Grandparents Prefer the Beach
June 24, 2010 8:39 AM   Subscribe

How do I deal with my child's grandparents preferring beach vacations to spending time with my child?

My daughter's grandparents see us for maybe one full week a year, and the rest of the time we see them for maybe a day or two days at a time. With that, we see them maybe for two weeks out of a year as we live about 10 hours driving time and a time zone away from each other.

When they take vacations, they choose to go to beach locations where they will spend a week or two weeks in preference to spending time with their grandchild. I have repeatedly invited them to stay with us or to visit us, have told them we can plan our vacation time around theirs if they let us know when they would like to come. They never answer my offers either verbally or in writing, and they still go to the beaches.

I don't think they're bad grandparents, and by all other accounts they would seem to love their granddaughter. But they hardly see her, and she's only going to be three once. They are more than happy to have us visit any time, but we do not have the financial means to make more than the one trip and each year is a stretch as to whether we can even go, where they do have the means to make several trips and regularly travel past us on their way to the beaches and "stop in" for a day or two on their way in or out. This makes it all the more hurtful because it shows to me that they're willing to make the trip here for the beaches, but are only stopping by because we happen to be on the way. I am sure if we didn't happen to live along their route, they wouldn't even make the effort to visit.

I do not believe at this point that their vacations will change and believe this is the way it will be. How do I stop being upset by this?

I also worry that in a few years, my daughter will begin to wonder why Papaw and Mamaw only come for a day or two at a time and don't know how to begin answering those questions.

(To the mods, anonymous because of the number of people on the site known elsewhere.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (60 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
They're your kids not their kids. Let them spend their time as they wish. Two weeks out of a year when you're 10 hours apart is a lot more than many people see their parents, let alone grandparents. Don't overthink this; different people have different standards for how often to visit.
posted by proj at 8:46 AM on June 24, 2010 [21 favorites]

I think you may be overthinking this plate of beans.

Observation #1: You do not mention whose parents these folks are: yours or the other parent's, nor how the other parent feels about this. This raises a potential red flag for me that there may be more to this issue than you've spelled out here. I'd encourage you to consider "would it make me feel this way if it were the other parent's parents" in either case. I know I'm sort of rocking the hermeneutic of suspicion here, but.. might be worth considering.

Observation #2: One of my grandparents lived in a foreign country; I only ever met her about six times in my life. I'm not deeply hurt by this, and I don't think it's out of the ordinary or unreasonable. You could (maybe rightly) argue that travel makes this a special case, where in your case, they can obviously afford to travel. I'd still argue that it isn't universal to expect to "spend more than a week together" in a given year -- that seems like a lot of together time to me! Maybe ask yourself why you expect more? Were your grandparents more involved? That's not necessarily typical.
posted by Alterscape at 8:51 AM on June 24, 2010

How do I stop being upset by this?

I would suggest that you focus on the positives of this situation - they are visiting you and your daughter, they are playing a role in her life, and they gladly welcome you when you are able to visit. That's a great thing for your daughter - some grandparents are completely absent or really awful people.

If you're concerned that your daughter might regret not having more interaction with her grandparents, maybe encourage her to send them cards and write them letters. I'm sure they will cherish anything she sends, and it might make them want to visit her more often.
posted by ukdanae at 8:54 AM on June 24, 2010

I say this with a heart that swells with love for the children in my life and as kindly as possible: little children are really not all that fun in large doses. Spending my entire vacation with a 3-year-old? Thank you, but no. There will be many years for the grandparents to get to know your daughter; I'm closer now to my grandparents than ever before, and I'm in my late 20s. Your daughter won't think it's strange that her grandparents don't spend weeks at a time with her unless you teach her to.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:55 AM on June 24, 2010 [80 favorites]

Not many people's ideas of a pleasurable and relaxing vacations involve children....even to *shockgasp* people who are grandparents.
posted by ejazen at 8:55 AM on June 24, 2010 [13 favorites]

One set of my GPs were deceased prior to my birth. The other died within 10 years of my birth. I believe I spent a sum total of perhaps ten days in their presence during that time.

I seem to be highly functional despite their not playing an active role in my life.

You're over thinking.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:59 AM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

They choose to go on beach vacations that are close enough to you that they can stop and see your daughter before or after each vacation. I am sure there are other beaches they could go to which would make those visits inconvenient, but they don't.
posted by jeather at 9:00 AM on June 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

Or they could constantly be encroaching on your vacations, inviting themselves despite you hinting that you'd rather spend time with your child, etc. etc. This isn't abnormal or indicative that they don't love you or your kid. It's just the way they are.
posted by Etrigan at 9:02 AM on June 24, 2010

That's more than I saw my any of my grandparents when I was a kid and it had no ill affect on how we felt about each other. I never wondered why we only saw them as much as we did. I knew it was because they lived far away, so it was always hugely exciting to see them.

