If You Were a Very Old Grandmother and Had to Choose Between -

Updated on September 08, 2014
D.D. asks from Phoenix, AZ
27 answers

I come from a dysfunctional family. I understand there may be no 'normal families' but since I come from a dysfunctional family, I often question whether my assumptions and thoughts are healthy.

If you were a grandma and you were very old, and could pass away at any time - which would you choose? An all expense trip paid to Cabo San Lucas by one daughter, or a chance to see your grandchildren, whom you haven't seen in nearly two years?

Please no judgments in my question as it is a real scenario. I have asked my mother, who is very old to fly out to see her grand-kids. She puts me off and puts me off. She is having major surgery imminently, and we discussed it again. Of course, after her surgery, and she is fully recovered, I thought maybe she could visit then. She wouldn't say yay or nay. However, assuming she makes a full recovery, she did tell me she plans to go to Cabo in January with her 'favorite daughter'. No, i'm not jealous. I'm wondering what the average, loving grandma would do.

I don't have grandchildren yet and I've never met any of my grandparents so that is another experience I haven't had to draw upon. I like to think I would be the type of grandma that would want to see her grand-kids instead of an all expense paid trip to Cabo with a 'favorite daughter'. I hope I am the grandma that is close to their grand-kids. TIA.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I guess I don't see why there has to be a choice. Why can't she do both? I love my grandchildren to death, but I also have my own life to live. I don't see why she can't go a week or two to Cabo and then go see grandchildren before/after.

It sounds to me like someone is trying to make this a competition about who she loves more. It's a no-win spot for the grandmother and really not fair.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Grand kids

Ya know, I have to add, I would doubt the sanity of my kids if they would think I wanted to go to Cabo when I am old. I am only 46 and have no desire to go there anymore.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

If I hadn't seen my grand kids in 2 years, then I probably don't have a really close relationship with them. If they are younger than 9-10, they will likely not even retain strong memories of my visit. I would go to Cabo with my daughter, whom I presumably do want to spend time with.

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answers from Portland on

Since your mother is not emotionally close to your children or apparently you, I would expect her to choose going to Cabo with a daughter with whom she is at least somewhat close. Or perhaps because seeing Cabo is more important to her than seeing her grandchildren at this time.

You think she'll die soon but I suggest she may not think so. She may think she can go with your sister now and see you and the children later. How old is she? I'm 71 and tho I know I'm within 10-20 years of dying I don't make decisions based on the thought this may be my last opportunity.

I see my grandchildren nearly every day. I only have one daughter and didn't become a mother until my 40's. I saw much of the world and did much of what I wanted to do before I adopted my daughter. I wanted to be a mother and so nurturing my grandchildren fits with my plans/expectations for life. Being with her grandchildren is not as important to your mother.

I can understand your Mom's choice. She sees her relationship to her grandchildren differently than I see mine. Her priorities are different than mine or yours. Priorities are influenced by our experiences. You said your family is dysfunctional. Perhaps your mother has never been much interested in family or children. Why would she be different now?

What I'm saying in a poor way is that in its self your mother's decision can be seen as one an average loving grandmoter would make. Because you and I and thousands of other mothers would choose to see the grandchildren first does not make that the "right" decision. I suggest many grandmothers would choose the same as your mother.

What is imprtant is that you don't feel loved by your mother. She and you are not a good fit. This hurts, I know and I would be jealous if I were you.

BTW All families are dysfunctional in their own way.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

unfortunately there's no right answer to this- it's so personality-driven. if it were my mother, or my little mumsie (step-mom), it would be hands-down the grandkids. but my dad would go with the cabo trip in a heartbeat.
family, especially tinies, can be extremely wearing and exhausting on the elderly. vital young grandparents groove on it, but someone teetering on the edge of the last Great Adventure might well want to have one more earthly one first.
i can certainly understand where you're coming from, but i get your mom too, especially with a major surgery coming up.
much positive energy and support to you.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

I don't know.

One the one hand my sister has a girl who's a complete brat.
My Mom loves her but she doesn't like her.
Visits with this kid are sneers, ignoring my Mom, throwing tantrums (she a teen now and this hasn't changed) and massive manipulation of everyone around her - she's exactly what my sister raised her to be.

