Should I? Family dynamics...

Discussion in 'Family Life - Stories, Pictures & Updates' started by Squishy, Dec 1, 2011.

  1. Squishy

    Squishy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 2, 2011
    So... This question is about my grandmother, otherwise known as Nana, who lives in/ is an Australian.

    Mom moved here to marry my father when he had to return to the US back in the 80's. They had my brother, then had me.
    All of moms family of course, is still in Australia.
    As most of my fathers family had passed before I was born, saving one set of cousins in Kentucky... we were kind of always cutting it alone as a family.

    Long story almost kind of short, I met my Aussie grandparents twice, once when I was 7 or 8, they made a VERY brief attempt to live in the USA.. we got them a close by apartment and furniture and stuff, set up before they got here, but they had to leave for unforseen financial complications, so they were far better of in Aus [​IMG].
    And once when my mom and I took a month long trip to Australia when I was 10 or 11.

    Problem was... when we went to Australia... the flights were so long.. I had premature female issues.. I had extreme jet lag, not even sure thats what it was, I was not feeling my best.... and mom was crabby because I'd thrown up on too many sets of clothing (and there wasn't a single accessible place to smoke in any of the airports). Sorry... but those were all the problems.

    So... apparently, as mom told me years later... the other problem is that her family, my grandmother especially, had a somewhat preconceived notion that American children are spoiled brats.

    When we arrived, in my typical childhood manner... I retreated and kept quiet. Of course greeted them and all, said Hi and spoke when asked something... but it had just never been my manner to be a loud kid... which they took as very strange. (Might have something to do with Nana having raised 3 boys and only 1 girl).

    Well.. I seem to remember putting alot of adults off with my manner.. was always referred to as shy, when in fact I probably fit the bill as precocious. Since I would listen and listen and chime in when I had something to share. Or that I was heading for the bathroom [​IMG]

    Anyway... Mom spent a good deal of the trip fairly upset, and only much later explained to me why... that Nana pretty much didn't like me. And mom loved me the way I was. So Nana was always fussing at her behind closed doors to make me do this, or make me say that.

    But I spent the majority of the first few weeks there, laying on the living room carpet playing with puzzles and things, as I wasn't feeling well still.. but Nana was convinced I was one of the attention hungry kids that was faking it.

    Seriously... I'd be more likely to fake stuff or lie now than I was as a kid. High unlikely then.

    Other problem... I WAS a picky eater... and food in other countries can be strange! Weirdest thing for me was that all of the foods that I did like didn't taste the same at all. Like tomatoes... they had flavors in them that didn't remind me of tomatoes. Nestle chocloate milk powder (moms attempt to give me some energy, LOL) was SUPER strange... it's textured or something.. and when stirred in the milk, stays gritty the whole way through out, no matter the stirring. [​IMG]
    Mom got really mad at that chocolate milk, and grabbed out the mixer even, but that didn't help. All of this with Nana watching on and thinking I must be the most spoiled brat in creation.... but I think she must have forgotten the kind of person her daughter was. The VERY determined kind... who rips her house apart if she can't find something... LOL

    So.. I didn't eat that much. Doubtless I wasn't that hungry anyway.

    On the thrid week, right after Xmas... mom and I left for our planned one week long horseback riding trip. We had such a great time together.. getting outside.. and I had started to feel better around Xmas time. Enough to ask the question of Nana.. "Why are you watching American movies?" (I had thought they had an Aussie version of Hollywood) but they laughed at me! [​IMG] [​IMG]

    So a long story getting longer....

    Nana has always sent letters to mom. They might not be very frequent, or very regular.. but it's usually 2 or 3 letters a year, and mom writes back.

    Nana doesen't "do" the internet.. she is about 75 or so.. but Dasa, my uncle who has always lived with her ([​IMG] ) actually works in communications. He has an email adress, which at times mom has sent messages to Nana through... but he is horrible at keeping up with it.

    When mom writes her letters.. every now and then I will write it a note on the blank part... and early this year, I sent several emails to Dasa requesting some information from Nana for a present I was going to give mom. It's almost a year later, and still no reply to my 6 or so emails.

    We just got the Christmas letter from Nana... and it's rather cute and a nice read, about what everyone is up to these days.... but the heading. It says "To Di and family"

    [​IMG] I suppose I qualify simply as "family"?! Theres no one else that does... my brother doesen't count, for he has never written to her, or met her more than the once. Nor does he ever recieve the letters or read them, Nana knows he lives elsewhere and has no reason to think he is interested.

