Since my daughter had her very first baby (she now has three), I have tried to be helpful and advise her in ways that would make her life easier. However she decided that most of my advice was out of date and, since she is a pediatrician, she felt she knew better. Unfortunately, now that the children are 10, 8 and 4 years old, she is struggling to do her job part time and to control their disobedience, bad table manners and fights each night over homework, dinner, and bedtime.
I watch with great sadness the stress that my daughter is under. If I try to help or if she sees me managing the children well (because I am much stricter), she becomes aggressive with me. Her husband is also very soft with them and most of the time leaves the discipline to my daughter.
How can I make her understand that I only want the best for her and that my managing the children isn't about trying to prove that she is a bad mother or that I am trying to say I told you so? That is what she believes and it causes big arguments. All I want is for the children to be happy and to know what behavior is acceptable and what isn't. I want to see a peaceful house and my daughter less hassled.
- A Truly Caring Mom
Dear Mom Who Means Well,
I believe you when you say that “all you want is for the children to be happy.” I believe you when you say that you “want to see a peaceful house and my daughter less hassled.” The problem is I also believe you when you say that you want your grandchildren to “know what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t.”
And therein lies the problem. Your daughter doesn’t want your advice. She has made that very clear. She has also made it clear that every time you try to give her advice or act against her wishes, she gets angry. Yet you still continue down this destructive path.
Perhaps you are right. Perhaps their lenience has led to disobedient children. But perhaps you are wrong and there is another cause entirely. Either way, it is irrelevant.
Your daughter is a grown woman, capable of making her own choices and clearly desirous of doing so.
You may really want what’s best for her, but that’s certainly not how she experiences it. She hears only constant criticism and attack. I’m guessing that makes you a less than desired guest.
My best advice is (ironically) to stop giving advice. It’s not your job. And stop trying to manage your grandchildren’s behavior. That’s not your job either. You had your time; this is hers.
You have one job now – for your daughter, your son-in-law, and your grandchildren – and you should be grateful. It’s a job that’s a lot easier and more hassle-free than the one you have taken on.
Just give them constant love and support; ONLY love and ONLY support. You might even to be surprised to find that it makes more of a difference than anything else.
My good friend is going through "secondary infertility". She mentioned it once, but we don't talk about it. I am expecting my third child and I want to know how to approach the subject. Do I say anything to her, or just let her figure it out and deal with it in her own way. It pains me a lot to know that she and so many others are going through infertility issues and I would hate to do anything to make it harder. What is the best way to approach the situation?
- Sensitive Friend
Dear Sensitive Friend,
Firstly, I recommend this aish.com article which deals with this issue to both of you.
In addition, I don’t believe it makes for deep relationships if you ignore the proverbial “elephant in the room”. On the other hand, you are correct in wanting to be sensitive.
I think it’s a mark of friendship to raise the topic at a private, quiet time and let her know you’re available to talk about it if she wants to. She should neither feel pressured to reveal her thoughts or stifled. You should communicate that you are interested but you don’t want to pressure and the ball is in her court. It’s a delicate middle road.
Additionally, you can’t hide something you have that you know she would want very much, be it a job, a husband or a pregnancy. Since they can’t be hidden anyway, you only deepen her pain by making her the last to know. You heighten her sense of “otherness” but not treating her normally.
You should continue to confide in her but tact and sensitivity demand that it not be a constant topic of conversation. How nauseated you feel, how hard it is to cope, the traumas of sibling rivalry – these issues should probably stay off the table. Your desire (need?) to vent is outweighed by the pain it will cause.
As with all speech, common sense and sensitivity should be your guide.
I was just wondering how you always know the right answer to so many different people's different issues. If a friend or relative asks me my advice, I am always unsure how to answer appropriately and fairly and you are just so good at it!
-- Your Biggest Fan
Dear New Best Friend,
It’s nice to have a fan and I really appreciate your kind words. However, if you read through the responses to many of my answers, you will soon see that not everyone agrees with you – or me. I guess that makes life more interesting (and certainly provides entertainment for my children!)
However, I do have one important tip for advice giving. The more uncertainty you have about an issue, the more humility you have about the topic, the better your advice will be. It sounds paradoxical but it’s true. With age, comes wisdom. Or, as our sages say, “Fifty is the age for advice.” I speculate that this is because we are less clear of what’s right, less eager to state our opinions with absolute certainty, more aware of the complexities of individual psyches and family dynamics.
We are also less willing to give potentially life-altering advice – leave him, marry her, remove those children from the home – since we realize we don’t have the full picture or that we will not be the ones to bear the consequences. Not to mention the fact that the responsibility for someone else’s life is a serious and awesome one not to be shouldered lightly. Who really knows what’s better for another human being? That’s the Almighty’s domain.
I look back on my 25 year-old self who “knew everything” (or better yet my 16 year-old self) and laugh ruefully. The only thing I know for sure now is that I don’t have all the answers.