My Mom loves it when my son visits. He's helpful, courteous, will do any chore when asked and quite a few without even being asked. We all share a love of books, Dr Who and we have much in common.

If it was a choice between a vacation and my niece - my Mom would prefer the vacation - it would just be more pleasant and restful.
If it was a choice between a vacation and my son - my Mom would love to see my son - he's a joy to be around.

I'm not saying your kids are brats - they are probably great kids (and I don't know how old they are) - but sometimes an elderly person doesn't relate well to younger people (my grandfather didn't care for little kids but he liked us better when we were older).
His favorite show was Lawrence Welk - at 5 yrs old I had no idea who that was (although now in my 50's I have a real appreciation for accordion polka music - I'm sure somewhere in the afterlife he's thrilled with that).

What ever happens and what ever she chooses - try not to read too much into it.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

This is a tough one. There are so many details missing (what are all the various relationships like? Are your kids small and does your mother even LIKE small kids? Has your mother always been like this or is this a recent thing? Is the imminent surgery throwing her mortality in her face and now she feels like she needs to DO STUFF before she passes on? Has Cabo always been a dream of hers? Etc.) and so many feelings and motivations here that there can't possibly be a right or wrong answer.

Maybe your mother isn't close to her grandkids and would rather spend what little time she might have left with the one person she loves most in this world (your sister), instead of with virtual strangers (her grandkids). Harsh, but perhaps that's the reality of the situation. Or maybe she's been dying to go to Cabo for decades and now her favorite daughter has offered to take her...she couldn't possibly give up this chance, right? Maybe the thought of spending many days under the same roof as young, rowdy children or sullen teenagers isn't attractive to her (not saying your kids are like that, just some older people simply don't have the energy to be around younger people, no matter how fantastic the younger people are). There are so many reasons your mom might choose Cabo over your kids. There is no correct answer.

My mother adores my kids. She lives overseas, so we don't see her that often (a couple times a year), but when we do see her, we spend WEEKS together at a time. She and I have a fabulous relationship as well. But even with that, I couldn't say with certainty she'd choose us as a "final" thing to cross off her bucket list. If her dream was to go somewhere special that she'd never been before and she was given that opportunity, she might very well choose that over us.

I'm so sorry you and your mother have this kind of relationship. It must hurt. Is there a possibility of taking your kids to see her at some point instead of her coming to see you? There MUST be a way she can do Cabo AND see her grandkids. If it's important to you for your kids to see their grandmother once more, YOU might need to be the one to take them to HER. This it tough. I would be hurt, too.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Not all grandparents are involved or even care much about seeing their grandchildren. My own mother is like this. I'm sure it's in part because of our strained relationship but honestly she just doesn't really like children that much (as was made pretty clear by how absent she was as we were growing up.) So yeah, if one of my sisters offered her a trip to Cabo she would be all over it.
I think this is more about YOU being hurt that she's not as interested in your children as you would like, and I totally get that, but remember, if she chooses not to have a relationship with them that's HER loss, she is the one missing out. You and your kids will be just fine in the long run, so focus on that! We can't make people be what we expect them to be, the sooner you accept that the happier you will be I promise :-)

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My mother would come visit my kids before you could even blink. She travels half way across the country to see them 2x/yr. On the other hand, my MIL hasn't visited her only grandchildren in over 3 years and never calls. My husband thinks his mother shows so little interest in our kids because they make her feel old. She regularly travels internationally and visits her other son and his wife (who don't have kids) so clearly she would be able to come if she wanted to.

Everyone is different. If you want your kids to have a relationship with your mother, it may be up to you to take them to visit her instead of waiting for her to come to you. If she is usually "cool" toward your family you might plan to stay in a hotel nearby and invite her on a family outings with you. It can be uncomfortable to be too close to someone who wants their personal space. As things progress, you could ditch the hotel and stay at her place if it felt right. (Though your own hotel space to retreat to for nap time might be really awesome.)

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My Grandchildren would take priority over a trip.

