Do you let them see your children?
Here is a dilemma that I know a lot of parents face. Many parents are trying to model peaceful parenting in a direct response to the way they were raised. When your own parents were abusive, how big a part should they play in their grandchildren’s, your CHILDREN’S, lives.
And it’s a toughie!
After all, many of us turned to peaceful, gentle, grace-based parenting in response to our own negative upbringing. We are so committed to making sure our children don’t suffer the same hurts we did… how can we possibly allow people we know first hand to be abusers into our children’s lives?
As a young girl, my great-grandma was my favorite person in the world. She was my safe place. She loved me unconditionally. She always seemed to accept me as I was. (And she always pretended not to notice when I snuck an extra twinkie.)
I loved her so, so dearly. She taught me to crochet. She taught me to quilt. She tried to teach me to love The Price is Right.
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace.
She was such a huge influence on my life. I don’t go a single day without thinking about my beloved great-grandma!
But here’s the kicker… apparently she wasn’t the best of mothers.
Now, I don’t know the details, which is as it should be. My grandma would never want to taint my fond memories of her mom, with her own less than ideal experiences. But from small comments, I’ve gathered that there is still a lot she is struggling to forgive.
Now, what would have happened if my grandma had refused to let her mom be part of their family? My mother would have been denied a relationship with a loving grandma, and I would have been denied my wonderful great-grandma.
I am so very grateful that my grandma put in the heroic effort to forgive. That, even when it was personally difficult, she let her mother have a second chance.
Now let’s look at the other side of the family.
My dad’s dad was very abusive to him growing up. I know stories that a grandchild really shouldn’t be burdened to carry. He thankfully wasn’t ever really a big part of my life; he would send birthday and Christmas money, and we’d get together for lunch when he was in town. I remember him being gruff, and sometimes saying mean or vulgar things, but we only saw him for a few hours out of the year.
I don’t have any hard feelings towards him, and stay loosely in contact, though he and my incredibly attractive sister have had a falling out over some inappropriate groping during family photos at a recent wedding, ahem.
In this case, had he been a big part of my life, the story would not have been so rosy.
Two different grandparents, two different situations. One was a huge blessing. The other was dangerous.
And there is the dilemma. Figuring out what sort of an influence your parents will have in your children’s lives. Because it’s really hard to be objective!
The anger want to say “Oh, you think that you get to play ‘perfect grandparent’ now? After the way you treated me?! I don’t think so!”
But as Christians, we are called to forgiveness. Our first obligation, of course, is keeping our kids safe. But we also have an obligation to extend mercy. It takes vigilance and time to see what kind of grandparents your parents are capable of being.
This is HARD. I understand. There are times that I want nothing more than to scoop my child up out of the swing and run to safety! But that is a reaction to the past, not a current danger.
It takes heroic effort to respond to the present reality, instead of reacting to the inner hurt!
Limiting the involvement of a grandparent is not a small thing, and is not something that should be done lightly. We need to ask God to reveal our own hearts to us. That we can see our true, deepest motivations. We need to be absolutely sure that it is really in the interest of the child, and not a retaliation for our own mistreatment.
In our case:
We started off without any limits, willing to wipe the slate clean. But as our cute baby morphed into a moody and fitful toddler, a few incidents made us question the safety of a particular grandparent. We tried to talk about it, tried to arrange family counseling to heal the problems and find a workable relationship, but this person declined. So limits were put into place. We welcome this grandparent to be a part of our kids’ lives, but we never leave them alone or let them go on outings without us.
It’s heartbreaking. I long for a truly healed relationship, a reconciliation. But for now, my children get to have a relationship with another person who, in his/her limited capacity, loves them, and my husband and I know the kids are safe.