Today, a christmas card came through the post addressed to my 7 year old son. I recognised the handwriting as my mothers. I am reluctant to give my son this card and am unsure on the best course of action.

Brief History: After a life long struggle in my relationship with my mother, whom I believe to have a mental disorder (specifically narcissistic personality disorder), and on top of other factors is a heavy drinker and has always been very abusive in her behaviour and attitude - I decided to cease all contact with her. Not only did her behaviour towards me result in this decision, but also her behaviour and actions towards my son when she would see him at weekends.

This decision will not be reversed under any circumstances.

My mother has attempted to re-initiate contact with me on many occasions - be this through text messages, phone calls (all of which have gone unanswered and ignored) etc.

My son, I believe, is far too young to be burdened with adult issues such as why his grandmother is no longer in the picture, and I am very fortunate that he does not miss her, nor has he asked about her or to see her since the contact was stopped several months ago.

My initial instinct upon getting the card was to throw it away - however, I do not know whether that is the right thing to do. It is, after-all, addressed to my son and is his post. However, I worry that giving the card to him may open up the doors to questions that I have yet to figure out age-appropriate answers for, and my decision to keep my mother out of his life will not change.

In summation - do I give my son the christmas card from his grandmother, or should I throw it away?

All advice and suggestions welcome. Thank you for taking the time to read.

  • One thing: either give it to him and afterwards do whatever you do with all christmas cards, or throw it out immediately. Do not pile up a bunch of cards and letters over the years that he might come across when he is older. That way lies a major rift. – Chrys Dec 8 '17 at 13:46
  • @Chrys: You are basically saying, if you commit a crime, don't leave any evidence lying around. If the mother fears that rift, then she should give the cards to her son. – gnasher729 Dec 9 '17 at 17:08
  • I am saying that one moment in which you throw it out is different from decades of deliberate concealment (I'll just put this with all the others) and choosing over and over again that now is not the time to give them to the son, yet keeping them because somehow you know he should have them ... it's guaranteed to be a disaster if they are found. Instant throwing out means you don't think he should have them ever and that's that. No indecision. – Chrys Dec 20 '17 at 2:03

No matter what might have happened between you and your mother this is a nice gesture. My wife has no contact with her father, and our kids only vaguely know they have another grandfather somewhere. However, if he sends a Christmas card I would give it to them.

That doesn't mean I would allow them to spend next Christmas on their own with him. It just means that as long as he would make a sincere gesture I would be willing to see it with the 'Christmas spirit' it was intended and pass that one along. But I always see the best in people and think people can change.

If you mother followups with long letters that you are uncomfortable with feel free to throw those away and let her know you don't like them. If you don't feel comfortable with this card feel free to throw it away too. Never feel guilty trying to do the best for your child. You don't need to defend "ownership" or "his mail" as long he is a minor. Make him feel loved by you, and I believe even if in 20 years from now you fight about this he will understand you have the best intentions. If you do throw away this card though, I would consider letting your mother know you are throwing away her mail/messages/cards so she doesn't think it you might have accidentally overlooked her message (people can fool themselves in these kinds of excuses)

As for age-appropriate answers. An "I don't talk to her because she wasn't nice to us" seems to work reasonably well. Kids do understand that if someone is being mean to them then they don't like to talk to them either and they most likely won't look for hidden meanings or anything else until they hit puberty.

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    +1 except I wouldn't feel the need to tell her, and I wouldnt teach my child that we ignore people just because they weren't nice to us (after all sometimes you yourself are mean to them and impatient) unless you qualify that she is habitually this way. – n00b Dec 6 '17 at 13:01
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    Thank you for the advice, it is much appreciated and very insightful. I have decided to throw the card away as it will only cause confusion and has no possible positive benefit. As for informing my mother of that decision, or asking her not to send any more, I have decided not to do that. She is not the type to 'listen and accept' what she is told if it does not fit what she wants, so I feel such a conversation would also serve no positive purpose. I will just dispose of any further posted correspondence from her in the same way. Thank you again for you help and reassurances. – Sofia Dec 6 '17 at 21:28
  • @n00b maybe "really mean" would be a better qualifications. Still I think ignoring people who call your names and walking away from trouble is very much an age appropriate thing to teach. Of course at some point you do have to deal with the fact that you can't ignore people just because they say something you don't like. There are people you can't ignore like parents and teachers (untill you are 18) – Batavia Dec 7 '17 at 6:36

Does your son like Christmas cards from other people? My nieces and nephews care very little for cards and to not force them to read the cards they've received is a favor to them (in their eyes).

