Dear Carolyn: My daughter is approaching the age of big life events, though these events most likely are a way off for her, personally. Seeing her friends’ lives changing has made her think about her dreams for the future a lot more. Most of it is pretty much what you would expect: a great job, a nice home, a husband, maybe kids, a chance to make a difference in the world, good stuff, and well within her reach if she chooses to stay on her current path.
The problem that keeps interfering with her happy little fantasies is her grandmother. My daughter despises Granny. She has good reason not to feel close to Granny, who is the most narcissistic person I have ever met, is brutally outspoken and has an awful, hair-trigger temper. We have always walked a tightrope, trying to protect our daughter from Granny’s problem personality without completely abandoning a handicapped, needy old woman. As a result, there was not a lot of contact between Daughter and Granny, but she did witness some crazy in action.
Though the parties will not happen anytime soon, I am already hearing regular pleas that Granny not be included in anything. My daughter’s fears are more than justified. Granny will embarrass Daughter in front of her friends, dress like a prostitute from the ’70s, find some way to take credit for any and all of Daughter’s accomplishments, mock every mistake Daughter has made since birth, hit on her (potential) future husband, demand group acknowledgment that Granny is more intelligent than the graduate, more beautiful than the bride, and have a temper tantrum if people do not agree enthusiastically enough, give sex advice publicly, plus any number of surprises. It is what she does, and she will never change.
The results of not inviting Granny would be just as bad and of longer duration. A destination celebration would not help — Granny loves to travel. We have tried to either instill a sense of pity or a sense of humor in our daughter where these antics are concerned, to no avail. We have also tried unsuccessfully to explain to Granny that she might have to be nice to the kid if she wants to be loved by her. At this point, I feel like my daughter either needs to suck it up or put off her parties until after Granny dies. Do you see any hope of forging some kind of peaceful solution in the next few years?
A Hootenanny Unto Herself
“We'll get there when we get there.” — Mr. Incredible
That’s how you answer your daughter when she asks. With none of these events even on the horizon, the discussion doesn’t need to be, either. Period. Done. Dreading Granny’s effect now on events later only grants Granny even more power than she already has, and she already has too much.
That advice is for you, but applies to Daughter as well.
If the time comes for Daughter to plan a wedding and Granny’s still going strong, let your daughter decide whom she does and doesn’t invite.
Meaning: End, once and for all, not just this woman’s tyranny, but also the family tradition of one generation holding the strings of the next. Enough is enough, as you of all people must know.
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