The following is a transcript of the audio. The transcript has been edited for clarity.
Laura: Welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I am Laura, and I have Emily here, and today we’re talking about one of the top requested shows. I am excited to find out what our next top requested show is, Emily, because it’s like we always do the top one, and then another one pops up.
Emily: Yes! And for those of you guys who’ve listened to the show for a while know that whenever we’re recording in person – which we are right now – we get a little giddy, we get excited. [laughs]
Laura: Yes, it’s just so special and fun to be around each other.
But, we are talking about those grandparent relationships. Your parents, your in-laws, maybe you have some step-in-laws or step-parents, or maybe your dad has a girlfriend, or there are just all sorts of different...
Emily: Grandparents in general.
Laura: Grandparents in general. And our parents - both/or all our parents - the ones that Emily and I have ... most of the time they listen to the show. Not always, but they sometimes tune in. We polled you guys on Instagram not too long ago, before the show came out, and we asked you, “What are some of the struggles that you have with your in-laws or your parents, or what are some of your ‘grandparent struggles?’” Emily and I have been really blessed to have good relationships with our children’s grandparents. Emily is not allowed to say anything bad about my parents, so even if she had a grievance, I don’t want to hear it. No, I am just kidding. [laughter] We all have our things; it’s certainly not without complications, all of our relationships. Right, Em?
Emily: Yeah, but I think we definitely have worked through a lot of pretty small issues. But whether you have these small, “Hey, the grandparents are giving my kids too many glasses of chocolate milk before bedtime” issues, or things that feel a little bit bigger, we felt like there are still these gospel principles that apply, so we really wanted to talk through it. We’re going to split it into a couple of different shows because it’s such a big topic, and we really want to attempt to do justice to it.
Laura: What you’ll hear today isn’t necessarily super personal examples because we want to protect our own relationships with our parents and our in-laws. But they’re definitely examples that we heard from you guys, or they’re things that we just know are really common – there’s a lot of miscommunication with relationships, a lot of misunderstandings.
First, we’re going to start out and just start talking a little bit about, “Why this topic? Why do we need to talk about grandparents and the gospel?” It’s so emotional; are you thinking about your mother-in-law right now, and getting a little bit of anger in your heart? Do you feel that right now? I hope you don’t, but maybe you do.
Emily: That right there is where we wanted to start, because until we understand ourselves rightly, our identity, why things are bothering us, what our heart motivation is, it’s really difficult to even look into the situation and say, “What do I do in this situation?” It’s like, “Why is my heart so rattled? What am I placing my hope, and my trust, and my faith in?”
Laura: Exactly, so no matter how much we all really appreciate grandparents and their investment in our children, and no matter how good that relationship is, as we talked about, there are still different things and different philosophies that we’re dealing with. Sometimes we can all sort of wonder, “Were you a mom? Or were you a dad once? Do you remember what it was like to raise children day-in-and-day-out?” [laughter] We know they did, we know they raised us, or maybe they raised your spouse, and you know they probably did a pretty good job because you married that person. You’re like, “I think I turned out a little bit okay, hopefully.” [laughter] But there are still issues that go on.
Emily: And family cultures are different too. Even if you’re dealing with all believers, and everybody has great intentions, just the manner of doing things, or what is emphasized, or even feeling like whenever we had our first child, our parents who – we had these really great relationships with, our parents just changed, and you’re like, “What is this side of you that’s coming out? Are you loving our kids too much? [laughter] Are you giving them too many presents, or giving in to too many whims?” So there’s definitely all these different issues that come into play. Some are not even sin issues, they’re just differences and preferences.
Laura: Though, many of you don’t have great relationships, and for genuine reasons - maybe you have to protect your kids from them, or maybe you have non-believing grandparents, or maybe they don’t show interest in your children. Maybe you’re wishing that they showed more interest - as Emily said, different cultures, different philosophies, and some of them are just manipulative – they can be mean, unkind, or act very selfish and unfair. That is just a reality of the fallen world that we live in, and a lot of these relationships really span the gamut.