I would warn you to be careful about what message you send to your daughter about how you think her grandparents feel about her ie "Oh sweetie, Mamaw and Papaw are coming to stay for a few days. Isn't that great? Let's draw some pictures for them!" vs "Now sweetie, Mamaw and Papaw are coming but they're only staying for a few days, so try not to be disappointed. They have to go lay on a beach. I don't understand it, but we just have to accept that."
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:06 AM on June 24, 2010 [29 favorites]

your daughter isn't going to grow up reading all of that into her grandparents visits unless you project your resentment onto her. She is going to grow up looking forward to these short visits and the occasional long one as fun times with grandparents who love her - if you let her enjoy them as just that.

are you saying they should spend every vacation at your house? or just most of them? grandparents aren't obligated to have their lives revolve around their grandchildren - they raised thier kids, now they get to fill their grandkids full of sugar, let them jump on the bed, kiss and hug them alot and visit for a few days on their way to the beach , if that is what they want.

Maybe you can learn to be less upset by realizing that for some people (including myself) visiting family is not a vacation. These people get to take vacations if they want. It has nothing to do with your child.
posted by domino at 9:07 AM on June 24, 2010 [10 favorites]

Accept that not everyone may be as enamored with your kids as you are. It seems hard for some parents to understand that others may have little interest in a thing that is the main focus of their lives.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 9:09 AM on June 24, 2010 [36 favorites]

As others have said, different people have different standards about this kind of thing. I think I saw my grandparents a few times a year - three? maybe? - and I didn't think it was weird. In fact, I thought it was totally weird when people were all the time seeing what I considered to be distant relatives.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:20 AM on June 24, 2010

I don't see the problem here. They get more time with your daughter than my sons did with their grandparents (both sets are more than 1000 miles away).
posted by Doohickie at 9:24 AM on June 24, 2010

I also worry that in a few years, my daughter will begin to wonder why Papaw and Mamaw only come for a day or two at a time and don't know how to begin answering those questions.

I can't imagine any kid wondering this. I saw both sets of my grandparents once every few years and it seemed perfectly normal. A total of approximately 2 weeks every year is pretty darn good.

I'm curious to know if these people are your parents, because I sense an underlying resentment about the infrequency of their visits which has nothing to do with your daughter.
posted by iconomy at 9:26 AM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

How do I stop being upset by this?

Accept the situation. Don't try to change it. Move on.
posted by Doohickie at 9:26 AM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

Just to reiterate what others have been saying, I had two living grandparents growing up, both of whom lived a 3-hour plane ride away. The amount that I saw them growing up (around once a year for a couple of days, typically) was what I knew as normal, and I don't remember ever wondering why I didn't see them more or asking my parents about it.
posted by heyforfour at 9:29 AM on June 24, 2010

Worrying that your daughter will ask why she doesn't see them more seems very much like projection on your part, and an attempt to rationalize your own resentment as being about your daughter's needs.

I didn't see much more of my grandparents than that growing up but it didn't bother me. In fact, I would have been happy seeing less of them because my grandparents were somewhat strange and off-putting people.

Do they rent a house at the beach? Have you asked if you'd be welcome to accompany them for a few days, with them picking up the costs? One of the few visits that I really did enjoy was a trip where my grandfather took my family to an exotic location, and sprung for most of the expenses. It was exciting and fun, and much better than visiting at my grandmother's house, with all the many rules about children being seen and not heard.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:29 AM on June 24, 2010

So they should stop going on beach vacations and spend vacation time watching Barney and playing Hi Ho Cherry O?

They do see your child, but you think that they should forfeit their vacation time to spend more time with her? That's not a balanced approach. You can't monopolize the grandparent's time like that.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:31 AM on June 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

I saw my paternal grandfather about six times in my life. I wish I had known him better, but I have nice memories of him nevertheless. I never thought to ask why we saw him so infrequently, It was obvious to me from very early on that he lived very far away and had his own life to live. I saw my other set of grandparents every weekend, and a favorable or unfavorable comparison never even occurred to me.
posted by Omon Ra at 9:34 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I lived with my grandparents as a small child, and most of my friends thought it was weird that I saw them MORE than a couple times a year.

