Dear Margo: Closing Down a Demanding Granny

My special needs child isn’t good with change and Grandma wants her to sleep over once a week. How do I tell her no? Margo Howard’s advice

Closing Down a Demanding Granny

Dear Margo: I am a single mother to a special needs child. Not so unusual, right? However, I am also a soldier in the U.S. Army. My ex-husband is also in the military, and we are both currently deployed overseas. He and I maintain an amicable relationship. It seems that when it comes to our daughter, we are on the same page (thankfully). While we are both deployed, my family has taken on the responsibility of caring for “Emma.” My family, of course, adores her, and my sister has done a wonderful job of raising her.

During the time I’ve been away, my former mother-in-law has insisted on more and more visitation. Emma does not deal well with transition and functions better with a strict routine. Because of this, I’ve allowed Grandma one weekday visit and an overnight every other weekend (despite the fact that it takes Emma almost four days to get back to her schedule). Now she is demanding an overnight every single weekend! Does this woman not realize how hard it is for Emma to go back and forth for even one night?

Now I want to restrict all visitation with Grandma until her son comes home, and he has said he would even tell her as much. I would appreciate your opinion. — Fed-Up Mom/Soldier

Dear Fed: Great good luck that your ex agrees with you about Emma and his mother. I would, indeed, let him deliver the message that the main consideration must be what is best for the child. A four-day readjustment is not worth one visit. Have your family suggest she come for an afternoon at “Emma’s house” and bag the sleepovers. If Grandma balks, have Emma’s doctor write a note to remind the old girl that her grandchild is a special needs child. The strength of your position is that Emma’s needs are special. — Margo, concurringly

In the End, People Do as They Like

Dear Margo: I need advice about dealing with my brother’s relationship. He’s been dating a woman for three years (she’s 23, he’s 28), and as far as my family can see, he is not really committed to her. He seems to be coasting along, while she is very marriage-oriented and has even planned her dream wedding.

In addition to this, she is very controlling of him and has no interest in our family to the point of rudeness. A recent example was when I was visiting their house (I live on another continent). I sat alone in the living room while she stayed in their bedroom. My brother is no saint, and he can be snappish with her. He has also complained about her weight gain since they started dating.

My family has always told my brother that if she makes him happy, then we are happy for him, no matter how she behaves toward us. I’m thinking about sitting down with him and having a frank talk, telling him that if he’s not planning to marry her, then he shouldn’t stay with her, as it’s unfair. We are close and confide in each other a lot, so I feel I am well positioned to do this.

Would that be interfering? I don’t want to alienate my brother or further damage my relationship with someone who could turn out to be my sister-in-law. — Navigating Difficult Relationships

Dear Nav: My hunch is that your bro will tire of the controlling lady friend who is wedding-minded, rude … and gaining weight. But do feel free to have “the talk.” That way you will know you’ve gone on record, and of course, he will do just exactly as he pleases. I don’t think you could further damage the relationship with what’s-her-name, because, really, what is more dismissive than hiding in her bedroom when you are visiting? There is a message, however, in your brother’s acceptance of her imposing a distance between them and the family he supposedly likes. Maybe they deserve each other. — Margo, domestically

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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57 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Lila says:

    LW1’s situation is very typical of military parents. It is so hard to raise a family, especially special needs kids, when the parents are away so much. This soldier is so fortunate to be on good terms with her ex, and to have such a great sister to raise her child while she is away.

    Here’s hoping they can all get Grandma on the same page with everyone else.

  2. avatar Constance Plank says:

    I only care about the special needs child. Whatever is best for this child, is best for this child. The grandmother who doesn’t understand, needs to be told in words of one syllable that this isn’t working.


    Constance in the Sierra Foothills of California

  3. avatar mayma says:

    Does this woman not realize how hard it is for Emma to go back and forth for even one night?
    Er, I don’t know… have you told her!?!? Or are you just going to punish her silently by restricting all (!) visitation and hope she reads your mind? I see no indication that she’s doing anything other than trying to help out with her granddaughter, but I do get the impression LW1 doesn’t like her (i.e., she wants to help more, so you’re going to cut off all contact?!). Ugh, your child already has enough abandonment in her life, and you’re going to take away her grandmother too? Great, just great.

    Maybe I’m in a mood, but LW2 hit a sour note too. Instead of telling your allegedly close brother what he should do, why don’t you listen to him? Ask him questions. Find out where he’s coming from, what he wants in life. She’s controlling!? You’re going to tell a grown-ass man what he should do with a relationship that you don’t even observe very often, and she’s controlling? Uh-huh, right.

