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ASK RENE: FAMILY FORGIVENESS

I really need your advice. I need to forgive two members of my family and try as I might I just can’t.

Here are the details. Recently my husband and I went away for a short break (our first real holiday in years) While we were away we left our 4-year-old son Sebastian in the care of his paternal grandparents.

We received a phone call two days into our trip telling us that our son had fallen from the second story window of their apartment and had a broken arm and a concussion.

Sebastian bounced back fairly fast but I’m afraid it’s taking me a lot longer. I’m still so angry with my husband’s parents and have forbidden them from coming to the house since. What kind of grandparents leave a child unwatched near an open window?

My husband is obviously caught in the middle and it’s causing a huge strain in our relationship. He keeps saying it was an accident and that only infuriates me more.

So what do you think Rene? Am I right to feel this way? Or should I forgive – and try to forget? I want to but I just can’t…


Hi Rene,

I really need your advice. I need to forgive two members of my family and try as I might I just can’t.

Here are the details. Recently my husband and I went away for a short break (our first real holiday in years) While we were away we left our 4-year-old son Sebastian in the care of his paternal grandparents.

We received a phone call two days into our trip telling us that our son had fallen from the second story window of their apartment and had a broken arm and a concussion.

Sebastian bounced back fairly fast but I’m afraid it’s taking me a lot longer. I’m still so angry with my husband’s parents and have forbidden them from coming to the house since. What kind of grandparents leave a child unwatched near an open window?

My husband is obviously caught in the middle and it’s causing a huge strain in our relationship. He keeps saying it was an accident and that only infuriates me more.

So what do you think Rene? Am I right to feel this way? Or should I forgive – and try to forget? I want to but I just can’t…

Yours

Samantha, Colorado.


Hi Samantha:

Wow, what a pickle. First and foremost I am glad to hear Sebastian is doing okay after such a traumatic event. Whew. I guess the same cannot be said for you however, and honestly I can’t say that I blame you. But you have a decision to make; you are either going to forgive the grandparents for their shocking oversight or you’re going to let this eat you up inside and have your marriage be among the casualties. You have quite a bit to work through so here’s my suggestion.

TALK TO THE IN-LAWS: You can do this in any number of ways, with your husband present or without, with both the in-laws there or only one. But you have some things you need to get off your chest. I’m guessing in the chaos that ensued following the accident you all were just worried about getting Sebastian well again. Now that he is on the road to recovery, you need to ask (in a calm and dispassionate tone) what happened. How is it they let Sebastian wander around near the open window? After you have this conversation and the next time you let them babysit him (yes, there should be a next time, see below), do a visual sweep of the place and make sure everything is buttoned up. You don’t need to go through like a drill sergeant but just check things off mentally.

CUT THEM SOME SLACK: In their defense, they probably have forgotten how much trouble toddlers can get into when you turn your back for a second. For you and me and any mother of a young child, closing open windows and covering outlets are things that are second nature to us, part of the mommy instinct that becomes finely honed after you pop out a kid. But I think that wanes when there haven’t been children around for decades. The in-laws got used to having an “adults-only” place and more than that, the curiosity that is second nature in four-year-olds is not present in those six decades older. They’ve looked out that window at the big trucks and bright lights so many times they have forgotten they are there. Not so for a curious toddler for whom everything is new, shiny and big.

EASE OFF YOUR HUSBAND: Come on now, is it really fair to hold him responsible or be angry with him for the shortsightedness of his parents? You’re gonna have to get a grip on that or run the risk of causing some real problems in your marriage. This poor guy had nothing to do with the accident except that it was on the watch of the people who raised him. On this count, you’re going to have to grow up.

LET YOUR IN-LAWS BABYSIT AGAIN: Okay, I know you may be howling right now (and some readers too) but I think this is an important step. You need to demonstrate to them that you truly forgive them for the accident (let’s remember it was an ACCIDDENT) and that you know they love Sebastian and would never intentionally put him in harm’s way.  You can rest assured that no matter how badly you feel, they feel a thousand times worse! The grandparents are probably kicking themselves for not being more vigilant and probably wake up at night in a cold sweat, knowing how close Sebastian came to suffering more serious injury. You can say you forgive all you want but I think it’s an important part of your healing and theirs for you to show you trust them. Not saying it needs to happen right away, but I do think it’s important. The one caveat to this is to make sure they are able-bodied enough to handle an active four-year-old. If they are not, then obviously he should not be staying with them.

You say at the end of your letter that you want to forgive your in-laws but you can’t. I disagree. If you really wanted to, I mean REALLY want to let go of the pain and anger, you absolutely could. It may be a process but it can be done. The decision is up to you.

Good luck, mommy

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