My mother’s behaviour is appalling. I have two children aged five and seven. My husband and I are trying to bring them up on a healthy diet and protect them from nastiness in society. Something I believe my mother is trying to sabotage. She has always been difficult and controlling, but her regular attempts to undermine me and my husband’s roles as parents has gone too far.
Like many parents today we keep an eye on our children’s sugar intake. We are careful about the number of sweets, sugary drinks and ice cream they have and I am pleased to say they accept our restriction. We also monitor what they see on television and ban gratuitous violence and overt sex. They are still very young.
My mother, however, has deliberately gone against our rules. She gives them a vast amount of sweets and when they are with her lets them watch any amount of television, some of which has been totally inappropriate. One film caused them both to have nightmares for weeks. I have asked her several times not to behave like this but she immediately takes offence and claims she is their grandmother and has more experience of bringing up children than I do. Since she criticised me non stop when I lived at home and gave me an unhappy childhood, this is indeed ironic.
My husband now feels we should no longer leave the children with her on their own. He is right but there is something deep inside me that doesn’t want to give up on her.
I also want my children to have a grandmother in their lives and their own special relationship. What is your advice?
Wanting your children to grow up healthily and protecting them from unnecessary harm are admirable aims. The fact that they go against your mother’s style and her refusal to compromise means you have to make a choice. Your wish for your children to have a warm, loving relationship with their grandmother is probably based on what you wanted to have with your mother. Instead you were endlessly criticised and unhappy. It is likely that she will treat your children in the same way.
Allowing them to watch a film that affected them badly means your mother has broken any trust you may have had for her. Your husband is right that leaving them on their own with her while they are so young and impressionable is likely to result in the same thing happening again.
There are however other options for letting your mother be part of your children’s lives. You can invite her to stay with you, you can stay with the children whenever they visit her or you can meet up for an outing on neutral ground.
Be prepared for your mother to insist that she continues to have sole charge of your children and enlist your husband to join you in taking a firm stand that it won’t happen.