Meddling Grandmother Reported Granddaughter To Child Protective Services

Dear Joan, My Grandmother and I have always been very close. She is definitely the “matriarch” of our large family. I’ve always held her up on a pedestal, because she’s my hero. She’s persevered through a LOT of hard times, and she’s always done it with grace. I love her. I try to emulate her strength in my own life, though I don’t always succeed.

Recently, I went through a divorce. It wasn’t a nasty one, because he decided to just move home to his parents’ house, 600 miles away. He hasn’t been back, and he’s no longer a part of our 3 kids’ lives. He’s chosen an addiction to alcohol over his children, and while it’s been a difficult transition for me and the kids, that’s not why I’m writing you.

You see, shortly after my ex-husband left, my oldest daughter and I got into an argument. I demanded she hand over her phone for being disrespectful (for 30 minutes). She refused and took off running for her bedroom downstairs to hide the phone. I followed, and there was a push/shove battle at her bedroom door, which came off the hinges. I then went into her room, very angry at that point, and tried to spank her. Key word… tried.

She was 15 at the time, and it wasn’t happening. I didn’t hit her other than the attempted spanking. My other two kids who were 4&5 came downstairs to see what was going on, and I didn’t want them in the middle of that mess, so I left the room without the phone, winded and angry as hell. She wouldn’t tell me where she hid the phone.

My daughter then called my mom and asked her to come get her. This is where things get ugly. My mother SHOULD have minded her own business, or at least called me to find out what was going on. But she didn’t. She came and got my 15 year old, and just took off with her.

I called her and asked her what the hell she thought she was doing, and she tried to tell me that she was giving me and my daughter a chance to cool down. That would have been fine, but she didn’t bring her back. This happened on a Friday night, and by Sunday morning, I called her and told her if she didn’t bring my child home, I would call the police and report her as a runaway. I would give police HER address, and she would be in trouble, too.

What my mom did next is why I’m contacting you for advice. My mother called my grandmother and got her involved. My grandmother came over to my house and told me that if I didn’t let my teenage daughter STAY with my mom, she’d call the Department of Children and Families to have me investigated for child abuse.

I absolutely do NOT abuse my children.

I stood my ground and said that my daughter was my responsibility, and she needed to be brought home. I told my grandmother that it was none of her business how I raise my children, and to do what she wanted to do, but my child WAS coming home.

This was a Sunday afternoon. I didn’t call the police, and decided to let my daughter spend one more night at my mom’s. The following morning, she went to school and at the request and coaching of my mom and grandmother, she went to the school counselor. My grandmother had, in fact, called DCF. I was informed that day that I would be investigated for emotional abuse. I was assigned a caseworker, and my daughter was allowed to stay with my mom. She got what she wanted.

Needless to say, I was mad. And hurt. I spent a month worried my child would be taken away from me. We had several home visits, and my daughter and I were told to start counseling by the caseworker. I was fine with that. We needed it. We were both carrying around a lot of anger and hurt feelings towards my ex, and the situation he left us in. I was more stressed out than I’ve ever been in my life. We were going through a hard time, and counseling made sense.

I refused to speak to my grandmother, and when the case dismissed and nothing was found to support my grandmother’s FALSE claim of emotional/physical abuse, I wanted to mail the damn “findings” letter to her and write her off for good.

At the counseling sessions, the psychologist flat out asked me why I allow my family to meddle in my parenting. It’s always been that way. My grandmother was constantly in my mom’s business when I was a kid. It’s just what she does. I know she loves all of us, but to have my HERO call a government agency on me that could have potentially taken away my child, AND messed up my career (… I have a very public career… ) I am just so incredibly HURT.

Some time has passed, and she and I don’t really speak anymore. Other family members have said I just need to bury the hatchet with her and that life is too short. She’s getting up there in age, and I know I don’t have forever to work this out with her. I’ve gotten over the anger, but I want an apology from her.

What she did was simply a way to manipulate me into doing what SHE wanted. She wanted to control the situation with my daughter. She wanted me to do what SHE thought was best. But it wasn’t up to her.

She says she was just trying to make sure we got help. I was overwhelmed and sad and stressed, and what I needed was for her to offer to HELP. Not call the DCF. I was trying to be a single mom to 3 kids, and I’d never been on my own, EVER. I married my ex when I was18 and I’m 36 now.

I needed my grandmother to tell me she understood the pressure. To encourage me. To lighten the load and take the kids every once in awhile and give me a break, or to just call and check in to see how I was doing. Let me vent.

