Parents go on vacation often but won’t travel to see their grandchildren
Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: My parents are very active, in their mid-60s, and live a two-hour flight plus two-hour drive from me. They regularly travel internationally, see their nearby grandkids fairly frequently, and both have hobbies they’re very engaged in. We’re pretty close.
But if I want my two toddlers to see them, I almost always have to go to them, taking time off of work, loading up all our gear, etc. Whenever I ask my parents to come and visit us, they say they’re too busy with things like a cocktail party they’re planning, starting a new club for my dad’s hobby (even though he’s already active in two clubs for it!), or something else they seemingly could step away from for a few days a couple of times a year.
They currently haven’t visited since last year. For an upcoming holiday we planned to spend with them, they made plans with friends in their town — which we’re welcome to join, but they don’t really seem to care if that is feasible for us.
I’ve read enough of your columns to know I can’t change them, so how do I let go of being angry and hurt over this and keep giving willingly when they don’t give back? I don’t think the travel is too much for them because they travel much farther for vacations, and I don’t think it’s that they’re not up for toddlers, because when we go there, they’re very engaged with the kids. We’re just behind cocktail parties, hobby clubs, painting classes, vacations and pretty much everything else on their priority list.
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I want to skip our next visit, because if they don’t care, then why should I? But that seems petty, and would possibly just lead to having no relationship at all.
— Accepting Grands
DEAR ACCEPTING GRANDS: Have you told them yet, explicitly, that you feel hurt by their unwillingness to travel to see you and your kids?
Carolyn: Historically, emotional conversations just make them shut down, ever more so when we have touched on this topic. It hasn’t gone well. I need to decide: Do I drag kids to them so we can actually spend time together? And if so, how do I not resent them and their choices?
— Accepting Grands again
DEAR ACCEPTING GRANDS AGAIN: Please stop holding the space in your life for these imaginary attentive grandparents. You have parents and they are who they are, not who you think they will magically become in the presence of your children. So just stop. You’re torturing yourself and, quite possibly, teaching your kids that it’s OK to mark your happiness as “pending” while you wait for other people to do things for you.
How do YOU want to handle visits? And don’t say, “In my own home with my parents visiting.” Choose only from the options available to you. You can make do without their company, and invest in a “local family” of people you care a lot about and who show an interest in you; or you can travel to see your parents and accept they won’t reciprocate; or you can make it your priority, too, to save your travel for touring interesting places.
Just, decide. Stop giving your power away.