Family Relations/rift with adult son


Hi, David,
I am 63, divorced for almost 15 years. I have 2 grown sons with whom I have always had a wonderful relationship. Both are married and have children.
    My oldest son, Shannon, has lived 2,000 miles away for about 8 years. He moved because my daughter-in-law was going to grad school. I had encouraged them to move away and experience a different part of the country, with the thinking that they would move back after grad school. Well, they have so far decided to stay where they are. 3 years ago my first grandson was born. Shannon gave family members a web cam so that we would be able to skype and keep in touch with the grandson. We also somehow managed to see each other about every 4 or 5 months. I was not thrilled about the distance, but I was dealing with it and did not complain about it.
     Now everything has changed. For one, there is now a new grandson who was born in Nov. Also, now that they have to pay airfare for the oldest child, they can't afford to travel very often and once the newest child turns 2, travel will become almost out of the question. As for me, I am self-employed and cannot afford to travel very often either.
     I was still dealing with all of this until back in August when out of the blue, while we were skyping, Shannon said that he was going to get rid of the Internet at home. My immediate reaction was, "Oh, no, then we won't be able to skype anymore." He said we would, that he could go to my daughter-in-law's office to skype. His reason for getting rid of the Internet was that he is addicted to it and it was keeping him from his work (he is a stay-at-home dad who is trying to be a screen writer). I said that I was addicted too and I understand the problem, but it's just a matter of will power. Well, he took great offense at that.
   For about  6 weeks in the fall we did not communicate. This upset me greatly. He finally sent a brief email. In response I sat down and wrote a very heartfelt 4 page letter, explaining to him how painful it was for me to be so removed from my grandson. He responded with another brief email saying that the letter helped him understand my feelings and that maybe someday they would get Internet again. But he said it was not something he could do now, and he promised to set up a weekly time to skype.
   Well, that plan worked for a while, although I was still not happy not being able to see my grandson in his own home, with his toys, etc. Then with the birth of the new baby in late Nov., the skyping has become very erratic. (Of course - who wants to pack up two small children and cart them off to an office??) On Christmas day they did pack up some of the presents so that I could see my grandson playing with him. Yesterday was his 3rd birthday and all I got was a phone call saying, "Thank you for the book, Mom Mom."
   My other son, Matt, also has a baby now and he lives within driving distance, so I have really enjoyed seeing him fairly often. Matt is also not happy that he can no longer skype with his brother, but he will not say anything because he wants to keep the peace at all costs.
   I am really at a loss how to deal with this. I have tried just to put up with the situation and focus on my nearby grandson. But I am really struggling. I feel very angry at Shannon, although I don't express it. I feel that he is being totally self-centered in depriving me of interaction with my grandchildren just because it makes his life easier. I also feel rejected, like I have no importance whatsoever in his life. They have no family out in Arizona and not even a lot of friends. And my daughter-in-law could get a job anywhere. So I donít know why they stay out there by themselves.
   As I said, I have always had a good relationship with both my sons, and this is really eating away at me. I would greatly appreciate any ideas about how to deal with this situation.
   Thank you.

Hi Jeanne,
Hopefully I can give a different perspective without you getting offended. I think there is something else at work here that you may not be aware of. I am really curious if maybe they felt kind of overwhelmed with your involvement when you all lived closer. Moving created space which they actually like. Thus moving back won't happen because they don't get space. Now what has happened is you are upset and they are fine. I haven't really run into a grandparent that wants to Skype as much as you which leads me to think that there may have been a bit too much closeness when they were here possibly? So now they are far away and like the space. I can understand why you are hurt, but don't let it turn to anger because that will just create further space in the relationship. A way to test the water is to let them know you have thought about moving out there and then see what they say. This is risky though because they could say something hurtful which would bother you. Another option is paying for their Internet and finally pouring into the kids you have around is something you could do as well. It sounds like you really love your grandkids which is a great thing.

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Dr. David Simonsen


I am a licensed Marriage & Family therapist with a Ph.D. in Psychology. I work primarily with teens and families on a weekly basis. You will get the straight truth. I will not pull punches.


I have been working daily with teens and families for the last 10 years.


M.S. in Marriage & Family Therapy; Ph.D. Psychology

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