It is December, the holidays are coming up, ‘tis the season to be merry and joyous. But, not for these two families with considerations around grandparents visitation and access. Annette, and her daughter, Marianne brought Marianne’s brother, Dan, into the office for family mediation to discuss their own visits with his son, Ben, 8 years old (their grandson and nephew), the son of his previous marriage, who lives in Rhode Island with his mother, Jasmine. Dan, Annette’s son, wanted to change the arrangement whereby his mother could simply call Jasmine and make plans to pick up Ben for the weekend. It was a long drive for Annette, but worth every mile to see her only grandson.
Something, which we never learned, had happened between Dan and Jasmine so that he was harboring extreme hostility towards her, to the degree that he wanted to be the only person to talk with her, with only him making the plans for his mother’s and his sister Marianne’s visits with Ben. He was busy at work and it often took several days to get to Jasmine, then get back to Annette and Marianne, who were reasonably asking Dan for easy access to Ben. But, Ben was unrelenting. There was no way in the world that he wanted his mother and sister to simply continue to call to make arrangements for their visitation with Ben.
Using the “Seven Visual Steps to Yes” detailed in my most recent book, I had mother and son state what they really wanted, really needed, and what really mattered to them with regard to the grandparents’ visitation and access. Then, we began the process of designing creating options or “brainstorming”. Dan stayed resolute, Annette had various ideas such a writing an email to Jasmine to make the arrangements. That didn’t work for Dan. She then “supposed”, and finally “proposed” that she design a yearly, but somewhat flexible schedule for picking up Ben and send that via email. This also did not work for Dan.
Marianne resolved the dilemma by suggesting that Annette send the yearly plan to Dan, who would send or give it to Jasmine, and then he would, in a timely manner get back to her and Marianne about acceptable days and weekends that they could have Ben for visitations. It was a short-term family mediation intervention of five sessions, but the family did it, reporting back that it is going well. It was a whole year of a visitation schedule that didn’t have to go through Ben.
GRANDPARENTS VISITATION MEDIATED WITH TED AND LAURA, HANK AND MARGOT
The second grandparents visitation mediated through family mediation, was with son, Ted, his wife, Laura, and Ted’s parents Margot and Hank. Ever since Margot, the grandmother had given Laura, the daughter-in-law, a birthday present of special preserves from Maine, Laura had been infuriated with her mother-in-law. Whatever could have been the reason? The preserves, from a natural health food store had been labeled as “not for ingestion during pregnancy”. And Laura was pregnant with their first child who turned out to be a darling baby girl, Abigail. Laura openly told her mother-in-law, Margot, at first through Ted, and then directly herself, that the baby and she could have died. Margot said that she thought that was an exaggeration. She desperately wants to work this out in family mediation in order to see Abigail on a more regular and normal schedule like all of their friends have for seeing their grandchildren. Laura and Ted had restricted Margot and Hank’s visitation with Abigail to two times per year, in restaurants, where Abigail would not be exposed to eating any foods cooked or preserved by Margot Laura explained that she had thrown away a jar of homemade raspberry jam preserved by Laura for fear it would contain mold.
Margot and Hank were heart-broken and desperate. They felt insulted in the extreme and very humiliated. They couldn’t understand their son Ted being so passive in the face of Laura’s recriminations towards them. They looked up “Grandparents’ Visitation Mediated” in google and gave us a call to set up an appointment.
Laura, a mental health specialist, then shared with her mother-in-law that she didn’t want Abigail exposed long term to a character issue, that of narcissistic personality disorder, that she was fairly certain that Margot suffered from. She pointed out that Margot was all about “me, me, me” and that it was always “her way or the highway”, that she didn’t consider their wishes or the wishes of the other people in the family or her friends nearly enough. As if the food issue wasn’t enough of a humiliation, giving Margot a mental health diagnosis was almost totally over-the-top insulting for Margot and for Hank as well.
Laura was being really tough on Margot. Laura explained that none of her husband Ted’s three brothers and their wives see or interact with children with Laura and Hank any more because of similar worries. So far, in the 24 months of Abigail’s life, Laura had only set up the afore-mentioned two times a year schedule of visiting with Margot and Hank in a restaurant where Abigail would not be exposed to eating any food prepared by Margot. She kept thinking about those preserves! Laura wasn’t aware of grandparents rights to visitation.
Ted came in alone for a family mediation session with his parents. He heard their heart-break, as grandparents over seeing Abigail so infrequently. He heard how they spoke of grandparents rights. He heard how all of Hank and Margot’s friends regularly break bread at their table with and without their grandchildren. It was a wearying session. At its end, Ted was in tears. He promised his parents he would speak forcibly and directly with Laura about increasing their time with Abigail to what many grandparents would consider meager time. Hank was absolutely outraged and showed it. Ted’s mother, Margot calmed Hank down and said she was willing to have her son request more time with Abigail, especially if he would speak forcibly to Laura, which he most often did not do. The four of them, including Laura this time, are due for their third family mediation appointment. Let us hope they arrive at a win-win solution.