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Dear Family Whisperer: What's a No-Longer-Needed Great-Grandma To Do?

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My husband and I kept our great-granddaughter 2 days a week for 3 years while her mom (our granddaughter) worked. We saw her mom maybe 5 or 6 times during that 3 years as her husband dropped the baby off and picked her up on his way home from work. She is 4 now and going to preschool and we no longer keep her. Our granddaughter makes excuses as to why we don't see her anymore. She's busy, they have other plans, etc. We've even offered to drive to their house. i feel like she used us for those years and now no longer needs us. We dearly love our great granddaughter and really enjoyed keeping her. How do I talk to our granddaughter about this? I'm hurt and upset.

First of all, you are the first great-grandmother to submit a question. Before getting to it, I have to say:

It's wonderful to know that one can be a great grandmother who's youthful and strong enough to care for a toddler! Kudos to you.

As for your question, you're understandably pained by not seeing your "great" as regularly as you once did. You don't give many hints about your relationships with your granddaughter. Did you see her infrequently when you provided childcare because you weren't close or because of her schedule?

Granted, it's rarely easy to have a serious talk with any family member. But if you keep in mind that all relationships need tending, especially when situations change, you're less likely to up the emotional ante when you talk to your granddaughter.

Review your dilemma through both your eyes. Preschool gave your granddaughter a full-day childcare option that's probably more convenient. In your eyes, she now doesn't "need" you. But there are two of you in this relationship, each with a unique perspective.

You hear "excuses" when your granddaughter might simply be stating reasons. You might find it odd that a four-year-old has "plans," but so many kids today, at increasingly younger ages, are busy -- with play dates, classes, teams and, let's not forget, birthday parties. Setting aside whether that's good for kids (too much isn't), it is nevertheless a reality in many families.

Also, this is not just between the two of you. It's a family matter. Consider all the relationships. Are there parents -- your adult child and partner -- whose history with you (for better or worse) might influence your granddaughter's feelings and behavior? And what about your granddaughter's husband? How's their relationship? How do you get along with him?

There might not be much you can change in this situation -- except your attitude. Instead of taking it personally, put forth a plan. Start small: suggest a few hours at your granddaughter's convenience. You've offered to drive to the house, and then what? Be direct and specific, as in, "I know you've got a crowded schedule, but could you pick a one day that I can pick up GG and bring her to my house to bake cookies for the holidays."

Express your gratitude. Thank your granddaughter for trusting you and allowing you to be there and to have a significant role in your "GG" life when she was a baby. Be clear that you still want to help, even if the arrangement is different from the first three years. It would be nice if your granddaughter reciprocated - and thanked you, too - but even if she doesn't, your appreciation might encourage conversation. Share stories with her -- about special times that stick with you. If nothing else, you two probably agree one one thing: how wonderful her daughter is.

Hi, it's Melinda. I welcome your comments and suggestions. Do you have a question about your family or a relationship? No topics are off limits, and it's all anonymous. Ask via Twitter @MelindaBlau #DearFamilyWhisperer, or click on this link And if you want to learn more about interacting with other significant others -- your extended family -- check out Family Whispering.