Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I’m About to Wipe My Parents From My Life For a Good Few Years”

I left home when I was about 20 years old, in September, 1997, to live with my fiancé whom I’d met in October, 1996. We’ve been together ever since then. We now have a 7-year-old child and are happily leading our own lives as we please. My partner works and I’m on home duties as well as a volunteer fire fighter.

The problem is that my parents want us to travel south, a 3-hour drive away, to see them, which we do sometimes, but they never come up to us for a visit in return — it’s always one-sided and we’ve tried talking to them but it falls on deaf ears. I’m also gluten-free because of thyroid disease, but it seems that my parents don’t even believe us in what we’re saying. I know that my mother (as a little girl) had to travel here, there, and everywhere to see family and now she’s like, “You are my daughter and you’ll be doing the same as I did when I was little.” It’s like they don’t care if my relationship goes different ways with the pressure they put us under sometimes. My mother can be very manipulative at times to get what she wants from people but doesn’t care if she’s hurting anyone. I’m 38 years old now. The only option I can see is to wipe them away for a good few years, but I don’t want to because of our daughter. Please help me? — Gluten-Free Daughter From 3 Hours North

Dude, WTF? Seriously?! You want to “wipe your family away for a good few years” because they’d like you to make a three-hour drive to come see them occasionally?! Do you know how many people would KILL to only have to drive three hours to see their parents? Do you know how many people would be thrilled just to have parents around to still visit? I used to travel halfway across the world twice a year to see my parents (during the nearly-20 years we lived on different continents), and even now my husband and son and I take two flights each way and spend most of our vacation budget to go see my parents 2-3 times a year, without demanding that they reciprocate because we know visiting us in NYC can be challenging (we don’t have a guest room, and getting around is difficult for my mother, who is physically disabled). Do we bitch and moan? No. We happily go see my parents, just as millions of other young families travel to see their parents, because we CAN. And because the alternative — not seeing them, depriving them of seeing their grandson (and soon, a granddaughter) and vice-versa — because traveling isn’t always convenient for us is just…sad and cruel. And here you are complaining about a measly 3-hour drive?

I mean, sure it would be nice if your parents made the trek to you once in a while, but maybe they have good reasons why they don’t. Do they have a car that’s in good shape for long-distance driving? Do you have a comfortable place to put them up when they visit? Do they have pets they have to leave behind? Are they afraid, perhaps, of being too far away from their doctors? Do they have other family near them that they’re responsible for and don’t feel comfortable leaving? Have you ever ASKED why they don’t come?

And I don’t even know what to say about the whole gluten-free thing. So what if your parents don’t believe gluten affects your thyroid? Are they forcing you to eat gluten? Are they not providing anything in their house that you can eat? There’s no fruit? No protein? NOTHING? If that’s the case, bring some food you can eat while you’re at their place. Or go out to eat. And if they start giving you grief about your dietary restrictions, ignore them.

Honestly, unless there are issues in your relationship with your parents that you didn’t mention in your letter, it just sounds like you’re someone who can’t deal with stepping outside your comfort zone and doing anything that may be slightly inconvenient for you for the benefit of someone else. You mention how you lead your own life as you please, and that’s wonderful, but that kind of comfort and luxury should make you more willing to make a few sacrifices, not less.

But, yeah, if visiting your parents is causing you so much grief, then just stop, I guess. Wipe them from your life because the 3-hour drive to see them is too much of a burden and the resentment you feel that they don’t reciprocate is eating away at you. Just know that doing so would be depriving your daughter of a relationship with her grandparents. And you’re also setting an example that aging parents, or parents who don’t do exactly what you want them to do, are emotionally disposable and not worth your time, effort, or love. That kind of lesson may come back to bite you in the ass one day.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

99 comments… add one
  • avatar

    joanna February 9, 2015, 9:11 am

    I can’t believe the number of people who write Wendy that can’t get their head out of their ass.

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  • niki

    niki February 9, 2015, 9:14 am

    I kind of get it. It’s frustrating to feel like you are making all the effort, with no reciprocation. But Wendy is right, you need to try and see if there is a compromise, or if there are legitimate reasons they cannot travel. The nuclear option should be a last resort, and I don’t see anything in your letter that indicates the nuclear option is necessary.
    .
    My H’s parents lived 2.5 hours away from us the first couple years of our daughter’s life. At first we made the effort to visit them one weekend every month. They NEVER came to visit us. They are perfectly healthy, 40 somethings with no health issues and no problems travelling. They just didn’t like leaving their hometown. The monthly visits got exhausting fast, so after awhile we started making trips every other month, with the stipulation that they were more than welcome to come visit us on the off months. But between gas, tolls, car maintenance, and exhaustion, every month was just too much. They never did choose to visit on the off months, but less frequent visits allowed us to enjoy them more. Is there a compromise you can offer?
    .
    Bottom line is, you can’t change who they are. You need to decide what works best for you and your family (including having a meaningful relationship with grandparents) and decide what is reasonable without making them the bad guys. They sound stubborn, but not like they are horrible people. FWIW, it sounds like perhaps you got some of their stubbornness as well.

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  • avatar

    BadParents February 9, 2015, 9:16 am

    People with good parents don’t understand what is like to grow up with manipulative parents who don’t care about the Childs feelings.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy February 9, 2015, 9:30 am

      Ok, so how does that pertain to this letter? From the details shared, in what ways are the parents being manipulative or uncaring about their daughter’s feelings?

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      • avatar

        Sunshine Brite February 9, 2015, 9:53 am

        WWS, the “manipulation” pointed to by the LW in the little shared was about the level my mom does. My mom’s just stuck in her ways and doesn’t see it as guilting or manipulation. Likely there’s more, who knows but what was shared here doesn’t meet that my threshold for cutting out someone.

        My parents come to see us occasionally, but they also hate travelling so we do the 2 hour drive every couple months switching off with my in-laws same distance who have more difficulty travelling. We lucked out and each of them travelled to us this week to see our house for the first time but it will be a loooong time for them to visit again. My dad might come up to do electrical but that’s about it for them visiting us.

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray February 9, 2015, 10:20 am

      There may be very good reasons why a child should cut her parents out of her life. But the reasons this LW is giving us sound really childish and over-dramatic. Like when a teenager screams “God, Mom, you’re ruining my life, I hate you!” because she’s being forced to skip the pool with friends to spend an afternoon at Grandma’s. Relax and suck it up, geez.

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    • avatar

      gwensoul February 9, 2015, 10:30 am

      I can kind of see this. My inlaws are not easy to get along with and have never visited us in the 13 years we have been together. They also play obvious favorites with their children and have told us we have no incentive for them to come up here (meaning children.) We haven’t and won’t cut them out, but we only visit once a year and try not to let them guilt us when we do other things with our vacation time. They aren’t bad, but it does get tiring being the only ones making an effort, not even a reason why they can’t other than that they don’t want to. (note it is a 10 hour drive for us, we tried to fly but they decided at the last moment to not pick us up from the airport so we ended up having to rent a car for the 2.5 hour drive to their house anyway.)

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      • Lyra

        Lyra February 9, 2015, 10:51 am

        I still think the LW is overreacting to the extreme. A 3 hour drive is not that long. And though she claims her parents are manipulative, I honestly don’t see any of that in her letter. She talks about how they “live their lives as they please”. That phrase tells me they’re too lazy to go see her parents. Your situation is different — 10 hours is considerable, and your in laws didn’t pick you up from the airport (!!!!!!) which IS pretty bad. I get that we might not know the entire story, but this letter doesn’t have any red flags in it that I can see.

