Dear Carolyn: Situation: My grown son has two boys (8 and 6), and his girlfriend (who is still married to someone else) has a boy and a girl (7 and 5) who get very little support from her family, their fathers or extended family. My son has been living with her and her children for almost two years. She has her children full time; my son has his children every other week.
It is expected that when I do something for my grandkids, I must also do the same thing for her children. I feel as though I should not have to do this. Perhaps when their situation changes (i.e., when she gets divorced and/or they ever get married) I will feel differently. They usually live paycheck to paycheck so I do a lot to help financially when it comes to my grandkids.
I recently signed up my grandkids for soccer and paid the registration fees, per my discussion with my son. She could not afford to sign up her kids, nor would her family help; therefore, my son decided it was not fair to let his kids play soccer either. This angered me and is what prompted me to write to you.
What is the appropriate role as a mother to my son and grandmother to my grandchildren? Is it fair for them to make me feel obligated to treat the kids equally?
It’s easy to argue that you, as a mother to your son and grandmother to your grandkids, have the appropriate role of caring for your son and grandchildren.
But shouldn’t we broaden the scope to what your role is as a decent human being?
Because it’s hard to imagine a decent human being would argue that it’s fine to say yes to soccer for two kids in a household but not the other two kids who also want to play soccer, because you only really care about the first two.
Clearly you’re not happy this couple hasn’t tidied things up legally. To condemn their choices is your prerogative.
But when you choose to exercise your prerogative in a way that clearly penalizes young children who are entirely innocent here, and especially two young children whose own families aren’t there for them – a message no kid should ever have to receive – then you’ll have to get your justification from someone other than me.
Helping financially is a start. Please now ask yourself why you feel bad for you, but gave no apparent thought to how your financial hair-splitting would feel for these two kids.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.