Taking a stand is fine, but do admit there can be gray areas
Q: I am an old-school dad with Christian morals. I have three teenage daughters, 14, 18 and 19. Only the eldest is dating at this time. I tell them every day that I love them.
I have told my daughters for a few years now that if they get into a relationship, move in with a guy and decide later to get married, I will not pay for the wedding or reception. I would go to the wedding and give them away but nothing else. That is the consequence for their action. If they do things right, I will pay.
Also, I've told my daughters several times that I will not raise my grandchildren because of their poor choices (I would in case of death or illness, etc.). They will have to find somewhere to live. If they want to make adult choices they can pay the adult price.
I have several friends with unwed daughters who are raising their grandchildren (the fathers are nowhere around). These grandparents want to relax, retire, etc., but now it's like starting over taking care of a child. The little children are a blessing and are loved, but my friends have told me all the stress it has caused.
I would love and forgive my daughters if one of these things happened, but they would pay the price for their actions. Do you think this is too harsh?
A: Too harsh on your daughters? Not at all. With weddings, anyone grown up enough to get married is grown up enough to pay for it, period. If parents want to pitch in as a gift, then they're free to do so on their terms — just as children are free to decline the money if they don't like the terms. I applaud your firmness and clarity on that stand.
For the record — and entirely without relevance — I do balk at your phrasing, because "do things right" is, to me, nothing more than "do things my way." We're not talking life and death here, or the Golden Rule; your "right way" to get married might not be right for every couple on earth. But it's your money and it's your worldview, and you're entitled to attach strings from one to the other when the stakes are so delightfully black and white.
When it comes to thoughtlessly conceived children, on the other hand, the stakes turn gray, and fast. Yes, anyone adult enough to breed is adult enough to secure ample support — and, I have to think it's good for your daughters to grow up with the expectation of being held accountable.
I think if you talk a bit more to these put-upon grandparents, though, you'll find a few who used to think as you did but have since had a change of heart. The reality of a parent who's in over his or her head is inescapable: The one who suffers most is the child.
The answer may still be to make accountability the tent pole for any shelter you provide, but when an innocent child, your grandchild, is at risk of hunger or neglect, the kind of you-made-your-bed morality you espouse might become a luxury you can't afford. Humility is old-school, too.