When people first get the news that they are to become a grandparent, the standard reaction is a combination of disbelief and glee. And as more grandchildren make their entrances into the world, the joy typically multiplies, with many grandparents happily stating that spending time with their grandkids is one of the most pleasurable parts of their lives.
While most parents encourage their children to enjoy close, loving relationships with their grandparents, some make the decision to keep their kids away completely. As difficult as it is, these grandparents must then learn to accept that they aren’t welcome in their grandchildren’s lives.
One Grandmother’s Story
Sydney loves her grandchildren, all eight of them, yet she is experiencing a painful disconnect from all but one.
The mother of two daughters and a son, Sydney was close to her grandchildren until about a year ago, when without notice, her oldest daughter, Jillian, made it clear that she was no longer welcome in her life or the lives of her children.
Sydney was crushed—and baffled. As far as she knew, she’d done nothing to warrant such a radical decision.
Just six months before, this same daughter had named her new baby after her mother. “She wouldn’t say much,” Sydney says, when asked what reasons her daughter gave for her decision. “She says I use my bipolar as an excuse.”
Sydney is bipolar and she is the first to admit that her illness has caused her and her children a great deal of pain over the years, especially when the kids were growing up.
As a young mother, Sydney wasn’t always able to function as she would have liked, but back in those days, she didn’t have a name for her condition. “I failed them,” she says, “When they were children, I failed them.”
Since her diagnosis, she has been diligent about following her doctor’s orders and taking the necessary medications. The person she is today is a far stretch from the struggling young woman she was as she worked her way through nursing school while raising her three children on her own.
Sydney’s bipolar is well-controlled and she enjoys a happy, healthy marriage, is a semi-retired nurse, and in her spare time, she takes professional-quality photographs.
Her life is full—except for the painful distance from her daughters and their children. “I miss them. Even with all that as happened and all of the hurtful things that have been said, I miss them.”
One Daughter’s Influence
When Sydney’s oldest daughter banned her from seeing her children, her second daughter soon followed suit. Only her son, John, has resisted his sister’s influence, allowing Sydney and her husband to enjoy normal grandparent connections with his son, who is five years old. “Jill is manipulative.
She is charismatic, likable, and funny, but she manipulates people,” says Sydney, trying to explain why Lindsay, her second daughter, has also decided to keep her children out of Sydney’s life. Sydney recalls that when the girls were growing up, Lindsay was often afraid of her older sister, who was sometimes mean to her.
It seems that even as adults, Sydney’s oldest daughter is still able to intimidate her younger sister.
Sydney’s oldest grandchild, Lauren, is an adult and is also the mother of a young son. When she was planning her son’s first birthday party, Lauren included her grandmother on the guest list.
Sydney knew that her daughters would be in attendance and that it might be somewhat awkward, but she looked forward to the get-together.
Sadly, Lindsay announced that she and her family would not attend the party if her mother was there, so Sydney made the difficult decision to bow out. “I didn’t want her children to miss the party.
I wouldn’t do that to them, so I chose not to go,” Sydney said, her voice thick with sadness.
She has tried to initiate conversations with her daughters and her grown granddaughter, but all of Sydney’s attempts have been ignored. Jill is bitter, that much is clear, but the origin of her anger is unclear.
The same could be said about Lindsay. Until a year ago, Sydney was allowed a normal closeness with her grandchildren—Lindsay and her husband even left their four children with Sydney and her husband for a number of weekends—but since then, the only topic that she is willing to discuss with her mother is a loan that Sydney authorized so that her daughter and her husband could finance a new vehicle.
Sydney has attempted to stay in touch with Lauren, but is met with a somewhat cold response. “If I call her, she talks to me, but she never calls.”
When asked if she thinks things will turn around, Sydney hesitates. “My therapist does, but I’m not so sure.” She is allowed send gifts to Jill’s children and her son-in-law sees that his children send thank you notes.
Gifts are also sent to Lindsay’s kids, but Sydney has reason to suspect that the kids never get them. Still, she tries. “I just want my family back.”