    I read through her entire letter out loud... even though mom had already read it... but I don't think she minded.. especially with my little quips about the current family prodceedings [​IMG]

    And through the whole thing, all I wanted to do was write Nana back a letter accusing her of not caring about me. It sounds pathetic, I know. But I suppose I don't mind being pathetic sometimes.

    Like ... "To Dasa and Family"

    Dear Dasa... regardless of that person who we always forget to mention, I hope she hasn't fallen off a building or something. And that you are well. Tim, tom, Rue, and Roso are all well and doing this that or the other thing... and I LOVE how you told me about this that or the other thing that you are doing so sucessfully... but nevermind about that person who we always forget to mention and couldn't care less about"


    OK... I suppose I'm done being a baby now. Would you wirte that letter though?
    Or would you phrase it a bit differently? [​IMG]
  2. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    If I were you I would talk it over with your Mom and see what her feelings are about his whole thing with her mother and how she feels about you sending a letter. How you handle this situation really depends on how old you are and what exactly this relationship, or lack thereof, means to you. Many times you cannot change how or what a person thinks once they've formed an opinion, especially with such a long distance relationship. Some people just tend to be very toxic people and you have to decide if it's even worth it to mess with them. Sometimes it's better to just let it go and just live your own life.
  3. redhen

    redhen Kiss My Grits... Premium Member

    May 19, 2008
    Western MA
    Dont they have phones there?? I honestly dont know if they do.. [​IMG] [​IMG]
    I'd be calling to talk to them all if i was feeling like i wanted a connection with them...
    Talking to them might make it easier...
    Good luck! [​IMG]
  4. zzGypsy

    zzGypsy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 8, 2011
    nope, wouldn't write that letter... I don't imagine it would improve her view of you much [​IMG]

    consider that you two, even though you're blood related, don't have any sort of a relationship. mostly people feel affection for those they have a relationship with, and with whom, over time, they've built a bond. you guys don't have that.

    some folks will feel a bond of love because they're related, and they hold a sweet image of that person in their head and heart, but I think for most, the feeling of love takes contact. people aren't obligated to love you just because you're related... most folks love you for who you show yourself to be.

    in addition, if her past impressions of you, rightly or wrongly, are that you're a brat, you woudn't want to send her a snippy letter and confirm them. [​IMG] as they say, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar!

    if you want to have a loving relationship with your grandma, it looks like you'll have to go first. if you were going to write her, you might start by saying that you know you've never had much contact, but that you'd like to get to know her. tell her a *little* about your life, and then ask some questions about hers. you could have your mom tell you something about growing up in Australia, or some story about her and her mom, and then mention that to your grandma, or say that you thought it was intersting or sweet or funny. you could start with something from her most recent letter that you especially liked, and tell her why you liked it. you could tell her that you look forward to her letters because they give you a glimps of another part of the world, another culture, and family you don't know well, but would like to. you could do a little reading on australia, or the town where she lives, and then ask her a question about that too.

    show an interest in her, and maybe she'll take an interest in you. don't be surprised if it takes a while, you might have to write her half a dozen or a dozen times before she starts to change her view of you, takes an interest in you, begins to feel a bond and writes back. if she does write, I wouldn't be surprised if she only writes a few times a year, as that's all she does for her daughter... and she knows her daughter much better than she knows you.

    be sweet, be kind, be intersting, be quirky, be yourself, but be your most inviting, engaging, appealing self. writing a letter takes effort and time, give her a reason to make that effort.

    and also know that she may never warm to you... all you can do is try, with patience, persistance, a loving attitude and an open heart.

    one last thing to think about, you might give some serious thought to why you want to get to know her... if it's just so you can feel loved by her, you're not likely to get too far with this. but if it's to get to know your history, your roots, to get to know her, to learn more about your mother's life, or where your family came from, or because you're realizing how precious family is, or have discovered you would like to have the kind of relationship some of your friends have with their grandparents... well, those are pretty good reasons. you might tell her about that too.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2011
  5. zzGypsy

    zzGypsy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 8, 2011
    one last thought...

    all the stuff that happened before - the visits, what your mom said she said, all of it, leave that part out. start fresh from here. maybe, sometime after you've built a relationship with her you two can talk about all that. for now, just become friends.
  6. dainerra

    dainerra Overrun With Chickens

    Jun 4, 2011
    my DH's grandmother signed all her letters/cards/notes with "the stamp" It was just her thing. It was such a family joke that one of the cousins actually turned her signature into a stamp [​IMG]
    I see nothing wrong with the way she addressed the letter. She could have just addressed the letter to your mother, right?
    I agree, I wouldn't send the letter. Start fresh and give her a chance to get to know you. It sounds like you need a chance to get to know her as well.
  7. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    Nope, at this point in the game why write the letter? I doubt that it will make things 'better'.
  8. Squishy

    Squishy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 2, 2011
    To try to answer the questions, those I remember...

