How involved are you when your kid visits family?

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Photo by SanShoot, used under Creative Commons license.
My husband and I each have pretty abrasive families. We don’t fear for our child’s safety in anyone’s company, but each set of personalities present their own unique complications — usually that of the binging/ racist/ sexist/ vulgar/ religious-political fanatic variety. In short: strong opinions, bad habits, and unforgiving personal views reign. We’re also both only children, and our families don’t really know what it means to be “kid-friendly.”

We’re stuck on how to handle visiting with families — so far our options come down to being present at every visit and monitoring interactions with an iron first, being somewhat present and attempting to regulate adult behaviors by setting ground rules, and taking a laissez-faire approach and simply priming our child before dropping him off and doing damage control with explanations ready when he returns.

How do you handle it when your family members don’t act the way you would around your child? — Kay

Comments on How involved are you when your kid visits family?

  1. Sounds sappy, I know, but my mother is a saint. This is a really difficult topic, because I think my mother did an excellent job as a single mom with two kids. She eventually got married to my (awesome) step dad, and gave me another brother. This woman is selfless, brave, funny, evey good thing. BUT she has suffered a traumatic brain injury 10 years ago now resulting in what has developed into epilepsy. Her medication she takes to control seizures causes her to be physically unbalanced, a little slow in movement and thought, and less than perfect short term memory. This scares me, I’m a bit of a worst-case-senario thinker (truly a fault)and I’m not sure how to deal. I have no child currently, but (hopefully) one day soon. sigh. There is no one I’d rather entrust a child to, and yet, I don’t think I could manage leaving them alone… It’s a tough place to be.

    • I have similar concerns about my Mum too. My Dad dies a few years ago, so she is by herself.

      Her attitude to her granddaughter (my niece) is simply wonderful, but I have concerns about her attention…

      For example, my husband and I saw her sit our fidgety, tired 18 month old niece on the kitchen bench and turned around to do something else for a few minutes. We grabbed her before she tumbled off, but my husband is now very reluctant to let my Mum look after our (on their way) child.

      Are we overreacting? Is there a way around these types of concerns?

      • Only you know the answer to this, because only you know your priorities.

        My perspective: http://offbeatmama.com/2009/10/mother-martyr

        Choice quote:
        “Is my mom as careful about the baby’s schedule as I am? Eh, as long as the baby is happy and developing a relationship with his grandma, that’s awesome! Is Nana’s cabin completely childproof? Pshaw: as long as it’s just minor injuries and Nana’s there to kiss the scrapes and bruises, it’s all probably fine.”

        So for me, I prioritize my son’s relationship with his grandparents over my concerns about the (admittedly mild) differences in parenting style. Under my mother’s care, my son has fallen off all sorts of things — none of the falls were serious. And to me, all of them were worth him having an awesome relationship with his grandma, that involves them learning together.

  2. I had a really startling revelation just a few years ago (I’m 27 now): one of my sets of grandparents were racist, verbally abusive, manipulative, and often cruel people. Not once did I ever see this side of them when I had sleepovers, during holidays, or at family gatherings. Turns out my parents laid down the law when I was very small, and they knew that to spend time alone with me meant not behaving in certain ways – ever – in my presence. Heck, I didn’t even know that my grandfather drank or smoked until I was in my mid-teens, and that was an accidental discovery when I found beer bottles and a collapsed cigarette carton in their recycling bin.

    Do I like that my grandparents were made to lie to me for most of my life? No. Did I love them unconditionally and only ever know them to be caring, warm, safe people? Yes. I have to give my parents a lot of credit for being so concrete in their demands, and I am grateful they did. Thankfully, both my parents and my in-laws are trustworthy with our son, but we have had to have some conversations about pushing agendas (religion and financial decision making, mostly). I’m pretty confident that referencing the story of my grandparents – who were generally wonderful with me – will help them realize how important it is for our child not to perceive conflict in our ideologies.

  3. Speaking from the point of view of the child, my grandfather is racist. He’s a product of small town SC and its just how he is. I grew up in inner city Atlanta. My parents apologized for my grandfather’s attitudes occasionally. It was made subtly clear that he was wrong, but we should respect him in his home. It certainly never influenced the tolerance I was raised with.

  4. I have never had a problem with the spankings I got, (My parents were very gentle, and I didn’t feel I was being punished unfairly, nor did I ever question their love for me.) but I do have a problem with someone else spanking my child. That’s just not right. And my in-laws are pretty profane and sometimes overly opinionated about things I’d prefer my child didn’t hear, so if they can’t shape up when the time comes for a visit, I will take issue with that. My sister in law and I don’t see eye-to-eye, (she thinks I am a holy-roller hypocrite who is trying to force her brother to marry me… I have no idea where she got this, as I rarely speak about religion and my fiance proposed to me of his own free will. -_-) Anyway, I wouldn’t trust her with my child. Thankfully, my sisters are great babysitters, so it’s unlikely I’ll have to deal with that!

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