The Kids

My Kids Will Never Be Close to Their Grandparents

by Shea Eppling

Photograph by Twenty20

When I was growing up, I always envied kids who had a close relationship with their grandparents. My experience was very different; my father's parents lived far away and rarely came to visit. As a large one-income family, we couldn't afford to go see them, either. My mother's parents came around a lot when I was little, but as we got older, their visits faded and neither set of grandparents were a big part of my life.

So when my girlfriends would talk about how they were going to spend time with their grandparents, I was always so envious and wondered what that would feel like. They always looked so safe and happy. And even though I only got a tiny taste of what having grandparents around felt like, I got nostalgic when I thought about spending an afternoon with them baking cookies, or watching a movie.

After I became a mother, I wanted so much more than what I had for my kids, and I tried to make it happen despite the fact that my relationship with my own parents was strained growing up.

They divorced, both remarried a few times and were struggling to find themselves. There was a time in high school I went over six months without seeing my father—and he only lived seven miles away. My sisters and I would call to make plans with him, but he was always too busy. He drinks and badmouths my mother, even though they divorced over 30 years ago and have both been remarried a few times since then.

My mother isn't honest and talks behind my back to my children. She's very quick to cancel plans or leave family in the dust to go meet some random, strange man she met online or has reconnected with from her past.

Despite all this, I love them they way all kids love their parents, but I gave up needing their attention and acceptance a long time ago.

I now have three kids, and while both my parents live close and we see them on occasion, my kids are not attached to them and I'm okay with that.

When I became pregnant with my first, I often thought that would propel them into grandparent mode: They would be present, they would see what they'd missed out on and use this as a second chance.

But that hasn't happened either.

And I'm tired of being disappointed. I now have three kids, and while both my parents live close and we see them on occasion, my kids are not attached to them and I'm okay with that. In fact, I'm really good with that.

My kids are older now and can think for themselves. They've asked me questions about why my father drinks and doesn't always tell the truth. They've come to me when my mom has talked badly behind my back, and I can see the torment in their faces.

I tried really hard for a few years to make an organic relationship blossom between my kids and my parents. We've had them over, gone to dinner at their house and done fun activities together. But it's always fleeting, it never sticks.

I've come to realize I can't force something that isn't meant to be. I wish it was different, and I believe my parents wish it was different, too. But they are who they are.

We can't pick our family, we can't change them or make them see things our way. And I have to let it go and realize my kids are going to turn out just fine, even if they don't have a strong, solid relationship with their grandparents.

They used to ask to see them a lot, and I loved it because I felt like perhaps their experience would be different. But it wasn't long before that feeling faded for my kids. Instead of asking to see my parents, they'd ask why they did certain things, behaved in certain ways and continued to tell me they just aren't comfortable around them.

I understand because I feel the same way about my parents. While this has been a difficult transition for us, I believe my kids have some right to choose whom they want to develop a relationship with. They still respect and love their grandparents, but they have no desire to spend the day alone with them. And, as much as I wanted things to be different for all of us, I haven't forced it on them.

And I find a lot of peace in knowing when my children have kids one day, I will break the cycle.

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