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Susan Adcox

Grandmother Faced With Heartbreaking Choice

By May 31, 2012

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A letter in yesterday's Dear Abby presented one of the most difficult challenges a grandparent can face. "Florida Grandma" wrote about "Nicole," her 18-year-old granddaughter who has been in serious trouble, including an arrest for credit card fraud. Nicole's father Dave, a single parent, has cut ties with Nicole and wants his mother to do the same. In fact, he has told "Florida Grandma" that if she maintains contact with her granddaughter, she will lose contact with him, her son. The grandmother writes: "I understand how hurt my son is and don't want to hurt him further, but I don't think he should tell me what I can do." Abby agrees with the grandmother that her son does not have the right to tell her what to do. Abby wisely points out, however, that the price of going her own way may be estrangement from her son. In addition, Abby says, a continued relationship with the "deeply troubled" granddaughter may bring its own heartache. Neither Abby nor the letter writer mentions substance abuse, but if that is part of Nicole's problem, more heartache is almost certainly in the picture.

I agree with Abby, but I see another dimension to the situation. Dave also has a 10-year-old son. If Dave cuts "Florida Grandma" out of his life, she will almost certainly lose contact with her grandson. So the son has put the grandmother in the position of, in essence, choosing between her grandchildren. That makes his ultimatum even more wrong, but, in my view, it makes the grandmother's choice easier. How can she give up a son and a grandson for a granddaughter who has already betrayed the family with her behavior? I think that "Florida Grandma" should just hang on and hope for a change in the situation. What do you think? Leave a comment below.

More Grandparenting Issues in Dear Abby:

May 31, 2012 at 11:55 am
(1) Grandma Kc says:

That is a difficult decision. I don’t agree with Dave forcing his Mother to break ties just because he has, that should be her choice. When my daughter was a teenager I broke ties with my own mother but I never asked my own daughter to do the same. In fact I encouraged her to have her own opinion and to do what she thought was best. I didn’t want her caught in the middle. But that is just worked for us….

May 31, 2012 at 12:54 pm
(2) HB says:

I don’t like the idea of Dad trying to coerce his mother to do anything, especially cut ties to her granddaughter. That should be her decision to make. If he wants to break ties with her, that’s his business. And if he wants to keep her away from is 10-yr old son, again that is his business. But aside from that he should not break ties, nor keep his son from seeing his grandmother over a relationship she has with someone else.

The problem I see with grandmother maintaining a relationship with her granddaughter despite her son’s objections is that she should be prepared to face the fact that is probably inviting trouble from someone who has chosen whatever she is involved in over her immediate family, and quite possibly placing herself in the position of enabler.

I think Dad’s position should be to let grandmother know what is going on, why he has made the decision he’s made, and let her know that if the daughter is around, he nor his son will be. She should be able to have whatever relationship she wants with her granddaughter, but understand that he doesn’t want to discuss or have her involved in family activities that include Dad and son.

June 1, 2012 at 12:01 am
(3) Susan Adcox says:

Very good comments, Grandma Kc and HB. I can imagine that it must be heartbreaking to see one’s granddaughter making wrong choices and it would be very easy to become an enabler. But I think we are in agreement that the father went too far in his ultimatum.

June 1, 2012 at 5:47 am
(4) granny annie says:

Perhaps the son is trying to protect his mother. In a similar family situation my parents were asked not to take in a grandchild because this child always bled them dry of finances and energy. I think they finally were glad to say to this grandchild knocking once again at their door that they could not take him in because his dad had requested it and the child should first work things out with their son. It relieved all of us.

June 18, 2012 at 6:55 pm
(5) lisa says:

Florida Grandmother has hopefully readdressed this issue with the son. Maybe the granddaughter needs to know that she is cared for to finally seek change. It would depend on what “trouble” we are referring to.
Maybe the father has contributed to the acts of the daughter to begin with.
I would hate to hear she was taken advantage of by the grand daughter and lost touch with the grandson as a result.
Maybe there could be boundaries set up such as The Grandmother maintains both relationships by not talking to the father/daughter about the other. Not seeing them at the same times and doesn’t give into manipulation of either of them. The “son/father” is wrong to tell his mother who she may or may not have a relationship with to being with and as long as the mother isn’t running to him about the daughter and agrees not to tell the daughter about the fathers life and until ‘dad’ feels different should not undermine him by sneaking the g-daughter and g-son together (as sad as it is they need to be apart the father “maybe” looking after the best interest of the son. It is hard to give advice on having only half the story.

June 18, 2012 at 9:44 pm
(6) Linda says:

She should refuse to be put in the middle and try to bring about a reconciliation.

June 21, 2012 at 9:47 am
(7) Joyce says:

Having been a high school teacher, my heart goes out to the granddaughter. Age 18 is by no means too late to turn one’s life around, yet how can this be done without support from a loving family member? Perhaps the grandmother could tell her son that while she respects his decision to treat the issue with a “tough love” response, she would like to reach out with a letter to the girl that expresses her committment to help redirect her life. The choice would be left to the granddaughter. Communication is available only if amends are made and the ‘life of crime” is abandoned. Grandma would then proceed with caution…”trust, but verify”! If the child really turns around, the family unit can be restored and everybody wins! I hope this is the case for those people in that heartbreaking situation!

January 17, 2013 at 1:41 pm
(8) Nana says:

Families surely do a lot of things to hurt each other, even with the best intentions. I have family members estranged from each other but I have maintained a relationship with all of them. There is no love like a grandparent’s love and I would never want to be estranged from any grandchild. People need to realize they can’t control other adults and be compassionate about the love between grandparent and grandchild. Who knows? This could turn the young lady around.

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