Which is why Emily and I really want to talk today about this pulled back view of, “What’s wrong with us? What’s going on with us?” first, before we look at others. Then the next show we’re going to talk about more of some general guiding principles – that may or may not solve any of your problems. [laughter]
Emily: Just a reminder, I don’t know if we’ve said this in a while - but Laura and I both have young children. Our oldest kid between us is the age of five, and so we’re very much preaching this to ourselves, and you are listening into a conversation on Risen Motherhood of us processing how the gospel applies to things. This isn’t coming from a perspective of having figured it out, or having experienced everything there is to experience, but we can all counsel ourselves with the gospel.
Laura: We are in this with you guys, and we do not have all of the answers. But, we can look to the gospel, we can look to the Bible to know, “Hey, what’s going on and what is the next step?”
Generally, we all want to be God of our own lives. We all have this sinful flesh, and we think we know what’s going to make us most happy, what’s going to make our children most happy. We think we have enough knowledge to make the right decisions, or that we should be in control of all things.
So a lot of our issues with in-laws and parents can stem from the fact that we want control, and that we have pride in our decision-making; our methods. We’re raising our kids in 2017 versus they raised their kids in the 80’s or 90’s, or whatever that may be, and things have come a long way. We have Google now, and at times, we definitely have pride in our method; the method to our madness.
Emily: And because of our sinful nature, when people don’t treat us like we are god of everything, we get angry, frustrated, and we get hurt feelings and all of that stuff. It’s really silly. The story that always comes to my mind, of the cruel debtor, where he has forgiven this massive amount of money that he can never repay. He acts very grateful, and then he turns around and tries to get this small sum of money.
We’re the same way whenever we get angry that people are not treating us like God, and we’re completely forgetting the grace that God has extended to us, by sending His Son Jesus to die for our sins, which was a huge cost and paid a huge debt. We turn around in some of these relationships to those closest to us and we’re like, “Come on, pay me your little debt back, grandparents...”
Laura: ... “Or you’re going to prison. You’re going to go to grandparent prison.” [laughter]
But then when we humbly observe and trust in the sacrifice of Christ, when we have true brokenness about our rebellion towards God, that changes us forever. We have a new heart that’s been dwelt in by the Holy Spirit, which then allows us to transform our responses to worship Christ and not ourselves. To really lay down all of the things that we perceive that we deserve, that our children deserve – all the rights, our personal agendas, our hopes, expectations, and we can exchange that for God’s will in our lives.
Emily: Yes. So one of the things we wanted to go through today and which is why we’re doing the show in this order, is a concept that David Powlison presents. It’s this document called X-ray Questions, which we are going to link to. It’s getting at looking at our own hearts, and asking ourselves, “Why does this person, or this relationship, or this thing that the grandparent is doing make me so upset?” Maybe they are in sin, but this idea that they are challenging that little part of us – or maybe a big part of us – that wants to be God. He has a lot of great quotes in his document, but in one he says, “As a Christian, you profess that God controls all things and works everything to His glory for your ultimate well-being. You’re professing that, but in reality and in that moment of need, that season of anxiety, we live as if we need to control everything.” So we create these “functional gods” is what he calls it, which is something that competes with our worship in the true God. That is one thing that can go on, we think, in this grandparent relationship.
Laura: What we’ve done is taken his concept of X-ray Questions and applied it here to grandparents. We’re going to work through that with you and we’re going to link to that document in the show notes. If you don’t know what our show notes are, they are on our website (we still get questions sometimes about where you can find those). But this is a document you don’t want to miss because it’s really wonderful for just working through things, even with your spouse, or yourself.
Emily: Yes, applies to every area that we like to be God. [laughter]
Laura: Which is like our whole lives, right? This type of scenario, the type where we’re making these functional gods compete with, our profession of our true God, this plays out itself a lot with our relationships with grandparents. Now we’re going to rattle off some things that grandparents do.