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  • avatar

    TheOtherOtherMe February 9, 2015, 9:59 am

    The LW may have her head in her azz, but she may have genuinely manipulative parents and just isn’t giving us the whole story. Her parent’s demands that SHE do all the traveling may just be the tip of an iceberg of other demands that the LW is sick of caving to. She did say in the secondd paragraph “My mother can be very manipulative at times to get what she wants from people but doesn’t care if she’s hurting anyone.” I would be curious to know more about this. Also she said her mother did all the traveling when she was a child, and now told her “you’ll be doing the same as I did when I was little.” WTF kind of attitude is that? Seems a little inflexible to me.

    The gluten-free thing is probably a non-issue, unless her mother has a history of dismissing her needs and preferences and she is just sick to death of being disrespected.

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    • Diablo

      Diablo February 9, 2015, 10:34 am

      Yeah, like you and some others, i am genuinely wondering about the untold back story here. If the gluten diet and the drive were the only issues, honestly, what’s the problem? So, since there clearly is a problem that the LW is prepared to walk away from her parents over, if we assume she isn’t just totally self-involved, what would cause this? I have been having a lot of problems with my family recently, but nothing ever happens that I could tell a story about, no high drama (except for the parts concerning my mentally ill sister). They just shun and withdraw love when things aren’t going their way. I recently found out that they had been unwilling to contact us very much for about the last 10 years. I had been getting more and more frustrated that we were always the ones initiating contact, so i started pulling back. They had not contacted me for any reason whatsoever for two years, except when they wanted some work done around the house that was physically beyond them. I’d show up dutifully, help out, and then never hear from them again. I had had to arrange a Christmas gathering last year (2013), because they had decided they didn’t want to be bothered (their words). Once they realized i was not approaching them, they laid a huge guilt trip ion me. When i said that they had not contacted me for any reason apart from yard work for two years, not even an email, they said, well, they had been hurt because 10 years ago M and set a boundary, asking them to call first before dropping by. (They would drop by whenever they felt like, weekend morning, Sunday evening, with no warning, and we would have to drop what we were doing and put coffee on. We liked to visit, but also have lots of plans of our own.) They were very offended by this: “I shouldn’t need an APPOINTMENT to see my son.” We saw the boundary as being about very ordinary courtesy, and it was something our friends never had any issue with. So i found out about this directly when after I stopped contacting them, my dad wanted a big heart to heart about it. They had been basically shunning us as punishment for setting the boundary, and never said so in so many words. But us pulling back was hurtful to them, he said. When a relationship, even with parents, survives because one side is making all the effort, it’s hard and you do get resentful. I feel very hurt that they have squandered all this time, and couldn’t even be bothered to tell us they had a problem with us. It would not have changed the boundary we set, but maybe we could have talked our way to a better understanding. Now, i don’t feel too disposed to make amends. But i know that is a hurtful and petulant attitude. But why is it always me who has to make things right? When do they take my feelings into account? I think the LW’s reaction is a bit over the top, but i can imagine how it could happen. But maybe the response could be “We’re right here anytime you want to come see us.” No need for an ultimatum or a final solution.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom February 9, 2015, 11:11 am

        I like the “We’re right here anytime you want to come see us,” option.
        .
        People who have never experienced a manipulative parent have no idea of the stress involved and the unpleasantness of any visit.

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      • Diablo

        Diablo February 9, 2015, 11:22 am

        This is the thing. Even reading Lyra’s comment below, i was stung by my own feelings of guilt. I want to be a good boy, a good son. I am not lazy or indifferent. But i doubt Lyra’s experiences match mine, and my level of emotional engagement is something that has evolved from years of “dishonesty by omission” by my folks. It’s a form of gaslighting in which you were supposed to have known what they wanted and they are permanently hurt that you didn’t. You can never make it right, you will always be “a bad son,” but your duty is to endure their coldness and offer them warmth, because after all, you are the “bad son” and it’s all your fault, never theirs. Until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes, it’s hard for you to understand the level of jedi mindfuck that goes on. LW, tell us more!

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      • Lyra

        Lyra February 9, 2015, 11:32 am

        My story below, with my grandma, I’ve seen SO MANY people who literally just complain about a parent with no real concerns…just a “oh my mom is so annoying!” type attitude. Which pisses me off, because they still *have* their parent(s). My mom works at a print shop and she sees that all the time when people come in to work on wedding invitations or whatnot…the bride treats the mom as if she’s an annoyance more than anything. Or else they’re doing some family project and my mom sees women her age just brush off their parents with little or no respect. Mom has told me many times that she just wants to speak up and tell the daughter to appreciate her mother while she is there because my mom doesn’t have her parents anymore.
        .
        Admittedly I’ve never had to deal with extreme manipulative parents, and I totally believe it’s overwhelming and stressful. But people who seemingly have non-problems, like the LW, I just can’t stand that.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom February 9, 2015, 11:52 am

        I assume that you can only consider being fed a meal that you can’t eat as a non-problem because it has never happened to you. Scrambling to find a meal that you can eat when there is nothing being served that you can eat is a real problem. I’ve been there with my diet and my husband’s diet and my son’s diet. My husband and I need a low carb diet because we are prediabetic and our son needs a diet without cheese. Try sitting down to a meal that is just pizza. None of us can eat it. Try a meal where the only drink is a soft drink, my husband and I go thirsty. We actively avoid situations where we won’t be able to eat the food so I can understand the frustration of someone insisting that you go to their home and then insisting that you eat something that you know you can’t.

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      • Lyra

        Lyra February 9, 2015, 3:02 pm

        I’ve dealt with my own diet restrictions, yes. Not as extreme as you, no, but I generally know how it feels. I think there are a LOT of assumptions going on here on both ends — both the LW AND her parents. Not to mention she doesn’t put in here “my parents only fed me gluten products”. She doesn’t say anything about that so we can’t make the assumption that it is what happened.

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      • River

        River February 9, 2015, 4:02 pm

        As another perspective on the dietary restrictions, I’m allergic to shellfish, but didn’t develop this allergy until college. In a lot of ways, my parents still think of me as I was in high school since that’s the last time I lived at home. So, for example, they will buy my favorite snack from when I was that age whenever I go home and sometimes, they’ll take me out to a restaurant where my only food option is a salad. They aren’t doing it to be mean, they just forget. I’m not sure what the LW’s situation is, but I know my parents aren’t dismissing my allergies or anything like that, they just think I’m still the person I was in high school.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblosom February 9, 2015, 11:53 am

        We all know you as a warm compassionate person. You have no reason to feel guilt.

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      • TaraMonster

        TaraMonster February 9, 2015, 12:03 pm

        I’m with you Diablo. It’s hard to tell from this letter what is actually going on. She may not be good at conveying the issue in words, and as such came off very superficial. We all approach this from our own experiences, and mine align with yours, so I’m predisposed to giving the LW the benefit of the doubt (mostly, more on that below). My relationship with my parents (divorced), and my aunt (who had just as much of a role in raising me) is an ever moving target. They pull all sorts of jedi-mindfuckery on me and my brothers, and have done so my entire life. People with “normal” parents can rarely comprehend what it’s like to grow up with abusive and manipulative parents (mine were abusive, particularity my mom, who is mentally ill; I’m not saying yours were). So to that end, if the issue really IS as surface level as LW presents it, then my opinion on the “issue” would go from empathetic to scathing in .3 seconds. Because if my only issues with my parents were that they didn’t believe I had a gluten allergy and they didn’t want to travel, I’d consider myself VERY blessed.

