Dear Carolyn: Our son committed a felony 2½ years ago. It was a horrific shock and he has been receiving the best possible treatment. It was not a crime against people.
Since that time, our other children (with one exception) will not allow us to have their children at our home unless they are personally present, although we babysat frequently before this.
One of our children will not allow us to be alone with our grandchildren at all. We raised these adult children, too, and they know we would never hurt our grandchildren. Neither of us had any criminal history. Our grandchildren love us and do want to be with us.
We would never leave our son (their brother) alone with them, and he has always been kind and loving to the grandchildren. Our children know this.
Our counselor told us our children are "overreacting," we are clearly no danger to our grandchildren, and time would help. It's been 2½ years and there is no change. Once close relationships are now distant.
We recently learned that one child lied to us about the whereabouts of our grandson, when he was cared for at the home of a couple (not related) after we had offered to watch him.
We are heartbroken. What can we do?
Carolyn says: Not much, except to be patient and steadfast and worthy of your children's trust.
You have been all along, you say? Good then. Waiting is agony, yes. But not having to change course will help.
If you haven't, though — if there was a part of this you could have fixed before but didn't, taken responsibility for but haven't, told your counselor and included in your letter but chose not to, and/or could remedy now with your other kids if you only summoned the courage to — then that's exactly what needs your attention.
And acting as if there is no such error to atone for will only worsen the estrangement. I am not saying you've made this mistake. It's just possible. It's also possible you didn't and these children are indeed overreacting, at a great cost to you and their kids.
I know which version you think is true. Access to your grandkids, though, lies in the version that your kids think is true. So if there's a difference in perception, then you must address that.
Can you say which version your kids believe?
One more thing. Your counselor gave you the same baseline advice to give it time. But the other part you cite, that "our children are 'overreacting' [and] we are clearly no danger," sounds awfully definitive for a therapist — or anyone who hasn't lived in your home — to say. Is it possible you're hearing only the absolution you want to hear?
And looking for me to second it?
Again — I can't say you're doing this. Just that it's both possible and would help explain why your kids remain distant.
If instead you're just caught in the undertow of your son's mistake, then that is indeed heart-rending, and unfair. And all you can do is wait.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.