Q.My parents have come to see us once a month -- Friday to Sunday -- ever since our daughter was born a year ago, and I am beginning to dread their visits.
Even though they don't spend the nights with us, my mother's personality really gets on my nerves.
They also don't drive in the city and our neighborhood doesn't have public transportation, so they are stuck at our house unless we drive them somewhere.
My parents have been generous to us and I'm grateful for that, and they are grateful to us for giving them a grandchild -- their fondest wish came true -- but my husband, my 16-year-old stepson, the baby and I have little time together as a family, and these visits cut into it.
Except for asking my parents to stay with my daughter while my husband and I go to the grocery store, I haven't taken advantage of their offers to go out and do things for myself or to go out with my husband.
I don't want my parents to decrease their contact with their granddaughter, but I'd like to ask them to come perhaps every two months or so, instead of every month. If I did that, however, it would hurt them very much.
How can I let them know that we would be happier if their visits weren't quite so frequent? Or should I just take advantage of their baby-sitting offers?
A.Subtle -- and not so subtle -- generational clashes often occur because the parents still see their children as children, not adults.
Their children have grown but their relationship has not. If that's going on in your family, you'll find it hard to act your age around your mother, and the younger you act, the more she will deal with you as a child, and a rather difficult one at that.
You can shift this behavior if you start treating her the way you would treat an older colleague at work -- respectfully, but as a peer. She may not be enthusiastic about the new you, but if one person changes in a relationship -- even a little bit -- the other person will change too.
Your mom will change even faster if you recognize her needs as well as your own. If your parents are like most grandparents, they visit so frequently because they love to see you but mostly because they want to spend time with your little girl -- without an audience.
They want to tickle her toes, take her for strolls and talk baby talk to her, but they probably won't feel free to act silly or sentimental if you're around or talk about the way you used to spit out your green peas, just like the baby does, and how adorable you were.
Your parents can reminisce and you can still get away from your mother if you leave supper for your husband, his boy and the baby to eat with them when they arrive on Friday night, while you run some errands.
Or let them baby-sit in the daytime while you and your husband take your stepson to lunch. The boy needs time with you and his dad, without the baby, the way it used to be.
And when they offer to baby-sit so you can go to dinner, say "Great!" and make a reservation before they change their minds.
Since your mother's personality annoys you so much, keep out of her way when you're home or arrange quiet family activities whenever you can. She will talk less at the library or watching a video with you or mending in the living room while you're weeding the garden.
Try to introduce your mother to some ladies her age in your immediate neighborhood too, and look for bridge games or tai chi classes for her and your dad. Visitors always feel more comfortable if they know people who live nearby and if they have something productive to do.
You also don't have to let your parents visit every time they want to come. They'll understand if you have to take your stepson to look at a couple of colleges that weekend or if you need to see your in-laws.
But don't directly tell your parents to come less often since you know that this will hurt their feelings and your relationship. They took good care of you when you were going through some dreary stretches in your childhood; it's only fair to put up with them now.
But maybe not as often.
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