How do I stop being upset by this? You can't do much with a three year old, but honestly she's not going to remember any of it, so why should it upset you? When she's older, encourage her to exchange letters and calls with her grandparents, having contact is going to be more meaningful than the type of contact.
posted by anaelith at 9:35 AM on June 24, 2010

Agreed with everyone here saying you should relax and accept that this is the way they want things to be right now and your daughter is not going to experience irreparable harm as a result.

Also, I think you are seeing things as very black and white here, when they aren't at all really. When your daughter is older and can swim, they may want to take her to the beach with them or share vacations with all of you. Right now, she is only three years old and so there's just not a lot they can do with her at their favorite vacation place.

And some grandparents are indulgent and want to spend more time with their grandkids, while others feel like they are 'done' with the small-child-raising situation, but will be great companions when the child is older and they don't have to be as hands-on.

I'm a nurturer, and so are my parents. My husband's parents are older, he is their youngest son, and so they had less to do with our kids than his older siblings' children, whereas my parents are very much a part of their lives. And it works out okay, because that's just the way it's always been and the kids get this. I understand being protective of your daughter (it's that nurturer thing again!), but she is more resilient than you give her credit for.
posted by misha at 9:36 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I grew up seeing my grandparents a few times year (Christmas, etc), then moved to a different country and ended up seeing them only once every few years. In fact that was just my grandmothers, as both my grandfathers died before I was born. I never thought twice about it. As was said upthread, whatever is the routine for you child, that is what they will perceive as 'normal'. I think you've got nothing to worry about.

It also bears repeating that your child is YOUR child, not THEIR child. They have lives too and shouldn't be expected to drop everything for every birthday your child has.. many grandparents have tens of grandchildren. You make a point of saying your child will only turn 3 once. Well, yes. But she will also only turn 5 once, 12 once, 20 once, etc.
posted by modernnomad at 9:37 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am so glad to see that you have concern for your child's development and want them to have a high degree of involvement with their grandparents. I sincerely wish that every parent had this level of interest in their children!

I can understand that this situation is disappointing for you because you want what you feel is best for your child and you are worried that this situation is going to hurt your kids.

I do not think that their limited visiting time will have a negative affect on your children of itself, but your reactions will have a powerful affect on your children's perception of the situation. Children, especially very young ones, have an astounding capacity to accept reality for what it is and adapt accordingly.

If left to their own devices, chances are they will not question the frequency of their grandparents coming to visit. They will likely not feel slighted that they only see their grandparents a few days each year.

Having said that, children are very impressionable. Their young minds seem to pick up attitude in parts per million. You make your fears, dislikes and negativity theirs as well if you are not careful.

If they happen to hear mom mention information about someone else in a negative light, then are internalizing it all. This phenomenon is intensified when you tell them things directly (i.e. It's not fair that your grandparents never come to visit you. . . )

If you act enthusiastically and say positive things about a situation, then they will feel happy about it (i.e. Yeah! Papaw and Mamaw have come to see us! Aren't we happy they are here!)

You cannot control the way their grandparents behave, but you can control how your children perceive the behavior. make it positive!

Bear in mind, that it is a blessing that the grandparents choose to come at all. Don't resent a small amount of kindness because it's better then none at all.

They will not change and you have to accept them for who they choose to be. You need to frame their behavior in terms of what they are capable of handling and see they they are making a small effort and appreciate it. This lesson is the most valuable one to teach the children: accept people for who they are and work with it.
posted by neanderloid at 9:37 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Try imagining them being angry that their son and daughter-in-law chose to raise their beautiful grandchild 10 hours away from them instead of nearby where they can be very active in her life. Imagine them asking AskMetaFilter about how to deal with it.

If you can see how that seems unfair and how it misses mitigating factors, you might be more ok with your current situation.
posted by oreofuchi at 9:38 AM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

But they hardly see her, and she's only going to be three once.

And only 4 once, and only 5 once, and only 6 once, and... so on.

You've just got to accept that no one is going to care as much about your children as you do, that's how things work. I saw my grandparents for about one week a year (if that, we live across the country) and it seemed pretty normal to me.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:39 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm really sorry, but I just don't see a problem here?

I grew up about six hours away from my grandparents and I don't think I saw them even two weeks a year. Maybe a weekend for Easter or Christmas and sometimes they'd come to visit for a few days. As a child, I never wondered why we didn't see them more often. And, I certainly did not begrudge them their private vacation time.

