Boat and Trailer on the Shore

Over protective daughter-in-law

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

Our grandsons, 9 and 11, will be visiting in a few weeks and we’re going to have so much fun. We’ll be in town for a few days and then up at our cabin on the lake. 

This is the first time their mother is letting them be here all by themselves. I feel bad for my poor daughter-in-law, who worries about many things but mostly her children. She’s very cautious and holds the boys back. (God forbid if one of them scrapes his knee. It turns into a major crisis.) 

It’s taken my son a few years to convince her that the boys will be fine with us. He wants them to experience life in the country, like he had. (She grew up in a major city and doesn’t really like it here.) He’s absolutely confident the boys will be fine. She wife to agree with him but I know it’s very hard on her. 

While they are here, she wants to talk to them every night, though that’s not possible when we are up at the cabin. (No cell service and we’ve never put in a phone. We always figured we’d get to the Forest Service station less than a mile away if there was an emergency.) 

Over the last few weeks, she’s called me with all kinds of instructions, simple things like how they must always “wear a hat because of possible sun damage” or no time in the lake without adult supervision. I raised three sons! How stupid does she think I am?

Now she has me worried. I’m afraid I’ll watch over those two boys so carefully that none of us will have any fun at all. How do I can reassure her that we will take good care of our precious grandsons? 


Dear Reader,

No wonder you’re so excited about your grandsons’ visit. It sounds like a fun filled week just waiting to happen.  

I feel for your daughter-in-law. She, like many other mothers, is constantly wrestling maternal fears. Lack of experience is usually the primary source of parental worry but with practice, most parents come to realize that they need to let their children safely experience life. Parents learn that a scraped knee is nothing to fret about, even understanding that minor injuries are actually good practice for bigger problems that inevitably occur. No one gets through life without all kinds of scrapes. Whether physical or emotional or both, pain is a part of life and knowing how to deal with it makes for a competent adult.

Your daughter-in-law’s anxiety may be the direct result of her own childhood experiences and/or how she is ‘wired’. Regretfully, our information age seems to practically breed parental anxiety! Every single day, via every type of media, countless horror stories about children being ill, disabled, hurt, or worse, are broadcast. 

Anxiety and the fear that drives it, can lead some parents to erroneously believe they can control every aspect of their children’s lives. This, in turn, makes it difficult to allow their kids to be be kids.

I doubt that your daughter-in-law thinks you are “stupid”. This week is all about her worries.Try not to be defensive and please don’t remind her that you raised three sons. 

Keep in mind how challenging this is for her. She is letting the two most precious things in her life out of her sight – and control – for an entire week. Reassure her by listening to what she has to say. Be patient and understanding and honor her requests when you can. (Make sure she understands the realities of the phone situation at your cabin, as this may be especially hard for her to accept.)

Then, let your grandsons be boys! Watch over them as you did your own children, while encouraging them to enjoy the week. Once their mother knows that they have had a positive and very memorable time with their grandparents, she may relax enough to make this a wonderful summer tradition for her sons.

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