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Grand-parenting - Was I out of line?
Old 08-06-2017, 02:43 AM   #1
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Grand-parenting - Was I out of line?

Day before yesterday, DW & I Skyped with our DIL as we are traveling overseas for the summer. DIL was showing us the home that she and DS had just closed escrow on. In looking at the backyard I couldn't tell if there was a security fence in place around the pool and forgot to ask about it before we had concluded the session. DIL and DS are the parents of our beautiful, 6 month old granddaughter who is now just beginning to crawl.

So, yesterday I sent our DIL an email to inquire about that fence. Here it is verbatim: "Does your new home have a security fence that will prohibit small children from accessing the pool? I need to be able to put my head down on the pillow at night and sleep."

DIL's reply (verbatim) "No it does not [have a pool fence]. However, as parents, we have already discussed what we need to do to ensure our child's safety. Please allow us to worry. You have nothing to worry about. Trust us with raising and caring for our child."

DS decided to weigh in as well, no doubt at DIL's request (verbatim): "I appreciate you and Mom being concerned about how we raise our daughter. Although to be frank, I kind of need you guys to back off a bit. All of the recommendations and suggestions on how to raise and look out for her are becoming a little intrusive. I know you both mean the best, but we have everything under control."

"P.S. Yes, we have the pool gate under control. We are aware of the drowning risks."

We were most bothered by our DS's response. I kind of need you guys to back off a bit. All of the recommendations and suggestions on how to raise and look out for her are becoming a little intrusive. DW & I have a strict policy that we live by. We do not speak into the lives of our adult children unless asked. We do not tell either of our 2 adult sons how to parent their children (we have 4 grandchildren now, the oldest 12 years of age) We butt out, period. This means we do NOT give unsolicited advice. The only time we have given advice is when our opinion or assistance has been requested.

In light of all of this, I'm looking for feedback.

Was I out of line in asking about the pool fence?

Is the manner in which the question was phrased out of line?

I admit that by stating "I need to be able to put my head on the pillow at night and sleep" may have turned the question into a rhetorical one. But just the same, did it warrant the replies that were given?
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Old 08-06-2017, 03:41 AM   #2
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I don't see much wrong with the response. I do get the sense that you are probably not as " hands-off" as you think. You may not mean to interfere, but there are many subtle and not-so-subtle ways that "disapproval" or "discontent" can be (and probably is) communicated. Apparently, this is what DS and his wife are responding to. I think your comment may have been a bit premature and overly dramatic.
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Old 08-06-2017, 03:41 AM   #3
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What you meant was, "We've seen so many sad stories about curious and quick infants who perished in the family pool, and we don't want you to suffer that pain". What they heard was, "you don't trust us to raise our own child". They apparently felt similarly about recent advice whether it was solicited or not.


They are buying a house, which is a stressful event and their sensitivities are probably heightened. Seems like the time to play the patriarch/matriarch role and keep the peace, even it means apologizing for what they view to be intrusion.
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Old 08-06-2017, 03:46 AM   #4
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Not knowing your situation, it's tough to give any advice. Still, DS's response suggests (to me) that he's responding to more than just this one incident. Only you can know (within yourself) if it was justified. In any case, you have very little control over your family now so you might as well try to back away enough to keep the relationship on an even keel. It's difficult to see your family in "danger" and not be able to "help." Still, sometimes you just have to let go and "trust." YMMV
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Old 08-06-2017, 04:24 AM   #5
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I wouldn't worry about it either way. When it comes to something as dangerous as a swimming pool and a toddler combination, I wouldn't worry a bit about whether my kids thought or said I was being too intrusive.
As a general rule I try to remember to ask my kids if I may impose my concern or question, before I thrust it out there,and frankly it doesn't come up very often. If they say "no", I say "well, I'm going to anyway"....but I've known most of my kids all their lives so they are used to me.
Generally, all of my kids and step-kids are more safety conscious with their children than I was with them, so I don't worry too much about it, but none of them have pools. That's a different ball game IMO.
I do have a lake home, and gramps has a rule: No kids on the dock or beachfront until they can swim unassisted from my dock to a neighbor's dock, and back (200 feet each way). On the few occasions when I hear complaining from a toddler on the subject, a few stern words from Gramps seems to be worth 5 minutes of obstinance from a child.

