Concern for a Grandchild: Mix In or Not?

Q: My question involves the frustration of having to still be the parent — even when my child is married with children. How can I deal with seeing my daughter’s non-acknowledgement of her daughter’s — my granddaughter’s — problem?

My 4-year-old granddaughter seems to me to be on the spectrum of PDD (pervasive developmental disorders). I recognize this because I’ve been a speech therapist for many years and have experience working with children with special needs.

I don’t think my daughter is facing the issue squarely or being honest with herself. When she speaks with me and my husband she barely mentions her children’s limitations — either because she thinks it would be speaking lashon hara about them, or because my husband and I didn’t do such a great job ourselves as parents, so why should she consult us?

My daughter used to complain about the way we raised her and her siblings and say with pride that she will do things differently when she is a parent. Her personality is very different from mine. She feels that I wasn’t sufficiently on top of things in their lives when they were growing up and she appears to hold it against me until this day.

I think it’s also embarrassing for her to have a child with developmental challenges. I can just imagine the self-doubt she is going through and how she is questioning her abilities and whether she is a competent parent.

I suppose it is possible that my daughter has already sought appropriate help for her daughter, but I have no way of knowing since I dare not ask her. It’s so frustrating for me because I have information that might help her — ideas of utilizing Applied Behavior Analysis and other modalities — to respond to a child with such issues.

My husband says that I should mind my own business and stay out of it. What do you suggest that I do?

A: As your daughter seems to be quite guarded in communicating about this issue with you, it is unlikely that you will be the one to assist her in this situation. Is she in general a “take charge” type of person? As she feels that you failed in being aware of details in your children’s lives, is she now proficient in this area? If so, it is very likely that she is already working on her daughter’s issues, particularly when her daughter’s behavior embarrasses her.

As it is stated, “Yesh harbei shluchim l’Makom” — Hashem has many agents to do His work. Grandparents don’t necessarily have to be the ones to enlighten their children about their grandchildren’s issues.

You have to take your son-in-law into consideration as well. Parents-in-law don’t necessarily know how their children’s spouses view them. It may be that he’s not eager to have your input either.

There is a reason why the famous adage is used with married children — “Close your mouth and open your wallet.” One never knows how an in-law’s involvement can adversely affect a family’s shalom bayis. Some spouses can see a parent’s involvement as questioning the couple’s ability to function as a competent unit to face life’s challenges.

Sometimes it can take years for adult children to see the wisdom of their parents and value their life experience. This is particularly true as they go through the process of creating their separate adult lives. They feel a certain pride in carving out their own identities, even if there are definite bumps along the way.

If we change our expectations in this area and realize that married couples go through these stages within marriage — and that relationships can change for the better in the future — this experience becomes less painful. As your daughter particularly doesn’t like to speak about any of her children’s deficiencies (for whatever reason), this is not a subject she would probably want to discuss with you, however expansive your knowledge may be.

May you have the fortitude to go through this situation with much patience.