Readers respond to the letter from Wounded In-Laws (Magazine 12-2-2011)
Dear Dr. Yael: While our situation is different from the daughter-in-law who did not express hakaras hatov to her husband’s family, I would like to share our story.
Our son and daughter-in-law are both physicians. Anyone who knows what doctors experience during training can empathize with us. We supported them financially and emotionally through their training (they met and married in medical school). While her parents are together and not dysfunctional, we would call them selfish. They never seem to have any money to help the children, but do seem to have money to go on lavish vacations. After years of schooling, we helped our children buy a house in the tri-state area near us. But they sold their home, bought a house out of town near her parents and got new professional positions (also out of town). Despite sending us a thank-you letter with a dozen roses upon moving, maintaining contact with us, and inviting us to their new mini-mansion, we are hurt. Their actions were so sudden.
While we babysat for their children and supervised their babysitters, a full-time housekeeper who hardly speaks English is now raising our grandchildren. Knowing her parents, we are sure that they are not as involved as we were with our grandchildren. It is true that they were able to sell their home near us and purchase a much larger home out of town, and at the same time able to secure good positions. But why couldn’t they even discuss their plans with us beforehand? Where is the hakaras hatov for all we did for them? We feel for Wounded In-Laws and understand their pain. Anonymous
Dear Anonymous: Sometimes people do things that are very hurtful, but their intention was never to cause anyone pain. While you have a very valid point and I understand your pain, it is likely that your children did not mean to hurt you in any way when deciding to move out of town. It could be that this was just something that they were looking into, and that everything moved very quickly. Try to be dan lecaf zechus, and make the best of your trying situation. Hatzlachah with your circumstances!
Dear Dr. Respler: We understand the deep pain those in-laws feel, as we are in their shoes. Basically, their son did not choose wisely. Our daughter-in-law was also raised by dysfunctional parents who did not (and still don’t) give her love, warmth and affection. They probably never will. Both their daughter-in-law and ours need to grow up. While the daughter-in-law is allowed to be angry with her parents, she needs to accept the situation and should thank Hashem every day for blessing her with wonderful, loving, and generous in-laws. She should never take out her bitterness on her terrific in-laws. Instead, the only feeling she should have toward them is love, kindness and gratefulness for everything they do. She should have the utmost derech eretz and hakaras hatov to her in-laws.
I most definitely disagree with your solution. They do not need to act with such despicable behavior toward in-laws who have always been there for them. They need to accept the reality that they will never have a loving relationship with them. Dr. Respler, unless the daughters-in-law have numerous sessions with you, their relationships will not develop into healthy ones. Contrary to your reply, these in-laws willingly made their daughter-in-law very comfortable and lovingly welcomed her into their home.
Many children today constantly want more and more, feeling that everything is coming to them. I say, “dayeinu – enough is enough.”
The in-laws should continue to act wonderfully toward their children, always keeping their doors and hearts open to them. But they should never go beyond their means for the relationship to work. If there is little or no communication with the daughter-in-law’s in-laws, it is most definitely a great loss for the son and daughter-in-law. Fondly, Baby Boomer Mother-in-Law
Dear Baby Boomer Mother-in-Law: I hear your anger and frustration. Although your assertions may be correct, my ideas were intended to make shalom in a challenging situation. It can be very wise in some situations to swallow your pride in order to make shalom. Yours is not the only letter that I received that thought that the daughter-in-law needed therapy. While this is hard to assess in a column, I respect your feelings and appreciate your letter.
Dear Dr. Yael: Many of our friends are suffering in similar fashion to the in-laws in question. I think it is many of the parents’ own fault. It starts with all the “yeshiva boys” who expect full support from their parents, and even the younger, more modern crowd that expects financial and emotional support from their parents. The young generation is a needy one – and we created it. Did we ever dare expect from our parents what our married children expect from us? I would venture to say that the younger generation struggles with expressing hakaras hatov in general. I understand that your answer was an effort to deal with this difficult situation, but I know how much pain these parents must be feeling. I believe we are all to blame for giving our children this feeling of entitlement. Thank you for raising this difficult issue. Frustrated Parents