The day my son got married, I felt like I was having an out of body experience. From all appearances, it was a lovely, lavish wedding, but there was an undercurrent that I couldn’t identify. At the reception, my family and I were directed to a corner table, under an EXIT sign and I soon became aware of a certain aloofness on the part of my son’s new wife and her family. I knew then that my new daughter-in-law would prove to be a challenge.
I worked hard to be a non-interfering, supportive and loving mother-in-law. I deferred to my daughter-in-law on all matters concerning her and her children. I learned, early on, that it would be smart to keep my mouth shut. I got it: They are her children, not mine.
Unfortunately, she led a campaign of criticism against me. She peppered my son with distortions and vitriol. I was often accused of saying things I didn’t say and doing things I didn’t do. My son, understandably, felt trapped in the middle and wanted his wife to be happy, so he went along with her. As time went on, I did all I could to stay alive in the nerve-wracking game I found myself forced to play. But the rules kept changing and in the end, I lost.
Early on, following the birth of their first son, I was abruptly shut out of their lives. Due to a misunderstanding, which, under normal circumstances would have been solved by a simple conversation, I was told that in order to see my grandchildren, I had to sign a contract. This contract defined the terms of visitation. I was allowed every third Christmas with them and if I said anything that they didn’t like, they would disallow visits with the baby and future children they might have. It was shocking, unreasonable and based on misperceptions and lies. But, ultimately and under duress, I signed it because I was told that if I didn’t, I’d never see my grandchildren again. After about ten months, (during which I was only allowed short, supervised visits with the baby in case I was planning on kidnapping him!), we came to an understanding and there was relative calm for awhile.
Then, several years and three more children later, they suddenly cut me out of their lives AGAIN. One day, with no previous communication or warning, I received a phone call from a man who introduced himself as my son’s “family therapist.” This therapist stated that my son and daughter-in-law wanted me out of their lives. He told me that my son didn’t want to talk to me about it, that he didn’t love me and that his marriage was less stressful without my presence and my ‘drama.’ There was no explanation, no incident was cited. I had rendered absolutely no abuse upon their children, had only loved and cherished them, yet I was blocked from them and from any family connection.
My ‘story’ is heartbreaking. However, I’m less interested in listing all the offenses and injustices at the hands of my son and daughter-in-law, than I am in sharing my process of healing and recovery.
I have grieved, cried and howled at the moon at the inequities of the events that have resulted in being alienated from my grandchildren. They are growing up without knowing me, their paternal grandmother, which sears my heart. But, I have come to understand that, try as I may, I can’t fix it.
I can only ‘fix’ myself.