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In-laws shower grandbabies with attention but withhold it from their mom

| Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, 1:36 a.m.

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I’m not wild about my in-laws. They’re not awful people, but their conversations tend to be heavy on themselves and light on others — I don’t feel like they have made much of an effort to get to know me. I think they care, but they don’t communicate it effectively.

We have 5-month-old twins, our first kids. My in-laws have visited a couple of times since they were born, and I struggle watching them interact with the kids. They ooh and ahh and take pictures and hold the babies and all the things adoring grandparents do — and it bugs me.

I don’t want to share the kids with them. I feel like they haven’t taken the time to get to know me, but they want to play with the babies. It’s just my in-laws, too. My parents bring us dinner every weekend, and it’s the high point of my week to see my dad holding my son or daughter. The look of love and adoration on his face makes me so happy.

But watching my father-in-law dance with my daughter while my mother-in-law took pictures — I kept thinking, “She’s not a show!” I don’t want my issues to get in the way of the kids’ relationship with their grandparents, and I know my feelings about his parents make life hard for my husband. He understands where I’m coming from. I don’t expect them to change, and saying, “Hey, pay attention to me!” feels … immature. How do I change my thinking so I’m more on board the grandparent train?

— Bugged

What you describe here is basic human frailty. So your outlaws are a little self-absorbed. OK. Or, maybe they’re not really self-absorbed in other circumstances, and maybe they’re just not clicking with you the way you or they would like, and their way of keeping things friendly is to keep up a level of patter … about … whatever feels safe and handy, i.e., little stuff in their lives. Which comes off as self-absorbed when really they’re just trying to support their son and his marriage and not do anything to mess that up. Possible?

Now think of these possibilities and ask yourself, is any of this a violation of character or behavior serious enough to warrant the punishment of losing their grandkids? And to warrant punishing your kids by taking away such attentive family? And to punish your husband by denying him the “love and adoration” moment you find so gratifying from your parents?

I do not minimize how hard it is to be in your spot: hormonal and healing and forced to have people around who don’t feel like allies. But if these grandparents are good for your babies and husband — and not undermining your marriage — then you owe it to everyone to look for ways to appreciate their presence. A little relief, a few extra helping hands, more people in the world who love your kid. Right? Deep breaths.

If they were writing to me, by the way, I’d advise them to be mindful not to treat you as just the grandchild vessel. But they aren’t, so: Keep your attention on your marriage. Be mindful of your husband’s attachment to his parents. Save your protests for actual harm.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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