"I feel petty," a friend says before launching into a complaint about her grown daughter.
The daughter lives abroad--four years in South Africa, now a transfer to Singapore. When the transfer came, my friend flew off to visit--to see where her daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren would be living. It was a friendly visit and went as well as a visit for more than two or three days can go. But there was a downside.
Here's how my friend describes her complaint:
"We took lots of pictures-- of the kids in their beds and going to school, of a side trip for a weekend outing, of places we went to visit together. When I got home, my daughter sent me a stream of the photos. There were no pictures of me with the kids, my daughter or anywhere. I feel petty even mentioning it. I don't exactly feel excluded but I sure don't feel included in their family either."
When children live far from home--countries and time zones away--the family gestalt may change. Not so much to exclude Nana or PopPop, but as a means of self-protection. Our grown child may have to rely on friends, neighbors and co-workers for day-to-day support in life's daily challenges. Need to take one of the children to an emergency room while the spouse is out of town? Can't call Granny in Boston to babysit in Singapore.
This is by way of explanation not justification. A once a year--or even less frequent--visit from or with a grandparent may feel like a special event to us but it may translate into a tie that's less binding. Even though they're the ones that left, there may be a feeling of abandonment: We aren't there when they need us.
Or the us-less photo shoot may have been pure absentmindness or simply something that happens when busy people are trying to balance a whole lot of things. It doesn't necessarily signify.
But the emotion it engenders--of feeling left out--does. It may be a little thing but it hurts.