DEAR AMY: My husband and I, along with our two children (ages 3 and 5), will be headed to Florida for a week this spring break with my husband’s family. He wants us to leave the kids with his parents for a day while we go to an amusement park with his siblings. I would love to cultivate our children’s relationship with their grandparents (and would love to have a day with adults!), but my in-laws have proved to be distracted babysitters. I have two main concerns: The first is that my in-laws carry their numerous pills in an overflowing plastic bag, and, without fail, pills fall out onto the floor unnoticed. Some of the pills are pink and look like candy. This keeps me up at night. (During the last two-day visit, there were three separate incidents where we found a pill on the floor, despite our pleading with them to be careful.) The second concern is that the resort will have a pool, our kids cannot swim, and the combination of water and distractibility gives me great pause. I know that my husband would like to give them this time alone with the kids, although he understands my concerns, and I don’t know whether I am being overly cautious, or to put my foot down.
DEAR PROTECTIVE: Your concerns are well-placed, and you are smart to let your instincts (and experience) guide you.
Two children under the age of 5 is a real handful for some older people, especially if they have health problems (which they obviously do). The risks (both inside and outside) are considerable.
My suggestion is that you should encourage your husband to go with his siblings, and you should stay with the kids and the folks, so you can lightly supervise and be their backstop if they need you.
For instance, you could take one child to the pool while the grandparents do an activity with the other, and then switch off. Or, after scouring for pills, you could take a book onto the patio and basically be nearby, but not hovering.
DEAR AMY: My father-in-law died earlier this year after a good fight. My family was heartbroken; he was a stern but loving man. My mother-in-law, “Berta,” and he were divorced for 30 years and he had remarried. All three of their children say their marriage was volatile. Berta would often openly mock her ex-husband to their children. He wouldn’t respond. My father-in-law’s wife planned the funeral, but Berta decided to attend the funeral for “emotional support” for her daughter (who did not want her there). Her presence at the funeral was disruptive. After the sermon, she was asked to leave. She did not. This put her son in a difficult place in an already devastating time. There was a reception at another location, which she also attended, stating that there were people who she knew would want to see her. She was asked to leave this gathering also. I am thrown for a loop and don’t know what to make of it. Was this for her own self-edification or was there good intent? I know they were married and had three children together, so that is significant. But there was nothing after that ever showed mutual respect.
DEAR HEARTBROKEN: The key piece of evidence here is that your mother-in-law was asked to leave two events. This means that, regardless of her stated intent, her presence was not welcome, and she knew it.
This was selfish, showboating, egocentric, boundary-violating behavior on a day when her children needed for her to be respectful. For many ex-spouses, the most respectful place to be on the day of the ex’s funeral is: elsewhere.
I hope her children are able to look past their grief over their father in order to express their true opinion to their mother regarding her choices.
DEAR AMY: “Torn” wondered about confessing to a one-night stand. I don’t know how or why confessing to your wronged lover, spouse or whoever became the default position in American culture, but from the standpoint of having lived 77 years, I am absolutely convinced that it is the wrong one. If you are caught, then of course you have to deal with the fallout. Otherwise, suffer in silence, and make amends by never doing it again.
Older and Wiser
DEAR WISER: Guilt can be a great teacher. Thank you.