If you feel that keeping it from him would be wrong perhaps you could give him your mother's card in a stack of cards from everyone who will give him cards. If your mother's card is just one in a dozen cards that he reads in one sitting, he'll probably be bored of cards before he even gets to it.

That being said, maybe answer this question, what would you do with a letter from your mother to your son? If your mother is an abusive alcoholic then it seems the thing to do would be to shield your son from her and to do so only selectively might be to invite confusion.


Your son will ask questions eventually. Some time at school he will figure out that many kids have two parents, and four grandparents, and if some of those are not there, then there is a reason for that. (This is a different situation from biological father vs. stepdad, which the son might never find out about - note that I'm not saying here that this is good or bad).

So the question will be asked. Worst case in 13 years you have a 20 year old son wanting to get married, and the bride wants to invite all the grandparents, and then you have one hell of a problem. Including explaining why Christmas cards from the grandmother to the grandson have been destroyed.


Let's make an analogy with our legal system, since it is the disciplinary standard we as a whole populace have agreed upon.

In all but the most serious offenses, punishments are administered for crimes, and then the person has "done their time" and is given a another chance in society with a full reset. As a society, we believe in second chances, reform, and not holding permanent grudges to make the rest of their life miserable if the crime does not warrant it.

Now, I don't know what your mother did, and we don't need to know, but some things you may ask yourself: 1) Does a permanent punishment fit the crime, or will a period of time serve the purpose of making the point the behavior wasn't acceptable?

2) Are you letting your punishment of her behavior toward you bleed into her punishment into how she treated your son?

3) If you messed up as she did, genuinely reformed yourself, and seeked repentance from your child, would the twist of the knife of them refusing to allow even asking for repentance for the rest of your days push you back to your old ways?

4) When your child is a bit older and learns about grandparents from his friends, are you going to tell the truth that his grandmother wants to spend time with him, but you won't allow it?

5) How do you feel about the example you're setting for your child that you don't believe people can change, that even if they are repentant, they are unredeemable?

I can't answer these for you, but since you haven't mentioned any deaths at her hands or molestations, in my humble opinion you should allow your child the card. You don't have to tell your child she's bad - they can figure that out for themselves in time if she screws up again in words, or in person if you ever allow it. I would compare telling your child that grandma's bad to a divorced spouse demonizing the other spouse when they're not around.

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    I think you're misinterpreting why OP has disowned mom. It isn't a punishment, it is to prevent further abuse. To use an analogy, we don't consider it punishment to keep insane people locked up in an asylum, it's merely for society's protection. – Dean MacGregor Dec 6 '17 at 4:43
  • ...Actually, its not merely for societal protection, its ultimately for the treatment (and hopeful recuperation) of said mentally ill people. – n00b Dec 6 '17 at 12:56
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    I think you are significantly underestimating the impact of emotional abuse, including cross-generational. Also, OP indicates that the mother's behavior was towards both her daughter and grandson. – Acire Dec 6 '17 at 13:30
  • @n00b That may be but the point I'm making is that it isn't for the purpose of punishment. Whether the true purpose is solely to isolate for everyone else's protection or solely to treat or some combination of the two is really immaterial since in either of those cases, they aren't intending to punish. – Dean MacGregor Dec 6 '17 at 18:37
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    -1 for "they can figure that out for themselves in time if she screws up again" I think it's the duty of parents to warn against and prevent situations like that. Not to say "hey you burned your hand, now I can tell you why it isn't smart to touch hot things" they might get burned anyways and learn from it. But creating an environment as safe as possible is something parents should take care of – Batavia Dec 7 '17 at 6:41

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