    • avatar Pdr de says:

      Mayma, I think you either got up too early or went to bed too late. You’re very snarly and harsh where both your responses are concerned. It’s fine to give your opinion, that’s what this column is for but for heavens sake, lighten up. There are more tactful and courteous ways to respond to these people than to “shred” them or cut them off at the knees. A little empathy goes a long way.

      • avatar KarrinCooper says:

        Mayma: on the ‘Maybe I’m in a mood’ – ya think?! Wow….harsh is the only word that comes to mind. Well, maybe not the ONLY one but I can’t input the other one here. I agree with Pdr…..have some compassion.


    • avatar B.eadle says:

      This child has not been abandoned. This child has two loving parents who serve in the military. Military parents are not abandoning their children and your assertion that they have is repugnant. These parents have been called to duty and they are answering the call. For that, we should thank them, not attack them.

      • avatar Rain Song says:

        No to the ADULT world she hasnt been abandoned. I DO thank her parents for serving. How ever to a child? They dont understand the differences between serving and abandoning. A special needs child certainly doesnt understand beyond mom is gone dad is gone.
        That said Granny does need to back off and go see her instead of disrupting her routine. If she is trying to help the other half of the family by taking the girl for a day. Why not take her to lunch or a movie. That gives the family a break and gives her time with the granddaughter. Granny could also ask to stay the night in the grandaughters home. Would that be a pain on Granny? Yes but less so on the child. If its a routine it may take awhile but sooner or later it will be easier.

      • avatar USMCMrs says:

        Thank you, B.eadle. 🙂

      • avatar D L says:

        Does the child understand that she hasn’t been abandoned? The LW doesn’t say how old the child is…

        Yes, of course the child hasn’t been abandoned in the traditional sense but she may feel that way. Since she is a special needs child, I don’t know what her learning capacity is. While her family can say, mommy and daddy are fighting for our freedom (God bless you both!), does the child truly understand that? Or does all she know is that mommy and daddy aren’t here with her? I think what mayma is saying regarding grandma is that she already has 2 parents that aren’t there and to suddenly take away someone she is familiar with wouldn’t do her any good either. (See my note below if granny has repeatedly been told what is best for the girl).

        • avatar Lila says:

          DL, agreed. A lot depends on how old the child is and how long and how often her parent(s) have been away. Her aunt may have become her parent-figure. This is the flip side of returning home from long deployments: kids, or whole families, do adjust and grow during the soldier’s absence. Then they have to adjust again when reunited, especially when that means a new separation from their temporary guardian…. Sometimes it even means moving and changing schools and friends, if the guardian is not in the same neighborhood as the soldier. It’s really stressful, and just one more sacrifice our military families make. I don’t know too many non-military folks who would put up with a job that does this to their families.

    • avatar D L says:

      While mayma does seem a bit snarky, she does raise some valid points for both LWs.

      For LW#1, nowhere in the letter is it indicated that the LW has already told granny that disruptions to the girl’s schedule would not be beneficial to her. If LW#1 said, “I’ve told granny over and over again about Emma’s need for strict routine but she still doesn’t get it”, then I’d be more understanding to her wanting to bar grandma from visitation. Tell granny directly what the issue is, perhaps as Margo suggested have a doctor’s note on hand so she truly understands. If that doesn’t work, then by all means bar her until your ex-husband is home. Until then, TALK to the woman. Even if you don’t like her (yeah that’s obvious), she will always been your daughter’s grandmother.

      For LW#2, I agree with mayma. What business is it of yours to involve yourself in your brother’s relationship? Did he ask for your opinion? Unless the GF shows signs of being abusive or a gold-diggers MYOB.

    • avatar A R says:

      LW 1: Actually, I think Mayma has a point here. If the LW1 needs lots of help with her daughter, I’d think she would figure out a way to explain to her MIL the *kind* of help she needs instead of shutting the visits down altogether. After all, what’s she going to do if her dependable sister ever needs a vacation, medical leave, or just a mental/emotional break from? I’ll bet she’d welcome the old MIL then! Just sayin’.

      LW2: Living on different continents makes me wonder if different norms or cultural mores (not necessarily, but possibly) are in play here. It could be that some of the complaints the letter writer has are rooted in what he and his family consider normal versus what the girlfriend considers normal. Either way, it’s really not the letter writer’s business to meddle in their affairs. After all, he rarely sees them which means he likely doesn’t have much of a sense of how their lives and relationship are structured. It’s very presumptuous to believe he knows what is best for his brother and this woman.

    • avatar impska says:

      Actually, I kind of agree with you on LW1. If she and her ex husband are in agreement about what is best for their child and he’s on board with having the difficult discussion with his mother – then why does she need advice from Margo? It’s not like Margo knows her special needs child or her MIL any better than the LW and the LW’s ex husband.

