Dear Beryl,

As someone widowed at a young age, I had always enjoyed a close relationship with my son. When he got married five years ago, I welcomed his new wife into the family with open arms. Three years ago, after the birth of their second child, my daughter-in-law became cold and unwelcoming to me. To this day, I am not sure what I did wrong. My son tells me that I should know what happened, but he won't be more specific. I have tried apologizing, but it didn't seem to help at all. At this point, our relationship has eroded to almost nothing, save for birthday calls and cards around the holidays. They recently had their third baby, and it is their eldest's birthday. They called me up and invited me to visit and celebrate my grandchild's birthday. I readily accepted, but I am nervous. I want the visit to go well and have all be part of each other's lives again. What can I do to make the visit go well?

On Guard Grandma

Dear On Guard Grandma,

Wow! What a tricky situation you have had to deal with for the past few years. It must be so hard for you to be estranged from your son and his family. I hope that this birthday party and new baby will be the beginning of a new close relationship between all of you.

It is very big of you to apologize for something you don't know you did. Most people would just get angry in return, and not attempt any reconciliation. The only thing that anger would have accomplished in this scenario is more hurt feelings and greater estrangement. The fact that you tried to apologize in the past is most likely what paved the way for this visit now.

The relationship between mothers-in-laws and daughters-in-law is usually pretty tricky. There are a lot of underlying feelings for both women as they try to maintain importance in the same man's life. A daughter-in-law can be especially sensitive to a mother-in-law's comments, actions or deeds that may be totally non-threatening in another relationship dynamic. A mother-in-law can also be sensitive to a daughter-in-law's ministrations as well, but, hopefully, with the wisdom of years, the mother-in-law can navigate these waters better.

The fact that they are inviting you to this event is a sign that they want to try and repair the relationship in some way. The best way to go about this is to be as positive as possible about the trip before, during and after. If you go in with a positive attitude, they will feel it in those first few awkward moments when you arrive. Beginnings set the tone for almost everything, so try to come into it feeling good. They are probably just as nervous as you, if not more! Helping to set the tone will put everyone at ease.

Indulge them with some thoughtful presents. If you can, treat each grandchild to something special, and don't forget the new mother as well. Perfume, bath oils or other pampering gifts for the new mom (manicure/pedicure?) are always appreciated. To let them know that you really appreciate the invite, you could write a short note on the card stating how happy you are to be there, and you hope that the past will be forgiven, or something to that affect.

If you find that either your son or his wife are less than welcoming to you, focus your energy on your grandchildren. Get on the floor, play with them, bathe them, and put them to bed. Bonding with your grandchildren in this way is good for all of you. You will feel a part of their lives, and they will develop some nice memories of you. And, by giving your son and daughter-in-law a much needed break, they will appreciate your visit even more!

Attitude is everything, and as the Lubavitcher Rebbe advised, "Tract gut vet zein gut!" – think good, and it will be good. Most of our life experiences are molded not by what happens to us, but rather, how we react. So go in with a genuine positive attitude, and shower them all with love. Once they are enveloped in that, it will be hard for them not to respond in kind.

Best of luck, and mazal tov!