When Grandparent Estrangement May Be Justified

This letter to “Ask Amy” made my blood boil. Usually I feel tremendous empathy for grandmas who are alienated from their grandchildren. But in this case, the parents are justified in removing their daughters from these insensitive grandparents. Read on and share your opinion.

Dear Amy: My (white) parents have never approved of my wife, who was born in Mexico. They also seem not to care for our daughters — their two grandchildren.

A while back they asked to take these granddaughters for the weekend. The girls were 4 and 6 at the time.Our daughters have always had long, dark hair — down to their waists — that my wife loves to put into ponytails or braids. When we went to pick up the girls after the weekend with my parents, we found that my mother had decided the girls’ hair was “too much work,” and took the kids to the local barber. Their long hair was gone, replaced with very short — almost military-style — cuts above their ears.

My wife was heartbroken, but said little.

My mother told me that I was wrong to protest the haircuts, and that they had done the girls a favor.

My father laughed at me for being angry and told me the girls “finally looked normal.”

My family seems entirely racist to me. I feel they are a danger to their granddaughters (who they do not seem to care for or about.)

Is estrangement merited?

Disgusted Dad

Dear Dad: Yep, your folks also seem fairly racist to me, too.

Granted, grandparents have undermined their grown children and disrespected their grandchildren in this way from time immemorial, but that doesn’t make it right.

What makes this act racist is the extra context they’ve thrown in, just to make sure you know that they don’t see your children as quite “normal,” and that their long, dark hair is strange and unmanageable.

Hair is important to all children. But hair has a special importance to children of color. In many cultures, basically — if you mess with a girl’s hair, you’ll be answering to her mother.

Your wife showed amazing restraint, but I wonder why she was so silent. She is not a second-class citizen. She is the mother of these children, and she has a voice and a right to use it.

Your folks’ attitude, statements and behavior toward your daughters puts them in the category of, “With grandparents like these, who needs incompetent jerks?”

On top of other, more important, matters — if your parents can’t manage to help groom their granddaughters for a total of two days, then they aren’t equipped (or able, or willing) to take care of small humans.

I also assume your folks could have returned their grandkids after a weekend looking like they were raised by wolves and that wouldn’t have mattered, as long as everyone had fun and felt well-loved.

I don’t necessarily recommend total estrangement, but I do recommend distance. It is a natural consequence of their actions and attitude.

1 thought on “When Grandparent Estrangement May Be Justified”

  1. I hope these parents never trust these grandparents. I have learned of a web site whereby parents relate similar horrifying tales. Some grandparents consider their grandchildren ” Do Overs” and have even kidnapped their grandchildren.

    Grandparents have a role in the support of grandchildren…THROUGH what the parents want. Our job of grandparenting is to simply enjoy WHO their grandchildren are, and celebrate it.

    ” I see you” is far more important that constantly praising children. Validating what a child is doing gives them a sense of self. I hope these parents also sit their daughters down and gently discuss what happened.

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