I would take your daughter's remark with a grain of salt, but try to pick your spots. Resist the temptation to defend yourself verbally. It just raises the temperature.
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Old 08-06-2017, 05:44 AM   #6
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You cite one email that seems pretty mild by itself but two response like those from your son and DIL speak to a history of other "advice" they think is too much. Do you always have judgments about the best way to...whatever? Even if the kids need advice, they don't need it from their parents unless they ask for it.
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Old 08-06-2017, 05:55 AM   #7
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Forget who should have said what... around here, a three foot fence is a law. Unless there is a security fence, the city has the authority to shut your pool down. it's designed to protect nt only your own children, but neighborhood kids and animals, too.
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Old 08-06-2017, 05:57 AM   #8
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Impossible for any of us to answer since we're hearing about one event, from one side. You say you have a strict policy of "We butt out, period. This means we do NOT give unsolicited advice. The only time we have given advice is when our opinion or assistance has been requested." Yet you absolutely didn't adhere to that policy this time. And DS's response that you put in bold make it clear that this isn't the first time, at least from their view point. Something doesn't click here. Maybe they are misinterpreting things you have been saying, or maybe you've been passive aggressively making comments without realizing what you are doing.

I note that you didn't just blurt this concern and go against your strict policy accidentally this one time. You realize you missed your chance to comment, thought about it, and went ahead and butted in.

All that said, I don't see an issue with being concerned about a pool and a toddler, but again, we don't know the history.

I'd use this as a chance to talk with them, explain that you didn't mean to interfere, and ask them in a calm way what other things they are talking about. Very important to not get defensive about the answer no matter what it is. Maybe you'll see what you've been doing. Or maybe they've been misunderstanding you, and you can explain that and maybe watch your interactions so they aren't misunderstood. Likely somewhere in between. It can be something like if she dresses the girl in blue, and you offhandedly remark how nice she looks in red, she may be taking it as criticism of how she dresses her daughter. And she wouldn't be wrong even though you meant nothing by it.
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Old 08-06-2017, 06:03 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigcmagor View Post
What you meant was, "We've seen so many sad stories about curious and quick infants who perished in the family pool, and we don't want you to suffer that pain". What they heard was, "you don't trust us to raise our own child". They apparently felt similarly about recent advice whether it was solicited or not.

You may be correct on that.


They are buying a house, which is a stressful event and their sensitivities are probably heightened. Seems like the time to play the patriarch/matriarch role and keep the peace, even it means apologizing for what they view to be intrusion.
That was my first instinct. I immediately apologized and thanked our DS for reminding me about boundaries.

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Originally Posted by Koolau View Post
Not knowing your situation, it's tough to give any advice. Still, DS's response suggests (to me) that he's responding to more than just this one incident. Only you can know (within yourself) if it was justified. In any case, you have very little control over your family now so you might as well try to back away enough to keep the relationship on an even keel. It's difficult to see your family in "danger" and not be able to "help." Still, sometimes you just have to let go and "trust." YMMV
DW and I do our best to self-check ourselves and guard against providing unsolicited advice. We do take a very hands-off approach to being grandparents. Since last December, we've been traveling overseas and have only spent a little over 2 months at our home in the U.S. That takes care of the "backing away" part!

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Originally Posted by HadEnuff View Post
I would take your daughter's remark with a grain of salt, but try to pick your spots. Resist the temptation to defend yourself verbally. It just raises the temperature.
Good advice. I've only apologized to both and thanked our son for reminding me of boundaries.

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Originally Posted by euro View Post
I don't see much wrong with the response. I do get the sense that you are probably not as " hands-off" as you think. You may not mean to interfere, but there are many subtle and not-so-subtle ways that "disapproval" or "discontent" can be (and probably is) communicated. Apparently, this is what DS and his wife are responding to. I think your comment may have been a bit premature and overly dramatic.
Thanks. DW & I will be more vigilant about the not-so-subtle stuff. OTH, our DIL had recently paid us a compliment by telling us she that likes our "chill" approach of not interfering in the lives of our adult children.