    I'm 23.

    My mom is always my first sounding board on stuff like this. Her thought about writing the letter with any sound of hurt feelings or annoyance in it, was that... Nana being the way she is.. a kind and cute person in her own way... but kind of... tough.. old fashioned.. in another, LOL... that she might get a laugh out of the way I first came up with (to mom) to write it... but then she would "Hold onto it indefinitely and read back through it whenever she felt the slightest bit upset, to find something to use against you" - quote.

    It would be so easy to call them. Too easy, for it to be possible anyway. Nana has had trouble hearing since her 50's.. so even when I was a kid, mom was nearing and finally passed the point of tolerance to carry on a phone conversation with Nana. Nana too. "What? What did you say" "WHAT?!".. something like that.

    Personally... I think that parents and grandparents have a DUTY to LOVE thier descendants. It doesen't work that way for other kinds of family... but if you had some part in the existence of another being, I tend to think you should care what happens to it. I love her just cause shes my grandma, even knowing she thinks unwell of me. Even knowing how she treated my mom. Not something I would bring up to her, of course, but something that I know that doesen't affect my feelings for her. Too strange that I would want the same from her? Well, I wont be doing that to my grandkids.

    The other... Well, I have felt the urge to connect with/learn about both sides of my family for the longest time. Growing up without many around tends to leave you wanting more.
    So for years I've been begging, annoying the heck out of those I do know for stories and info about the rest. My father, for instance.. I bugged alot.. but all I was able to squeeze out of him was the same short couple of tales about his father/grandfather/greatgrandfather and that genetically (when pressed) he was 1/4 Irish, 1/4 Scottish, 1/4 German, and a 1/4 Austrian. Never have been sure if I believe that.

    My fathers great aunt, actually kept going until just recently, when she passed at a ripe old age. As a kid I worte her so many letters. She was very old-school, lived in Boston.. and even though every response to my letters was full of highlighter marks and red corrections for spelling, grammar, ect ect. I still kept writing to her. I would work for weeks over the same letter, re-writing and re-writing it (and I was/am a good writer) trying to make it perfect... but she knew her stuff and always found something to correct, even if it was just "Where is the personality in your letters lately? I miss that." [​IMG]

    When it wasn't my writing in question, it was the content... our horses were mostly what I liked to talk about, and she would say the same thing in every response... "Remember the story about that young man who played Superman?"... but of course I still wrote to her... up until she could no longer write back or read the letters, and her husband asked us kids (one of my cousins) to stop writing because it was distressing to her.

    But she did do a big binder up for all the kids with copies of photos of various passed relations and the stories she still remembered, and managed to send me one before she passed. If I ever get around to doing a genealogy search, I have that to help me start it [​IMG] .

    So onto my mothers side... Mom has always told me every story she can remember. I know alot about the family, her childhood.. ect ect. We share a love of stories and story telling... so as much as she can remember, she tells me.
    But I wanted more... enough to make her a present I still haven't been able to make yet, but she cannot completely recall every story (she says her mind is like her purse, both are black holes [​IMG] Hehe! ).

    It feels strange to me... like a one sided conversation, that I've heard so much about Nana, but she barely knows me. As stubborn as I am, I have some trouble wrapping my mind around the idea that any grandparent wouldn't want to know ther descendants.

    Mom thinks I should send her a letter, a nice letter... and be gentle in telling her my feelings were hurt. I'm going to try that, but anticipate no response. [​IMG]
  9. HeatherLynn

    HeatherLynn Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 11, 2009
    Kentucky, Cecilia
    Write the letter but be nice and respectful. She might suprise you. I never had either of my real grandmothers. They both died before I was born. My Opa remarried when my mom was 16 so my step grandmother was always my Oma. I didn't meet her though until I was about 6 since she lived in Austria. So we go to stay the summer with them and I was so excited to have an Oma. Seriously I was. Everyone else had a grandma but me. So I would try to help her and she kept telling me to buz off. I was very upset. Everytime I would try she would say the same thing and I would run off crying. Eventually she got tired of this and complained to my mother that every time she told me to pay attention ( bez auf I think is how its spelled but I swear it sounds like buzz off) I would run off crying. She ended up laughing till tears streamed down her face because it was so silly. Both of us trying and both miss understanding. Thankfully a bit of communication solved it.

