This isn’t really a dating question, but maybe you can help, since you are a social worker. My daughter is about to become a kallah. Both families have met twice already, and everything is moving forward. It’s just a matter of setting up the engagement moment. For some reason, my six-year-old grandson seems to hate his “new uncle.” They’ve met three times and, each time, my grandson refused to get close to the Eli (fake name) to shake his hand “mazal tov” or to introduce himself. My grandson is not shy, and he didn’t give off that shy type of behavior. He seemed angry and has been saying that he doesn’t want my daughter to marry Eli. He doesn’t want to speak with my soon-to-be son-in-law and tells everyone that he doesn’t want my daughter to marry him.
At first, we thought it was “cute,” like a shtick he was putting on. Then we thought that maybe my grandson had known Eli before or had come in contact with him and had a terrible experience – maybe he was a camp counselor. None are the case. Eli has never been a counselor or worked in a nursery or yeshivah. Eli lives a half hour away from my son and daughter-in-law (parents of my grandson), so Eli hasn’t run into him in shul. We are racking our brains. Of course, the shidduch will still happen, but this is worrisome. I can’t imagine the scene that may happen at the vort, the wedding, and future family simchos if my grandson keeps up this behavior. His parents have asked him several times, and in different ways and settings, why he doesn’t like Eli or if Eli did something to make him not like Eli. He wouldn’t even take the game Eli offered him the second and last time they met.
What do you suggest?
Lovy Bubby and Shvigger-to-Be
Lovy Bubby and Shvigger-to-Be (LBSTB), thank you for your letter.
I’m not a social worker who specializes in child therapy or family dynamics, but I’ll provide my opinion as a married woman with young children of her own.
Can this be your grandson’s way of making sure his place in the family is cemented and Eli isn’t here to take his place? Could it be he’s afraid he won’t be the center of attention anymore? Does he think that Eli and the wedding will replace him or steal his thunder? Maybe your grandson thinks that if he doesn’t like Eli and makes it so that everyone else doesn’t like him, the wedding won’t take place? How about this one: Did your grandson think he was going to marry his aunt? Sounds odd, but when one of my nephews was five, he asked me to marry him. And when I finally did get married, he told my husband that they can “share” me. Could it be that he sees Eli as his “competition?”
This can also be a phase your six-year-old grandson is going through, and in a few months it’ll be long gone, and he’ll be running into his favorite uncle’s arms. Young children tend to go through phases. One nephew on my husband’s side would cry at the sight of me. He was eight or nine months old at the time. I was an unfamiliar face, but he’d start crying whenever I entered a room. I never once offered to hold this child, because I didn’t want to traumatize him. Now he’s four and can’t care less if I come into a room.
I hate to say this, because I am not an alarmist, but does Eli somehow trigger something negative for your grandson, and if so, what? You mentioned that his parents have questioned his dislike about Eli several times in several types of settings, but he is not giving a reason to his negative reaction. Sometimes not asking a question works. One of his parents can spend time with their son, enjoying the quiet or coloring or at the park, and your grandson may pick that time to volunteer the explanation. No one wants to be interrogated, in any type of setting, and kids can pick up on when the mood in the room changes. Only when he feels comfortable and safe enough, you may find out the answer. In no way am I saying that your grandson has a deep, dark secret he’s keeping about Eli or that he needs to see a therapist. There can be a number of reasons why your grandson behaves this way, and I only wrote of two so far.
It was a good idea for Eli to offer him a gift after learning your grandson doesn’t like him. I don’t think anyone is above bribing a child. But it didn’t work in this situation or hasn’t worked yet. I say, let it go for now. If it were my family, yes, I would be interested in figuring out why; but if this is really just a phase or a fear of not being the cutest anymore, or trying to get rid of the competition, then don’t feed the beast. This is a very slippery slope, and I can hear the hate mail: “Ignore a child and his worries? Make the child think his opinion and fears don’t count? Don’t you know what you’re doing to the psyche of that child, and he’ll grow up feeling this way?” Like I said, don’t feed the beast, but I didn’t write to not fully ignore the boy either. Play it by ear, as each situation presents itself. Maybe tell your grandson he can play in another room if he doesn’t want to be in the same room as Eli, but you (his parent/grandparent) want to spend time with Eli, so you won’t be leaving the room with him. You are not negating his feelings, but you are saying that you will not be giving in to this boy every time he doesn’t want or is afraid of something. Can you imagine what type of adolescent and adult he’ll grow up to be if he’s used to getting everything he wants? I am not a child therapist, so I can’t give a professional opinion. But you asked, and this is what I feel. I can’t stop your son and daughter-in-law from getting to the bottom of this any way they choose; I’m just saying that I don’t think you need to rush to a child therapist right away.
I remember being eight or nine and not liking when my bedtime was. I wasn’t able to figure out a good way for my mother to allow me to stay up late into the night – until at least 8 p.m. Lol. So, I pretended to be afraid of the dark. All of a sudden, I became afraid. For the first few nights it worked. My mother let me sit with her until I was tired enough to be led to my bedroom, without being awake enough to argue about the dark being creepy and scary. But my mother was a smart lady and caught on to my shtick after a few days. Had she given in every night, and I had been able to convince her to change my bedtime, I would have thought that I could manipulate my parents to do anything I wanted as long as I was a good actor. I would be a terror to be around now, when I am refused or denied something. LBSTB, I realize my situation and your grandson’s situation are different. But they can be similar, as well. His fear can be validated as real for him, but that doesn’t mean Eli won’t become part of the family. He has a right to what he feels, and the rest of you have a right to what you feel. Of course, I’m truly speaking if there is absolutely no real tangible reason why Eli causes him to react like this and say the things he does.
I wish you “mazal tov,” for the “engagement moment” may have happened by the time you receive my response and the response is published. I’m sure all will work out. It’s hard to figure out if something is an issue or if the child is “playing you,” in some instances. I do hope it works out sooner rather than later.
Hatzlachah to you all.