I think it's nice that they stop by to see you when they're en route to their vacation destinations. And good for them for being a happy couple that seems to enjoy spending time together.
posted by MorningPerson at 9:40 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree that you are overthinking this, but if you read all of these responses and it still bothers you then you should talk to the grandparents. Invite them up for an extended visit. I have a sneaking suspicion that by the end of said visit, you'll be pulling your hair out and wondering what the problem was.
posted by pintapicasso at 9:42 AM on June 24, 2010

My child doesn't see her grandparents all that often but she's seen more them as she's gotten older because she can fly by herself to see them. That wasn't really possible when she was under 5.
posted by vespabelle at 9:46 AM on June 24, 2010

It sounds to me like they spend a TON of time with your child. I don't see the issue. Let them do as they please.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:50 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

From the OP:
I did not understand that this would by any means be normal. I grew up in an intergenerational environment. I would see my own grandparents every day. They were as much a part of my life as my parents.

This is the way it was for most of my childhood neighborhood and is what I consider to be the norm. It is still the norm in the neighborhood where I grew up. Grandparents have dinner multiple times a week with their children and grandchildren. Grandparents attend sporting events and dance recitals, and it is often the grandparents who teach the grandchildren some skills. One grandmother taught me to cook, the other to read. One grandfather taught me to make a camp fire, the other to tie my shoes. My own father grew up with his grandparents living in the same home.

My relatives who moved away all come back for two week vacations each year. The ones a generation up from me come with their own children and grandchildren every year, as do those of other families. My own parents want us to move to my hometown as they do not think they see their granddaughter enough. They see her once a month, and I would jump at the opportunity. Other circumstances are keeping us where we are for the time being. Even if we could, doing so would put us at a greater distance from the grandparents in question, who would then certainly never visit. They have been going on these vacations since before my daughter was born. It was happenstance that we moved somewhere along their regular route.

Two weeks a year is very little time to me, and it does not help that our only significant travel vacation is to where they live. We could as well go elsewhere, but they would like to see their grandchild. I would like them to as well because grandparents are important, so we always go there."
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:54 AM on June 24, 2010

Consider yourself lucky. My paternal grandfather worked until the week before he died. My paternal grandmother hated my mom and wouldn't come to visit us until she'd gotten so senile she forgot she hated my mom. Thanks to an incident of Big-Drama, the maternal grandparents went on the run years ago, and have never seen my youngest sister at all.
posted by nomisxid at 9:56 AM on June 24, 2010

Sounds like "the grandparents in question" are not your parents and they did not grow up in your childhood neighborhood. You can't change how they spend their time or what they consider normal. What you can change is how you react to it, and how that affects your daughter's relationship with them. Pushing them to do something incredibly demanding that they don't want to, and that they do not see as the norm or a justified demand will fray your relationship with them. Acting as if they are doing something wrong, or that your daughter should be disappointed will fray her relationship with them.

Adjust your expectations. Your daughter will be fine if you do.
posted by grouse at 10:05 AM on June 24, 2010 [5 favorites]

Two weeks a year is very little time to me, and it does not help that our only significant travel vacation is to where they live. We could as well go elsewhere, but they would like to see their grandchild. I would like them to as well because grandparents are important, so we always go there.

You're letting them dictate your vacation? Put the brakes on that. Tell them, "We'd love to come out there this year, but we're making other plans. If you'd care to come out here during your vacation, we'd love to have you."
posted by Etrigan at 10:07 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

You may setting up a false dichotomy for yourself, seeing the grandparents as "choosing" the beach over your child. In fact, they are choosing both when you seem to want them to choose your daughter only. No, your daughter won't be three again, but she will be ten, eleven, and twelve in the future. Those are ages when kids love to visit grandparents and go get spoiled.

Do you each have web cams on your computers? If so, immediately after the next visit, start having weekly webcam visits between your daughter and her grandparents. Maybe there are certain short songs or poems they shared during the visit that they can repeat on the web cam. Maybe the grandparents can show different little things around their house. They can ask your little girl to show a toy on the camera and tell them about it. Or have a "funny faces" session on the web came. I know this is just "shadow grandparenting," but it's more than many people had. Just think of it as a long-distance romance. You have to work at it on your end, too, instead of feeling hurt about this.
posted by Elsie at 10:08 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I understand that you have different expectations of how much time your in-laws should spend with their granddaughter, but you need to understand that all families are different. Maybe the grandparents aren't especially keen on little children, maybe they feel pressured to babysit a lot when they're visiting, maybe, like ThePinkSuperhero noted, they just want to go to the beach. Judging by the anecdata provided by other MeFi members, the amount of time spent with grandparents varies tremendously by family.