    The point of all that is that there are cultural and generational barriers and it makes communicating and developing a relationship long distance a bit harder. That bad visit probably made things seems pretty impossible but maybe a chance to see you in a different and older light will make a difference. Some communication could be the key but it needs to be a genuine attempt and developing a relationship. The only way you will pull that off is by setting the proper tone in your letter. Think of it as a chance to make a new first impression. Its not really but think of it that way and try your hardest to make it one that really reflects who you are. All you can do is try your best, if she does not respond to that effort then its her loss. You will have tried.
  10. zzGypsy

    zzGypsy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 8, 2011
    Quote:I did think you were young, 23 is a lovely age. so full of energy, certainty and passion. [​IMG]

    and... and while it may seem reasonable to think you should be loved by those related to you by blood, noone has a duty to love you. your parents have a duty to provide for you, protect you, and in a healthy family, they love you and teach you to love others. but duty? no, and especially not grandparents. in a perfect world they would, but it's not a perfect world, and you do have to live in this one the way it is.

    I don't think love is owed, I think it is biochemical, and sometimes happens, or it is earned. I think many parents love their kids because they are loving by nature, or something chemical happens when their child is born, and then that love is acted on and nutured and maintaned. but even that's not a sure thing. for everyone else, I think love is a verb - an action word that requires activity, usually on both sides.

    ok, so here's where you may think I'm being harsh, I assure you I'm not. if you want this to go differently than it has, you need to see this with somewhat different eyes. you need a less personal perspective. you need to look at this from somewhere other than "I'm wounded."

    see, here's the problem with seeing it as your grandmother's duty... it makes you feel entitled. and when you're entitled to something, and it isn't given, even though your behavior hasn't earned it, you will feel angry or slighted or hurt or put upon. feeling entitled does not bring out people's best behavior, it doesn't make them act in loving ways. it makes them act in selfish, sulky, punishing, petulant ways. and that, generally, doesn't make people more interested in loving them. in fact, it may make thim think "who does she think she is?"

    in general, if you go to someone and say "you have a DUTY to love ME", they are unlikely to respond with "well, clearly I was wrong, all of a sudden I feel SO MUCH LOVE for you! I appologize for being such a jerk and neglecting my DUTY for so long! How could I have been so stupid?" it just doesn't work that way. instead they're likely to feel indignant, as if you are presumputuous and self centered.

    so even if you are CERTAIN that it's your grandmother's duty to love you, treating her as if that's true is not very likely to work.

    you get to decide... do you want to be RIGHT about it being her duty? or do you want a warmer relationship with her? you will probably have to choose one of those, because being up her nose about her duty, and her failure to do it, will probably not end up with her feeling warm and fuzzy about you.

    the fact that you feel love for her is cool, especially in light of what little contact you've had. the fact that you're sure you'll love your grandkids, even if they don't love you, is also cool. and it doesn't make it your duty, it makes you a loving person. and that's cool. maybe your grandma doesn't feel love for those she doesn't know. that's the way things are, so the way to change it is to get to know her, and to let her get to know you. an opening move in that position starts with "I want to know you better" not "you wounded me, and you have a duty to love me."

    It feels strange to me... like a one sided conversation, that I've heard so much about Nana, but she barely knows me. As stubborn as I am, I have some trouble wrapping my mind around the idea that any grandparent wouldn't want to know ther descendants.

    Mom thinks I should send her a letter, a nice letter... and be gentle in telling her my feelings were hurt. I'm going to try that, but anticipate no response. [​IMG]

    I'd start with just the nice letter. build some relationship before you bring up the hard stuff. it gives you the strength of bond to get through the hard stuff together.

    what I highlighted above, that'd be a lovely thing to write to her, it's personal, it reveals something important about who you are and what you care about, it would get my attention if I were her.

    and yes, you're stubborn, so am I. I love stubornness... it's great power and tenacity and the will and energy to make things happen... provided it's correctly focused. when it's applied to the wrong things, it will make your life much much MUCH harder than it has to be. use your stubbornness wisely...

    you don't know that she doesn't want to know you, you only know that she doesn't make contact. use your love for her, and your stubbornness to be open and sharing and interested in her, and reveal yourself to her in a fun and interesting way. if you come to her in love and openness, rather than in hurt and entitlement, you'll probably do much better in courting her into a relationship where you can fulfill the desire to really know her, and maybe even feel her love.

    Last edited: Dec 1, 2011

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