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      • avatar

        captainswife February 9, 2015, 12:19 pm

        Diablo, I am SO WITH YOU on the “silent treatment” game. Yours have carried it beyond mine, but my parents regularly use the silent treatment to express displeasure. A bit immature, perhaps? Makes me insane, not because their silence upsets me (it can be a relief, actually) but because it’s so ridiculously petty as a response. What, I have to raise my parents now, too, not just my children? The icing on the cake is when they accuse me of giving THEM the silent treatment. Um, no. If I’m upset, I own it. I decide whether or not to do anything about it. But if I’m not going to do anything about it, that’s the end…it just slides. No silent treatment there! This type of behavior SERIOUSLY stinks.

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      • Diablo

        Diablo February 9, 2015, 12:31 pm

        I’ve read various places that the silent treatment is a form of abuse, but I never get to feel like I’m the one who has been wronged. The silent treatment always expresses how my actions have hurt them, whereas what they have done to me is by definition nothing at all. What do you mean, withholding love? Of course we still love you, even though you are a constant and longstanding disappointment to us. No wonder we don’t much feel like showing you love. And here you are again, hurting us by telling us we are withholding love. You always hurt us, but our passivity is our proof that we have never done wrong. You shouldn’t wonder that we are reluctant to have anything to do with you, but that’s on you – it’s not us wthholding love. This kind of behaviour has not led me to cut ties – it’s not THAT serious – but I am often left seriously wondering why it all has to be so hard. M’s family is nothing like this. If they have a problem with you, they tell you straight out.

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      • avatar

        captainswife February 9, 2015, 6:12 pm

        Diablo, you said a mouthful. My family is totally the same way. And it’s a form of sandbagging. You try to set boundaries? Clearly, you’re selfish and mean. They screw up? Well, in families, that shouldn’t matter (notice no apologies). Seeing this thread has actually helped me realize that I’m not alone in this. The awful thing is that even the victim isn’t quite sure that it’s “abuse”…it just feels wrong and disconcerting and you’re constantly told it’s YOUR fault. Really, really makes relationships with others tough, because you second-guess yourself all.the.time.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark February 9, 2015, 2:38 pm

        It’d be nice if some people around here stopped PROJECTING their own fucking shit onto each and every letter writer on here. I get it — many of you have shitty parents. I get it — most of you (apparently — um, peruse the forums) date complete and total abject idiots, bitches, and/or assholes. B.O.O. H.O.O. But please. Please! PLEASE!!! stop thinking that each and every LW somehow secretly has an an unspoken, unmentioned what-so-ever past or present that mirrors yours. More often than not it is SIMPLY not true…

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      • avatar

        captainswife February 9, 2015, 6:14 pm

        We are ALL projecting. Those who think there may be more manipulation than she points to, and those who think she should just “suck it up and drive there and stop whining.” EVERY opinion that people offer is colored by their experiences. That’s one of the things I value about this forum, actually…because people offer a myriad of possibilities.

        Incidentally, why do you come here, since you appear to hate it so much?

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      • avatar

        tbrucemom February 10, 2015, 3:21 pm

        I think the answer lies between BGM’s remark and Captain’s Wife. There’s a difference in speculating and basing an opinion on your own situation. It’s natural to wonder if “there’s more to the story” just as it can be natural to relate to the story due to your own. However, it CAN get a little annoying when commenters make the LW’s story somehow representative of theirs. The info the LW presents is probably no where near the whole story and every person’s situation is different even if there may be some similarities. The point of these stories being submitted to Dear Wendy is for advice and sometimes we tend to veer into our own stories so much that no advice is ever given.

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      • FireStar

        FireStar February 9, 2015, 12:07 pm

        Sad something so small could have caused such a huge rift. I’ve had issues like this with some of my family members. I always think “what would 80 year old Firestar have wanted me to do?”
        Should it always be on me to set things straight? The answer is usually that it is not fair to have one person always do the fence mending – but that life isn’t fair. If I want the fence mended then I should mend it irrespective of what the other party is doing. I can’t control their actions – only mine since the consequences will be mine. So if I’m okay with a broken fence then I leave it broken – but if I don’t want the consequences of that broken fence then I mend it. The realty is that parents eventually die (in the natural order of things) and if you are okay with the relationship remaining fractured then so be it. But if you think you will regret it in the future then fix things now.

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      • avatar

        captainswife February 9, 2015, 12:28 pm

        This sounds so good, Firestar. But the reality is that it takes both sides to mend the fence most times…Yes, the 50-year rifts over one misunderstanding are silly and sad. But consistently unhealthy patterns cannot be mended by one side’s trying hard enough.
        This comment struck a nerve with me, because my parents insist that I should hold myself solely responsible for having a good relationship with my sibling, never mind the fact that she is rude and puts me down consistently. It’s really hard when you’re made to feel guilty because “clearly, the problem in the relationship is YOU.”

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      • FireStar

        FireStar February 9, 2015, 1:02 pm

        I understand. I have no relationship with my brother. If I bent over backward and catered to him I could. But I don’t because I can live with the consequences of not mending those fences. The thing is though – no one can make me feel a ways about it. I know the situation for what it is. Someone else’s interpretation of my situation has nothing to do with me. If they insist on telling me about it I can be vocal and firm; I can treat it as white noise; I can be dismissive – but I shouldn’t let a lie of a situation colour my truth of it. Doesn’t Eleanor Roosevelt have that quote that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent? I grant you it takes a certain amount of arrogance to embrace that. But go ahead and be arrogant…it’s liberating.

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  • FireStar

    FireStar February 9, 2015, 10:04 am

    The only issues you raise are the drive and the gluten. I’m sorry – three hours is my husband’s daily commute (both ways) and you can’t spare that time to – forget you – let your child visit with her grandparents? What is the frequency that you visit? Is it weekly? Bi-weekly? Maybe you can pick a day out of the month to have a day trip or every two months have a weekend with them. And bring your own food if they have nothing but pasta and bread in their house. So what if your mother feels entitled to have her able bodied child visit her with her grandchild. See her as much as you comfortably can. Have your daughter Skype when you can’t. This is such an easy thing to compromise on – the fact that you go to defcon 1 and want to wipe them from your life over this is far more troubling than anything else.

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  • avatar

    ktfran February 9, 2015, 10:21 am

    Once a month or so I go out to my aunt’s in the suburb’s for family dinner. It’s an hour and a half plus each way, depending on traffic. And that’s just for dinner. She never comes into the city. But I love my family and I love spending time with them so, I make the effort. I have a very hard time sympathizing with someone who is put out by traveling six hours round trip for a weekend every so often.

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  • avatar

    L.G.J February 9, 2015, 10:38 am

    I’m confused how LW went from I don’t like driving to visit my parents strait to wiping them out of her family’s life. If she doesn’t want to visit she doesn’t have to, there is Skype or just a good old fashioned phone call its just that simple. beyond some perhaps manipulative behaviors on the part of her mother there seems to be nothing in this letter to justify disowning her own parents. If a 3 hour drive is all it takes for this LW to cut off communication with someone cause its too hard I pity her child the day they decide to go to college out of state.

