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Ask Ellie: Arguing with self-righteous son is useless

When adult children control access, connect with grandkids whichever way’s accepted. Strong opinions are best unmentioned, unless serious problems arise.

When I’m with them, I’m always walking on eggshells because he’s trying to catch me saying things he says are “offensive,” though I don’t ever insult or put them down. He accuses me of being rude and a provoker.

I feel that I’m a good person and want the best for my kids and grandkids. I’ve always been a little unfiltered and I’m opinionated, but never push my views or interfere in my kids’ lives or decisions.

We’ve babysat various times when the couple went on holidays, and never said “no” when they need such help. I get along with everybody and, when there’s a disagreement, I usually forgive the other side within a short time.

I don’t want to speak with my son yet, but I feel badly about my grandkids, who I don’t see often due to travel distance.

He’s not a person who backs down. He’s very righteous and I think he wants to shelter the kids and make everyone else the problem. I don’t think he’s doing them justice. He should be teaching them to let things slide and to be resilient.

How can I comfortably visit knowing that I’ll be on trial there? His behaviour towards me has hurt me intensely and I don’t know how to resolve it.

Sadly Needing Advice

Many normally self-confident women reading your letter will feel your pain, and here’s why: It’s not uncommon that the offspring of mothers who are sometimes “unfiltered” and speak their minds become even more self-righteous.

Whether this is more common with male or female children, I cannot say. But your son has apparently decided, as his children’s defender, that your every word requires his interference.

Meanwhile, questions arise: How does his wife, your daughter-in-law, react? Does he also speak for her? Also, you mention that “we” have babysat the grandkids. So, if there’s a husband/partner involved, do you have a defender for you?

As for the youngsters, even when not speaking to your son, you can try sending age-appropriate gifts on every valid occasion (ask ahead what the parents recommend).

Also, try to have a FaceTime chat that’s all about what they’re doing at school (e.g., showing you their books, artwork, etc.), just to maintain a connection.

If the parents ask again for babysitting help in their absence, grab every opportunity. But through all this, keep yourself bullet-proof.

Your son has made himself beyond reproach. Arguing with him is useless. Accept him as such, if you want grandparent involvement.

Mature, self-confident adults generally accept that some people are opinionated/unfiltered. But not so much if those people are their mother (sometimes more so even than their father).

FEEDBACK Contrary View - Regarding the woman feeling “guilted” into remaining an employee/lover of a married boss (February 4):

“It had the earmarks of narcissistic abuse. Comments like ‘over-the-top fairy tale romance’ screams of ‘love bombing.’ His favours/help to make her feel guilty and never leave him.

“Her ‘rocky past’ being thrown in her face are also classic signs of a narcissist.

“She must leave immediately, but expect his retaliation. Narcissists need to win and don’t feel remorse. Only when she cuts him out of her life can she begin to heal. Counselling is essential.”

Dear Ellie: Our next-door neighbours are also our good friends. Each couple have been married for around 18-to-20 years. Both wives are self-employed and successful. Both husbands are in their own businesses and doing well. No big differences warrant friction between the couples.

Except when our neighbour’s husband is in the driver’s seat. Within minutes, that couple are arguing, about which lane will get them somewhere faster, which digital map is the better choice, etc. It’s very unpleasant for us in the back seat.

Though we’re not silent when my husband’s driving, we almost never argue about the route. What to do?

Uncomfortable Drives

Time to make some choices. Wear ear buds and turn on your playlists. Or periodically say you’ll meet them at the destination. And later say something to your close friend, the neighbour’s wife, that it’s becoming awkward to have to sit in on their arguments, so a new plan is needed. Then brainstorm that plan.

Ellie’s tip of the day

When adult children control access, connect with grandkids whichever way’s accepted. Strong opinions are best unmentioned, unless serious problems arise.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.