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Hax: Never a case of too much love

  • Article by: CAROLYN HAX
  • March 29, 2013 - 4:00 PM

Editor’s note: Carolyn Hax is on vacation, so she’s letting readers give the advice while she’s away.

On stepparents and the grandparent role:

Many years ago I went through a devastating divorce after a long marriage, and my former husband eventually remarried. One day I saw a snapshot of his new wife holding the hand of my precious 3-year-old granddaughter, my first grandchild, at a fair. They were smiling together, obviously having a great time. It went through me like a sword. My first thought was NO! That’s MY granddaughter! You WILL NOT have her!

Then I brought myself up and remembered: No child can ever have too much love, and the more people who love her the better. She does not belong to me, or to any other; furthermore, she will love whomever she loves.

Although I sometimes experience the sadness of not getting to share grandparenting joys as I had planned, I vowed not to allow jealousy to rule me nor contaminate my relationship with my granddaughter, who is now grown and married. We love each other deeply. As for the other “grandmother,” well, that love continues also, and why not?

‘Real’ grandkids

Our personal experience was with a grandmother who introduced her grandchildren (two adopted, one biological) to a neighbor and explained that only the youngest was a “real” grandchild; I managed to smile and say, “They all look pretty real to me,” causing a little embarrassment to her, but she never said anything like that again. Sadly, though, the oldest child, who was about 6 at the time, never forgot this incident.

The beauty of ‘no’

On the beauty of “no,” continued:

There are really very few people to whom you owe explanations; bosses and spouses come to mind first, and only for certain circumstances. Examples of a “succinct no” for all others:

“I can’t make it.”

“I cannot participate.”

“I’m not interested.”

“I cannot commit to that.”

Providing more elaboration only encourages others to start negotiating or, worse, invoke their own objections to your “no” response. Once you start using these simple turn-downs, you’ll receive little additional badgering, and you’ll have less stress.

Delivering these messages via email and IM/texting is often easier than verbal communications — a good place to start for the shy or wavering folks.

Holiday tussle

On the tussle for prime holidays, nutshell edition:

Life is too short to play tug-of-war with your kids and grandkids. Be the big person and adjust your schedule. They will all love you for it.

E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her at 11 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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