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  • Lyra

    Lyra February 9, 2015, 10:39 am

    People who complain like this about their parents bother me to no end. People who see their aging parents as a burden and are annoyed by them…I just can’t take it. My mom lost my grandma (her mom) to cancer when my mom was 27 and pregnant with my older brother. My grandma was 57 — my mom’s current age. She NEVER got the chance to lean on her mom for advice when raising her own family. Neither I nor my brother had the chance to get to know her because she had passed away. And it SUCKS. It sucks because from what I hear of my grandma, she would have been an amazing grandma to hang out with and we would have had a lot in common. I never got the chance to know her because she was taken away too soon.
    .
    I know you say your mom is “manipulative” but I don’t hear any of that in your letter. She’s manipulative because she wants to see her granddaughter? She’s manipulative because what you say falls on “deaf ears”…but have you actually LISTENED to what they have to say? Do you know if either of your parents has a condition that prevents them from traveling? Do you know what the circumstance is? I’m guessing since your parents are older it’s difficult for them to travel. Have some empathy, and consider yourself lucky that you have parents and family who care about you and want a relationship with your daughter.

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    • honeybeenicki

      honeybeenicki February 9, 2015, 11:29 am

      My mom’s parents died when she was 12 and 15, so she never got the chance to be an adult with parents and its sad. I’m sorry your mom had to go through that, especially while pregnant.

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      • Lyra

        Lyra February 9, 2015, 11:34 am

        Oh that’s even sadder. 🙁 I can’t imagine. It freaks me out sometimes because my mom is the age her mom was when she passed and I’m right around the age my mom was when she passed. I’m super close to my mom and I selfishly want her to be around for a long long long time yet.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki February 9, 2015, 1:38 pm

        My mom always raised me to be able to be independent and take complete care of myself, because she seems to think she won’t be around forever. Right now, I have her and she’s healthy and happy and I don’t know what I’d do without her. But, I know that won’t always be the case.

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      • Lyra

        Lyra February 9, 2015, 2:22 pm

        That’s what makes me sad. Obviously death is a part of life, but I’m so scared of losing my mom, especially since she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2011.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom February 9, 2015, 11:43 am

      If you don’t think that trying to feed someone food that you have been told will make them ill isn’t manipulative I would like to know what you would call it?

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy February 9, 2015, 11:46 am

        The LW didn’t say that that happened.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy February 9, 2015, 11:48 am

        And that’s not really “manipulative.” That’s just being an asshole. Being manipulative would be like saying, “I worked so hard on this pasta and you loved it when you were a child and I am just trying to make you love me like you did when you were little, so if you don’t eat it, I guess you must hate me.” THAT’S manipulative.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom February 9, 2015, 11:57 am

        I’m assuming that is what is happening because she says her mom doesn’t believe her about the gluten and you told her to take her own food so must at some level assume that she is being given meals that she can’t eat. Why else should she take her own food?

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy February 9, 2015, 12:06 pm

        I think everyone who has such strict dietary limitations that in a whole house they can’t find anything to eat should always travel with something they know they CAN eat.

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      • Lyra

        Lyra February 9, 2015, 1:10 pm

        Exactly. I know plenty of people who do this. I have a friend who is vegan and ALWAYS packs her own meals if she’s going to visit someone. Even if it’s just for dinner. She simply doesn’t want to burden other people because of her own choice. I have another friend who is gluten intolerant and when she was passing through town and stayed with me last summer she had her own cooler that she kept in my fridge. I made sure to have gluten free meals available for her, and she was incredibly appreciative of it, but she had her own food just because she knew that she would need it throughout her trip.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy February 9, 2015, 1:29 pm

        Yeah, I was thinking of a specific friend of mine, too, who is gluten-intolerant AND vegan. When I have her over, I always try to make something she can eat, even if it’s putting aside some kale salad just for her before I add the cheese or whatever. At Jackson’s bday parties, I always have gluten-free, vegan cupcakes for her and other friends who can’t eat the regular cake. And they’re all appreciative of these things, but they also bring stuff they can eat, knowing that shit happens and maybe there WON’T be gluten-free, vegan options for them. Also, my dad is diabetic and has been since I was a little girl, and he never goes anywhere without emergency snacks for when his blood sugar drops and he needs to eat. I guess I’m just used to people with dietary restrictions sort of taking the onus of responsibility for their dietary needs and being appreciative when other people try to accommodate them (but not necessarily always expecting to be accommodated… because, let’s face it, not everyone understands dietary restrictions or knows what necessarily CAN be eaten and plans ahead…).

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray February 9, 2015, 2:02 pm

        This reminds me of this joke (modified a bit for political correctness): A vegan and a cross-fitter walk into a bar. I know, because they let everyone know right away. (hee hee) (Oh, and I’m allowed to make fun of both because I was vegan for a bit and I’m currently obsessed with Crossfit, so there.)

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray February 9, 2015, 2:23 pm

        ^ oh come on, that is the funniest joke ever.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark February 9, 2015, 2:43 pm

        And highly accurate. I must hear gluten free once a day as random people wander around LA telling everybody they encounter all about it… Yawn. Boring. And hilariously faddish and trendy…

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray February 9, 2015, 3:41 pm

        Watch what you say about the gluten free fad, you risk this LW cutting you out of her life For. Ever. Er. I said, F-O-R-E-V-E-R, BGM!

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      • avatar

        Taylor February 9, 2015, 4:18 pm

        “Gluten is just a term for things that are bad for you. Like calories or fat, that’s all gluten.”

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      • Diablo

        Diablo February 9, 2015, 3:05 pm

        The one I heard was “First Rule of Vegan Club: always tell everyone about Vegan Club.”

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      • Lyra

        Lyra February 9, 2015, 2:20 pm

        I have a few dietary restrictions because of IBS so I know how the LW feels when she can’t have certain things. What I do though when visiting other people is I eat the things I CAN eat…as an example, if for whatever reason I’m hyper sensitive for a week, I actually avoid any and all salads because they make my symptoms worse. So if I’m offered salad, I politely decline. Or for whatever reason pepperoni anything magnifies my symptoms, but if friends are ordering in pizza and all want pepperoni, I will simply pick the pepperonis off. Granted, if it’s an extreme gluten intolerance and she can’t even have a trace of gluten, she should definitely bring her own food. Heck she should bring her own food no matter what.
        .
        I will say it seems to me like the LW and the parents have a LOT of trouble listening to each other. As in, the LW blames the parents for not coming to visit her family, but doesn’t have any explanation WHY they don’t come to visit, and the parents either didn’t understand what she told them about her gluten intolerance or else they simply don’t understand the severity of it. They really need to just sit down and LISTEN to each other. That would prevent so many additional problems. There’s a lot of blame and a lot of assumptions going on on both sides of this equation.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy February 9, 2015, 11:46 am

      Drew’s mother died of breast cancer when he was 11. I cannot even imagine. It’s something I think about a lot, not just as a daughter who feels grateful to have both her parents still around to know her as an adult and know their grandson, but as a mother, I think about what it would feel like to face death knowing the likelihood of your children growing up without you. This has made me particularly sensitive to questions like these, or other ones that make these sort of general, “My parents are annoying/manipulative” statements without any specific examples to back those statements up. I just feel like, eh, all parents are annoying and manipulative to some degree (because everyone is). Unless they’re genuinely bad parents — and those totally exist! — suck it up and make an effort. Be glad you still have them around to annoy you!

