Grandparents disappointed with adult grandchildren's Facebook pages
Several months ago, I found disturbing information on Facebook pages from two grandchildren (both adults). Other family members could view them, too, so no big secrets -- except to their parents, who don't access a computer. We discussed how to tell their father, who was totally oblivious to what his kids were really like. For example, he told me "Zack" had not had a drink in over two years, while Zack was on Facebook thanking his friends for the wonderful hangover for his birthday. The daughter has hundreds of pictures on her page -- some really gross. I printed some of the pictures and messages, and we held them for several weeks. Then, my husband sent the prints to our son because he was in such denial, we thought it was time to wake up.
Well, I guess I must be the Wicked Witch of the West because he has not called us for months now. Surely we are not the only family with a similar problem. Were we so wrong to make them aware of what these "kids" were putting out there for everyone to see?
-- Just Wondering
The family that overshares together overbears together, I guess.
Yes, you were so wrong. Not in the beginning, when you told your son that, ah, Zack has indeed had drinks, many of them, because he broadcast it online; that was appropriate information to pass along and you delivered it in an appropriate way. When someone has a problem with alcohol -- as presumably Zack does, since Daddy touts his sobriety? -- it's incumbent upon loved ones to work together against enabling and denial.
It gets murkier with your granddaughter, because "really gross" lacks a consensus definition. If your son remarked to you on her pristine virtue, you did have standing to say, "You're being naive, she's all over Facebook." In other words, you can comment on choices based on facts.
But beyond this is where I see a boundary*, and where you and your husband put pedal to floor.
* bound.a.ry (noun): something that marks a limit or border.
First, these are not minors, not your partners, not employees. Their adult misbehavior is your business only if you see imminent danger -- and the first person you talk to is the adult in question. "I saw your pictures on Facebook, and I'm worried about you -- both for what you're doing to yourself, and for what you're posting for us all to see." Facebook changes nothing about this dynamic of adulthood, choices and limits except to allow publication of the results.
In the event of both imminent danger and a dismissive response by your grandchild, a more urgent conversation with your son would have been warranted.
If there's one thing an advice columnist can appreciate, it's the impulse to see everything as something you can fix. Wild grandkids? Tell their parents! Their parents won't listen? Make them listen!
But it doesn't work that way. Sometimes people choose to do things they shouldn't and ignore warnings they shouldn't. And when your grandkids chose to do and your son chose to ignore, that was your cue to recognize the limits of your ability to change them. As in, not a cue to mail a father "gross" views of his child. And to apologize now, fully, for doing so.
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