Emily: Some things that grandparents do, and maybe things we’ve experienced in this list, or they may not be [laughter].
Laura: We’re not calling anyone out because we want to keep a good relationship with our kid's grandparents.
Emily: One thing we heard a lot, whenever grandparents make suggestions to you about how you should parent; maybe they are giving lots of extra gifts, or they are giving gifts that you don’t really approve of, or maybe just letting the kids do something that is against your family rules.
Laura: Especially if the grandparent knows, “You know that’s a rule and maybe you’re still undermining that!” Either unintentionally or intentionally, or they’re just not caring, or feeding them things that are not in your family’s diet. Or maybe your child has an allergy or a special need, and they can’t seem to remember that, like, “This is what my child needs,” and you feel like they’re not giving enough value toward your child's needs.
Emily: Technology, I feel is a new issue that’s coming up, and just differences in generations; maybe how much they’re letting kids use technology, or what they’re letting them see. Or maybe there’s some harmful remarks that are happening about how you’re keeping your home, or how you organize this or that, or how you operate your family schedule.
Laura: I definitely think some of those negative remarks about homemaking or mothering skills can be really sensitive to us. Or maybe making you feel guilty about how much time you spend with the in-laws, or doing a kind of a comparison or trying to guilt trip you. Or maybe you’ve made an agreement with them previously like you’ve sat down, you’ve had the conversation with them, like, “We want our kids to have an 8 p.m. bedtime when they’re staying at your house.” But you feel like, “This didn’t get followed and yet we’d already discussed this.” Or maybe influencing your child toward something that isn’t biblical, or something that you just feel uncomfortable with, maybe going back to that technology thing. What else?
Emily: It’s things that are small, and there are things that are really big. There are some things that seem small, and they feel really big. We can’t cover every example, but hopefully, something in there triggered some of those feelings for you, of like, “Yes, there are genuine things in our relationships, with our children’s grandparents that can stir up a lot of feelings within us, both for right reasons and wrong reasons.”
Laura: There are always two sides to every story, and often, there is sin on both sides. Often it’s not just one side or the other. But we can’t speak into every situation, certainly.
Emily: Today, we’re going to look at ourselves first, moms.
Laura: When these things happen, all those examples that we just gave - maybe think about one or two that you resonated with, or maybe of something different that we did not mention – and ask yourself, are your reactions and your emotions proportionate to the catalyst? Or are you showing trust and peace and security in your identity in Christ?
Emily: Just as a perfect example - of course, we’re coming up with the chocolate milk example again - chocolate milk is actually fine by the way.
Laura: Or just like tons of sugar before dinner, that’s a favorite.
Emily: Maybe this is a one-time thing, and your kids don’t see your parents very often, and it happened and is your response to that, way, way bigger than the size and scope of the situation? That’s part of that x-ray question of like, “Why is this making you freak out? Or me, or whoever it is, freak out so much?”
Laura: So in that, what’s your response? Is it to punish, manipulate, or seek revenge in those relationships? Some ways that we do this could be giving that person, that grandparent, the silent treatment, or making some passive-aggressive remarks.
Emily: Or maybe you’re like, “I am not going to have my kids hang out with them next week because I am still upset about the thing that happened,” whenever that was, that we didn’t get resolved.
Laura: Maybe it’s to start trying to turn others against that grandparent, maybe that’s your husband. You want to kind of poison him towards his own mom, or towards your mom, or whomever it is that’s frustrating you. Or maybe it’s your in-laws, like your brother-in-law, your sister-in-law, or your brother, where you have the aunts and uncles - that level of family - and you want to complain to them and feel camaraderie, like, “We’re in this together,” and “This is so hard,” and “Let’s talk smack about grandma and grandpa.”
Emily: Basically, whatever the catalyst is in the relationship, are you responding in a way that it is really sinful, and is about you regaining control? Or is your heart motivated by trusting the Lord – and maybe there is a confrontational scene that needs to happen – but ultimately, you are trusting God, you’re at peace, and you are seeking to go about that in a way that loves the other person.
