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Lack of depth comes out when daughter reveals she's pregnant

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Closeness in question when daughter reveals she's pregnant

Atlanta: My daughter showed up at my house, for a planned visit, six months pregnant. She had not breathed a word of it, even though she and I talk several times a week.

She is 31 with a lovely husband and a good career, so I would have been nothing short of thrilled to share in the joy of expecting my first grandchild. My feelings are terribly hurt that she kept it secret almost till the end.

Am I being too sensitive here? And how do I handle the fact that we apparently aren't as close as I believed we were?

Carolyn: What happened after she shared her news? Did she say why she didn't tell, and did you say your feelings were hurt?

Atlanta: The hurt did not set in fully until after she had left. At the time, there was a flurry of shocked reactions and shrieking (no one else in the family knew, either). She seemed very happy and blushing about it.

Later, when we talked, I just reiterated that I wanted to be involved from now on. I have said things like "I still can't believe you never mentioned it!" and she just replies by laughing — we keep it very light.

Carolyn: "We keep it very light" just screams that you're not as close as you thought, painful as that is to type.

Your family seems warm and affectionate, but "close" is when you share your deeper feelings. For example, she: "I thought of telling you, of course, but I knew you and the rest of the fam would want to be very involved, and I wanted time for it to be just mine and (Husband's)." And you: "I do see your point, but days later I'm still feeling hurt that you didn't tell me."

In other words, difficult feelings can be kindly and lovingly expressed.

Instead, you two both chose to hide/laugh off/hint.

You have a couple of choices here.

If your family isn't big on emotional transparency, then you can either decide to accept that, or try to change it by gradually opening up to your daughter more. Think "I miss you," not "poor me."

If this isn't your family's way, then try to figure out why your relationship with your daughter has slipped into shallow waters.

Start by looking inward for possible reasons she might have withdrawn.

Specifically: Do you have a history of sharing your opinions too freely, too emphatically, or at sensitive times when the better move was to hold back?

Do people commonly mistake your excitement about their lives with a desire to run their lives? Was your family hyper-involved in a way that bothered you growing up, but you nevertheless (even unwittingly) adopted with your kids?

Do you talk "several times a week" because you call her? Does she call you at set intervals to keep you from calling her constantly?

I'm not offering these as fact; they're just conditions that might explain why a daughter would hide her pregnancy and joke away the reasons.

But if they are true, addressing these by learning to respect this young family's boundaries, and your limited role in their decisions, is the path to being invited in.

Lack of depth comes out when daughter reveals she's pregnant 03/09/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 3:30am]
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