The Paradox of Visitation, or, You Ain’t Never Gonna Win, Honey

Just another one of those moments that make you go “Huh?”

A member of an estranged parents’ forum describes herself as semi-estranged from her son. Recently she planned a trip to their area and, with much trepidation, asked whether she could see the boys. The parents let her take them for four days. She said that at the start of the visit, “I had not seen them for almost two years and I was worried that they would not feel the same about me because I was sure they had overheard my ES & DIL speaking negatively about me.” But the visit went splendidly, and the two little boys were as loving toward her as always.

Afterward, she said she was “happy but more confused than ever.”

How could this be?  These were the grandsons they kept from seeing me when I lived in their neighborhood.  I could never find out what I did to deserve the E.  I asked outright and was told “you know”  I had all sorts of ideas, finally deciding it had something to do with the family business.

All of a sudden it made sense to me. What could they overhear their parents saying about me?  I didn’t do anything, they knew I didn’t do anything.  It makes sense thy wouldn’t speak negatively about me or they would have to be making up and sharing lies with each other.  But, at the same time, now it doesn’t make sense at all.

It’s like watching a ferret bob around and around a glass, unable to figure out that the way in is up top.

The failures of theory of mind are cumulative:

  1. I can’t think of anything I did that would justify the estrangement, therefore I didn’t do anything.
  2. My son and daughter-in-law are working from the same set of facts, so they must reach the same conclusions. They know I didn’t do anything.
  3. Because my son and daughter-in-law know I didn’t do anything, they have nothing bad to say about me.
  • Assumption: If my son and daughter-in-law had anything bad to say about me, they would bad-mouth me in front of my grandsons.
  • Assumption: My son and daughter-in-law wouldn’t make up lies about me. (Noteworthy because estranged parents routinely accuse their children of lying about them.)

The string of logical failures amounts to, “My son and daughter-in-law didn’t badmouth me to their two young children, therefore I’m blameless in the estrangement.”

A further point, and one that people with young children would do well to consider: The group was baffled that the parents would be estranged from the member, but still let the member see the grandchildren. As one member pointed out,

[Y]ou are toxic enough that they feel justified in refusing to have a relationship with you, yet they are happy to let their precious children go away and stay overnight in your care??

That speaks volumes. You will drive yourself crazy looking for a valid reason they had to estrange you, there isn’t one. They have estranged you just because they could.

The member replied,

Good point about letting them stay with me. I did have a mother who had a mean streak, I would never leave my kids with her, never.

The group agreed that if the son and daughter-in-law thought the member was actually toxic, they wouldn’t let their children see her, much less go off with her alone for four days. The fact that the parents allowed this was evidence that their complaints about the member weren’t real, that it was all a head game.

Mind you, the same people complain that parents who withhold the grandkids are “dragging the children into the adults’ fight,” that the mature thing would be to let the grandparents see the grandchildren, and that refusing to do so is “severe elder and child abuse.”

So if you’re going to be damned if you do and damned if you don’t, then pick don’t. Even the estranged parents say they wouldn’t let their kids around people they thought were abusive. If your parent is abusive, then–I’m looking at you, stream of recent posters on Reddit–don’t let your kids see them.


Lagniappe: A member who’s been cut off from her son and daughter-in-law for a while snooped and found out that they’re expecting. Another member said,

I am also sorry that you found out about your expected granddaughter in this way. It seems EC keep secrets as weapons. It is their way of misusing power, and it works. We are hurt when information such as a new pregnancy, wedding, birth[,] move, etc. comes to us second hand. And, they know the information will get to us. My ED is the queen of secrets.

Estranged adult children hide information from their parents because they want their parents to find out.

In the face of such logic, what’s hundreds of posts from estranged adult children panicking because their parents learned things they tried to keep secret? Nothing, my friends, nothing at all.

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