My daughter has gone off the deep end with her bohemian lifestyle. Her parenting skills are desperately lacking, and she has truly strange ideas about childrearing. The kids are allowed to run amuck, don’t have bedtimes or mealtimes, and they are completely vegan. She now home-schools them; therefore they don’t have many friends or participate in organized sports or outside activities. They live in a beat-up motorhome, which means they are always moving from place to place, never putting down roots. I don’t think those children have ever heard the word “no.” There is absolutely no discipline or rules; and to top it off she and the kids’ father have never married. They live like gypsies, and frankly I’m still not sure how they survive.
I am becoming so frustrated with the whole mess. For instance, whenever I bring them normal food, they won’t eat it; and if I say something, it falls on deaf ears and then I notice that the time between visits gets longer. If only I could get them to understand how much damage they are doing to the children and then hopefully get them to change. I have even thought of filing for court-ordered visitation. I am not sure what to do anymore.
– Signed, Traditional-Minded Grandma Louise
Susan responds: I understand that you are concerned for the children’s best interests and, yes, it can be frustrating when we see glaring mistakes from our adult children that we can’t fix. I wish every grandparent could jump in and rescue all of the children who had to live with dysfunctional parents.
Expecting the parents to change their behavior, however, is unrealistic. And as long as the kids are fed, clothed and have a roof over their head, there is nothing in violation legally with their current situation.
If the reason that you would consider bringing about legal action is their alternative lifestyle choices, I don’t believe that you will get very far. They are not keeping you from seeing the children, only perhaps reducing the frequency as a result of your comments. But don’t fret; your situation is not hopeless. You do have some power over the outcome if you would consider changing your behavior. For instance, stop pushing your choices upon them, such as food. Either bring them what they like or bring nothing at all. As for dispensing unwanted advice, don’t do it; please keep it to yourself.
The most vulnerable people here are the children, and they need all the love and affection they can get. If you focus on that purpose instead of on unfulfilled expectations, then your frustration will soon dissipate. More important, the children will be better off because of it.
Accepting the family exactly the way they are is the first step, and the way to do that is to lose your expectation of the way things ought to be.
An attorney friend recently shared a case where the grandparents wanted to take the kids away from the parents because they were living in a similar situation; only this time they were in a cardboard box under the freeway. It turns out that CPS wasn’t concerned. So it doesn’t really matter who has the bigger house and the better food because in the end it’s the parents’ decision to raise their children as they see fit.
Grandparents should be there to lend support and provide unconditional love and not to challenge the parents’ way of doing things.
Susan Hoffman is the author of Grand Wishes: Advocating to Preserve the Grandparent-Grandchild Bond and director of Advocates for Grandparent Grandchild Connection.