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Originally Posted by donheff View Post
You cite one email that seems pretty mild by itself but two response like those from your son and DIL speak to a history of other "advice" they think is too much. Do you always have judgments about the best way to...whatever? Even if the kids need advice, they don't need it from their parents unless they ask for it.
Actually, DW & I are very much hands-off when it comes to the lives of our adult children and how they choose to parent. As I mentioned in previous replies, DW & I will be more vigilant and self-check ourselves so as not to send the wrong messages - whether those be verbal or non-verbal.

Our DIL describes her parents as very controlling people and constantly offering unsolicited advice. DIL just returned from spending a long weekend with them.

Thanks all for the great feedback!
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Old 08-06-2017, 06:05 AM   #10
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I'm confused as to a) whether there's not a security fence around the yard in which the pool is located to prevent access from other than from the house or b) whether there's not one between the house & pool. Cities/towns generally require a). Rural areas can be wide open, so it that's the case, is the ? about b) ??
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Old 08-06-2017, 06:13 AM   #11
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Forget who should have said what... around here, a three foot fence is a law. Unless there is a security fence, the city has the authority to shut your pool down. it's designed to protect nt only your own children, but neighborhood kids and animals, too.
Yes, there is a law in their city. We're surprised that the previous owner did not have the pool enclosed.

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Impossible for any of us to answer since we're hearing about one event, from one side. You say you have a strict policy of "We butt out, period. This means we do NOT give unsolicited advice. The only time we have given advice is when our opinion or assistance has been requested." Yet you absolutely didn't adhere to that policy this time. And DS's response that you put in bold make it clear that this isn't the first time, at least from their view point. Something doesn't click here. Maybe they are misinterpreting things you have been saying, or maybe you've been passive aggressively making comments without realizing what you are doing.

I note that you didn't just blurt this concern and go against your strict policy accidentally this one time. You realize you missed your chance to comment, thought about it, and went ahead and butted in.

All that said, I don't see an issue with being concerned about a pool and a toddler, but again, we don't know the history.

I'd use this as a chance to talk with them, explain that you didn't mean to interfere, and ask them in a calm way what other things they are talking about. Very important to not get defensive about the answer no matter what it is. Maybe you'll see what you've been doing. Or maybe they've been misunderstanding you, and you can explain that and maybe watch your interactions so they aren't misunderstood. Likely somewhere in between. It can be something like if she dresses the girl in blue, and you offhandedly remark how nice she looks in red, she may be taking it as criticism of how she dresses her daughter. And she wouldn't be wrong even though you meant nothing by it.
This is the first time either of our adult children has ever made mention of us being "intrusive". Honestly, it came as a bit of a shock. DIL has told us previously that her parents are very controlling and she did just return from spending a long weekend with them.

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I'm confused as to a) whether there's not a security fence around the yard in which the pool is located to prevent access from other than from the house or b) whether there's not one between the house & pool. Cities/towns generally require a). Rural areas can be wide open, so it that's the case, is the ? about b) ??
Located within a municipality. We're surprised the previous owner did not have the pool enclosed.
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Old 08-06-2017, 06:17 AM   #12
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Our DIL describes her parents as very controlling people and constantly offering unsolicited advice. DIL just returned from spending a long weekend with them.
That could explain a lot. Could have been a misdirected reaction that you were unfortunate enough to catch. Still worth a conversation to make sure, IMO.
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Old 08-06-2017, 06:53 AM   #13
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So, yesterday I sent our DIL an email to inquire about that fence. Here it is verbatim: "Does your new home have a security fence that will prohibit small children from accessing the pool? I need to be able to put my head down on the pillow at night and sleep."
Given her controlling parents, your question came across like something her parents would say. You were judging, and so were they.

As DIL was showing you their new castle, she needed to feel good about this. Her parents may be making very unwelcome remarks, and you're unaware of the extent.

If it were me (guilty many times), I would apologize, and also let them know if they need any help with the fence, you have payment ready. It is that important to you.

