DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: I’m a born pleaser, so it really, really hurt when my grandmother blasted me at a family reunion picnic for bringing the wrong side dish, being late, and not bringing my daughter.
All these things were out of my control, because after going to five different stores, I couldn’t get all the key ingredients for the dish my grandmother assigned me due to all the crazy shortages on some things, so I went with a similar, but not formally “approved” dish. I was late because my two-year-old daughter was running a slight fever, and I had to call my mother-in-law in to sit with her so my husband and I could get to the picnic.
I did nothing wrong, but as soon as we showed up, Gran started telling me, practically shouting, that I am irresponsible and always the one who lets everyone down.
I have not felt so bad about myself since I was in middle school and getting bullied by a girl in my PE class. I was taught to respect my grandparents, so I just took it. For the rest of the day, everyone, except my grandmother, was really nice to me, because I think they felt bad about how I was treated.
Even though I kept my thoughts and hurt to myself, I badly want to say something to my grandmother, in private, about how unfair she was to me, but am not sure I should. She has always had a quick temper and believes it’s right to tell people exactly how you feel. Does that only work for her? --- CHEWED OUT BY GRANDMA
DEAR CHEWED OUT BY GRANDMA: It’s interesting you equated your feelings with what you experienced when being bullied in middle school. It sounds to me like your grandmother, at least in this case, was certainly being a bully. It’s completely understandable that you’d be upset by the public berating, and I think it would be appropriate for you to privately let her know how unfairly she treated you in front of everyone at the picnic.
If there are no extenuating medical or other circumstances that could possibly explain her behavior, then it is not acceptable. Her belief in telling it like it is can only go so far. As a mature adult, she should know by now that there are circumstances when reactions could and should be tempered by choosing to hold your tongue — something you have clearly learned the value of practicing, even if your grandmother hasn’t.