Honestly, your follow-up response seems to lack perspective. Again, it's understandable that you're a little miffed over their relaxed attitude towards your daughter, but please take everyone's advice into account: not all families are going to mirror your values. Some grandparents will move to new countries to be with their grandkids, some are fine with a week here, a couple days there. This doesn't mean your daughter will somehow be bereft without growing up with the same familial system you had.

Lastly, these people aren't just Grandparents. They're individuals who have a right to make their own choices and live their lives as they please. They've raised children before, they've made their own sacrifices, so now they might just want to enjoy quiet, child-free vacations on the beach. That's their right. They're not obligated by some higher moral code to come over every week for family dinners. It doesn't mean your in-laws are bad people, or even bad grandparents, because they're not moving their lives around for your family.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:14 AM on June 24, 2010 [17 favorites]

Ok, now you have to accept its normal. Its normal! Seeing someone every couple of monthes, which is what it works out to do if they see ya'll 3-4 times a year is a lot for someone that lives 10 hours away. If they lived down the block and didn't come over that would be a different thing entirely, but even then just Sunday dinner every week or every other week would still be a lot.

They have their lives going on, they see your child when they can, asking them to give up their vacation to stay with you is off-putting. I mean, the thought of spending a week in someone else's house, even if I loved them, and doing normal everyday stuff with them rather than going on my vacation, makes me feel anxious and smothered and I don't know any of you!

So, get skype, get a webcam, write letters, if you don't want to take your vacation visiting them, well then don't! Everyone will be fine, I promise.
posted by stormygrey at 10:14 AM on June 24, 2010

I deal with it by focusing on people who show a more obvious interest in being part of the child's life. It still hurts, but my three year old has enough honorary grans in her life not to be lackin' on the lovin' that a grandparent brings.

I also remind myself (gently) when I start to feel aggravated, that some of this lack of visiting is about the grandparent's relationship to me, not my kid. This may not apply to your situation, but I find recognizing a situational incompatibilty that has nothing to do with my child helps me to not feel like they're rejecting my kid.
posted by Ys at 10:16 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is very definitely normal. Or rather, there are hundreds of different ways that people can react and this is one of the normal ones. Some people don't really like kids all that much (even ones who had kids). Some people can't get enough of them. Some people love kids but can't stand yours. This is all normal. Some grandparents live next door and see the grandkids constantly. Some live in another country and see the kids once a year if that (that was the case for me and will be the case for one set of grandparents of Lurgi Jr.). That's all normal. Your parents want to see their granddaughter every day and your SO's parents do not. Both are correct.

Now, there may be other things that you can work on. If you don't want to spent precious weeks of vacation visiting grandparents then there is room for some discussion about who should do the travelling (particularly if the grandparents have more vacation/disposable income or are retired). Maybe you can work on that side of things. But they are under no obligation to behave in a way that you consider normal or typical, doubly so because what you consider normal or typical is merely one of many possibilities.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:18 AM on June 24, 2010

Why don't you go visit them?
posted by bunji at 10:20 AM on June 24, 2010

Neither of my parents back up their spoken protests of love for my child with real actions showing interest in knowing him or being around him. This is not new, this is not a change, this has been his whole life. It hurts. It makes me sad. They're missing out, he's missing out, I'm missing out. And yet, I can't make them want to spend time with him.

It's very hard not to say something biting - and while truthful, also mean and disruptive - when they say they miss him during phone calls. But I don't. They like to think they're good grandparents. They're not. They're just people he vaguely knows, and I reinforce his memories of them by sheer repetition and effort on my part. It's more than they deserve, but it's good for my son, so I do it. I don't have any magic solution. it hurts, it's sad, and it's hard. All you can do is accept it and let it go. Focus on the people who do want to spend time with your kid. Maybe someday they'll change, but probably not.
posted by lemniskate at 10:21 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

OP, in the end you can only control your own actions. You cannot change people. Not in marriage, family, or friendship. You can either accept what they're willing to give you, be bitter about it, or cut them out of your life.

It's too bad that your expectations don't line up, but they signed no contract to fulfill the roles you envision for them.

If they approached you and said, "As young people, we respected our elders. We did not demand their time, but allowed them to enjoy their old age in peace. They worked hard for it, so we didn't make demands on them because it wasn't our place. They also passed those values onto their children. Please do that." How would you feel? Annoyed, probably. Who are they to demand you do this at the expense of your own wishes?

But their viewpoint is no different or less valid than yours. It's all a matter of compromise. It seems like you have this elaborate preconcieved notion of what parts you want them to play. It sounds really nice, but it's unreasonable. Other people have their own desires and ideals, they aren't characters to fill roles in your story.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:21 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had relationships like this with both my sets of grandparents. It's totally normal! I think you're letting your perspective be skewed by assuming that the way you grew up is the way everyone does it.