Think of how many additional tasks and problems this young lady now has. Might be a bit more sensitive than usual?
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Old 08-06-2017, 07:04 AM   #14
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We have this dynamic going on in our extended family. My parents would have said something similar to their grandson. What the grandson and his wife would have heard/interpreted is : "we think you are complete morons. You wouldn't think about the potential of your own child drowning if we hadn't reminded you." New parents need to feel that they are competent, as they are often struggling with not knowing exactly what to do. The helplessness is real. Any comment that can possibly be construed as assuming they are helpless is not going to be taken well.
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Old 08-06-2017, 07:10 AM   #15
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Young new parents want to show that they're adults, good parents, and can make smart choices. Unsolicited advice often produces negative results, so it needs to be dispensed carefully. Some occasional positive reinforcement may be helpful, especially when it comes to their parenting skills.
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Old 08-06-2017, 07:32 AM   #16
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It seems like you have had a good outcome and things were resolved.

My wife and I (and her siblings) have been the recipients of unsolicited advice from her mother for years. It takes various forms, from subtle hints all the way up through guilt and constant haranguing. Frankly, no one likes to be around her and we have realized it is a manifestation of mental illness. If she doesn't feel we are listening enough to some crazy suggestion, she will sometimes put her poor suffering husband on the phone to pitch the same idea.

It doesn't sound like this is the case with you and your wife. But, if her parents are crossing the line repeatedly, I can tell you from experience your son and DIL are probably very sensitive to this issue.

On the subject of the pool, I will offer you some unsolicited advice. Don't worry so much about it. Their backyard is only one of many areas where the children will be in close proximity to water. The likely outcome will be that your son and DIL will teach their kids to swim from a young age. We have always lived near water (including backyard pools, creeks, lakes, oceans, etc.) and our kids were in swim lessons before they were a year old.
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Old 08-06-2017, 07:55 AM   #17
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Your DS and DIL are lucky to have caring parents on both sides. When DD first got married, I said something to my new SIL in some flip wording and tone that I use with my kids; DD nailed me with a steely look and simply said, "Boundaries." So especially with the kids' spouses, I am always very careful not to say anyhing that could be perceived as critical--DD and DS would get over it, their spouses might not.

But a pool and small children would definitely require me to go to my seldom-used strategy--go to my DS (never my DIL) and say, "I'm only going to say this once because I don't want you to say to me one day that I should have said something...." I save this for very important things so they do listen to it, and then it's off my mind because they are adults and should make their own decisions.

More subtly, I have infrequently sent links to DS with worrisome things and said "OMG can you believe this?" and he'll usually respond with "Yep, DIL is on top of this."

Offering to pay for something is always a good strategy too!
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Old 08-06-2017, 08:10 AM   #18
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l.

Our DIL describes her parents as very controlling people and constantly offering unsolicited advice. DIL just returned from spending a long weekend with them.

Thanks all for the great feedback!
Maybe they were reacting to all the unsolicited advice from DIL's parents and you just happened to be the recipients of what they wanted to say DIL 's parents.
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Old 08-06-2017, 08:14 AM   #19
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This is the first time either of our adult children has ever made mention of us being "intrusive".
Maybe bring it up in casual conversation with your other adult child?

Something like, your brother seemed to think we were being intrusive with him and DIL. I'd hate to think we come across that way. What do you think?

It MIGHT give you another perspective on how often (if ever) you've crossed that line.
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Old 08-06-2017, 08:23 AM   #20
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Hi,

Kids drown. I don't think it was out of line to ask about a security fence, however the tone of the question may have come across a bit strong. Perhaps, since the house was a done deal, after praising the house, I would have asked more casually about it and say that you and your DW were thinking about a house-warming gift, and thought they might appreciate you paying for a safety fence if the house didn't have one.

DH and I have two DIL's and we step very carefully. (No grand-kids yet.) I think it depends on the circumstances.

As for being hands-off that makes a difference. We lived with with - and then bought the house across the street from my parents when my kiddos were small. My parents watched the kiddos before we came home from work. Dad taught the boys to swim and took them to the pool for swimming lessons. He paid for activities for the boys we couldn't afford. My parents changed diapers, took kids to the doctors (when necessary), picked kids up from school if someone got sick, etc. Since my parents really did a tremendous amount for us, when they spoke up, and they weren't shy, we listened.

P.S. I see you've already apologized. I think you've done all that you can.
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