Moshe Ben-Chaim
Reader: Dear Rabbi,
My wife and I are always getting into arguments (serious arguments) about
our relationship with her parents. She thinks I am bring ungrateful and rude
because I do not want them to be so involved with our children.
She was brought up in an environment where her parents and grand parents
lived in the same house, and therefore it believe it is normal for her to
interchange the roles of parent's and grand parents. I believe this is what
was done when she was growing up, so it is normal for her. I, on the other
hand, grew up seeing my grand parents on weekends, or holidays. Of course I
stayed overnight in their house, and spend long amounts of time with them,
but there was always a distinction between them and my parents.
In the relationship we have with my wife's parents, I feel like the lines
are blurred, and there is no distinction between our immediate family entity
and the next level of a family group. I believe that there is a place for
each family member. Parents have certain responsibilities and also
privileges. So do grand parents, but at a different level. I think the
levels hare have been set equally, therefore the roles of the parents and
grand parents are now one and the same. Of course this is not a problem for
the children, as now they get twice as much care and attention, but for me
personally, I feel like sometimes I am being robbed of those moments that
should be for the parents to experience, or experience with your child for
the first time.
Examples of things that we argue about are: We never took a vacation
together with my son, but my wife's parents went on vacation, last year, and
now my wife wants them to take my sun again on vacation this year. I would
personally like to go on a vacation with my children, but since the grand
parent's are already doing this, it seems like the job is done (the child is
going on vacation) and now there is no need for the immediate family to
consider taking one. Another thing that I thought the parents should have
gotten a chance to experience first is, going to the Zoo and see my child's
face when he so the lion, or the elephant. Instead, the grand parents did
that I feel like I am being robbed of the experiences that are part of
being a parent. The last example is when my child was sick, my wife wanted
to send him to her parents so they would take care of him. She thought this
since we are so tired from lack of sleep (one of our children is still not
sleeping trough the night), they would to a better job. I on the other hand,
think that when your child is sick, you most definitely do not send him
anywhere, and take care of him, no matter how tired you are. This is what
parents do, not grand parents.
I hope I am making sense.
This may be all silly, and I may be to sensitive about all of it, and should
just not care who does what, but it does bother me. I was hopping that you
can provide me with some Halakhic insight on how I should approach this
Thank you.
Mesora: Your concerns are real, genuine and rightfully, you should experience what you
wish to with your children.
Personally, I would say to your wife and in-laws exactly what you told me.
You may even tell them in my name that I feel your concerns are not only
rational and fair, but that the children will also benefit from closer ties and
experiences you wish to share with them. Your wife should not stand between you
and your own children, but she should support her husband's wishes. Especially
wishes which are rightfully yours, good for your children, and are
irreplaceable. She must realize how much you treasure these moments if you wish
her to see your side of the matter. Talk to her, alone.
Additionally, she must use foresight and understand that by her supporting you,
your marriage will benefit, and the opposite will happen if you end up
resenting her for not being sensitive to your feelings. Marriage is about
compromise. But in this case, she should RUN to thank you for such devotion to
your children. The word compromise seems hardly right when you are desirous of
something so good.
Explain to her and your in-laws your feelings, and make them see that this is
something you cannot do without.
Then, make plans right away to do that trip!

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