Q&A: getting grandparents to visit

Josie writes:

"My husband and I live in the South and his parents live in New England.  We have a three month old daughter; she is the only grandchild on both sides of the family.  I was lucky enough to have a great relationship with my grandmothers and I think the grandparent/grandchild relationship is unique and important.   My in-laws don't seem to agree.  My husband and I both work and have limited vacation, so going to visit his parents is difficult, but we plan to visit them at their house about once a year. My in-laws are retired.  My husband and I have said to them several times how important we think this relationship is, our door is always open, and even suggested specific dates to visit, but they still won't visit. They came down for a few days after she was born, but they haven't been back and only plan to come back because we've set her Christening date (she'll be almost six months old then). They have enough money to travel, so that is not the issue. Do you have any suggestions for encouraging them to visit? I realize I may be the only person in the world asking for advice on getting her mother-in-law to visit! And honestly, when they visit, they can drive me nuts, but I really think developing a relationship with our daughter is important.  I do realize it might not matter as much right now because she is so young, but I want to encourage a great grandparent/grandchild relationship for the long term."

Unfortunately, you can't force people to want to visit their grandchildren. And as baffling as it may seem to us, some people just don't feel the need to see their grandchildren very often at all. This doesn't mean that they aren't excited about the baby, and that they're not showing photos of her to everyone they know, and bragging about how great she is. It just means that for whatever reason they don't want to visit.

I could speculate ad nauseum about why they might not want to come. They could be afraid of babies and feel like they'll break her. They could be afraid she'll give them colds. They could have insecurities and secrets they haven't resolved that make them feel they don't deserve to be around her. They may be saving their frequent flier miles to go to Hawai'i. They could be afraid of air travel. They could be too self-involved (or, conversely, too insecure) to realize how much you want them to come.

The mostly likely explanation, IMO, is that they don't really know how to relate to little babies. I don't think it's at all uncommon for people (even parents, sometimes) to not enjoy babies and only start relating well to kids when they're old enough to carry on a decent conversation.

I have two suggestions. The first is to make sure you foster your daughter's relationship with your own parents. If your in-laws never end up coming around about your daughter, at least she'll have a wonderful, close relationship with one set of grandparents.

The second suggestion is to act as if your in-laws are just as much in love with your daughter as you are. Send tons of photos, call to relate what she's doing, and continue to invite them and express sincere regret when they don't come. The worst case scenario is that they never make any more contact, but you know you did everything you possibly could to encourage a relationship between your daughter and them. The best case scenario is that they do decide to visit more often to see her and really get to know her. You can't lose by setting aside your disappointment and continuing to try.

Good luck. This situation sounds painful, because it's easy to take it as a rejection of your daughter. Try to keep in mind that whatever is making them stay away is all about them, and not about your beautiful daughter.