      So what is she writing about exactly? I have to wonder if the subtext of the letter is actually that the LW’s sister is complaining about the disruption to her, and it’s causing stress on the LW while deployed, but she’d rather be angry at the MIL that she dislikes rather than the sister who is generously caring for the child.

      So I wonder if what she actually wanted to ask in this letter wasn’t actually “Is it ok if my ex and I do what’s best for our child?” but rather “Is it ok if we do something hurtful to my MIL to ease my stress while deployed?”

    • avatar Hope Shoulders says:

      Mayma, I agree with you regarding both letters. LW1, doesn’t appear to be communicating her concerns to her m-i-l. She should do so as calmly as possible and to take it a step further, invite the m-i-l to the home for a night and show her her granddaughter’s routine. The grandmother may begin to realize that her granddaughter really needs this structured routine to minimize her frustrations. I’ve worked with special needs children and most of them need and appreciate this structure.

      Also LW2 needs to stop interfering, his brother is a big boy. If he wants to leave, he’ll do so. And if the girlfriend stays in her bedroom while LW2 is in her home either leave or stay and deal with her rudeness. If the relationship is as bad as you seem to think it is, it will die on its own. Be a little less judgmental in your observations because relationships are not always what they seem.

    • avatar Katharine Gray says:

      I didn’t see anything to indicate that the LW didn’t like her ex mother in law.  If the LW was a childish spoiled *me me me* person, I doubt that she and her ex-husband would be on such good terms when it comes to what is good for their child.  (Not to mention she would be unlikely to volunteer for the military).   I find it HIGHLY unlikely that neither the LW nor her husband has told the grandmother how important routine is for Emma.  Of course, any loving grandmother who had a special needs grandchild would have been doing research on the problem and learned this all on her own and realized without being told that routine is important to Emma. 

      I think Mayma is totally off base on what is really going on here. 

    • avatar mmht says:

      I’m sorry mayma, but your response put me “in a mood.” The daughter has abandonment issues? Really?! You are criticizing this woman and her ex-husband for serving our country and telling her that she’s abandoning her daughter? WOW, YOU ARE DISGUSTING!!! I certainly don’t see you out there putting your life on the line for our country. Instead, you are sitting on your fat a$$ at home complaining about the people who actually have the courage to do it.

    • avatar Jennifer juniper says:

      I liked Mayma’s response. And I agree with the implication that the child probably does suffer from having two parents that are constantly being deployed. We seem to treat all military personnel with kid gloves these days. Sorry – but if they have a special needs child, one of them should be a main care-giver. And frankly, as her SISTER is the one that seem to be mainly raising her child, she’s the one that should get to choose how and when the MIL visits. It’s HER life and her routine that needs such support.

  4. avatar lisakitty says:

    LW2:  I have a friend  who is exactly like the brother in this letter.  The woman he was involved with was rude, nasty, pushy.  He seemed disinterested in her, she was a shrew.  Everybody in our group of friends tried talking to him, he seemed to keep her around because there was nothing better around, although he had other women throwing themselves at him.

    Long story short, they’ve been married now for about 20 years.  I wasn’t around for the wedding, but other friends of mine said she basically got pregnant and he felt he had to marry her.  They have two kids, and the last time I saw them, they seemed like many married couples who’ve been together that long.  She’s still a shrew, he still seems disinterested, but somehow for them, it works out ok.

    I guess my point is, go ahead and have the “talk” with your brother, but don’t expect him to make any changes.  The girlfriend feels your disapproval which is why she hides out, and your brother is a big boy.  If he wanted to break up with her, he would.  He doesn’t.  Why not?  Because he’s getting what he needs out of the relationship.  Sex?  Probably.  But he’s not changing it because he doesn’t want to.  And if he DOES decide to marry her later, do you think that “talk” will have any repercussions?  If she finds out about it, it sure will once she gets that ring on her finger.

     I’d be careful about voicing an opinion here.

  5. avatar wendykh says:

    Honestly, whether or not the child is special needs or whatever isn’t the issue. Grandma wants X, the parents said NO, and that needs to be respected. Period. Just say NO. The word NO is a complete sentence. Do not justify argue defend or explain as that just gives her reason to think her opinion matters and honestly, it doesn’t. Moms and dads get to make decisions for their children and that’s final.

  6. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1 may be over-reacting by wanting to restrict all visitation from the grandmother but I agree with wendyykh…the parents decide what is best for the child and if these visits disrupt her schedule/routine which IS more important to a special needs child than to other children (although depending on the age all children need routine/schedules to some degree) then the visits should be restricted. 