I also come from a dysfunctional family and so did my hubby. Neither of us would consider anything but seeing grandchildren.

My take from your question is not from a standpoint of jealousy... it is from a standpoint of what is right and unfortunately, your mother sounds very selfish to me.

I was very close to both of my grandmothers... they were more like a mother to me and I cherished those relationships. I hope to someday have a very close relationship with my grandchildren.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

You can't compare her to 'average' because that's a shifting opinion. Neither my mother nor my mother in law bake cookies and are able to have DD drop by, but they are still good grands. If she has not been the type of grandma to come visit you and the kids, that is understandably hard to deal with. It hurts, naturally. But that's just her relationship with your family. Perhaps you could suggest you visiting her. That might go better if you are really wanting her to see them. My grandfather lived in another state and refused to fly, so we saw him rarely until we moved. I also have cousins who drive right by my town on the way to the beach and never ever drop in. I just accept that it's about them and not me.

And other posters have a point that this Cabo trip may be a last hurrah if she's sick. I had a friend who took a trip to Ireland because he'd always wanted to see it and had cancer. The moment he was well enough, he went, and never regretted it, though he could have instead gone to another country to see relatives. In the end, everyone came to him, vs asking him to do a world tour.

If you look at all this and think, "Wow, this is not how I want to be" then break the cycle with the next generation.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

All you can do, Diana, is make your own decisions with your own sense of personal integrity.

Who knows why people choose what they choose? Perhaps Cabo in January would be a relief for her if she lives someplace cold. I can tell you, I HATE being too cold. It physically hurts for me and I'm only in my 40s. So I can see why that would be an attractive option. (although I wouldn't choose Cabo)

She may be the kind of grandma who just really isn't that into little kids, more wanting to do what she wants. One of my sisters has an MIL like that-- when the in-laws visit or want to go on a trip, it's very adult-oriented. That's hard on the parents and not as satisfying for anyone. And for some people of any age, a gaggle of kids can feel overwhelming.

Or if your relationship has you both a bit edgy around each other, she may just be practicing avoidance.

I don't know. My guess is that there is no 'average' grandma: in reality, what you are wishing for--and understandably so-- is the kind of grandma you WISH your kids could have: one who loves and appreciates their grandchildren, who is warm and safe and emotionally healthy. There's nothing wrong with wanting that. My mom is bat-shite nuts and not in our lives-- believe me, I am right there with you on wanting a functional and loving grandparent for my son.

Boy, there are times we really just WISH they could do better and be the person we'd love to have in our lives and in our childrens lives. And the reality is that sometimes, some of us just don't get that.

For what it's worth, I've found that making sure to create our own healthy 'family of choice' with beloved friends has provided Kiddo with quite a few wonderful, healthy women who have adopted him into their hearts and families. I think that's the best we can sometimes do.

Sending you a hug, because I'm right there with you. :)

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

If she hasn't seen her grandchildren in nearly two years she probably doesn't have much of a close relationship with them. I guess if I thought I were dying I might want to spend time having fun in the sun and being with the people I have relationships with as opposed to trying to build relationships with people I didn't previously have relationships with. I'm not saying this is right or wrong or good or bad, but I hope it makes sense.

ETA: When my MIL was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour she took a trip to Florida and had a wonderful time. She did get to see my kids before she died because we lived close by, but if she had to choose I wouldn't have held it against her if she chose the Florida trip. She saw my kids a couple of times a month, but they weren't super close.

As mothers we spend most of our lives putting everyone else's needs first. If she is dying let her put her own needs first.

I know many types of grandparents, from the ones who look after grandkids on a daily or weekly basis and have close relationships to those who live far away and have occasional visits and are virtual strangers.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Some older people feel much anxiety and stress over travelling, especially after surgery. Maybe the only reason for Cabo is that she feels safer and less anxious knowing your sister will be around.

Added: Go see her, and bring the kids BEFORE surgery. No need to make this a competition......

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

ETA: What do you consider old?
This is a decision that your mother made. It is not about you or what you want.

When someone is facing a serious surgery that takes priority over everything and sometimes they do not think rationally. Perhaps the trip is something that she has always wanted to do and this trip will help her recover from her surgery.

