In-Law Reconciliation

 by Chuck Snyder
 co-chaplain for the Seattle Mariners


Dear Chuck,
I am in desperate need of help in the mother-in-law department.  I seem to be constantly  apologizing to my two daughters-in-law for things that I don't know I'm doing.   Both of our sons were raised as Christians but neither one of their wives are. But both daughters-in-law claim we "crammed Christianity down their throats."  One of them is using our grandchildren as pawns to hurt us by not allowing us to see them.  We spent last Christmas alone with no family.  

My husband is working as a foster grandparent at a local school to help fill the void he has for our grandchildren.  I teach vocal music at school, and that generally keeps me busy, but the quiet times only bring back to my mind that I have three young grandchildren whom I will never get to know or love.  Can you please give me some advice on how to bridge the gap?  I only want to love my daughter-in-laws, but with walls between us, it's impossible. 

Chuck's Response
I was sad reading that you are not allowed to see your grandchildren. Do you think your children would let you treat them (the adults) to a fancy steak dinner somewhere? If so, make it the very best you can afford, and get a private room if possible. Encourage them to get the most expensive food on the menu. Then encourage them to get the most decadent double-chocolate dessert or something ...  

After everyone is enjoying a final cup of coffee or soda or whatever, have your husband start by saying something like this, "We just wanted to ask your forgiveness for (make a list of all of the things you have done or they THINK you have done). We didn't mean to shove our Christianity down your throat, and we feel badly that's how it came out. You don't have to change, or accept us back in your lives or anything. We just wanted to make sure you knew how badly we feel about our strained relationship and ask your forgiveness ..."  You will obviously need to fill in the details.  After your husband sets the scene, then you should add your own requests for specific forgiveness. Do not mention the gandchildren. It's the adults you need to woo back somehow. 

They may not change immediately, but at least you have made yourselves vulnerable and taken care of your part of the problem. Parenting is not an exact science, and we all make mistakes. If they still shun you,  you'll have to live with it. But my guess is that, in time, they will soften.  And when they do, I think it would only be automatic that the grandkids would be a part of the reconciliation. But don't place any expectations on them. Just pray for them and serve them - without pressure --  in any way they will let you. Take the entire family on a trip to Disneyland. Take them for a week at the beach or mountains or camping or whatever.  It's worth a shot. Hopefully asking forgiveness will soften them. Let me know if you want to talk further. 

Chuck Snyder


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Updated 05/24/2005