Can son-in-law be persuaded to accept our help?

07/04/2014 7:42 PM

07/04/2014 7:44 PM

The dilemma: We can afford to send our grandkids (ages 8 and 6) to summer day camp, which is expensive and something our son-in-law says he cannot afford. Our daughter would love that for them, too, but our son-in-law believes that he should be the one providing, not us, and what he has to give is good enough.

They live a modest lifestyle, although he just bought himself a fancy truck, much to our daughter’s dismay.

She’s a stay-at-home mom, so she’s there to oversee their summer, but we believe camp is a great experience. Our kids always went and grew and learned.

We helped them into their home when they didn’t have enough of a down payment, and he appreciated our help, but said that time is more than enough. On occasion we buy gifts and clothes and such, and that’s acceptable. A big expenditure, like camp, is not. He comes from a different background, where kids help parents, not vice versa, and husbands call the shots, so it’s a cultural thing, too.

How do we delicately persuade our son-in-law to allow us (and the kids) this privilege?

Meg’s solution: You don’t. This is your daughter’s case to argue, or negotiate, if she can, so that is where any planning should be.

Obviously, his ego seems to be tied into what he can provide. And I hear you as well, because as a grandparent, you’d like these kids to have every advantage. I get it. But it’s not your call. A little parental coaching may do well, in this case. Sounds like your daughter needs to be empowered a bit, which may allow her to earn some respect at the same time.

You should encourage her to take part in the family’s finances. Suggest she step up and help do a family budget so she can be involved in the family’s decision-making process. She needs to let her husband know how important it is to her to find a way to send the kids to some camp program; maybe tighten a belt somewhere else. Let her sell him on the idea of what it can be for their kids. Maybe swim lessons, a sports week or a computer lab can be a beginning.

But it also sounds possible that her husband has it in his head that he who earns the money has the power. And so, although this summer may go by with no satisfactory conclusion, I suggest that she look to find a way to earn some money herself. The kids will be in school, and there are ways to create income that can coexist with a busy mom’s schedule.

What are her talents? Likes and dislikes? Can she tutor, babysit, bake, help out in someone else’s business part-time? Can she get into real estate? Phone sales? A creative mind, especially one who has a reason to step out of the box for the good of her family, can find something to put extra money in the coffers.

So, Grandma and Grandpa, it’s yours to help her learn to fish, but not to do the fishing for her. You can certainly help with classes or babysit for her while she gets herself into a more-equal stance with her hubby. It’ll be a win/win, as the kids need to see her step up as well. She’ll feel better about herself, and your son-in-law might, too.

If that’s not the case, however, she has a different problem — one for another day.

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