Q: Can you give me any tips on how to stay close to [...]
Ask Jackie: accused of treating daughters differentlyCreated by Jackie Highe in Ask Jackie, Being a Granny-carer
Q: Dear Jackie, I have two grown-up daughters who haven’t seen eye to eye for 14 years. When my eldest daughter got married, she refused to have her younger sister as a bridesmaid, because she is overweight and it would make the wedding photo’s look awful. I was saddened by this and it created bad feeling between both my girls. She had four bridesmaids and two of them were chunky girls!
My eldest daughter has travelled the world over, and she has visited some countries three times or more. She’s even travelled Concorde when it was in service. She’s done the lot and had a great life!
My eldest daughter, now aged 38 years, decided to have a baby at long last. She gave birth to a little boy last June and I wasn’t informed that she’d given birth until the baby was 5 minutes old. I was denied being at the birth of my first grandchild.
In September last year, (baby less that 3 months old), she told me that both her, her boyfriend and the baby are moving out of Essex to Gloucester to be nearer to his place of work. She assured me that I could come and stay with them at there five bedroom house anytime I liked and I’ve been there twice since they moved in, staying with them for three/four days, both times.
Unlike my well-travelled eldest daughter, my youngest daughter is struggling to make ends meet through life and lives in a tiny council flat. Being a caring Mum and trying to do a good turn, I took my youngest daughter to Egypt for eight days. She loved it and was so excited by it all, couldn’t wait to tell all her friends when she got back home. I asked her not to put it on the internet as this could cause problems. She put in on Facebook, not for spite, but because she wanted everyone to know she’d actually been on a holiday. My eldest daughter saw her Facebook page and immediately phoned me and went ballistic.
My eldest accused me of treating both of my daughters differently, despite she’s been everywhere herself. She said that if I can’t treat both my daughters equally, then don’t bother coming to Gloucester anymore. She says that the only way to get back on track with her, is that I offer to take her and her son on a holiday to DisneyWorld, Florida. I’m a retired pensioner, living on a pension and a council flat.
She says that the only way to get access rights to see my grandchild is to go down the legal route and see where that gets me. She’s a hard nosed C**.
Suddenly, after all those years of not wanting to speak to her younger sister, she’s now phoning her and they are both getting on fine. My eldest says that I’m the one who has caused all of this trouble. She is punishing me for taking her sister on a holiday and using the baby as leverage.
I’m devastated. I can’t do right, for doing wrong!
A: Some things stand out to me very clearly on reading your letter, Sylvie. The first is that people are a mix of good and bad – that everyone has faults.
Your elder daughter’s seems to be that she sees the world in terms of her own needs and wishes, rather than anyone else’s feelings. When things are going right for her, she’s fine – but when she wants something, then everything goes down before it.
Hurting her sister’s feelings didn’t seem to matter to her when she was planning a ‘perfect’ wedding – although given her subsequent choice of bridesmaids, I’m left wondering whether there wasn’t some other issue between them that made excluding her attractive.
Second, I wouldn’t be insulted at not hearing about the birth of your grandchild (unless she’d previously promised you that you could be there at the birth). Five minutes after seems pretty good, given all that’s going on at a birth. You must have been among the first they called, maybe even the very first. And they gave you a standing invitation to their home.
It was lovely of you to take your younger daughter on holiday, although it would have been better not to have made her promise to keep it secret, but to have explained to her sister yourself, beforehand, just why you were doing it. It was always going to come out.
Your elder daughter is now trying to force you with threats to ‘treat her the same’.
You need to sit her down and, without losing your temper or name-calling, or accusing her, give her a few home truths. Tell her gently, but firmly, that you weren’t playing favourites; that her sister hasn’t been as fortunate as she has in life, and that you were trying to give her a little fun. Say you love both your girls the same (you do). She clearly needs to hear this, because it strikes me that jealousy is at the root of the problems here. Maybe you tend to make a bit of a fuss of your youngest, to compensate. Just because the elder has had a ‘better’ life doesn’t mean that she doesn’t need fussing over sometimes.
Say to her ‘look, I can’t take you away too – I can’t afford it – you know that I only have my pension. I don’t need to give you things for you to know I love you. If you take away my grandchild, you’ll break my heart – and hers, too. She spends a lot of time with me – don’t take that away from either of us.
Ask your younger daughter to back you up. She should – she knows why you did it. She’s obviously happy to be on good terms with her big sister, but she can use it to help you. Again, don’t do this angrily, but gently.