    As for the grandmother not realizing how disruptive this is to the child’s routine…she may well have been told until the LW, her ex and the LWfamily are blue in the face but she won’t believe it because she doesn’t want to believe it.  I grew up with a special needs sister and one of my grandmothers refused to acknowledge the fact that my sister is developmentally disabled and that during her adolescence had serious behavioral issues that required constant monitoring.  According to this grandmother, my sister was just *misunderstood* and in need of her *special time* with her grandmother to overcome all of her problems. My grandmother learned the hard way when she had my then 14 year old sister for an overnight (because she was sure she could *cure* her of her very self-destructive behavior).  My sister jumped in the car (where my not so diligent grandmother had left the keys in the ignition) and nearly drove it into a creek.   My mother had tried for years to explain to this grandmother (her mother) that my sister was different, and had even warned her about my sister’s fascination with wanting to drive a car at that point in her life.   After that incident, my grandmother wanted nothing whatsover to do with my sister. So much for loving grandparents.   

    So, LW#1, do what you need to do in the best interests of your child.  The last thing you and your ex-husband need to be worried about in your deployment, is unnecessary interference in your child’s care and well-being.  Good luck and thank you for your service to our country. 

    LW#2:  I suppose you can talk to your brother but I’m on the side of those who say mind your own business.  He will do what he will do and if he is satisfied with this relationship, he will stay and if he is not, he will leave.   Actually, your brother who is snappish with her,complaining about her weight gain , and has no plans to marry her even when he knows its what she wants doesn’t sound like such a prize himself.   Perhaps she stayed in her room because your brother told her she was too fat to see company?  Or that his family doesn’t like her?  She sounds like she needs some intervention from HER family to get herself in a happier situation. 

  7. avatar lincer says:

    Ltr #2

    The Best advice I have ever received is “Mind Your Own Business”. 

  8. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Have your ex-husband give “Mom” the talk she needs to hear. My guess is Granny’s jealous of your sister/side of the family having so much of Emma’s time. Well too bad. The situation is Emma’s a special needs child, she’s getting good love and care; Granny does get access to her, and if she can’t take Emma’s special needs into consider, tough noogies on Granny. It’s a *really* good thing your ex-husband is on the same page with you regarding Emma.
    L #2: I’m conflicted on this one. It probably would be best to mind your own business, but OTOH maybe your brother needs a wake-up call. Go with your gut instinct. And are you living on a different continent long-term or permanently? How much future real-life interaction can you have with your brother? If you do have “a talk” with him, it should be geared towards HIS best interests (and that of future children).

  9. avatar K Coldiron says:

    I’m sorry to dis your brother, LW2, but neither him nor his girlfriend sounds like much of a prize. I think Margo’s thought that they deserve each other might be right on.

    Really truly ask yourself this question: Why is it your business if their relationship is a mess?

  10. avatar Hannah Smith says:

    I agree the child has not been “abandoned,” but that said, for any young child (even without special needs), it’s often difficult to conceptualize ideas like “the greater good” and “helping the country.” There may be better ways to phrase it, but any kid will miss an absent parent, and to say that the full picture of a military husband is “he’s serving the country” doesn’t take into account – at all – how his absence affects his family. We’ve seen many a letter in which it leads to a breakdown in the relationship.

    That said, I agree that the comments by Mayma above are a bit harsh; however, I, too, would be curious to know if the grandmother has any awareness of how difficult it is to get the child on schedule (you’d think she might have noticed herself, as having her over would likely trigger that difficulty – perhaps even why she wants to increase contact, thereby helping the kid become more familiar with her?). There’s two sides to all these stories, but I agree that Grandma needs to have the child’s best interests at heart, and having grandma visit mom’s place – once or twice a week, even – could take some burden off mom (I’d have grandma help with dishes and cleaning while there, personally), so I don’t think a full cut-off might be the best answer.

    As to the second one, I also agree that sis may not have the full picture, which is why talking to her brother is a good thought (is he AWARE that his significant other “abandoned” their guest? ;). But I, too, would approach it as a question rather than a judgment, and see if perhaps she’s not fully informed (being on another continent can lead to that). if bro has no further info to provide, then yeah, I’d say that this chick has some issues. That said, the implication that being with someone ONLY to get married isn’t fair (who knows if brother has discussed his feelings that he’s not ready to marry? Hence, having a chat with him). Relationships can be fulfilling in the long term without marriage, though clearly if the two in the relationship don’t see eye to eye on that, that’s an issue.

  11. avatar Kathy says:

    As the mother of a special needs child, I can say that the most important thing is open communication.  It’s clear that mom has an issue with her former mom in-law, and it’s playing out in her overreaction to a grandma who just wants to see more of her granddaughter.   She doesn’t need to cut off grandma; she just needs to talk to her.  Any child – and especially special needs kids – benefit from exposure to loving family members.  Although I don’t know the circumstances of this child, it’s possible that she will learn to adjust to change the more she has to deal with it.  Everyone just needs to work together.  It also seems that the family members who are currently raising the girl should have a say in this – it’s possible they would very much appreciate the respite.

