The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Carolyn Hax: Must parents always be the gatekeepers to the grandchildren?

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I recently asked my daughter by text whether the grandkids could go on a trip with me. She responded that she would check with the grandkids and let me know.

I followed up several days later with another text to my daughter and included the grandkids this time — who both have phones — setting out some of the things there would be for us to do on this trip and expressing my hope it would work out for them to go.

Within two hours I received an irate phone call from my daughter, accusing me of pressuring the grandkids into going and trying to undermine her authority as a parent. I profusely apologized.

The grandkids are both in their teens, and I thought that if I told them the fun things we could do and reassured them they would not be bored, they’d be more interested in going. Did I do a bad thing? In this world of texting now with the grandkids having their own phones, am I out of line to reach out to them in this manner?

— Out of Line?

Out of Line?: I think you knocked on the front door, got impatient, and went around and checked to see if the side door was unlocked. And I think you know you did this.

So, apologize to your daughter for overstepping, and next time ask her, “Okay if I run this by the kids myself?” When the grandkids are adults themselves, then you can just go straight to the side door.

Dear Carolyn: My sister, who is my only sibling and closest living relative, lives in a neighboring state. We have not seen each other in person in about five years, though we are in regular contact. She invited herself to visit last year and I shut down completely at the thought of all that it might take to host her. My home is comfortable for me, but I don’t think most people would be comfortable here — I enjoy some companionable clutter and am not an especially deep cleaner. I also could not figure out how to plan for meals, because I am not much of a cook and don’t enjoy restaurants.

Since declining her visit, I have felt really awful and I wish I knew where to begin with getting my home/life into a shape that would make a future visit possible.

— Sibling

Sibling: Would you please just call your sister to say you’d love to see her, you’re just not up for hosting? Maybe you can meet halfway somewhere, outside? Or go visit her, when you’re both vaccinated? Or maybe just say to her what you just told us, that you started overthinking what it would take to host someone; maybe with a little help, you and she can figure something out.

Speaking as someone who has done a fair bit of hosting while otherwise overwhelmed or overbooked, most restaurants now (thanks, pandemic!) do takeout well enough that it's like small-scale catering. Grab food, meet in a park, catch up.

It sounds as if you’d like to see her, so find a way. That’s what matters. Especially since your angst over not seeing her sounds equal to, if not eventually greater than, your angst about hosting at home.