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Carolyn Hax: Sons pressure parents to move closer

The parents have a right to run their own lives. They should tell their sons, “Please stop — moving is not realistic, so you asking us repeatedly is salt in a wound.”

By Carolyn HaxWashington Post Writers Group

Dear Carolyn,

My husband and I, 68 and 61, were thrilled to become grandparents two years ago. We are enjoying the first years of our carefully planned retirement in our home on the East Coast.

The problem is that our sons, who live in two of the most expensive real estate markets on the West Coast, are constantly pressuring us to move closer to them. They are breaking my heart to pieces by telling me, “You know you are missing out on your grandchild’s life.”

The thing is, I was painfully aware of this consequence the day they both drove away from our home! My husband and I visit them as often as we can (not easy on a fixed income), but it just never seems to be enough.

Although I am flattered that they want us closer, they have traveled all over the country/world, but not once to visit the “beloved grandparents.” Are we being selfish to not want to forgo our retirement, return to work and downsize/relocate to appease our children?

— Gramma

If they really wish you lived closer and miss you terribly, then that’s a beautiful thing, but the pressure is no way to show it (and they ought to stop).

If they are generally fine with things but feel guilty for not seeing you more, or if they think they’re doing you a favor by often reminding you how much you’re missed, then that’s disingenuous or presumptuous, respectively (and they really ought to stop).

If they are comfortable enough with the arrangement that they’re unwilling to make sacrifices of their own to see you more, but hope they can enhance their lives of choice by pressuring you to make sacrifices to see them more, then that is selfish (and they really, really ought to stop).

 So there could be many different motives behind their pressure tactics — indeed, each son could have a different one — just as you have your reasons for staying put that have nothing to do with your emotional tie to your grandkids.

 A simple “Please stop — moving is not realistic, so you asking us repeatedly is salt in a wound,” is where I suggest you start, because people with boundaries will accept that. “Ought to” is the phrasing of an optimist, though, so you may need to address everyone’s motives to have your best chance of being heard.

 That includes, potentially, calling out a globetrotter son who talks about the grandparent time his child is missing but then walks his walk somewhere else. Don’t say it with anger or pointed fingers — but with the facts at hand: “You say you want X, then do Y, and push us to do X for you. Which we’re happy to as much as we can! But there are limits, and if you want more of us, then you’ll need to do your part, too.”

Fearing you’re in the wrong can stand in the way of such matter-of-fact reckoning, so be assured: It is not selfish to choose a home you know and can afford over costly and stressful unknowns. It’s not selfish to run your own life.

 Ultimately you might have to declare the topic off-limits (and on-limits again, should you ever need your sons’ help) — but that still beats their beating you down.

— Write to Carolyn Hax in care of The Providence Journal Features Department, 75 Fountain St., Providence, RI 02902, or email tellme@washpost.com.

 

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