  12. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW#1: Margo is definitely spot on: Bag the overnighters altogether.

    LW#2: Sounds to me like bro is having a fine time pitting controlling sis against controlling gal pal, all the while likely leading a separate private life.  

  13. avatar Barbara says:

    LW#2: You live on another continent yet you think you have great insights that your brother should break up with his live-in girlfriend? No wonder she stayed in the bedroom. I’d say listen if your brother wants to talk about his relationship, otherwise it’s none of your business. Only he knows what he needs and what he sees in his girlfriend.

  14. avatar CanGal says:

    Granny – I know what I am about to suggest asks a lot of your sister, but what if the overnights are at “Emma’s” house and not granny’s. This would of course be totally your sister’s decision and she should not feel pressured to agree.

  15. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – You have an ex who is willing to go to the mat with his mom for you and his daughter??? Sweet!! Cash that ticket in and let him do it. Margo is right: this is not about Grandma’s needs it about your daughters. You kid is lucky to have you two as parents  🙂

    LW2 – Get a cat or something and leave your brother the fock alone.

  16. avatar decusatis says:

    As the younger sibling of a low functioning autistic adult, I am very familiar with how important routine is to a special needs child. However, so are grandparents, especially one who is willing to go the extra effort to care for a special needs child regularly. I have the following observations and recommendations.
    1. When something happens once a week, it becomes part of the routine. Less so if it is every other week, so weekly visitation may improve matters, not make them worse.
    2. Something is being done wrong if it takes four days to recover from a visit, unless the child is being mistreated. This should be explored with a professional, who can guide the family on both sides as to how to improve the transition.
    3. If the grandmother can create a controlled environment for the child at her house, with the child’s bed, toys and clothing (no packing), and an established routine, it can make a big difference.
    4. Respite is very important to people caring for special needs children. It becomes more challenging as the child grows older, so family members willing to help out should be cultivated. My grandmother lived next door to us, and helped out tremendously with my brother. Her death left a tremendous hole in our family, not only because we missed her love, but we had to go to social service agencies to attempt to fill services she lovingly provided. For example, it is difficult to find a sitter for a large autistic teenager, especially one who requires assistance to use the bathroom and is periodically self abusive.

  17. avatar Briana Baran says:

    Re: L#1: My older son is a high functioning on the autism spectrum, and has serious behavioral problems (not *issues*, problems). When he was younger, I had to work, and so did his bio father and later, his step-father, who did most of the parenting (that is versus bio-dad). If there was, and is, one person who could not, and would not, ever respect, agree to, or cooperate with my son’s need for consistency, boundaries, consequences, and especially a limitation on non-aggressive and non-violent media input (games, TV and movies) it was his biological paternal grandmother. Attending school meetings, doctor and psychiatrist appointments, therapy…nothing would convince this woman that she was irrevocably harming her grandson…and custody laws clearly state that the non-custodial guardian can assign any person he/she desires to care for a child in his/her (I am using the abhorred male/female PC construct to avoid accusations of gender bias) stead. After the alternate weekends on which he stayed with her, it would take him an entire week to readjust to school, to become less aggressive (biting and hitting other students, acting out in class), and to stop refusing to eat things he normally liked and throwing tantrums when denied sweets (he had become pre-diabetic).

    My MIL, his step-grandmother, got it. His step-father, who raised him exactly as if he were his own, got it. His paternal grandfather got it. But grandma, and bio-dad (who refused for years to even acknowledge that our son had anything “wrong” with him…and if he did…it was my fault for somehow mistreating him) refused. I stopped working when my younger son was born for a number of reasons, and one of the most important was that my older son had been diagnosed as high functioning autistic. Now he’s 20, lives with his father, and, while his step-father, brother and I see him regularly, and do our level best to encourage, promote a better strategy (as in, there are a lot of places that he could actually *walk* to a job, places with excellent plans in place that help adults with special needs, and we would help him adjust and manage his time…and these jobs actually pay reasonably well),and work on distinguishing fantasy from reality…but dad and grandma constantly undermine everything we do, and so my son takes “fun” classes at the community college, thinks he’s going to LA to be a rock star (he can’t drive, and he shouldn’t, as he’s a hazard on his bicycle), has no job and a huge sense of entitlement and what have you done for me lately…and no idea of responsibility and accountability.

