Dear Amy: My parents and my wife’s parents both live 20 minutes from us. Both sets of parents purposely moved to be close to us.
Both sets of parents tell people how often they see their grandkids, which is simply not true.
My mom speaks as if she sees them multiple times a week, but she generally only sees them about once a month.
She does watch my niece three days a week, but speaks as if all of her grandkids fall into that category.
My wife’s parents see me, my wife and our two kids about twice a month, but they have told others it is “all the time,” and when we meet, they basically ignore the kids.
The reason I am bothered by this is twofold: They’re all getting credit for “helping us out” and I am sick of hearing how lucky I am to have such wonderful grandparents for the past 12 years. This has actually caused us to lose help from extended family when they visit, since they think we are given so much help from our folks.
Is there a nice way to tell them that the story they are selling is fiction? We really do love our parents. We simply want them to help out the way they claim to already.
— Sad Dad
Dear Dad: Your problem is predicated on the notion that your parents and in-laws are supposed to help you. You claim that their exaggeration discourages other family members from helping you during their visits.
How much help do you and your wife require with your two children?
Your mother is already providing regular childcare with one of her grandchildren. If you would like for her to increase her efforts, perhaps you could ask her outright if she could double up on those days and watch your kids, too. Or maybe they would be willing to host your children for an occasional overnight. Have you asked?
I’m suggesting that if you aren’t getting what you want, then you should ask for it, nicely. Have you done this, or are you expecting them to intuit that this is what you want from them?
The way to correct their exaggeration of the role in your kids’ lives is to have a private conversation, and tell them that you love them, but this bothers you.
You could try harder to fold these grandparents into your family by inviting them to spend time with you, to attend school events and to basically be with you when you don’t really want anything from them.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but you and your children ARE probably lucky to have grandparents close at hand, even if their effort is disappointing. It would be unfortunate if you only realized this in retrospect, after they were gone.