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      • Lyra

        Lyra February 9, 2015, 1:11 pm

        This exactly. Completely agree.

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  • Portia

    Portia February 9, 2015, 11:03 am

    Sounds to me like the LW and her parents have a shared stubborn gene. Either there is some crazy history that she isn’t sharing or they made the mistake of staying with the parents a few too many times when visiting. My thought would be get a hotel for the nights they’re visiting, so that if it gets to be too much or the mother is starting to manipulate, the LW can extract herself from the situation and have a place to retreat to. Responding to stubbornness with more stubbornness is not the solution. If there’s more history, the LW might need some more specific help (possibly in the form of a therapist).

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    • avatar

      ktfran February 9, 2015, 11:11 am

      Agreed, or the all have a lack of empathy gene. Or something. I’m all about living your own life, but it seems like neither party really wants to go out of their way for the other. I hope the LW doesn’t pass on the same trait to her children.

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    • Lyra

      Lyra February 9, 2015, 11:35 am

      Ahh if ONLY my dad had not passed his stubborn gene onto me! That’s one of my biggest faults. I can’t let stuff go sometimes.

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      • FireStar

        FireStar February 9, 2015, 1:04 pm

        At my first ultrasound, the technician told me my child was stubborn. Poor thing never had a chance.

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      • Lyra

        Lyra February 9, 2015, 1:12 pm

        Haha! My dad is stubborn, as is HIS dad, as is my entire massive Irish Catholic family. There are definitely times when we’re up a creek without a paddle because we can’t agree.

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      • Portia

        Portia February 9, 2015, 2:19 pm

        Yeah, stubbornness runs in my family and Bassanio’s. It’s a fun combo… But we’ve all made it work (except my dad and my sister, they function by basically avoiding each other as much as possible).

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      • Lyra

        Lyra February 9, 2015, 2:24 pm

        After my dad had his freak out over Save the Dates, I sent him the movie Father of the Bride via Amazon. He thought it was hilarious, and he has since backed off from being Dadzilla.

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      • othy

        othy February 9, 2015, 3:25 pm

        Othello and I have decided that if we ever do have kids, they would be the most stubborn people on the planet.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom February 9, 2015, 11:04 am

    I don’t think you’re being unreasonable in expecting to be able to eat when you arrive at your parents. If they expect you to make the drive they are automatically making themselves the hosts and so should be expected to provide some food that you can eat. I think many people don’t understand how difficult it can be to eat on a limited diet. If you arrive and the meal is pasta and bread you have nothing in that meal to eat and will your mom complain if you eat something else? Will she feel insulted that you are refusing to eat the food that she spent the time to buy and cook? Many people cross contaminate food by taking a spoon from one food and sticking it into another food and suddenly the food that you could eat becomes another food that you can’t eat. It’s easy to say take your own food but harder in practice. You can run out and buy something to cook but then you are trying to cook in your mom’s kitchen, probably while she is cooking for everyone else and she is already using the kitchen and could find it not only insulting that you don’t want her food but annoying that you are trying to use the same stove and oven that she is using.
    .
    Go when you feel like it. If you have reached the point that you want to cut them out of your lives it is probably time to take a break for a while. I would wait four to six months and see how you feel. Send solid information, by that I mean real medically based information, to your parents about your diet. Remind them that you will have to bring and prepare your own food if they can’t provide meals that you can eat. You can also send lists of things you can eat. Many people have no idea what to cook when they are feeding someone who is on a special diet. If none of that works and if your mom complains and tries to guilt you for providing your own food I’d leave as soon as the inappropriate meal is provided.

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  • avatar

    SasLinna February 9, 2015, 11:11 am

    I think few people would say their own mother “doesn’t care if she’s hurting anyone”, so either there’s a huge backstory there and the mother is really manipulative, or the LW is really off in how she describes things. In any case, I doubt that this is about the 3 hour drive. IF the mother is manipulative and egotistic then IMO the LW has good reasons to reduce contact. I’m not a big “but they’re family” believer since I’ve seen so many parents damage their own children.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom February 9, 2015, 11:19 am

      I think the fact that the mother tries to feed her own daughter food that her daughter has told her she can’t eat tells a great deal about this mother. As a parent I would never try to force my child to eat something that they thought would harm their health, even if I didn’t think they were right about the health claim. I don’t believe in making anyone eat anything that they don’t want to eat. There is no enjoyment in a meal that you don’t like. My son is having trouble with irritable bowel symptoms. The doctor hasn’t definitively diagnosed anything yet but when my son tells me that he is avoiding certain foods that he thinks are giving him diarrhea I avoid cooking with those foods. I can’t imagine putting something on the table for him to eat that he believes irritates his digestive tract. That’s what a parent does and I think that is also what a host does. The fact that the LWs mother doesn’t care says volumes about her as a mother.

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      • avatar

        stickelet February 9, 2015, 4:15 pm

        You keep focusing on the mother forcing the daughter to eat food she can’t eat, but nowhere in the letter does it say that happens.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom February 9, 2015, 11:38 am

      My son is having digestive problems, not completely diagnosed yet but may have irritable bowel. When he tells me that a food irritates him I take his word for it and avoid cooking anything that he will eat that has that food in it. He is avoiding cheese and a few other things and so I skip cheese and the other things. As a mother I would never expect him to eat a food that he felt would injure his health. The fact that the LW’s mother tries to feed her things that she has been told will hurt the LW tells me volumes about what type of person she is. She thinks she knows more than the doctor and more about the LWs health than the LW. She is dismissive of information that she doesn’t want to hear or she has a really callous attitude about her daughter’s health. As a parent I don’t treat my kids the way the LW is treating her daughter. I think it is unconscionable.

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  • avatar

    Anna February 9, 2015, 11:21 am

    Whoa, let’s step back a minute from berating the LW for a moment and try to see their POV. The parents in this letter sound an awful lot like mine. When I lived in Ohio less than an hour from them, they flat out refused to come over to my place ever. I lived in the same apartment for 8 years and they never saw it until right before I moved (when I had furniture to give them and no truck to haul it; they took the furniture and left without even staying to hang out). When I told them I was moving to North Carolina, they flat out told me they were never going to come see me here. My sister and I hwve talked about it and determined that they have control issues and can’t handle being on someone else’s turf where they don’t make the rules. My sister lives in Florida and has 3 kids. They don’t visit her or her kids either. It’s a really shitty feeling that our parents don’t care enough about us to visit. We have both told them they are welcome to visit anytime. For the record, our parents are both retired, have plenty of money in the bank, and often go on random trips around the country…just not to see us.

    Also, it just so happens that I’ve had to cut most dairy out of my diet in the last year when I discovered that I’m lactose intolerant. My mom sends me cards in the Mail occasionally and always includes Wendy’s frosty coupons. Last time, I called her to say thanks for the card and mentioned that she should give those to someone who can eat ice cream because unfortunately I can’t anymore but I appreciate the thought. She basically told me it was all in my head and I shouldn’t cut out dairy. I’m not going to get graphic but the last time I ate real ice cream I regretted it for hours. Saying to someone that their dietary issues are imaginary is kinda like gaslighting them, and it’s highly disrespectful.

