Help! My son and his wife, who live about three hours away, are expecting their first child, my first grandchild. All of my dealings with them are through my son; she does not seem to have much interest in getting to know our side of the family. She is planning to have her baby shower near her parents, three hours away from me in another direction, because it’s easier for her relatives. She texted me the choice of having our side invited to that shower or “letting” me have a “lunch” for her. I have tried to go along with her previous requests and not make any waves, but this seems excessive. I have a really good relationship with my son and am at a loss as to how to respond.
R.P. / Milford
Set your feelings aside for a moment and ask yourself what you want. Before you heard of your daughter-in-law’s plans, had you intended to host some kind of shower-ish event for her? Then tell her you’d like to, and do what you have in mind. If you hadn’t, either go to the planned shower or send your regrets. You have two choices, one of which would involve virtually no action — formulating a response should be easy!
You don’t say what “her previous requests” are, which robs me of some relevant backstory, but in the situation you describe, I see no reason not to assume good intent. There’s nothing wrong with your son being the main conduit between you, that’s for sure. Far too many married straight men wind up with their wives as social directors or their best-and-only friend, which isn’t a healthy tendency for husband or wife. This young mother-to-be sounds to me like an introvert who’s trying to keep everyone happy while growing a person in her body, not the easiest of tasks.
Instead of taking offense at her personal style, focus instead on what you can do to make life easier for the new parents. After all, your daughter-in-law is the person who will shortly be controlling access to your very first grandchild. Whoever is right or wrong, the real politik of the situation is that you’re the one who needs to go on the charm offensive, not her. Since your son gets along with both of you, ask him for help mending the bridges.Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Get the best of the magazine’s award-winning stories and features right in your e-mail inbox every Sunday. Sign up here.