My mom's parents lived in the city she grew up in. Three of her seven siblings stayed there, and their children had the "see the grandparents multiple times a week" experience that you describe. We lived several states away and I saw my grandparents once or twice a year at most. I never felt like they loved me any less.

Your kid is not going to think this is an issue unless you make it one.
posted by MsMolly at 10:23 AM on June 24, 2010

My mother (who lives in another state) was tending to my sick father for the first two years of my children's lives. We brought them for a couple of visits, but we couldn't travel often, and she couldn't travel at all.

Now it's been two years since my father passed, and she has only seen the kids once, when we brought them to her. She won't get on a plane to come visit -- although she will to go to Disneyworld -- and it seems to make no difference whatsoever to her if she sees them or not.

I'm actually okay with this; it's the kind of mother I have, and I've moved on. My kids are also okay with this; they see their other grandmother, and other relatives, quite a bit more (and they come out to visit often.) I had a grandmother of my own like this, who I rarely saw as a kid, and I didn't think anything of it.

My wife, however, HATED it, because her family is all about constant contact (not talking to her mother for three days earns her a "why are you cutting me out of your life?" letter, I kid you not) and she has abandonment issues.

Ultimately, though, it's only an issue for the kids if you make it one.
posted by davejay at 10:32 AM on June 24, 2010

Oh, and wanted to mention:

They never answer my offers either verbally or in writing

That's just rude, by any scale. I would suggest that a lot of your stress over this isn't really about the fact of their vacation choices, but the rejection and rudeness implicit in their lack of response. Perhaps the next time you offer, you should do so verbally, and ask them not to change the subject.

By this, I don't mean ask "why don't you want to see my kids", but "I know you have a vacation coming up, and we'd love to have you stay with us for a week." If they change the subject, just say "before we talk about that, do you think you'd like to stay with us? You can say no, but I would like to know that you've heard me -- in the past, I've asked you and you have just ignored me instead of answering yes or no."

In short, confront this (if you choose) as an issue of communication between you, not as something having to do with your kids.
posted by davejay at 10:36 AM on June 24, 2010

This is about how much time I spent with my grandparents growing up and I am/was (they all aren't still living unfortunately) very close to them. It helped that they called often when I was growing up, but honestly I actually became much closer to one of my grandmothers as an adult and I only saw her a couple times a year as a kid and never spoke on the phone with her on a regular basis. It never occurred to me that my grandparents "couldn't be bothered" to see me becuase I only saw them for a combined 1-2 weeks a year (if even to be honest). They lived a couple states away, not around the block.

I think you have very different cultural expectations for the role of grandparents in the day to day lives of their grandchildren. However, remember that just because this is how *you* feel there is no reason to think this how your children will feel. Unless of course you are continually bemoaning to them how their grandparents never come to see them. If you want them to be more involved in their lives encourage them to call them once a week or write them a letter once a couple times a month. I bet the grandparents will happily reciprocate. But please don't criticize your children's grandparents to them because then your fears will become a self fulfilling prophecy and your children will feel hurt and neglected by their grandparents.
posted by whoaali at 10:48 AM on June 24, 2010

I come from a family maybe something like your own? I grew up seeing my grandparents many times a week. Now my nephews see my parents every day.

Still, I think it's totally normal to see grandkids once or twice a year by choice and not to spend vacation time with little kids.
posted by vincele at 10:53 AM on June 24, 2010

I thought, "This is such a pile-on that there is no point in adding to it; the point has been made many times over. Resolved." But then...

Grandparents have dinner multiple times a week with their children and grandchildren

Read through the responses again; people are trying to make clear to you that this is not the norm for many, many families. Another point being made over and over is that

Two weeks a year is very little time to me

great, but, your daughter will be fine with it. My most cherished grandparent lived across the country and was a once-a-year guest, and that was in pre-internet days, with long distance calls being expensive. Wonderful opportunity here to teach the art of letter writing.

I have a nearly-3yo and in-laws who are far away. We send artwork, it took only one tiny hint to get them to put little postcards and sheets of stickers in the post for her here and there, and we do video chats, and that works out quite nicely.

I'm not even sure how it's possible to be so unaware that there are lots of grandparents who don't dine with the other generations multiple times a week; it sounds like you are being a tad disingenuous about this. Perhaps there are other issues that need to be addressed; perhaps these people would visit more often if there wasn't resentment behind the scenes.
posted by kmennie at 11:00 AM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

anonymous: "I do not believe at this point that their vacations will change and believe this is the way it will be. How do I stop being upset by this?"