As for you wanting your mom to come to you. How come you didn't take your kids to see your mom in the past two years? This is a two way street and traffic goes both ways.

I can't say what I would do. My grandson lives in another state and I would live to be the busy buddy granny but that didn't happen. I wouldn't be in the way just be there to watch him grow and experience the joy at the time it happened. I may have a chance if there are more grands that show up.

We can't force people to do what we want even if they are family. Find some people you are close to in your area and turn them into the grandmom you want for your children. Life is too short to do drama. We are all responsible for our own happiness.

the other S.

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answers from Washington DC on

ETA: My & dad went 3 years without seeing my kids. I live on the East Coast and They live on the West Coast. For 10 months of that time, my husband was unemployed. We couldn't spend $3K to fly across the country and my parents were caring for my dad's mother and she can't fly. Traveling across the country with a 90+ year old crotchety B*tch (yes, I said that about my grandmother) is NOT easy nor is it fun. BUT they did talk with their grandkids weekly. So there ARE reasons why people can't see their grandkids for years at a time....it doesn't sound like that's the case with you...my kids? They were blessed to have a month with my mom in July 2013 - She died in September - they have the most awesome memories of her and their time together...


**MY** choice would be family. However, that may not be her priority. And if she is dying - and she's NEVER been to Cabo - it may be her bucket list item.

I know for me - if someone offered me a trip to either Alaska or Australia (two of my bucket list places) I would have a VERY hard time choosing. Knowing I'm old and could die any day - and have the opportunity to do a bucket list and family???

My mom? She was a grandmother who put family first no matter what. She would have chosen family. My paternal grandmother? She'd choose the trip.

Diane - what you need to do is let this go. I know it hurts. But you can't control her or "MAKE" her want to be close or establish or build any type of relationship or memories with her grandchildren - your children. This is HER loss. not yours. If she hasn't seen her grandchildren in two years and made no effort to see them? It's not going to happen so put the hope away and DO NOT allow this to hamper your life. Let it go. Live your life. Love your children and just remember this situation. When you do have grandchildren, don't smother them - but make memories with them. You can break the cycle of "Favorites" and show love to all...

this is your mom's burden to carry - not yours. DO NOT push it. DO NOT force it. Just let it be.

I wish you peace.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Maybe your mom isn't looking at it from an either/or perspective. Maybe she has this offer from your sister that she wants to pursue. It may sound great to her after facing surgery.

Is your mom terminally ill? Just wondering since you mentioned she could pass away at any time. (Actually, any of us could die anytime. ) If not, she may plan to see your kids after her big trip and doesn't see this as a choice between Cabo and your kids.

If I were a grandmother, I'd want to do both.

I'm curious about what "really old" means.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Not sure I'm getting this, the "favorite daughter" offered to pay for your mom to visit your kids or go to Cabo with her? Or did you offer to pay for her to visit you? In 2 years you haven't paid to take your kids to go visit grandma? Are you with visiting your mom now before surgery in case she doesn't have a "full recovery" at this very old age?
Yes, grandmas should see their grandkids. Grandkids should get to know their grandmas. They don't live forever and the stories the kids grow up hearing about are much more meaningful if they have memories of their own to hold on to. Smells, expressions, mannerisms...can't get those from pictures. It is kinda up to you to get those memories for them. get in the car, plane, boat...whatever with your kids and see your mom when she is well enough to appreciate your visit (November? December?). This really has nothing to do with your sister treating your mom to a vacation. She is giving her a present.
You sound like you wish you were all a little closer (normal) and that is what may be bothering you so.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Major surgery is stressful and the outcome uncertain at any age, but especially in older age. Thinking about going somewhere warm and relaxing may be a stress-reliever for her. I would suggest waiting until after the surgery and recovery before again suggesting a trip.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Wow, I wouldn't let 2 years go by without seeing my grand kids at all. I'd expect to be there every few months or so if at all possible. And I'd expect my kids to make the effort to come see me and bring those grand kids.

Having the opportunity to go someplace like Cabo....that is something she may never have the opportunity to do again but seeing her family...there are 11 1/2 other months of the year to go do that so I don't see why she hasn't already gone to see them...that sucks for your kids.

