Dear Annie: We live five hours from our daughter, "Barbara," her husband, "Seth," and their two kids. We visit them once a year.
Seth completely ignores us. The last time we arrived, our daughter and grandchildren hugged us, but Seth sat with his back to us. He didn't even say hello. When my husband went to talk to him, Seth walked out of the room. Each time we go there, he becomes a little worse. We send him birthday and Christmas gifts, and he never responds. We have no idea why he hates us. When he does talk to us, he mostly discusses his new hobby: shooting defenseless animals. He knows we are repulsed by this, yet he prattles on about how he plans to take his daughter with him on hunting trips.
He seems to be a good father, although he is very condescending toward our daughter. Barbara claims that Seth is a terrific husband, and she loves being a stay-at-home mom. But she looks pale and thin and rarely smiles. We are worried about her.
Maybe Barbara doesn't want to ruin things for the kids, but honestly, we think she's delusional. We love her, but don't know how to change Seth's attitude. Any ideas?
- Sad Grandparents
Dear Sad: The fact that Seth likes to hunt is his business as long as he has the proper licenses. We don't recommend you debate the issue, because you are unlikely to find common ground. We agree that he is rude, but unless Barbara can convince him to be more polite, it's best to lower your expectations and ignore his behavior.
The more pressing issue is Barbara's health. Is she truly too pale and thin, or are you projecting? If you believe there is abuse, report it to the authorities. Meanwhile, please reach out to your daughter without denigrating her husband, which will make her defend him. Ask how she's feeling. Talk to her often. Invite her to bring the kids to visit you, with or without Seth. See for yourself what's really going on.
Dear Annie: Many years ago, I was in the same position as "Busy Mom," with five children, farm chores and a huge garden. My house looked lived-in, to say the least. One day, my wonderful aunt said to me, "Don't worry, Marg. It's clean dirt." Bless her heart.
- Manitoba, Canada
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