My Child is Behaving Like My Horrid Mother

 I am devastated.  My late mother was a perfect example of a horrid mother.  She crushed my sister and brother but although I suffered inside I stood up to her and have had a good life.  I have been married for over thirty years and have a wonderful daughter who I am very close to.  However, my younger son treats me just like my mother treated my siblings.  I don’t know what I have done wrong, nor does my daughter but he is breaking both my and my wife’s heart.  I find myself walking on eggshells just as I did as a child.  

Initially we thought it was a teenage thing but he is now thirty and married with twin girls. He is very close to his inlaws but we rarely see him.  On the rare occasions he comes round, his wife is always ‘busy.’  He only told us the date of their wedding a week before it happened. I couldn’t go because I was working in the States and he subsequently told me he was ‘disgusted’ I didn’t change my plans.  Nor did we know they were expecting twins until the day his wife went was in labour.  He did though ask for some financial help for them to buy a small house and I gave him a six figure sum.  It upsets us that we have never been invited there.  He also flies into a rage about the smallest thing.  One year his birthday card arrived a day late and when we bought two presents each for the children instead of the prescribed one, he was incandescent that we had ‘disobeyed’ his order.  He then ignored us for months.  My wife has often offered to babysit but he turns her down.     

Last Christmas he told us on 22ndDecember that he was spending it with his in-laws in the country and has made no suggestions for popping round since.  We are devastated.  His sister, who he is almost equally unpleasant to, has tried to suggest she and he sought some therapy but he mocked her.  If I spoke to his in-laws or wife I know we will never see him again. Has he perhaps inherited my mother’s genes? Please help me.  


How sad that you had a horrid mother and now your son is behaving in a similar unpleasant way, particularly as you don’t know why. Until you understand the situation better it will be hard to work out how to  move forward.  

Unfortunately in some families there are patterns of unpleasant behaviour that run from one generation to the next.  Sometimes the cycle can be broken by  kindness but some personality issues develop by themselves.   

It sounds as if your son’s behaviour problems began when he was a teenager It may help for you and your wife to think about his development and note when they occurred and the most effective ways you managed him.  You could also talk to your  daughter and others you are close to help you pinpoint any unresolved arguments or resentments as this will increase the change of you understanding what may be happening. 

It sounds as if his wife is also part of the problem as she obviously wants to keep her distance.  This may be a reaction to what your son has told her about her  but she may also just not like you.    

As things are quite tense at the moment it might be worth keeping lines of communication open from a distance. You could ask your son if he would like you to send your presents to his daughters or if he’d like to pop by and collect them.  Try to keep to his boundaries at the moment but then gradually make a gentle attempt to  discuss what has upset him and your wish to be part of his family unit.  You might prefer to try this through an intermediary, or by email, whichever way you think is least likely to alienate or anger him. It will take time so don’t rush it or set your expectations too high.