Go see her. like you said. She's old and could pass away at any time. But then again, young people die every day and so do children and middle age people. Putting off something is about other stuff, not that you should do it because you might die.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I will want to see my grandkids.

I have nothing against someone who would choose a trip to Cabo over her grandkids, but I do think someone who would seriously tell one of her daughters that her other daughter is her "favorite" is a horrible person.

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answers from Austin on

Wow, that really depends on the grandmother.

I know whenever I have known elderly grandparents that could have died at any moment, the last thing they wanted to do was go on some long trip.They much rather spend as much time around their beloved family.

If she wants to go on a long trip, I doubt she is about to die.

Instead I would go ahead and plan to fly her out to see the grand kids after her trip. She will probably want a month to recover.

FYI, I totally understand. My MIL is like this with her daughters children.
I no longer speak with her, but my poor husband is very aware and it really hurts his feelings.

At least your mother is setting an example, an example of exactly how not to behave. No child should ever know that their parents have a "Favorite". It is heartless and cruel.

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answers from Hartford on

If your mother wants to go on this trip with your sister, let her without guilt-tripping her. It sounds wonderful and restful. If this surgery is worrisome to her and recovery will be difficult, then she'll need it instead of tending to your feelings and having to worry about whether or not her healing and recovery will be affected by your children.

I don't see why this has to be an either-or situation. Are you expecting her to not survive the surgery? Do you really want her to have to choose prior to the surgery you over your sister and make this about sibling rivalry? If I were you I wouldn't put her in the situation you're putting her in. YOU visit HER after her amazing vacation.

Can you really imagine that immediately after getting out of the hospital after a serious surgery that you would want to travel just to see grandchildren that you haven't seen in a while? Or would you want time to heal in a beautiful place with the opportunity to have a child-free environment and people waiting on you the whole time?

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answers from Albany on

I don't know that I'd want either one of these things. If there is a certain amount of money going to be spent, I'd be more pleased with the knowledge it's helping those I love than it's being spent on me.

Annoying, I know

What I need is for everyone else to have what they need. That's what pleases me.

I mean, I think it's going to upset some people when I die. I'd like to think they're square in every other way, can make their way without me, if I could set that up with money......wow.

Not sure if this makes any sense.


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answers from McAllen on

I believe that the "right" decision really depends on exactly what HER thought process is in the moment. There is no generic right or wrong, just what she wants. And choosing to take this trip--which might not be available to her later--does not put her grandchildren lower on her list of priorities. In my opinion, the only people obligated to put seeing the children above other things are the parents.

That said, HER thought process might have something to do with the dysfunction in your family, but in and of itself, choosing the trip is not wrong. I think that you probably have enough to be legitimately bothered by. This issue should not be added to that pile.

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answers from Albuquerque on

I haven't read everyone's answers, but I think I'd like to take a nice vacation and then have my grandchildren visit me and not be expected to make the trip. Clearly there are many factors here we can't know and you also have a lot of emotions attached to this. It's pretty impossible for you to be objective here.

Let go of your expectations of your mother and focus on being the mother you want to be to your kids. My mom and mother in law are VERY different people and very different grandmas. They both love their kids, but they are just different. The kids have no resentment that they're different. Try not to pass along yours to them.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

You know once you've raised your children you get to choose what you want to do with the next part of your life. I'm there already. I decided early on that I would be a hands on Gram for my grandchildren. The older ones live a hour away. Now that they are in school (and I still work full time) I only see them around twice a month but they call just to share their day and email me I love yous a lot. Their other grandma moved 4 states away and calls every couple months.

I babysit for my youngest grandchild 4 or 5 times a week covering hours between her parents overlapping work schedules. We're buddies and have a great time together. Her other grandma works full time and has a couple different hobbies she loves to do. She lives in the same town as I do but doesn't babysit and sees our mutual granddaughter at Sunday family dinners twice a month for around 6 hours total time.

Who's the better grandma? We all are. We get to choose our level of contact so when we interact with our grandchildren it's coming from a place of love.

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