Family Matters

Family Matters

The Grandma Mantra: A guide to keeping peace in the family

By Jeanne Mills

November/December 2008

"I don't love her hat," I announce. The item in question is an ersatz safari number in pink and white gingham, and it's on the head of my first grandchild, Hannah, who's 5 months old.

Susan, my daughter-in-law, looks up from the baby clothes she's folding with perfect precision and fixes me with a granite stare.

"If you don't have something nice to say," she says, after what feels like a barrage of poison darts aimed at me from behind her heavy-lashed eyes, "please don't say anything. Please." Then she softens. "That's what I told my mother, too."

Well, at least it isn't just me. I feel slightly less rebuffed.

Ours hasn't been an easy relationship: I'm of the toss-the-laundry-in-rumpled-heaps school of sorting; her style is worthy of opening hour at Bendel's. In conversation, she defaults to smirky silence; I rattle on like a runaway train.

"Sorry, Susan," I murmur, and go back to playing "this little piggy" with Hannah.

To myself I say, "Idiot, you've done it again. Can't you keep your mouth shut?"

Apparently not. When she was first born, I'd admired Hannah's couturier crib, with its eyelet-edged dust ruffle and matching pillow. "How gorgeous," I exclaimed, tearing up a little remembering the bare-bones nursery Larry and I had hastily put together when we'd had David, our first son (and Susan's husband).

Susan smiled at my crib compliment. Larry pressed up against me, proffering a silent "stop sign" that I managed to…

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