I am having an issue lately where I feel caught between my wife and my parents. My parents were divorced 2 years after my birth and my wife’s parents are still married after 40 + years. My wife and I often have a different opinions on methods of child rearing and the perspective of what is safe, I gather from our own cumulative life experiences. My mother is fairly un-involved with my family and has seen our daughter once in my family’s home and 3 times after I have traveled to my mother’s to visit. My mother has had an open invitation to visit, but often provides an excuse of why she cannot visit us.
My father has visited us often at our own home and we have visited him sevaral times in his home over the past 12 years since our daughter was born. The trouble has been that for years my father has been asking when our daughter could come to his house alone for a visit. He hears of our daughter’s visit’s to my wife’s parents’ house and expects the same. I should add that my father has a chronic back condition as well as a clinical depression which requires a course of drugs, some of which result in him speaking his mind without using a filter for ‘appropriateness’. The best way I can explain his behavior is ‘eccentric’. This has caused some concern to my wife as to whether he is capable of acting as a guardian for our daughter if she were to visit my father.
I feel that my daughter would have a safe visit, albeit a little boring due to my father’s remote location in the desert of the southwest, but I believe she would come to no harm. This being said, my wife feels otherwise. How does a husband/son such as I go about dealing with this scenario? I am my wife’s confidant, and my father’s son, so I am between them both, yet I have a conflicted opinion. Every way I have tried to deal with this, has caused upset to other person for which I am to blame. I cannot seem to come to a concession with my father, nor can I sway my wife. Assuming I have given enough background to my dilema, can anyone share some ways to deal with this scenario? Even better if it is from your own personal experience.
A: You poor man. In trying to protect and please everyone, you are pleasing no one, including yourself. You really do need to get out of the middle of the conversation that your father and your wife are having through you.
The first consideration is the personality and confidence of your daughter. Some 12-year-olds are far more ready for this kind of adventure than others. Does she want to go? Is she comfortable with your dad and does she enjoy his company? Is she able to take care of some of her own needs (like making meals) if your dad’s back gives out? Can she entertain herself if your dad either isn’t up to entertaining her or doesn’t really know how? Since his home is isolated, is she happy to be her own company? Or will she become quickly bored without other kids around? Most important: Is she the kind of kid who can assert herself? If she doesn’t feel comfortable, will she call you and her mom?
This is not to suggest that your daughter make the decision. She shouldn’t. It’s unfair to ask a 12-year-old to make a decision that the adults can’t make. The three adults – you, your wife, and your father – need to make a careful assessment of her readiness and her interest in a visit before making a decision either way.
Then, encourage your wife and your dad to join you in talking this out. This situation shouldn’t turn into a test of who you love best. You love them both. Nor should the decision be based on some idea of “fairness” in visiting grandparents. Fairness doesn’t require that everyone be treated exactly the same; only that both sets of grandparents have the opportunity to know and love their grandchild.
It’s understandable that your wife would feel more comfortable having your daughter at her parents’ home since there is a woman in the house. Your father’s disabilities also need to be taken into account – both in terms of what he is capable of doing and in terms of how his behavior affects your daughter. Your wife’s concerns can best be answered by your dad. Your dad’s reassurances are best heard directly by your wife. Remind them that the most important focus for their discussion is what your daughter is ready for and how you will all help her have a relationship with her grandfather, regardless of whether she makes a visit this year or sometime in the future.
I hope you can all move your discussions and, indeed, your relationships to a new level.
I wish you all well.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Sep 2009
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). Wife is adverse to daughter visiting out of state paternal grandfather. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 8, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/09/21/wife-is-adverse-to-daughter-visiting-out-of-state-paternal-grandfather/