Those of you are regulars to this blog know what a fan I am of the "Dear Carolyn" advice columnist, Carolyn Hax. Her responses to some often very bizarre situations are repeatedly right-on. Even run-of-the-mill family issues are dealt with respectfully, directly and with a steadfast wisdom. Her column, "Mom frustrated by grandparents who come up short," published Jan 3rd is no exception.
A "Disillusioned Mama" writes about her divorced in-laws apparent lack of interest or love for their grandchildren. She sums up her question,
Now, here is the core of the issue. I married into a highly dysfunctional family, and the result is my kids now suffer. As an only child, I had dreamed of marrying and creating a warm, extended family for my children with loving aunts, uncles, cousins and especially grandparents. On my side of the family, my cousins, their kids and my aunts and uncles embrace and celebrate my children.
How do I resolve this? How do I explain to my children, who deserve to be loved and valued by the people around them, that these relatives are the losers in the equation?
Carolyn gives a great preamble of possible reasons for the grandparents' behaviors, but this is conjecture on her part. She sums up what is "known" given what the Mama wrote:
You dreamed of a warm, extended family for your kids.
Then you married into a highly dysfunctional family.
And you didn’t adjust your dreams accordingly.
That last line says it all. How many times in my life have my "dreams" not matched my "reality?" (Answer: LOTS!) And how many of those times have I adjusted my dreams accordingly versus feeling frustrated, angry, bitter, et al? (Answer: Not very many).
The line that hit home for me was:
When people disappoint you in significant ways, you have a choice: Carry on without them, or reset your expectations to reflect what they actually give.
In a committed relationship where love (and possibly misunderstandings) abound, "carry on without them" is not a viable option. The second phrase involves a task that I struggle with: not only the "resetting expectations" part but the unstated need to appreciate and honor what is actually given.
Sometimes as parents we must reset expectations with our children, sometimes with our partner, sometimes even with ourselves. I love my husband's attitude in this regard...which he expressed beautifully in a homemade card he gave me a few days ago along with a sweet belated birthday gift. He wrote:
Your life may be full of disappointments and revelations but ...
You are my Greatest Adventure!
Maybe if when "people disappointment me in significant ways" I could better "reset [my] expectations to reflect what they actually give" if I, too, saw them as one of my Greatest Adventures...
[Originally posted on the Gürze Books Eating Disorders Blogs]