To stop being hurt, you have to stop thinking of this in terms of "a choice they are actively making to hurt you or your child".

You can think of them as selfish, you can think less of their priorities, you can pity your spouse's family for not having grown up as tightly-knit as yours... but at the end of the day, it's their time and money to spend how they like.

They are not opting for the beach vacation with malice, as in "Oh, honey, we're going up the coast again this year in order to make little Jenny cry, right? Just checking." They are simply placing a different priority for their travel time than you might.

When you start to feel resentment about your inlaws not traveling to visit your child more, just say to yourself, "I know they aren't plotting my child's unhappiness, and that they love her very much, and that they simply demonstrate that differently, is all."

Agree with those who have said the child won't wonder why Papaw and Mamaw don't love her as much unless you explicitly give that to her. Which should be avoided; as tempting as it may be to try and punish the grandparents with negative messaging, it really only harms your child.
posted by pineapple at 11:26 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

You know, my paternal grandparents moved several states away when I was little. I saw them infrequently after that, and my mother told me a few times that my grandparents didn't really give a crap about me, or they wouldn't have moved.

When my mother wasn't directly stating that my dad's parents were neglectful, she was subtly expressing the attitude in other ways. It was distressing, and caused me to have distance from my dad's family that would have never happened otherwise.

A year or so ago, my paternal grandmother apologized for having moved away, and expressed guilt for having "abandoned" us when we were kids. She was afraid I resented her. Maybe she was aware of what my mother had said.

So let me be clear: I never thought my grandmother had abandoned or rejected us. We didn't visit them very often, but when we did, our grandparents were obviously happy to see us.

The only reason that we felt distant from our grandparents was due to our mother's attitude. Our grandparents were always good to us. But our mother made it an loyalty issue -- "your dad's parents left you, MY parents would never leave you, MY parents are better than your dad's parents -- and if you accept your dad's parents the way they are, you are betraying me and MY parents".

Don't make your child's grandparents compete. If you let your child know that you believe her grandparents aren't good enough, you will cause a lifetime of problems. Drop the attitude, because your attitude is going to define how your child perceives her grandparents.
posted by Coatlicue at 11:39 AM on June 24, 2010 [5 favorites]

I saw my maternal grandparents fairly frequently, and I dreaded their visits because they were mean, super-critical, and generally spent the whole time trying to make me and my brother feel miserable.

If someone gave me a magic wand, and told me I could make my grandparents treat me and my brother with love and kindness, but visit less often, I would do it in an instant. And I know that there are people with abusive and/or mentally ill grandparents who would change places with me in an instant.

I understand you wanting the best of all possible grandparent scenarios for your daughter. But it might help to reflect on what a gift it is to have grandparents who love your daughter, even if they don't express it in the way you would like.
posted by creepygirl at 12:00 PM on June 24, 2010

They have been going on these vacations since before my daughter was born.

I suspect this is key. Your in-laws have a routine and vacation they love. They go to the same place every single year. And when you all moved along the road there, they were probably thrilled to be able to combine their annual beloved vacation with a visit to the granddaughter.

I wish my kids saw their grandparents more; I wish their grandparents made more of an effor to see them.

However, I wouldn't expect them to give up their annual vacation to see us, just as they don't expect that all of our travels will be to see them.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:08 PM on June 24, 2010

My 3-year-old granddaughter lives two hours away. She is my only grandchild and my love for her is boundless. I am retired, in good health, and seemingly have all the time in the world to spend with her. I have a great relationship with my son and DIL. However, I only see her once every two to three months for two or three days. Spending three days with a 3-year-old is exhausting. Spending more than three days ensconced in my son's home is not a good idea.
posted by raisingsand at 12:26 PM on June 24, 2010 [6 favorites]

My daughter's grandparents see us for maybe one full week a year, and the rest of the time we see them for maybe a day or two days at a time.

This is more time than 99% of people I know ever spent with their grandparents. It's way more than most adults see their own parents. They visit plenty. There is no problem here, except with your unrealistic expectations.

she's only going to be three once.

Your kids are not as precious to other people as they are to you. She'll only be four once too.
posted by spaltavian at 2:01 PM on June 24, 2010

I adore my grandchildren but I really don't spend that much time with them (they live out of state.)

I do talk to them on the phone, I do have fun with them when they are in town, etc. etc.

If they were in town I expect I'd be spending much more time with them, but this is how it is right now. And truth be told, I like my time with them in short bursts. A whole two weeks would be too much, because little children are...little children. I can't wait till they are older!

