I believe grandparents can be a rich and vital part of any child’s upbringing. Perhaps that’s because I have many fond memories of weekend afternoons as a teenager, having tea and playing cards with my grandparents who lived just a short distance away.
I so wanted my own children to have that experience but it was not to be – my mum and my ex’s father both passed away before our children were born, my father lived in England while we were in the US and my ex’s mother was mostly too ill to interact in that way.
Debbie’s parents live close to her and so her eight-year-old son sees them on a regular basis and no doubt gets spoiled by them. However, there is no contact with his grandparents on his father’s side. Here’s Debbie to explain why.
They live in Florida, we live in Ohio so it wasn’t like they were nearby. They were very long-distance grandparents even when my husband and I were married.
I don’t know exactly why they cut off contact. I had emailed them during the divorce and offered contact with my son. I didn’t want to be one of those vengeful moms. I really tried to do the right thing but I never heard anything back.
I think, and my ex’s best friend also thinks my ex was abused as a child and I suspect it may have been his dad. I always knew there were a lot of secrets in the family but I never expected them to be these kinds of secrets. I do wonder if the reason they cut off contact was because I got too close to the secrets.
Most grandparents don’t just cut off contact. Sometimes, like in Kristi’s situation, parents may not support the decision to divorce and that means less contact with the children. But the lack of communication in Debbie’s case makes me think there’s more to the story that I don’t know.
Interestingly, about three months after my ex committed suicide, his parents sent my son a present in the mail, saying it was from them and his dad, who was dead so that was a little weird. We started some correspondence and they ended up coming here to visit.
That was horrible for me. I knew I needed to be with my son because if it was his grandfather who was an abuser, he was not safe to be around. I obviously didn’t know anything for sure but I felt I had to protect my son.
We met at zoo and it was weird and it was awkward but it was OK. We did it one more time and then it started getting strange. They said their goal in having a relationship with my son was to make sure he knew what a good father he’d had.
I wanted my son to know that his dad loved him but to also be realistic. They refused to talk about anything. They refused to deal with any of the past. They had very different goals from me. So I recently had to cut things off again. I said,
“I’m more than happy to continue a relationship but it has to be under these ground rules. We have to open, we have to be honest, we probably need to talk with a therapist about how to move forward.”
I haven’t heard from them since. I’m glad I tried to make it work but there was something about it that made me very uneasy.
The Divorce Coach Says
I wouldn’t have given up my time with my grandparents for anything so my first reaction on hearing that a child has no contact with his grandparents is disappointment. However, a mother’s instinct is not to be ignored and Debbie did what she had to do to keep her son safe. She set out the ground rules for future contact and heard no more. They could have come back to negotiate but didn’t.
Is Debbie’s open approach the best one? Is that what you would do? Me – I think the key here is Debbie’s “age-appropriate” answers to questions about her ex’s sex offenses. My kids have asked questions periodically about their dad’s and my divorce – I try to answer them honestly but they do not need to know all the details and nor do I think they want all the details. If I’m not sure how much detail to disclose, I use that age-old technique of answering a question with a question.
How do you answer your children’s questions about your divorce or about your ex? Is there anything you avoid discussing with them?
PS – I know this is a longer series of posts than my usual but I’m sure you’ll agree that Debbie’s story complex. Coming next week will be posts about Debbie’s growth and healing – think 100 mile bike ride as well as reflections.
Photo Credit: edenpictures at Flickr