Grandpas laying down the law

The week the columns are rife with fathers unhappy at the prospect of raising their errant daughters’ babies.  But really?  Shouldn’t Papa #2 wait for the babies to exist before he gets all huffy about them?  Or will his “proactive” stance really get his daughters make better choices?

Papa #1 (third letter in the column)

DEAR ABBY: I have three daughters who seem to be incapable of functioning as adults. None of them is employed or in school. My oldest is a single parent of two kids she doesn’t want.

I love my grandkids and I know I should take them, but I raised my daughters and feel I’m too old to be Dad to toddlers again. Am I being selfish? — DAD OF THREE DAUGHTERS IN NEBRASKA

DEAR DAD: No, you are being realistic.

Um….helpful much? Thanks, Abby.  What should he do, then?

Papa #2

Dear Carolyn:

I am an old-school dad with Christian morals. I have three teenage daughters, 14, 18 and 19. Only the eldest is dating at this time. I tell them every day that I love them.

I have told my daughters for a few years now that if they get into a relationship, move in with a guy and decide later to get married, I will not pay for the wedding or reception. I would go to the wedding, give them away, but nothing else. That is the consequence for their action. If they do things right, I will pay.

Also, I’ve told my daughters several times that I will not raise my grandchildren because of their poor choices (I would in case of death or illness, etc.). They will have to find somewhere to live. If they want to make adult choices they can pay the adult price.

I have several friends with unwed daughters who are raising their grandchildren (the fathers are nowhere around). These grandparents want to relax, retire, etc., but now it’s like starting over taking care of a child. The little children are a blessing and are loved, but my friends have told me all the stress it has caused.

I would love and forgive my daughters if one of these things happened, but they would pay the price for their actions. Do you think this is too harsh?


Too harsh on your daughters? Not at all. With weddings, anyone grown up enough to get married is grown up enough to pay for it, period. If parents want to pitch in as a gift, then they’re free to do so on their terms — just as children are free to decline the money if they don’t like the terms. I applaud your firmness and clarity on that stand.

For the record — and entirely without relevance — I do balk at your phrasing, because “do things right” is, to me, nothing more than “do things your way.” We’re not talking life and death here, or the Golden Rule; your “right way” to get married might not be right for every couple on Earth. But it’s your money and it’s your world view, and you’re entitled to attach strings from one to the other when the stakes are so delightfully black-and-white.

When it comes to thoughtlessly conceived children, on the other hand, the stakes turn gray, and fast. Yes, anyone adult enough to breed is adult enough to secure ample support — and, I have to think it’s good for your daughters to grow up with the expectation of being held accountable.

I think if you talk a bit more to these put-upon grandparents, though, you’ll find a few who used to think as you did but have since had a change of heart. The reality of a parent who’s in over his or her head is inescapable: The one who suffers most is the child

The answer may still be to make accountability the tent pole for any shelter you provide, but when an innocent child, your grandchild, is at risk of hunger or neglect, the you-made-your-bed morality you espouse might become a luxury you can’t afford. Humility is old-school, too.

I’m with Carolyn on the first part of this, I suppose.  He’s not obligated to pay for weddings, and if there are circumstances under which he’s not willing to contribute, that’s fair.  If that’s how he feels, I guess it’s good that he’s straightforward about it now, rather than waiting to things to get ugly post-engagement.

What I don’t like, though, is that this is in no way a neutral statement on his part.  I mean, of course it’s not–he’s obviously taking a moral stand on a lifestyle he doesn’t agree with, or want for his girls (never mind what they want for themselves).  But what I mean is, he doesn’t really mean, “move in with a guy if you want to, but I won’t pay for your wedding.”  What he means is, “don’t move in with a guy, or else.”  That is, his withholding money that he otherwise would have given isn’t, in this case, just any old “you missed the bus, you gotta walk,” consequence–it’s some combination of threat and punishment.  And it speaks volumes about his relationship with his daughters: he’s not interested in guiding them to loving, healthy relationships–just in being punitive if they, um,  shack it up.

The same is true of his comment about their hypothetical children.  One of his daughters–a 19 year old–is dating someone, and all he seems able to think about is that all three are going to live in sin, come after him for money, get pregnant, not want or care for their children, and leave them on his doorstep. With the caveat, of course, that if they die a tragic and early death, he’ll overlook their transgressions.  Thanks, Dad.

He’s got it all planned out, but all he can seem to see is the dark side of something that hasn’t even happened yet. I guess he thinks by laying all this on the line ahead of time he’ll somehow keep them from wandering down what he perceives as a dark, dark path.  But he seems to expect–and think–so little of his daughters, that I can’t help but think he’s pushing them farther down that path, rather than leading them away from it.

But with the Papa #1’s out there, does Papa #2 have a point?  Hrmm….I hope not.


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