Connecting moms in Polk County, Fla.
Parenting Column by Jodie Lynn
My husband and I have decided to have a baby. He is Jewish and I am Catholic. We have never discussed how we would raise our children mainly because we would rather them make their own choices. However, now, our moms are arguing about this and not speaking to each other. What's the best way to show respect for their views but to let them know it really is not their business?
In general, most in-laws want to offer advice to their grown children on just about everything. However, when it comes to telling them how to raise the grandchildren, you have to either accept it or put your foot down. My husband's parents were particularly interested in how we were going to raise our two kids, especially since we too were of different religious backgrounds. We moved to Canada just to keep peace in our immediate family and to help avoid confusion to our now eight-year-old twins. Our feeling is that if they could have controlled their constant nagging, we would have loved to stay put and allow our children to meet, cherish and love their grandparents. Unfortunately, they wouldn't keep their mouths shut. - T. Y. in Ontario, Canada
You may not need to move out of state or to another part of the world just to get your point across, but you may have to accept the responsibility of doing a little negotiating between the two soon-to-be grandmothers. Religion is a personal choice for each family and each individual that is involved in the family unit. People sometimes have hardcore opinions about religious differences, especially if there is a way for them to influence which faith a child is raised to follow. The decision can certainly be researched and contemplated inside and out before the final step is taken. For example, your husband and you need to talk with each other in great detail about your own personal feelings and go from there. There isn't any reason why the two of you cannot listen to what each other's moms have to interject, as long as you are very clear by telling them upfront that while you respect their opinions, the choice about what to do with the kids will be up to the two of you.
CAN YOU HELP?
I am a separated dad. My children are eight and nine. They stay at my house two nights per week. They have been begging me for kittens for a long time. Their mom doesn't want cats. I was going to surprise them for Christmas. However, am I creating a problem due to the fact that they can only see them two nights per week? Will it create anxiety for them thinking about the next time they are going to see the cats? Am I taking away from them looking forward to seeing and spending time with me? Or, am I fulfilling one of their childhood dreams?
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The religious differences couple appears to have their own plan set, as long as they're both being honest with each other. I do worry that this may not be entirely the case, though, because the letter-writer contradicts herself by first saying "We have never discussed how we would raise our children" immediately followed by "because we would rather them make their own choices". Although this indicates that they have, indeed, discussed it at some level, it leaves a ton of wiggle-room. I just hope they've actually discussed it more than it would seem from the information we're given.
So, assuming the husband and wife are actually on-board with each other, what they ultimately need to do is just suck it up, sit their mothers down, and lay down the law. This is their child, not their mothers', and the way the child is raised is up to them. If it were me, I'd let it be known that further discussion on the matter was not only unwelcome, but a total dealbreaker if any sort of relationship was desired thereafter. Harsh? Maybe, but when two theoretically adult women are already refusing to speak to each other at this early stage (the letter-writer appears to not even have conceived yet), imagine how much more insane it will get when there's an actual physical child in play?
For the father considering kittens, the first question needs to be how do you feel about cats? Because if you don't want two kittens-eventually-cats in your home, don't get them. Period. Your daughters can get cats when they're older if they so desire (I sure did). It's not fair to the animals, nor is it a responsible act for you to get them, bring them to live in your house, and then abandon them somewhere when your daughters turn out to be just not that interested once they're grown up.
Again, in case I didn't make this clear enough: YOU need to want the cats. Because you want cats. Your daughters' wishes, while certainly of note to any parent, cannot be the deciding factor on whether or not you bring an animal into your home. YOU are the one incurring the cost (even free pets are expensive) and inconvenience (believe me, they're inconvenient even when you want them). Ultimately it is your wishes and only yours that can be considered.
If you're determined to get your daughters a pet, you can always sit them down and explain how it would be unfair to the kittens for them to live in your home when you're gone all day working, but how about a couple of hamsters? They're nocturnal, they live in nice little cages, and you'd only be signing on for 2-3 years of cage cleaning, rather than 12-20 years of litter scooping.
Sounds like a bargain to me.