Dear Ms. Arnall,
My husband and I moved out of state about three months ago. We used to live right down the road from either set of grandparents, but now it is a six hour drive. The grandparents were used to seeing our baby multiple times a week, but haven't seen him since we've moved. I'm pregnant with our second, a girl, and am about to pop. One set of grandparents(Set A) is coming to visit when she is born, the other set(Set B) can't afford to travel.
Because of this situation, Set B grandparents want us to send our son, who is 16 months, to them for a week. I normally wouldn't have a problem with this arrangement, but I have the Set A grandparents.
Set A grandparents are my parents, and I love them- I really do, but I am not comfortable with them having an extended, unsupervised amount of time with my kid. I find their influence to be harmful and- from my experiences growing up- at times abusive. I am almost always around when they are spending time with my kid. My husband feels the same way I do.
I don't have this inhibition with the Set B grandparents, my husbands parents. I believe they would do a great job for a week, but I have already told Set A grandparents that they couldn't have our son for a week. It would be offensive to turn around and say yes to the other set of grandparents.
I never want my kids to stay with Set A without us there with them to supervise, but wouldn't mind with Set B. If I did let them stay with either set, the other would automatically expect a week at some point, too. That would be "fair."
So, what do I do? Do I allow the kids to stay with one set and not the other? This would make my parents furious, offended, and hurt. Or do I never allow our kids to stay alone with either set? Is that the only option?
Thank you in advance.
Thank you for writing. Your 16 month-old is still a baby and because you are about to give birth to a sibling, he is going to need his attachment people, (you and your partner) more than ever. When change happens in the family, children naturally feel insecure, and they absolutely need familiarity and comfort to help them feel more secure during a time of change and especially during the first three months of welcoming a new baby. Under age three, most children are unable to handle a separation from parents for more than a one-night sleepover, if that. However, you know your baby best.
You are totally within your rights to not allow unsupervised visits even with family that you don't feel comfortable about. You are now the parent and your say goes. Relatives might feel hurt, but they are adults and should be expected to deal with it. They own their feelings. You make decisions in the best interest of your child. As parents, one of the hardest things to do is advocate for our children, but they need us to. You said that Grandparents B can't afford to travel, but its my experience that people always find the funds for things they really, really, really want! If coming to you and visiting at your place is the only option, they will come. If not, it's not high up on their priority list. Another option is for you to offer to pay for their travel.
Your children are still very young and at the height of building attachment to parents. Saying No to extended visits right now, is not saying No forever. When children are school-aged, such as 7 and up, they can handle different ways of parenting much better. They can also handle more nastiness, because they have had a foundation of love and security and still have you to discuss it with.
You could tell both sets of Grandparents to let it go for a few years. You are right that it would cause hurt feelings to send to one and not the other.
Best wishes in your decision!
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Author of the print bestseller, Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery, and the new book, Parenting With Patience: Turn frustration into connection with 3 easy steps. President and best of all, Mom of three adults (in university) and two teens! Judy just co-founded Unschooling Canada Association