and his new wife and her kids) while I finished college. I was grateful for the support, and I accepted. It didn't go well. After a couple of months, we had a major fight that ended with him telling me to get the hell out of his house--he later apologized and asked me to stay, but I left anyway.
In the 7 years since then, he's emailed me 2 or 3 times, but I haven't responded. At first I was just mad, but now I recognize that we were both being stubborn idiots (maybe it runs in the family), and mainly haven't contacted him because I don't really have anything to say. At this point, he's a stranger to me.
My mom is another story. We had a great relationship when I was a kid, but she started getting "weird" when I was a teenager. Years later I learned it was paranoid schizophrenia, but by then she'd already decided that I was part of the conspiracy plotting against her, and no longer trusted me (and in some cases, expressed concern that I was some kind of government agent impersonating her daughter).
She contacts me once or twice a year now, seeming to want to re-establish a relationship. She seems more stable than she was, and I can usually manage to have a couple of decent conversations with her, but invariably she'll bring up something ridiculous and irrational, I'll try to apply logic to it, and she'll become furious that I'm dismissing her concerns, and then I won't hear from her for another 7 or 8 months.
I don't want my daughter to grow up not knowing her grandparents, and I don't want my parents to not know their grandchild. I know they'll both want to meet her, at the very least. I kind of feel like I owe it to them. But I have a lot of concerns.
I still resent my dad for not being involved with my life, and if he made a greater effort with my daughter than with his own, I would probably end up feeling pretty bitter about that. And I know from firsthand experience that a bitter, angry parent can have a serious effect on a kid. But if he didn't make an effort, I'd probably take that as further proof of his failure as a parent, leading to more bitterness. And I don't want to have to explain to my kid why Grandpa doesn't ever call or write.
As for my mom, her descent into mental illness was profoundly painful for me to watch, and I don't want to expose my kid to that kind of pain, or have to explain that a lot of what Grandma says isn't true, but she'll start yelling if you tell her so. On the other hand, when she's lucid, my mom is an amazingly creative and intelligent person, and exactly the sort of cool grandma I'd love my daughter to have in her life.
I know this isn't a question with an easy answer, but I would love to hear other people's viewpoints here. Would it be unfair to my parents to not offer them the chance to be involved with my daughter's life? Would it be unfair to my daughter? And if I don't involve them, what on earth will I tell her when she starts realizing that other kids have grandmas and grandpas? "Sorry, kid, but I don't like your grandpa much, and your grandma's nuts"?