When we have grandchildren we can be tugged into a competitive frenzy with out co-grandparents: If our grandkids see their other grandparents more often than they see us, does that mean they'll love them more? Is the bond between grandparent and grandchild dependent on gifts the other grandparents bring or favors we offer?
A Carolyn Hax reader raised a variation on that worry: Can social media posts reflect our relationship with our Grands vis a vis the other grandparents. Here are two Carolyn Hax anecdotes that circle around that question.
Complaint one: A daughter-in-law posts regularly on social media about her parents and what terrific grandparents they are. The posts are full of photos of the grandparents playing with their grandchild. The grandparents live in the same West Coast town as the young family does. The daughter-in-law never posts about her in-laws and how great it is of them to fly across the country to visit every few months and to take the whole family on vacation in the summer. She never posts photos of the East Coast grandparents on visits or vacations with the family. The East Coast grandma feels under-appreciated by the lack of balance in the social media attention and resentful of the social media love showered on the other grandparents.
It may be that the daughter-in-law is more comfortable talking about her parents on social media than she is about her husband's parents. Or she's addressing friends who know her parents. Or something else totally benign. As Carolyn Hax noted, there can be a host of non-negative reasons for being ignored on social media and the East Coast grannie should free herself from worry by coming up with a benign reason for the uneven coverage. Beyond that, Hax's bottom line is this: "It's social freaking media. Ignore, ignore, ignore."
Complaint two: The other variation on this social media theme comes from a daughter-in-law who writes to Hax to complain about her mother-in-law's social media misrepresentation of her relationship with the grandchild. She frames herself as an active, involved grandmother when she is not--she wasn't before Covid made visiting difficult and once the quarantine set in, she refused zoom or other Internet visit options. On social media, the mother-in-law paints herself as a poor-me victim of the pandemic and her loss of closeness with her granddaughter. The daughter-in-law resents the general injustice of the misrepresentation.
Hax's reaction follows along the lines of her previous ignore, ignore, ignore and advises the daughter-in-law: "Stop following her on social media. It is not oxygen; you can cut it off completely, immediately and forever, and still not die."
Both of these episodes made me think of a line from Lisa Carpenter's first book, The First Time Grandmother's Journal (my blog post on her book is here) that taps into the core of finding your footing as a grandmother. She writes of her own journey and says, "I just needed to be true to myself and define the role on my own terms, in my own way." To which I would add this update: No need to let social media do that defining for us.
painting: Family, Romare Bearden