    Now, I do want to say that I agree with maintaining a relationship with family while they are still around. As much as my parents and I don’t see eye to eye on anything, I still visit when I can and call/text/send cards and gifts on holidays because they’re family and I love them. But I totally understand the LW’s frustration.

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    • avatar

      SasLinna February 9, 2015, 11:27 am

      Yeah, I think “food conflicts” often come up in controlling families, it’s no coincidence and so I’m not so surprised that that’s LW’s example. Especially with mothers what they provide to eat and how they criticize your dietary choices can be a form of wielding power.

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  • mylaray

    mylaray February 9, 2015, 11:27 am

    I have a friend who thinks her parents are the absolute worst (they’re not, just a little strict and traditional). I find it ironic when she complains about not wanting to talk to them, knowing that I don’t talk to my parents for good reasons. I think LW’s reasons are trivial and it would be stupid to cut off her parents for those reasons, but I wonder if there is more. And that maybe LW is so fed up, she gets lost in these trivial reasons now. I’ve lived in my city for 7 years and when my parents and I were speaking, they never visited once, not even for my college graduation. And they travel to other places quite frequently. It’s something that has really bugged me, but of course there are deeper reasons of why I cut them off. I don’t advocate for cutting parents off. It’s never fun and should be a last resort. But sometimes for me, it’s easier to recognize the more trivial things they’ve done than all the abuse and neglect, which does not always seem valid enough to me to cut them off. It doesn’t really make sense, I know. And I have no idea if there is more to LW’s story or if she is just being a brat.
    .
    Based on her letter, I agree with Wendy, and I think at LW’s age, she should know better and not be so quick to judge her parents. Cutting off your parents should not be a rash decision. Set some boundaries, compromise, and give up a bit of your comfort to be the bigger person.

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  • avatar

    Tamlee February 9, 2015, 11:42 am

    De-lurking to chime in on this one. I really feel for the LW. I don’t have a lot to contribute regarding the long drive time, except to agree with others that always getting stuck doing the traveling is a pain.
    .
    I am gluten intolerant. Over the last ten years, my parents have told me it was all in my head, lied about what was in food they prepared, gotten insulted when I wanted to bring or prepare my own food, and have given me worlds of grief over spending my limited income on “specialty foods”. Not to mention harangued me for spoiling eating out, since I’d rather not eat than eat something that is going to make me miserable.
    .
    A volunteer fire fighter isn’t someone I can easily decide is just being self-centered and lacking in empathy. She gives a lot and is trying to preserve her family’s happiness in the face of what she sees as a hurtful influence. I don’t see why she needs to bend over backwards to carry on a tradition of intergenerational misery.
    .
    Is cutting ties a harsh option? Absolutely. Is protecting your nuclear family (including yourself) worth it? When you have no reason to think that your needs or boundaries will be considered otherwise, yeah. Without more information, I’m inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt.
    .
    (FYI: I haven’t cut ties, but oh boy, has it been tempting.)

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  • Amanda

    Amanda February 9, 2015, 11:45 am

    LW, if they truly are that manipulative what good will wiping them away for a few good years do? It won’t make them change. Are you hoping it will make them miss you and ask if they can come visit? And if that’s what you’re truly after – that’s just as manipulative.
    .
    I have manipulative family members (granted, they aren’t my parents) and the best thing I’ve found is to set boundaries and hold firm. Cut the number of times you visit in half. Or, maybe suggest you both drive halfway and spend part of the day together (assuming they’ll agree to that). Before cutting them out, see if there’s some way your daughter can keep a relationship with her grandparents while allowing you to save your sanity.

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  • avatar

    captainswife February 9, 2015, 11:54 am

    I completely agree with what the commenters are saying based on the information given. As someone who comes from a family with seriously manipulative parents with NO boundaries whatsoever, though, I wonder if there is more in it than she has told us.

    To begin with, she left at age 20, with the implication being that she shook the dust from her feet at that point…although young, who knows — maybe she’d been manipulated lifelong and was getting out of it.

    The thing about manipulation is that it can be so subtle and so trivial. Like drops of water on a stone, any single item sounds innocuous or like the victim is being overly sensitive. But over time, those constant drops just make you have no interest in being around the manipulator.

    So, what’s my take? Well, LW, you do have the opportunities to set the boundaries that you think are appropriate. Personally, a 3-hour drive with an infant stinks, but your kid is 7 and can entertain him/herself on the trip. That doesn’t seem like the issue though…it seems like you feel controlled into spending your time in the way your mom wants.

    What about finding a place you’re interested in going about 1 or 2 hours away from you and suggest that they meet you there?

    Or what about planning to go, but setting the boundaries (kindly but firmly) about your dietary restrictions; that said, YOU have to be prepared to go out of your way to prepare stuff you can eat and so on. If you just don’t like the way she hassles you about it, just shut it down with something like, “Hey, mom, you may not believe that this works, but really it’s my body and I’ve learned that this is what I have to do.” And just don’t entertain any more from her about it. Ignore, ignore, ignore.

    I get how the trivial stuff can really wear you down, and if that’s your case…sometimes you just have to grit your teeth. That said, you DON’T have to let her “force” you into doing things you’ll regret or feel angry about. The biggest trick is to stay calm.

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  • avatar

    Kate February 9, 2015, 12:02 pm

    I can see both sides of this, but yeah, without details here it seems way over the top to make a huge statement and cut your parents out of your life.

    I think in most cases where parents are kind of cray, it’s better to just set boundaries in your head and go from there. My husband’s mom has only once come to his city in the 25 years he’s lived here since he went away for college, that one time being when he was in the hospital after an accident. And she lives less than 3 hours away. I mean, whatever, she’s pretty crazy and you can tell she’s re-written history in her head to make herself seem like a better mom than she was, and they don’t have ANY food in their house or ability to cook really, so we go out. My husband probably goes down there once a year, twice TOPS, at his convenience. But he’s not going to start a bunch of drama and be like “I’m cutting you out of my life.” And there is some serious backstory there worthy of a TV special.

    I’ve told my mom honestly how I feel about my childhood and stuff they did, so it’s out there and I think they somewhat get it. They live 5 minutes away and I see them when it’s convenient. I don’t go out of my way. I keep some distance for my mental health, but I’m not going to just never see them because they made mistakes and could have handled certain things better.

    In summary, don’t make the grand statement, see them when you can, accept them for what they are, and let your daughter have grandparents.

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  • avatar

    Lucy February 9, 2015, 12:22 pm

    I feel like there must be a lot more going on here. Like, the daughter doesn’t eat gluten, and the mom makes pasta every night and then cries when the daughter doesn’t eat it. Like, the mom calls on a thrice-weekly basis to ask when the daughter is coming to visit, but refuses to even discuss visiting herself and cries when the daughter doesn’t agree to drive down the next weekend. The letter was vague on specifics, but to assume she’s just being a spoiled brat also assumes facts not relayed in the letter.

    That said, there’s a huge difference between setting boundaries, and cutting your parents off. This LW can resist manipulation and work on retraining her mother by not rewarding the behavior she finds unacceptable. The nuclear option should be a last resort.

