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
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 13:46
  • 1
    @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
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 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
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 2:03

3 Answers 3


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.

  • 1
    +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
    Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 13:01
  • 1
    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
    Commented Dec 6, 2017 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
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 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.

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