    In case you think I simply despise my ex-MIL, three different therapists (during the three different stints he had at the local low-security mental hospital for beating his grandparents…after grandma and dad archly informed me that he *never* misbehaved at their house, or would ever dare strike any of them. That had a lot to do with them never having refused or corrected him before…but as I said…they never listened to anyone) caught her in open lies, and were utterly, openly shocked, and took her to task during family sessions. It didn’t help.

    So, for LW1, I would wager any amount of money that the offending grandmother has been informed, explained to, pleaded with, and perhaps even shouted at ad nauseum…but, after all, grandma knows best. I take a certain dark amusement in those who are referring to the child as “abandoned”. Really? She has an incredibly loving home life…and we DO NOT know what the circumstances of her birth were. Would any of you be crying foul at the parents if she were a “normal” child? Or if it was daddy in the service, and mommy was working a civilian job (I’m thinking that a military mom deployed over seas is much more likely to have “abandoned” her child than a mom working 12-hour shifts as a waitress. The latter might be seen as some as working hard to make ends meet while “her man is away”. The former? “How could she risk her life like that and abandon her child!”) would there be so much upset?

    Also, there are no guarantees. Anytime a child is conceived, anything can happen. I had to laugh when I read a post in another column suggesting that the parents get genetic testing to prevent the birth of another autistic child (the father’s child from a previous marriage was autistic). There is not a single, solitary example of autism in my family, or my ex-husband’s, except our son. Not even anyone who is faintly possible. A host of addicts and alcoholics (no, I was absolutely healthy before and during my pregnancy), depressives and a few other mental outriders, myself included…but no autism. The genetics of autism very likely are linked to environmental factors (not vaccinations) that alter the male gametes (which are produced and die constantly). No one can predict what a child will be.

    LW1 has not abandoned her child, nor has her ex-husband. They are in the military, and are serving over seas currently. They have provided excellent care for their daughter, and are in accord over her care and well-being. Grandma does not get it, and her desire seems extremely selfish to me. Children do come first…”special needs” or not…and if grandma cannot understand, then not allowing the disruptive visits at all is the right thing to do. Those of you saying, “Poor sweet concerned grandma”, don’t get it either. I think it very telling that the ex-husband, the woman’s son, is in agreement, and is willing to tell his own mother to back off.

    Deployment over seas is not forever. Let the little girl be in a stable, comprehensible environment that is safe for her until her parents come home.

  18. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    Ltr. #2, I realize you love your brother but they kind of sound like they deserve each other.  He’s passive and can’t be bothered while she’s controlling, livng in a fantasy world.  Not your problem, nor should you make it yours.  He’s a big boy and he’ll leave if and when he’s had enough or she’ll move on if and when she can’t get him to see her way to the altar.

    • avatar John Lee says:

      I think the phrase “they deserve each other” is rarely true because people like these just shouldn’t be in relationship period; they don’t really deserve each other in a positive or negative sense.  I do think that neither of these people can do any better so if they really want a relationship, well, this is probably as good as it gets for them.

      I think LW#2 should have a short talk with her brother saying something like, hey, you probably don’t want to get married right now do you?  Maybe being single is better for you?  Just ask some questions and let him arrive at the right conclusion.  If he doesn’t, whatever, you gave him a heads up.

  19. avatar Ghostwheel says:

    LW1-Actually, no, Grandma does not realize how hard it is for Emma to go back and forth for even one night. EVEN IF YOU HAVE TOLD HER THAT. Anyone who has not dealt with the aftermath of a schedule upset for a special needs child doesn’t get it, no offense to them. They just don’t. First, you must explain to Grandma exactly what happens after a “schedule change” (and refer to it that way) and let her know that even one day different is a schedule change. The tell her that you want her to know her grandchild, can she come up with a better solution that doesn’t cause so much disruption for Emma, like maybe her coming over to Emma’s house, or having Emma over on vacations, or daily walks instead of a weekly day or overnights. If at that point, Grandma still does not listen to reason (is not willing to find some compromise that will be better for Emma), then her son should tell her she will have to wait until he gets home. Give Grandma a chance by explaining it to her in words of one syllable. Seriously. Emma may also have problems because Grandma allows her to watch too much TV, play the wrong type of video games, or feeds her something she reacts to (milk, eggs, candy, strawberries, peanuts, anything) so check and see if she eats or drinks anything different over there and what she and Grandma do together.

    LW2 Tell brother that you are concerned because, from the outside looking in, his relationship doesn’t look like the loving relationship you’d like him to have. If he wants to talk, fine. If not, say nothing more. Then back off. It’s that easy.

  20. avatar mary burdt says:

    I have a different take on the letter from the mom deployed overseas. Just wondering, why both parents are in the service and why one of them isn’t staying home to care for this child.My heart breaks just thinking about how this child need her parents (or at least one of them), to be there to comfort her and love her every single day. Of course, I don’t know the age of the child, or if the parents were already in the military when the child was born. Caring for a special needs child is exhausting and I give credit to this mom’s sister for stepping up to the plate. I sure would like more information.

    • avatar carol grzonka says:

      i agree!!! military service is a worthwhile but so is caring for your special needs child.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Mary – it is, of course, a very personal choice but believe me, I hear you! The military allows for this, but it is NOT encouraged.

      The rule is, if you are already a single parent, you cannot join unless you give up legal custody of your kids for your whole first term of enlistment (several years). For couples who are parents, only one parent may join unless they give up custody for the first term. BUT, once people have already joined and then become pregnant – then singles and dual career couples MUST have a Family Care Plan naming their child’s guardian; they must have a letter from that guardian acknowleding that they will accept that responsibility any time, for any length of time, even permanently; they must even show that they have money set aside to transport the kids to the guardian from wherever they are. Failure to maintain a working plan is cause for discharge. It is a BIG DEAL. At the start of the first Gulf War, over 50 soldiers – all women, mostly single, a few married – were booted out because their care plans suddenly didn’t work. The guardians were fine with the occasional 30- day exercise, but not with an open-ended war from which the parents might not return. Let me tell you, there were a lot of ticked-off people in that unit, especially those parents who just quietly put their plans into action and went to do their jobs. I imagine, with a whole decade of war now, that this is much more rare these days.

      Even without wars, it’s hard. I knew quite a few female officers who had one kid and stayed in service, but then got out upon their second pregnancy. They had experienced how hard it was, and while they loved the military, service just became less important than being there for their kids. Had I ever become pregnant, I absolutely would have left the service, and would have regretted having to make that choice – but that’s just me.

      Again, it is a very personal decision to be a single or dual career parent in the military, and there are a lot of folks who make it work, but I could not have been one of them.

      • avatar Lila says:

        To clarify: there were over 50 women booted from my brigade alone, at the start of the frst Gulf War. I have no idea how many total for the services.

      • avatar mary burdt says:

        Lila, thanks for all the info you were willing to share. I just feel that one spouse should stay home to raise the child or children. There is no higher calling. Being a mom should take precedence over joining the military. I had a hunch you would agree. Mary

        • avatar Javamonster says:

          Being a DAD or a PARENT is a high calling–not just being a mother. How ’bout Dad staying home with the kids? Maybe she’s got the higher rating, or harder to fill job than he does.

          • avatar Lila says:

            Java, great question for the PARENTS out there, who are the ones who make these choices.

            In the cases of the couples in my unit, whose family care plans failed at the start of the Gulf War – my Brigade Commander allowed the couples to decide which one would stay in and which would get out to care for the kids (he could have kicked them both out but chose not to). They ALL chose for the woman to get out. In the cases of all the single moms whose care plans failed, there was no choice – they were the custodial parent and suddenly didn’t have anyone to give custody to. Well, who made that arrangement? As for the officers I have known who got out upon motherhood, there were at least a couple of cases I recall where the wives DID have a better / higher-paid career going than the husbands did, but the WOMEN were the ones who CHOSE to leave the service. Why not the men? Well, you tell me.

  21. avatar Deborah Key says:

    Lila, your post reminded me of a soldier at Ft Campbell that left his 9 year old daughter alone with an ATM card and instructions! while he deployed to the first Gulf War.  It made the news in Nashville where I was visiting at the time.

    Last I heard, he was on his way back.  Hopefully, he got an article 15 and a size 9 where it would do the most good.  I’m hoping the girl was placed with a responsible relative.  Whenever I think of that story, I wonder what happened to her.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Deborah, oh, wow, I missed that story somehow… probably because I was caught up with my own unit’s deployment and then “over there” at the time this happened. Also, I never was stationed at Campbell.

      I do not know what happened in his case, but had he been in our unit, he would have been kicked out of the service and probably some kind of punishment in addition… after all, it had to be some kind of criminal negligence by state law… I would think… and then, there are some general provisions in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that would cover this… and he DID fail to maintain a working care plan so at the very least he was almost certainly administratively separated.

      Wow. Nine? I can’t even imagine.

  22. avatar RL says:

    Re LW#1: Have you even pointed out to her that her grandmother doesn’t have the right to demand the granddaughter sleeps over at all? It seems like the daughter shouldn’t have been allowed to sleep over at all to begin with. You’re the mother — it’s your responsibility and your right to do what’s best for your child. Even if your ex isn’t on the same page, you have a legitimate medical excuse and frankly, grandparents don’t have any legal rights. Something else to consider is that it might be a generational issue that the grandmother doesn’t understand what special needs mean. It wasn’t that long ago that the phrase “special needs” wasn’t in use, so maybe the woman just needs to hear it from an authority figure outside the family like Margo suggested.

    • avatar mmht says:

      RL, you are wrong about that. Many states recognize Grandparental Rights and do award visitation rights to grandparents. My parents were able to legally get visitation rights to my nephew.

  23. avatar RL says:

    Re LW 2: I wonder how fit the brother is. As an FYI, if you want a supermodel, then you need to earn 7 figures.

  24. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #1 – This is a no brainer. You must do what is in the best interest of your child. I would say this letter writer is right in waiting for her ex-husband to bring up the visitation issue.

    Letter #2 – I think she should let her brother know how she feels. Given he is cruel to his girlfriend about her weight combined with the fact that he doesn’t want to get married and she does, this relationship is toast.  It would be a different issue if he genuinely loved her, respected her and wanted to build a life with her. Then….if this letter writer were to want to voice objections to their relationship it would be a problem. However based on her letter….this is nothing, not a big deal. 

  25. avatar mmht says:

    LW#1: While I agree with Margo’s advice, the thing that neither the LW or Margo are keeping in mind is Grandparents’ Rights. It is recognized, by the law, that grandparents have rights to their grandchildren and can sue, and often win, visitation of the child. I know this b/c my parents did this with my nephew 15 years ago. I’m mentioning this b/c this woman seems extremely thick headed and/or selfish if she can not see what these visits are doing to her granddaughter. For someone that selfish, I wouldn’t put anything past them. Hopefully, a judge would recognize that the visits are not healthy for the child, but it would be a pretty nasty situation if it even got to that point. Basically, be very careful with this situation and tread lightly b/c even if your ex-husband agrees with you, it can still get pretty nasty if she wants it to.

    LW#2: Definitely have the talk with him but make sure you re-iterate the fact that you are not telling him to break up or to marry her. That he just needs to evaluate where he believes this relationship is going and check that it is where she believes the relationship is going.

    • avatar mjd4 says:

      Grandparents may have rights if the parents are refusing any contact at all. That is not the case here. Grandparents do not have the right to overnight stays. In fact this grandparent already gets overnights, just not as often as she would like. I cannot imagine any court awarding weekly overnights against the parents wishes just because granny wants it.

  26. avatar NicoleDSK says:

    LW2… I realize that this puts me in the minority, but if your brother (or anyone else) is being cruel to someone then hell yeah, say something. Stringing someone along who you know wants to marry you, who you have no intention of marrying, is cruel.

  27. avatar D C says:

    I know I’m coming late to the party, but have been on vacation and just now have access again. 

    LW 1 – I have a special needs child (autistic) and completely understand where you are coming from.  However, I think maybe grandma probably thinks her granddaughter would be better able to handle the visits if she had them more often, so she could get used to them. 

    It’s heartbreaking for a grandparent to feel so disconnected to a grandchild, and telling her “you’re not good for my kid” is tragic.  There has to be a better choice for all than to just cut a grandparent out of a child’s life.  And I know it’s really hard when you’re away.  And just how is the child’s adjustment going to be affected when her parents come home?  That will be a big deal too.  I think the family as a whole needs to work harder to make the situation work without destroying the relationship with grandma. 

    My child has gotten better over the years at handling changes.  Maybe yours will too.  In this case it’s worth the effort to keep trying. 

  28. avatar lw2 says:

    Hi everyone, LW2 here. Thanks for all your opinions–they’ve all been helpful. I realize after reading your responses that the weight issue may not be 100 percent clear. My brother has voiced privately to me that he feels less attracted to his girlfriend because of her weight gain. He says he feels guilty for thinking these thoughts and has tried to encourage her to eat healthier and work out with him. At no point has he been cruel to her.

    Are there divorcees out there who wish a loved one had pointed out before the marriage their SOs weren’t a good match? I don’t want to be controlling, but when you see a loved one heading towards a huge mistake, where is an acceptable line between saying something with the hope of saving both parties heartache in the future and just letting them get on with it? I guess that’s what I wanted to figure out by asking this question.

    Anyway, I spoke to him last week (he brought up the issue) and rephrased the question to this: “Ask yourself these questions–you don’t need to give me the answer. 1. Do you want to marry her? and 2. Do you want her to be the mother of your children?”, which I thought was gentler than my original letter.

    • avatar mjd4 says:

      I am divorced and I cannot imagine that it have been remotely helpful for anyone to have pointed out that I was making a mistake. I think I would have laughed them off as not knowing what they were talking about, or gotten defensive. Asking questions to help me clarify my own thoughts might have helped, but only if it didn’t sound as though you were trying to steer me toward the “right” answer.