My ex has been gone for almost two years now, and I’ve gotten the hang of things. I’m not sad that he’s gone anymore. Time has healed most of my wounds he caused when he left for his own selfish reasons.

I love my grandmother. I just want her to apologize, and then we could mend this. She won’t, though. She still thinks that calling DCF was the right thing to do.

I think if she had set me down and told me she was worried about my relationship with my teenage daughter, and suggested counseling, I would have responded differently. Had she backed me up in my choice to take away my daughter’s phone for being disrespectful, none of this would have happened.

I think she owes me an apology. I need her to verbally acknowledge that she made a mistake. I need to hear her say
she’s sorry for making an already painful situation even worse.

My daughter knows she made a mistake by calling my mom and starting this whole thing, and she’s apologized. Am I wrong to expect my grandmother to apologize?

Things have been strained between her and me for over a year now. It breaks my heart that she won’t just tell me she’s sorry. I know I’m being stubborn, but so is she. If it had been something petty, I would have just let it go.

This was serious, though. I could have lost my kids, and my job. Thanks for listening.

Dear Single Mother to 3 Children, I’m so sorry this happened to you. I know this has been hard, but thank you for sharing your family reality. We can all learn from it.

You ask if you’re wrong to expect your grandmother to apologize? Let me answer by saying that you’re not wrong to want an apology, but from what you wrote about your grandmother, it’s not surprising that you haven’t gotten one.

Where you may be headed in the wrong direction, is to expect an apology from her. I say this as you wrote that your grandmother “still thinks that calling DCF was the right thing to do.” To hold out for an apology from someone who feels justified in what they did, will only feed your anger and frustration.

Do you think your grandmother really was concerned for your daughter’s safety, or do you think she called DCF because you first threatened to call the police for not sending your daughter home? No one would ever argue that a minor’s safety should be the first priority, but only your grandmother knows the real reason she reported you to child protective services.

Even if part of the reason she reported you was to get back at you, she may be the type of person who can deny that forever, even to herself. A personality that is constantly in other people’s business, or manipulative and trying to control others, usually does not see their part in these types of conflicts.

Are threats and retaliation a relational pattern in your family? If so, give some thought to what you can do to not involve yourself and your children in that behavior. You can make the choice to opt-out of these types of interactions.

What did you learn from the counseling where the psychologist “flat out asked me why I allow my family to meddle in my parenting?” That question, and where you wrote, “it’s always been this way,” tells me that your grandmother has always been meddling in your business to some degree.

Are you ok with her meddling over the little things, but you want her to butt out over the big conflicts? If so, can you see how not keeping her out of the minor parenting issues could have her thinking it was ok to get involved in a more serious situation? How was your counselor trying to guide you with that comment? I realize that setting boundaries with manipulative, controlling people can be challenging, but would it be worth the effort?

This happened over a year ago, yet your letter doesn’t read like you want to resolve this. It mostly reads like you are stubbornly (to use your own wording) digging your heals in expecting your grandmother to apologize. Again, I will say, my guess is that she will not.

When you get to the point of wanting to move forward from this, you will first need to accept that you will probably never hear an “I’m sorry.” You make a strong case that an apology is owed you; your grandmother simply doesn’t see it that way.

It’s ok to continue to feel strongly that she owes you an apology. Your opinion on this doesn’t need to change. You don’t need to back down. This was very hurtful to you. You can continue to voice to your grandmother and family that you still feel you are owed an apology.

However, and this is key, when you do so, you will then want to state that you accept the fact that your grandmother, and possibly others in the family, disagree with you. You accept their opinion on this, and you hope they will accept yours as well.

For over a year now, you’ve been at an impasse with differing opinions on the apology front. You have within the power to call a truce. You can agree to disagree, and move on. Hopefully your grandmother will honor your feelings on this, but if not, you can pat yourself on the back for doing your part.

This won’t repair hurt feelings overnight. You will probably always harbor some sadness over this. Yet, in time, your relationship with your grandmother should get closer. Maybe not where it was before, when you thought of your grandmother as your hero, but close enough to diminish the tension in your family.

This conflict offers a great opportunity for personal growth if you can move beyond needing to get others to agree with you. If you can graciously accept your differences of opinion, while honoring your right to stand up for yourself, you will be modeling behavior for your children that will serve them well in life. That, my dear single mother, is a beautiful gift to give your children.

Thank you for sharing. I invite commenters to lend their thoughts on resolving this family tension. We learn from each other.

Joan Jerkovich, BCC Board Certified Life Coach

Joan Jerkovich, BCC
Board Certified Life Coach

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