I’m a 65-year-old grandmother living in North Dakota and I really need your advice.
I have two granddaughters from my son Mike and his wife Rebecca. The girls are aged 9 and 11 and they’re both beautiful – but also very overweight. The 11 year old is actually obese and it breaks my heart.
The problem is that my daughter in law is also on the large side and I know she’s very sensitive to her own weight issues. But every time I visit the family she’s serving the kids junk food – pizza, nuggets, cookies and lots of sugary sodas. No wonder they’re fat!
I try to bite my tongue but I really can’t bear to see my granddaughters grow up to live unhealthy lifestyles. I’ve tried talking to my son but he doesn’t listen and says it’s none of my business.
What should I do Rene? I can’t just stand back and watch my grandkids develop health problems down the line
Oh dear I can understand your heartache but you are going to have to tread lightly as this one has more trapdoors than a Coney Island funhouse. I’m going to tell you now, unless you have a REALLY good relationship with your daughter-in-law (be honest!) you may have to bite your tongue on this.
In my own relationship with my mother one of the things that sends me into orbit is when she tries to give me parenting advice. I think you need to tread lightly (translation: don’t do it!) when giving parenting advice to anyone, even to those you are related to. It really boils down to being respectful of another’s territory and their way of doing things. So when my mother expresses concern about why my kids are sleeping so late (they’re on vacation), or telling them to pick up their room (that’s my job), or to eat their vegetables (mine again) or wash their hands (sigh) you get the picture. It wears on me like the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.
Having said that I think there are two ways you can approach this, indirectly and directly.
INDIRECTLY: This is where I would start and you can go to DEFCON1 if this does not work. Do your granddaughters spend any time with you? If they do, I would suggest teaching them good choices without beating them over the head. Take them grocery shopping and explain why you’re going to forego the processed, salt-laden foods for the ones low in fat and sugar and high in fiber. You can bring them into the process by making healthy cooking fun. Leave healthy snacks in the refrigerator and empty the pantry of junk food. Then I would make sure you are doing some sort of activity everyday, walking, playing catch, Frisbee, swimming whatever you need to do to get them moving. The goal would be to model good choices and behavior so they can incorporate it into their own lives and share with their parents as well.
DIRECTLY: Ah, yes, DEFCON1, the highest position of military readiness. It means war is imminent and that is what I am afraid will happen if you are ham-handed in your handling of this. If you opt for the direct approach, understand that your advice will probably not be taken well as it will be absorbed through the filter of a woman battling her own weight. My first suggestion would be to work through Mike but he’s going to be useless and since he’s already told you to butt out, you run the risk of not only pissing off your daughter-in-law with the weight suggestions but him as well because you deliberately went against what he asked.
But if you cannot sleep at night because you are so worried about your grandkids’ weight, you can try this. Have a heart-to-heart with Rebecca; approach her with a loving attitude from a place of genuine concern. Explain that you are worried and you want to help if she is open to that. Can you help prepare meals? Can you foot the bill to an athletic club or pay for the girls to get involved in some sports in their area? Ask her what she wants you to do and explain you are willing to do whatever it takes as you are worried about the girls’ weight.
Maybe Rebecca will see the lifetime of danger she is potentially setting her kids up for and as someone who should want the best for them, will take you up on some of your ideas or suggest some of her own. Ideally she and Mike would get on board and as a family may make an attempt to become healthier.
However, the flip side of the coin is she gets pissed off and storms out of your meeting after yelling at you to shut your pie hole and mind your own business. If that happens, you must realize you have had your last discussion with her about your granddaughters’ weight unless she or Mike broach the subject. Then you may have to deal with the awkwardness, anger and hurt feelings that could be the fallout from that discussion. It will be tough trying to restore normalcy to that relationship again. Personally I feel like the stakes are too high to use anything but the subtle, more indirect approach.
Do you have a question for Rene? Click here and ask away ‘cause Lord knows she has an answer!