One of the by-laws of parenting adult children is to take our sticky hands off the steering wheel. We're practitioners of the art of detachment parenting now.
But there are times when we can mess around in some of the quotidian parts of their lives and do it in a way that is so subtle it doesn't churn the family waters. That's what my friend Lily did when her daughter (an assertive banker stationed in Hong Kong) let an unfortunate situation develop with the education of her son, Lily's Grand.
Here's Lily's tale, as she told it to me:
"My daughter got a wonderful promotion--she was transferred to Hong Kong and put in charge of Southeast Asia for her bank. Even before she got to Hong Kong, she found a good private school for her son who was starting first grade.
On the first day of classes, she went to the school to pick him up. She looked at the math paper he had in his hand and saw it was stuff he already knew. My daughter can be somewhat abrupt. She went right up to the teacher and said, "He's working at a much higher level than this. I hope you're going to do something about it!"
Since then, the notes from the teacher have been curt and formal. The teacher uses only her formal name, never her informal one and that is a sign that she doesn't like the family.
When I went to visit my daughter and her family this winter, I decided I would go to the school and spend a few hours there. I thought I could show them that not everyone in the family is curt, that we're friendly people. I observed a lot of the lessons. I told the teacher how I was a teacher before I retired and how impressed I was with how she handled her classroom. Five hours later I headed back to my daughter's home. All my daughter knew was that I went to school to observe. I shared my observations with her--nothing more.
I think I made a difference. A few days later, a note came from my grandson's teacher and it was signed with her informal name.
Taking on a role in a grownchild''s relationship with a child's teacher can be a minefield. Trying to undo a situation that your grown child inadvertently created can cause deep resentment on the part of the grownchild. It's none of our business what their relationship is with the school and the teacher. And yet it is in that we care deeply. We want our grandchild to settle in happily and peaceably and be a joyous learner.
There's a fine line here. It's not as though Lily went to the school and apologized to the teacher for her daughter's abruptness. She didn't say, "That's how she is" or anything like that. She just showed a friendlier flag and let that work its way through the system.