Carolyn Hax: When grandparents ignore your parenting choices

Carolyn Hax
Columnist September 13, 2012

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

My parents frequently ignore or dismiss my parenting choices. I’ve discussed it with them many times, with no changes. The last straw involved their not calling when my child got sick while overnighting with them.

I’m so furious that I’d prefer to send a letter outlining the boundaries and the consequences for crossing them. I’m afraid another in-person conversation will be unproductive, and that I will say something they won’t forgive. Am I wimping out or being responsible?

Letter vs. In-Person


Depends on how important these boundaries are to enforce. If they involve using car seats or observing health-based dietary restrictions, you’re being responsible — and, in fact, I suggest you decline their next invitation to have your child overnight. If they can’t provide responsible care, then they lose the privilege.

If instead you’re clamping down on things better written off as grandparental privilege — junk food for breakfast or staying up past bedtime — then you need to think carefully about the merits of involved grandparents vs. the merits of to-the-letter adherence to standards.

I realize this isn’t always an easy call, since the blown bedtime can lead to a ruined next day for you, for example. However, if anything, that makes it even more important to pick your battles carefully.

It also sounds, for what it’s worth, as if you’ve talked about this plenty and to no avail. Since they’re apparently going to do things their way regardless, what response makes sense for you now? Withhold time with your child? Tighten the supervision of visits? Choose the venue carefully to preempt the typical conflicts?

Re: Parenting choices:

The flip side is, if you want free babysitting, you don’t get to control everything.

Anonymous

That, yes. In fact, you can control more with paid care but still not everything, since humans will be human and there’s no happy ending in trying to have it any other way.

Dear Carolyn:

My parents like my fiance well enough and are always pleasant to him, but they are not enthusiastic about the upcoming wedding. I went over to their house alone to ask why. They told me I am too young and not established enough to get married (I am 26 and my fiance is 28).

I was floored. I am a high school social studies teacher and love my job; my fiance is a third-year resident at a local hospital. We have been dating for three years. Right now, money is tight, but we both have solid educations and a strong work ethic. I told them this and also reminded them that rarely does a couple start off established.

They would not budge. They said over and over that marriage is a huge decision that I am not yet ready to make. I am at a loss. How can I convince my parents that my fiance and I are happily planning our future, that it is not perfect, but that we are both willing to work at it every day?

Engaged

Don’t bother. They said their piece, and you’ve considered and ruled out their concerns, so now go be the adult you are and stop trying to extract your parents’ approval. That will be more persuasive than anything you can say.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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