Looking for the right words for my mother

Dear Annie: My husband and I have three children, two of whom recently graduated college. We knew the dates of the graduations five months in advance, and we told my mother, the only grandparent they have. We told her how much we wanted her to attend and celebrate the accomplishments of her two oldest grandchildren. She said she couldn’t attend our son’s because she had a board meeting she “simply could not miss,” and the date for our daughter’s graduation conflicted with her picking up her new Mercedes at the dealership.

I am beyond hurt that my mother takes such little interest in any of my children. They are awesome kids and are always polite and well mannered around her. What should I say to her? (I know what I would like to say, but I won’t.)

Mom’s friends are always telling me how lucky I am to have such a wonderful mother when it couldn’t be further from the truth. Mom is extremely self-centered and is happy to purchase a new piece of expensive jewelry before spending any quality time with her grandchildren. She treats my siblings’ children the same way, with the exception of one sister whose children she positively spoils. She attends those children’s sporting events, school activities and every party she is invited to.

I am a loving and caring daughter and want to have my mother in my life, but frankly, I don’t believe it’s healthy anymore to keep being hurt. I thought about telling Mom how I feel in a letter, but I doubt she would see the problem. How do I explain to my kids that it’s not them? How do I handle Mom’s lack of interest? – At a Loss for Words

Dear At a Loss: Your mother sounds narcissistic. If you can accept her as she is, selfish and self-absorbed, you can have a limited relationship. There’s no point inviting her to your children’s events, because you will only be hurt by her response. Your children are old enough to understand that Grandma has personality issues that prevent her from appreciating them, and it is not anything they can change. Don’t expect more than she is capable of giving, and you will be able to handle her with less frustration and sadness. We hope you have friends who can fill the gap.

Editor’s note: Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to anniesmailbox@ comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.