DEAR CAROLYN: My son knows that a card says a lot. Last year, my Mother’s Day card was just basic from my son, grandkids and daughter-in-law. I didn’t say anything. This year my grandson is 5 and he made a card, which was thoughtful but not from my son.
Now reread the first sentence. I have discussed this with my son in the past and I am really disappointed and hurt that he thinks that card would take the place of one from him. He’s 42 and also thinks a text is good enough for a happy birthday, etc. But Mother’s Day – I was a single mom and I gave him a wonderful upbringing and all I ask for is a card. I don’t want to say anything since this subject was already talked about.
Also I live in Florida and he lives in Virginia and has two small boys, 5 and 2, who I don’t see much. What should I do?
– Hurt In Florida
DEAR HURT: You can stop feeling sorry for yourself, for starters.
You asked me to reread the first sentence, but I went hog wild and reread the second sentence, too. Allow me to fluff it up with italics:
You got a card last year! But it was not good enough. And you got a card this year! But it was not good enough.
You are not going to like hearing this, though please be assured I sincerely do want to help you see your grandkids more: No one wants to visit people who find fault with everything. Especially with gestures intended to please you.
Multiply that lack of motivation to visit by 11 when it involves air travel and kids under 6.
People like to feel appreciated – as you well know, right? Since your whole complaint is that your son doesn’t show his appreciation of you exactly the way you instructed him to?
So flip that around. He sends you cards, as you requested, and you don’t appreciate him for his effort. Oh boy does that get old.
If you want to cultivate a close relationship with your son and his young family, then you need to replace the self-pity and disappointment with unpursed lips and gratitude that reflect awareness of what you did receive.
And next year or some other year in the future when he forgets to send a card, since cards apparently are not his natural way of showing his appreciation? That’s the best time to flex your anti-self-pity muscles, by considering that maybe he’s caught up in his own family – which, instead of a slap in the face to you, could be a monument to all you did for him. Maybe, having learned how important your devotion and hard work were to him, he’s pouring these things into his own children now. If so, bravo.
A mantra worth adopting: Corrections, no; kindness, yes.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax.