Caroline Moss is an author and host of the podcast "Gee Thanks, Just Bought It," which helps people find the products they need to make life easier, better and more productive. Now with this column, "Asking for a Friend," she's helping people with the advice they need to make life easier, better and more productive. To submit a question, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm sure there are other grandparents across the United States that are feeling the same thing I am; I certainly can't be the only one.
Last year, when everything shut down because of the pandemic, my adult son and I agreed to maintain separate distances. Like everyone else at that time, we thought it would only be a few short weeks and everything we get back to normal.
So in the last 14 months, I have been able to see my grandchild a total of seven hours ... TOTAL. The grandparents on the other side are divorced and the grandmother demands every single Saturday all day long. The grandfather gets every single Sunday all day long.
They are both retired and have free time all through the week and the child is not old enough to have started school yet, so he's free during the entire week as well.
I am still working full-time and the only chance I have to see my grandchild is on a weekend. But they just can't seem to "squeeze me into their schedule," and this has been the source of some extremely heated arguments and conversations. And a little bit of time that I have tried to plan to see my son, his girlfriend and the child, I always have to tiptoe and wait in line until the other grandparents are done.
The other grandparents are absolutely unrelenting.
I know I can't be the only grandparent across the U.S. who is dealing with this. It's created a huge issue of isolation and family alienation. I've called a few local attorneys about grandparents rights, but the minimum retainer fee is $10,000, and obviously unaffordable for me.
What can I do?
I am sorry to hear that you haven’t been able to see your grandson for more than a few hours over the course of the pandemic. You are certainly not alone in this; I know people who still haven’t been able to introduce new babies to their grandparents yet. I am sure it has been difficult to see him growing up and changing from afar. That can be hurtful and heartbreaking, especially since you’re saying that your son’s girlfriend’s parents spend a lot of time with the child. Isolating is a great word to describe it. You are feeling cut off from your family and you are upset about that.
Those feelings are valid, and you have the right to feel them.
But something in your email to me gave me major pause: your desire to contact lawyers about grandparents rights and saying it’s only the money holding you back. This seems like a major jump, and one that would no doubt spark even more tension between you and your son. Unless you believe that your son and his girlfriend are unfit parents and putting your grandchild’s life in grave danger, I would venture to guess no lawyer is going to tell you that you have rights you can invoke just because you feel like you’re not getting enough face time with your grandson. He is not your child, and how he spends his time and who he spends his time with is up to your adult son and his partner. It may not be what you want and it may be hurtful and, in your mind, it may even be cruel, but there is certainly no legal recourse for you here.
There are a few things at play here, potentially. You say the other grandparents are “unrelenting." You say that this has already become a hot-button issue between you and your son. My immediate advice would be to stop keeping tabs on the other grandparents. Your grandson has other grandparents and he will have other grandparents for the rest of your life. It’s not productive for you to constantly keep track, nor does it seem your son is going to respond to this tactic. I don’t think he would’ve responded kindly to a lawyer pushing your case either. Plus, it’s making you upset!
Focus on the potential of your relationship with your grandson. If this is important to you, and it’s not about competing with the other side of the family, you must find a way to communicate with your son and his partner and explain how much you want this relationship with their child. How they respond is up to them but how you approach it is up to you.
Stay calm, cool and collected. I'll keep my fingers crossed that this will yield more quality time with your grandchild.