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  • Regina Chapman

    Regina Chapman February 9, 2015, 12:28 pm

    Ehm, yeah. I can imagine that your mother’s attitude is frustrating, but if you remove your own ego from the equation, you end up with a VERY manageable situation. You can visit your parents occasionally, and get there and back within a day. The benefits to your daughter and the bond she’ll develop with her grandparents, far outweigh the inconveniences of the drive in my opinion.
    .
    I agree that sometimes it’s good to set boundaries with difficult parents – or whenever a parent’s behaviour is costing you too much, for whatever reason – but here, their unreasonable refusal to visit you doesn’t seem to warrant the measures you’re prepared to take. Just let it slide off your back and keep the communication channels open. You’ll never regret that, whereas you might regret being completely estranged from your parents and your daughter’s grandparents in the future.

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    • Regina Chapman

      Regina Chapman February 9, 2015, 12:41 pm

      Of course, like others have mentioned, if there’s more to the story and you sincerely feel like you’re being manipulated to an extent you can’t live with, act on that. But we can only comment on the information given in your letter. So there’s a caveat there, at least in my response.

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  • Nookie

    Nookie February 9, 2015, 12:29 pm

    My family lives 9 hours away. On a plane. That costs at least £1k. I wish my folks only lived three hours away.

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  • findingtheearth

    findingtheearth February 9, 2015, 12:30 pm

    I grew up with crappy grandparents. They played favorites and treated me pretty badly. They have never made a point to visit me, see me of their own choice, or spend time with me. They don’t travel to see their kids that live out of state or out of town. However, once I had my daughter, they have changed a lot. They call me, ask me to come over with her, etc. I chose not to hold their behavior towards me against them, as I feel that family is very important.

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  • avatar

    Laura Hope February 9, 2015, 1:11 pm

    If the LW hadn’t told us she was 38, I would have guessed much younger. The whole tone of the letter was kind of whiny and juvenille.

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  • Addie Pray

    Addie Pray February 9, 2015, 1:54 pm

    It’s funny to see the divide in the comments – the people berating the LW seem to have good relationships with their parents and would love to be able to have an only 3-hour trip to visit their parents, and the others giving the LW the benefit of the doubt have all admitted, for the most part, issues with their own parents. When we give advice, we really need to try to disassociate our own experiences from the letter writers, which I think Wendy does a really good job of doing – both generally and in regard to this letter specifically. But the thing is, we can only go with what the LW is telling us, and here, she’s complained in general terms that her parents are manipulative and as examples has only given us two pieces of info: that they want her to come visit and that they don’t believe her gluten allergy. But come on, if that’s the best she’s got, then she really does sound immature and overly-dramatic. Objectively, I don’t see how those two gripes equate to cutting your parents out of your life… unless you’re immature and overly-dramatic.

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    • avatar

      ktfran February 9, 2015, 2:08 pm

      I agree. Unless there is more going on than the LW told us, I’m in favor of Wendy’s advice.
      .
      Now, I do think that the mom might be a bit unpleasant or stuck in her ways. For example, it wouldn’t be that hard to make sure there were some gluten free items for breakfast and dinner, but I highly doubt she is making things with gluten and forcing them on her daughter. That’s information that would have been shared. And as for the parents traveling? I also 100% agree that people with food restrictions, whether medically induced or self-imposed, should plan for themselves.
      .
      Also, the LW didn’t go into why her parents refused to travel other than her mom’s statement about she’s had her share of it and is finished. I would be miffed if they were traveling other places and not to see the LW, but again, that’s not mentioned. I’m going by the information shared and it’s just not enough to warrant alienation. And if that alienation is to prove a point…. well then again, the LW is behaving just as horribly as her mother.
      .
      If her parents really are horrid, cut them out completely, but don’t cut them out for a couple years hoping they come around and do as you please. That sounds like something a sulky teenager would do.

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray February 9, 2015, 2:22 pm

        Unpleasant and stuck in her ways? Sure, and if her question to Wendy had been “and so how do I get my mother to take my gluten allergy seriously?” then I’m sure Wendy would have had some good advice… but instead the LW’s conclusion seems to be “and so I’m cutting them out of my life.” Damn, I’d hate to accidentally cut LW off in traffic.

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      • avatar

        ktfran February 9, 2015, 3:05 pm

        Totally agree.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy February 9, 2015, 2:14 pm

      Totally agree! I often try to read between the lines, and here, it would be easy to say: “Well, the LW SAYS her mother is manipulative and if she’s ready to wipe her out of her life then there MUST be more to the story,” but the truth is, there just aren’t enough details to support that hypothesis. Going on what is shared here, I think the LW is being overly-dramatic, but I would be very interested to hear details that suggest otherwise, and I’m certainly not suggesting that they don’t exist — only that they weren’t shared.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark February 9, 2015, 2:33 pm

        Yeah, the only thing one can REALLY read between the lines here is that the LW is a rather self absorbed idiot. End of story… Either that or she simply can’t tell a story or argue her case for shit. But honestly? I suspect she is just, well, a vapid fool.

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    • avatar

      SasLinna February 9, 2015, 3:57 pm

      I think it’s not really possible to disassociate one’s own experiences from the LW’s. In my opinion, everyone’s projecting and assuming, and it’s also reasonable that the advice giver’s experiences informs the advice. I actually like it when different people read different things between the lines, as it gives the LW something to think about.

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      • avatar

        SasLinna February 9, 2015, 4:11 pm

        Just to illustrate what I mean by “everyone’s projecting and assuming”, some people seem to focus on what’s said explicitly as the most reliable way of interpretation (i.e., if it wasn’t mentioned, don’t assume it’s there). Others apply a principle of charity to the LW, they will not assume that the LW is massively unreasonable or lying unless there’s clear evidence for that (i.e. if LW says the mother seems to not care about hurting people, then there’s something to that). Both principles of interpretation have their weaknesses I think.

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      • avatar

        ktfran February 9, 2015, 4:53 pm

        In this instance, if the mother was truly as horrible as some say, I just think the LW would have mentioned more glaring red flags or grievances. Not even glaring. Just something, IDK, more. Generally, people seeking advice skew the information so that they come off in a better light, so it would stand to reason that though her mother may be unpleasant, she isn’t this awful, manipulative person because the grievances stated are manageable. But you’re absolutely right in that I project my own preferences, or to say it another way, I give advice based on the way I treat others/the way I want to be treated.

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      • avatar

        SasLinna February 9, 2015, 5:04 pm

        I agree that generally people will try to come off in a better light, but I feel like that doesn’t apply to victims of some sort of abuse. Not saying that the LW has abusive parents, only that if she does, then she might not be pointing at the right things or have a clear idea of what the big problems are. But it was a weird letter for sure.

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray February 9, 2015, 4:51 pm

        Oh, I like reading how people relate to the problems, too. It seems more like people are thinking “I have issues with my parents too, so I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt.” And, well, I’m definitely not against giving people the benefit of the doubt, but I’m still struck by the extremism here, where the LW jumps from “parents expects us to drive 3 hours to visit / don’t believe my allergy” to “cut parents out of life”. This is one of those letters where I’m surrrrre the LW will chime in to say “oh I forgot to give you the full story…” and most of the LWs who follow up like that seem dishonest – like they’re making stuff up to defend themselves when, if it were true, they probably would have volunteered the full story the first time. I like what Something Random said below. Sure, it’s disappointing when otherwise able people don’t make an effort to reciprocate the visits and sure it feels shitty to have your heath concerns dismissed … But cutting parents out of your life for that?!

