Dear Annie: Healing heartbreak with our grown son

Dear Annie: My son and I had a falling out a few years ago, right about the time he got engaged and was planning his wedding. I was blamed for not treating his fiancee nicely because I was once impatient at a dress shop. I bent over backward to be nice to her. The straw that broke the camel’s back was at Easter, when I finally said something about the fact that his father and I basically were being ignored. That caused us to have a big blowup.

He accused me of not supporting him when he was growing up. He said I favored his sister and didn’t spend enough time with him growing up. He said that I did not give money for their wedding and that I was constantly negative. I don’t deny the negativity I was giving back when he was growing up; I was a young mother learning as I grew up with my children. I don’t deny that I could be pessimistic, but I look at it as being realistic.

Yes, I have said some not-so-nice things to him, and as I look back, I know that I shouldn’t have said them.

However, I wasn’t even invited to the wedding, but his father was. Talk about a blow to the heart. My husband tried to be the peacemaker and talk to our son. He asked what I would need to do to get a second chance. I apologized for the things I said and did, but nothing seems to be enough.

Eventually, my husband told him that he would not attend the wedding unless I was attending. I was allowed to attend as long as I didn’t cause problems, not that I would have, and he refused to have a mother/son dance with me. That really hurt me. Instead, he was dancing with his grandma on his father’s side (my mother-in-law). We were included in some of the usual parental wedding things, but that was all. So our son has not spoken with us since then. Even then, it was strained. But the wedding was beautiful, and the celebration was very nice under the circumstances.

-- Heartbroken Mom

Dear Heartbroken Mom: Your son has a lot of built-up hurt and resentment about his childhood and is taking it out on you. He is acting out by not including you. The two of you could really benefit from therapy. Before you run to a family therapist, however, start by acknowledging his hurt feelings and telling him that you are sorry. That it was not his fault when he was a little boy and you were not around enough. Tell him that you were trying to survive yourself with two young children and didn’t know how to parent. You did the best you could. But emphasize the fact that you love him and that you want to make things better today with him and his new wife.

Forgiveness is a very powerful tool. Forgive yourself for not being as available a mother as he would have liked, and then forgive him for the way he is acting out at you. From there, you can start to open up the dialogue and begin to repair your mother/son relationship. But without self-acknowledgement for what you did wrong, he will continue to nitpick all your behaviors. You are right that it was not about being impatient at a dress shop; it was about him not being tolerant of anything you do because of his old hurt.

Annie Lane

Annie Lane offers common-sense solutions to everyday problems. She's firm, funny and sympathetic, echoing the style of her biggest inspiration, Ann Landers. She lives outside Manhattan with her husband, two kids and two dogs. When not writing, she devotes her time to play dates and Play-Doh. Write her: