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1,200 miles of miscommunication

Dear Annie: We have a son and daughter-in-law who live in Wisconsin, while we live more than 1,200 miles away in Florida. In early May, our son asked us if we could come up to Wisconsin in August to care for his girls (our grandkids) while he and our daughter-in-law spent a weekend in New York City. However, since we had previously planned to drive to Wisconsin in June for a funeral memorial for our good friend, both my husband and I were reluctant to commit to another trip to Wisconsin in August, so soon after having been there in June — at which time we also saw him and his family. So we didn’t answer right away, but during our trip up north in late May, we decided to offer him an alternative: How about he put his girls on a plane and have them visit us in Florida?

After we arrived in Wisconsin in late May, we proposed the alternative, but we also said that if that was not acceptable, we would come up to stay with the grandkids in August. He said he’d “think about it.” Just before we left, I reminded him of our proposal.

I have never seen a more hateful, angry response. He said that while we came up for a funeral, we “hesitated” about coming up to stay with the girls, and didn’t reply immediately to his request. He said he was not happy with our suggestion to have the girls come to us instead. He said he was “not happy with The Villages” (where we live), as it was not his “cup of tea.” He said we could skip our water exercises for once. My daughter-in-law supported him with the statement that we had plenty of money and time to get up to Wisconsin more often. They both said, “What do you think the girls think about this? How do you think they feel?”

Annie, I was shocked. I totally shut down and could barely respond, except to say, “You are really hurting me.” It’s been two months since this attack, and I’m still hurting.

By the way, our two granddaughters are 17 and 14. — Hurting and Regretful

Dear Hurting and Regretful: It sounds like your son and daughter-in-law had a very strong reaction to your delay in responding to them about taking care of your grandchildren. Start by apologizing for not getting back to them sooner.

If they continue to blow you off after your apology, then it might be something deeper. Sadly, humans are not mind readers. Your son didn’t know why you and your husband were waiting to respond to them, and you didn’t know that your delay in response would offend him so much. Try to look at this as a misunderstanding that caused hurt feelings on both sides. Perhaps this weekend away means more to him and his wife than they were telling you. Maybe your granddaughters were looking forward to showing you parts of their hometown. It’s only through honest, open communication that you can forgive, understand and repair your relationship.