Laura: It is also important to note that sometimes these things aren’t obvious. Like, what are you thinking in your head versus maybe your actions. Like you’re acting real sweet and sugar, but what do you feel like inside? And sometimes it does become a physical pain in my chest when I get angry - I don’t know if anyone else feels that. But that’s what you should be asking, is that feeling in your heart. It’s kind of, “What do you want to do?”
Emily: The Lord knows.
Laura: Oh, He knows your heart and mind.
Emily: We wanted to go through this; we talked about the gospel earlier, and what an amazing gift God gave to us by not giving us what we deserved, which is death, punishment for sin. So what does it look like when we respond with that in mind?
One thing is just that you can believe the best in someone. You know the grandparents do love their grandchildren. They do want to do what’s best for them. I am remembering that that’s ultimately what they want, even if they’re not going about it the right way. That automatically transforms the way you’re probably going to respond to the situation.
Laura: I think too, considering how you can love them well instead of automatically going into auto-correct mode. Ask yourself, “How could I communicate better? How could I have planned better? How could I re-orientate my own expectations?” Or maybe it’s talking with your spouse, or maybe it is having a conversation with that grandparent, and having it calm and planned, and waiting until you are not in a fiery-temper-mode.
Emily: And when we’re motivated by the gospel, we’re a lot slower, like Laura said, to just act, and we are faster to pray and we’re faster to get counsel from older people. Maybe there is another set of grandparents, like at your church, that you trust and you really respect the way that they’re interacting with their grandkids and you say, “Can we sit down and understand how we can talk to our parents better about these situations?” It’s just saying, “How can we love them, because I have been loved so well by God, and I want them to feel loved.”
Laura: It’s always to best extend a lot of chances to them, especially when we’re not talking about those safety situations where things are dangerous for your child, but remembering how many times God has forgiven you over and over and over again.
Emily: For the same thing [laughter].
Laura: For the same thing. How can you do that as well, to maintain a healthy relationship? So be willing to grow the relationship with your grandparent, and know that it’s not going to be perfect with your first child. It definitely is not going to be perfect.
Emily: It’s definitely not, no.
Laura: But it definitely gets better.
Emily: It does.
Emily: We can get into that on the next show a little bit more, you know kind of the practical. But it does get better, and the bottom line in this: when we have our identity rooted in Christ, we’re not threatened by some of these other things. We may be hurt, we may be in hard situations, we may have to really process through things, but who we are and our idols, the things that we worship, aren’t threatened when we’re secure in Christ. Another thing we wanted to mention is, grace is costly, and we don’t like that reality. We don’t want forgiveness to have to cost us anything, but it does, and it cost Christ the ultimate price, and we cannot forget that.
Laura: That’s where a lot of times with grandparents, it’s being the bigger person, and seeking forgiveness, apologizing where you have been wrong, and not expecting an apology from them, or for them to realize suddenly and be enlightened about all these things, these grievances you’ve had. I think that’s what we want, them to read our minds, right? But that we are the first to forgive; we’re the first to apologize. Again, we’re always pounding on the biblical literacy piece, but where you’re going to orient your heart right, where you’re going to remember how costly grace is, as Emily was saying, those things are happening when you get in His Word, every day as much as possible. Those are things where you can pray for God to change your heart to love the things that He loves, to hate the things that He hates. That will just re-orient your perspective.
Maybe you need to be in the Word right before you go into a grandpa weekend. [laughter]
Emily: Obviously there’s more to be said on this topic, and because of that, we have a whole other episode coming your way. Come back next week, we’re going to continue the conversation, and get even deeper into what it may look like to respond rightly, and in a healthy way, to some of these situations. In the meantime, you can check out all the good stuff on our Show Notes, www.risenmotherhood.com, and find us on Instagram and Facebook: @risenmotherhood and Twitter.