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        SasLinna February 9, 2015, 5:01 pm

        I think part of the reason for the reactions is that lots of people who don’t have great relationships with their parents feel sort of misunderstood, on top of being in pain over it. There’s still a pretty strong social norm that one should respect one’s parents, and that is often interpreted as going along with their wishes and maybe even maintaining a slightly hierarchical relationship where the parents’ desires count more rather than a relationship of equals.
        And I do think that there is a strong disconnect between people who have experienced parental neglect and abuse and people who haven’t. It’s especially painful because most people love their parents, even if they are mistreated by them. Personally, I tend to do the opposite of painting my parents in a bad light, rather I rarely admit how disappointed I am in them in some ways. This is also why I don’t necessarily believe that an LW with abusive parents would mention all the worst aspects of the situation. Of course this is projecting and I totally admit that. I just think that when people complain about their parents it’s also a big assumption to make that the situation is probably harmless and that they are exaggerating.

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  • avatar

    MsMisery February 9, 2015, 2:04 pm

    “You mention how you lead your own life as you please, and that’s wonderful, but that kind of comfort and luxury should make you more willing to make a few sacrifices, not less.” = TRUTH BOMB, LW.
    .
    Now, you mention your mother is manipulative. Since you don’t expand on that or give examples, we don’t know if she’s just regular-manipulative like 90% of mothers are or borderline abusive and now at 38 her refusal to accept your dietary restrictions and travel to your town are the straw breaking the camel’s back.
    .
    Personally, my own mother can be a bit of a pill. We had an incredibly strained relationship because she can be very manipulative and immature and I always felt like the adult growing up. Things actually got BETTER when she moved to another time zone.

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  • Portia

    Portia February 9, 2015, 2:16 pm

    Wanna hear a crazy story? A friend of mine told me a few years ago that she hadn’t been invited to her sister’s wedding (well technically it was a reception the husband’s family put on, as they’d gotten military-married a while before). The full story, though, was that her parents had been invited but they had to stay at the husband’s parents’ house. They had tried staying with them before and because my friend’s father has a very restrictive diet (he’d had like two heart attacks, had become very conscious of his health), it had gone very poorly (preparing lots of food he couldn’t have, etc.). So this time, they said they’d love to come to the wedding, but they would get a hotel so they wouldn’t be a burden and could not have the food issues. They had tried figuring out their own food situation when they were there previously, but the other set of parents were not at all accommodating and probably pulled some manipulative tactics. My friend’s parents were then disinvited from the wedding over this and my friend was never invited, finding out about this whole mess later. I’m sure the couple and the husband’s parents have a different version of the story, but I’m not sure there’s any version that paints them in a positive light. This story still bothers me…

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    • bittergaymark

      bittergaymark February 9, 2015, 2:31 pm

      This is hilariously suspect… You also can say you’d like to stay in a hotel simply for the privacy and NOT insult your would be hosts for their diet… Honestly? There is probably so much more than this story…

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark February 9, 2015, 2:28 pm

    Many people create their own fucking problems. Especially where there are none. You know — like cutting off your parents for the fucking bullshit reason of having to drive a measly three fucking hours to go see them. Or creating made up dietary restrictions that they can constantly whine about and demand others cater to… Look, I’m sorry — but I totally get why so many people call BS on the gluten free thing. So much of it is just so much fucking bullshit… I’d love to know if the LW was diagnosed by a Doctor or by herself via the internet. Somehow, I so, so, so suspect the later…

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    • Kate B.

      Kate B. February 9, 2015, 3:19 pm

      Actually, I get it, too. I was at a restaurant and my mother ordered the gluten-fee option for her food. I asked her about it, as I had never heard that she was gluten intolerant before. I asked what symptoms she had, and if she had been diagnosed by a doctor, and she said, “I diagnosed myself.” I pointed out that if she isn’t gluten intolerant, a gluten-free diet won’t do much for her, and in addition, she would have to give up a lot of food that she loves, such as bread. I haven’t heard a word about it since. (And she ate a whole bunch of bread the last time I saw her.) I know that some people are genuinely gluten intolerant, but the only reason I can think of for my mom to do this is to somehow call attention to herself. So, I can see why some people would doubt it when someone claims to be gluten intolerant.

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      • avatar

        Lucy February 9, 2015, 4:05 pm

        Interesting. What I get from this story is that you feel entitled to interrogate your mother about her food choices, tell her how to manage her diet, and dictate what she is and isn’t allowed to order in restaurants, plus when she doesn’t do as you say, you get to question her motives.

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      • Kate B.

        Kate B. February 9, 2015, 4:12 pm

        Not at all. My mother is 80 years old and is otherwise healthy. I had not heard that she was having issues, and she does, in fact, have a history of diagnosing herself with illnesses that she does not actually have, so I take everything she says about her health with a grain of salt. What I get from your answer is that you are extremely judgmental and prone to jumping to conclusions without getting all the facts.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark February 9, 2015, 6:01 pm

        Seriously. Lucy, you come across as a total tool here. Instead, I suspect as I am sure Kate B. does that it would be pretty damn near impossible for somebody who was TRULY and medically gluten intolerant to have have even made it to 80 without major and serious problems..

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  • something random

    something random February 9, 2015, 2:52 pm

    Here are my thoughts- you are disappointed in your parents. If they are in their 60’s and in reasonable health, it does seem odd that they aren’t willing to EVER reciprocate a three hour drive. Being told you don’t know your own body and having your heath concerns dismissed feels shitty. But they are decent enough grandparents and you hate to deprive your daughter of that experience because of your own resentment.

    I suggest a compromise. Your best bet is to accept your parents aren’t going to change. Refusing to see them for a few years to try to get them to alter their behavior is likely to have the desired outcome. I know you would love for them to miss you and express some desire to learn, or listen, or exert some effort, but it from my experience it isn’t likely to happen. So rather than trying to let go entirely to feel better I would work on other ways to improve the experience.

    Are there specific things you can look forward to seeing or doing while you are in town? Do you trust them to watch your daughter while you and your husband get out?

    Is there anyway you can afford to stay at a cheap hotel/motel for a few days? Maybe enjoy a pool. Your parents might bitch about it, but remember you don’t have a relationship based on trust and full disclosure. You can smile apologetically and nod and let the rest of their feelings run right off of you without letting it get you down. Just picture yourself wearing bitch’n-retartdant suit.
    Are there any new gluten-free restaruants that might be fun to check out? If you have to save up to enjoy your trips more, than save up and go less.

    If you try these compromises and still experience awfulness around and during your visits then I see no reason to continue putting yourself through it. But I think if you just adjust your expectations a little bit You can learn to appreciate and enjoy certain aspects of your parents while limiting your exposure to other parts. Will you feel sad? Probably. Putting the effort to create safe boundaries (where the satisfaction of the visit isn’t contingent on your parent’s contribution) will remind you of what you don’t have with them. But you would feel guilty and sad for your daughter (and probably yourself) if you cut them out, too. Some things about life ARE sad sometimes. We make room to feel the sad because the same space brings other blessings.

    Also, you are not bad if you decide you don’t want a relationship with your parents. There is always more to the story and sometimes when we don’t think about the story (our parents) much of the time, we might have a hard time even knowing what that “more” is. You are allowed to have a happy, safe, life. At the end of the day, you have to do what you think is right.

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    • something random

      something random February 9, 2015, 2:56 pm

      correction “Refusing to see them for a few years to try to get them to alter their behavior is *NOT* likely to have the desired outcome.”

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