Dear Grandma Maggie,
First, let me apologize for the length of my question, but I really am stumped. I am an adopted child. I have known my birthmother for 15 years (I met her when I was 23) and have previously felt close to her. I have found that in the last year or so, she has made comments and criticisms not only about my six-year-old daughter’s behavior, but my dog’s. She also sends me articles concerning behavior in children and animals and I view these as thinly veiled attempts to tell me that she thinks I need to remedy some perceived issue with them. She never raised any children and treats her animals like people. No one, including my daughter’s teachers and other caretakers, has ever made a negative comment or been overly concerned about my daughter’s behavior. My dog could be less jumpy (he’s a one year old miniature schnauzer) but he is a relatively well-behaved dog. My birthmother only visits for 2 or 3 days once or twice a year so she isn’t really spending a lot of time with us. I think in her mind, she is trying to help, but frankly, she doesn’t have a clue what raising children is really like. She also seems to think that I am a bad pet owner because I do not treat my animals like people. I want to tell her that she is damaging our relationship with this behavior, but I want to do it in a way that helps her understand that children can’t always control their emotions (a crime my birthmother is guilty of herself) and that even though we haven’t managed to teach the dog to quit jumping on people when he’s excited, I don’t need her to send me articles about his rude behavior. My husband and I address rude behavior in our daughter and the dog when it occurs. Eventually, they will both learn, but it takes time. I wish I could send her some articles about well-meaning relatives who need to step back and relax. Again, I apologize for the length of this question, but like I said, I am overwhelmed with this issue and would like some help dealing with it.
When your mother is visiting, ask her please not to send you anymore articles about dogs or child rearing, because you feel criticised when she does that. No matter how she responds just say, “I know, and I still would like you to respect my wishes. I think we will get along much better if we eliminate these two subjects from our communications.” If you would rather convey this message in a letter then do so. Make it short, loving, but emphatic.
I think this might be what she thinks a mother does and may not have a clue that she is offending you. Tell her, give her a chance to change, and see what happens.