So don't think your situation means they don't love your child. That isn't true at all.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:00 PM on June 24, 2010

Do the grandparents work, or are they retired? If they work, then they are probably looking to their vacation as a time to chill out, unwind and spend some blissful time not thinking about anything or having anyone demand their attention - goals which they can't achieve through spending time with a 3-year-old, even a dearly loved one.

I had one set of grandparents very involved in my upbringing too, but as other people have explained, that is by no means the norm for every family, even for most families. I saw the other set of grandparents three times in my entire life and I don't feel that was wrong. Your family had a very different, much more intimately involved life than your partner's family. There is nothing superior or inferior about either way of living.

The grandparents obviously still love your child, and she won't think it's strange that she doesn't see them as often as you'd like unless you transmit that to her through your attitude. Kids accept what is happening as the norm. She doesn't have the same sense of time that you do. Please just be happy that you have a happy healthy loving family and cherish the times you do spend together. Not everyone is that lucky.
posted by andraste at 4:22 PM on June 24, 2010

Your partner grew up in a different tribe. They have different customs and different expectations, different strengths and different weaknesses.

My partner's tribe doesn't talk about feelings, but they do get into the nitty-gritty of personal finances. My tribe talks about feelings, but personal finances are private matters. Our tribes have different religious backgrounds, different eating habits, occupy different socio-economic classes, and leave different amounts of time between conversational turns. We have to learn to interact in each other's environments. When we visit his family, I try to adjust to them. When we visit my family, he tries to adjust to us. We have different expectations for the different sets of in-laws and value different things about our relationships with them.

I doubt that they are trying to personally offend you. They may worry that they are imposing on you by even being at your place as much as they are now. They may be offended that you seem to imply that they can't continue their beach vacations now that you have a child. They may not know how to approach such a volatile discussion, so they avoid it and don't answer your letters.

I wonder why your (ex?)partner is not part of this question at all. Certainly your partner could offer much more insight than we could.
posted by heatherann at 6:54 PM on June 24, 2010

You say they're your daughter's grandparents. I assume that means they aren't your parents. What does your SO say about this? If he/she thinks it's normal it's probably because his social expectations are being met, but you were raised in a different family/environment and thus your expectations aren't.

Some people are different than others. I live 10 minutes from my grandparents and see them probably 15 times a year or so. About once a month for some family get together (birthday, holiday, etc usually). If you're seeing them for 7 days in a row, that might be enough for them for several months.

Compared to my girlfriend's family, where it seems that every week is some sort of family get together. I don't see how they find the time, doesn't everyone have a job and other obligations and hobbies that would preclude that?
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:13 PM on June 24, 2010

How do I stop being upset by this?

Not here to add anything new, only to say that I'm yet another one who's only ever seen my grandparents 3-5 weekends every year. Never for an entire week at a time. Although I love and appreciate my grandparents, spending a week with them isn't something I think any of us have ever seriously considered. As they've gotten older (they are now in their 80s), now it's down to maybe only 2 weekends a year.

When I was younger, I never, ever wondered why this was the case, and your daughter won't either unless you convey to her that you are upset that they "don't want" to see her more often, or that they "prefer" the beach to seeing her. I mean, that's a pretty crumby way of interpreting their actions, isn't it?

Sure, she'll only be three once (and rest assured she won't remember a darn thing about being 3 as she gets older), but everyone else will only be all their ages once also. This is the life we get. Her grandparents are allowed to spend their time as they wish, and it certainly doesn't sound like they're neglecting her in any way. For living 10 hours apart, seeing each other two weeks a year sounds like a lot of time to me.
posted by wondermouse at 9:55 PM on June 24, 2010

Why don't you visit them more often? Or am I missing something here?
posted by chunking express at 11:15 AM on June 25, 2010

Just as a note here - I see my inlaws far less frequently than you're noting. I spend probably 4 evenings or so with them a year - and they live a 20min drive away. My parents, well, I see them a bit more frequently (perhaps once a month or thereabouts), although they live a couple hours away.

If we had children ... I can't imagine that really changing. Well, we might see the inlaws more frequently (for babysitting) but that's about it. I mean, they're grownups, they have their own lives, they don't magically get more time because I have a child.

For context, I grew up visiting my grandparents on alternate weekends, and occasionally spending a week with my maternal grandparents once a year with my brother once we were about 7 or so. Aside from learning the rosary and watching a lot of tennis, I don't really remember much. I guess in terms of contact we were close. And I'm sure that I was loved, etc, whatever. But honestly? I'd rather have been reading a book.
posted by ysabet at 5:43 AM on June 26, 2010

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