From the forums:
I have a 2-year-old daughter. Both my husband and I work full-time. Over the past year, Carla has started guilting us in a passive-aggressive/“joking” way that we don’t “trust” them to let them watch our daughter: and this past week my dad started using the same language. What THEY want is for us to drive our daughter to his house, drop her off for the day, and then come get her before bed.
There are a number of problems with what they want. First, I like to spend time with my daughter on the weekends because I barely see her during the week. This time is important to me. Second, logistically, it’s annoying to drive 45 minutes to their house, which is in the middle of nowhere so there is nothing to do around there, and then drive 45 minutes home and do the same thing again to pick her up later. We also need to pack and bring everything with us because they don’t have anything: a pack-n-play, high chair, toys, etc. (They have offered to buy gear, but it’s never actually happened). Also logistically, she doesn’t nap well in other places, and while that sounds minimal… it throws her off completely and she is cranky for days afterwards. Third, they never offer to see her during times when it would actually be convenient or helpful for us — when we had a wedding to attend they were busy, when we want a date night out the only way they want to watch her is if we leave her at their place for the night, and if we have an after-work appointment, we will need to find a sitter. We are constantly paying for babysitters during those times (we don’t have other reliable family close by).
Additionally, to be honest, I DON’T fully trust them. My dad did very little to help raise us as children, and while he is “fun” with my daughter, he scares her a little with his loud voice and lack of knowledge of age-appropriate play. And Carla just doesn’t seem to listen to our instructions—-though not for lack of trying; she just doesn’t seem to understand. She’s kind of… ditzy? She just does whatever she thinks in the moment even if it isn’t the way we have asked her to do things. I’m not talking micromanage-y things but instead pertaining to our daughter’s sleep routine, her dinnertime routine, etc). Finally, our girl is a really sensitive person. She is really shy and does not do well with new people. She sees my dad and Carla so infrequently that it honestly seems cruel to just leave her with them for the day without any “warm-up” time. In the past, when we left her with them for a couple hours, she literally cried the whole time.
So my question is: what do I do? I obviously want my daughter to have a relationship with my dad, but he and Carla make it next to impossible. I’ve told them on countless occasions that I’d really rather we all met together and did an activity together, or they could watch her here at our house where it would make it less stressful for her (and she’d nap) and without us having to drive and pack things. They continue to feel like we are denying them time with her and that we don’t trust them. I’ve now heard from my sister (who has a 1-year-old and similar problems with them) that they are telling her that we don’t trust them. Do I just suck it up and let them watch her on their terms once to get them off my back? Or tell them my conditions and if they don’t like them, then that’s their problem? My dad does NOT handle confrontation well, and Carla takes it as a personal attack and it becomes a huge problem. I’m worried that no matter what I do it’s going to be an issue, and I can never just talk to my dad about it because she involves herself (and my dad allows and encourages it because he doesn’t want to have to deal with it).
I wish this hadn’t become some kind of ownership issue over my daughter. I don’t know why they want her “away” so badly.
Thanks for any input. — Next to Impossible
I have a little less sympathy for you than the commenters in the forum do. It sounds to me like you have a lot of resentment toward your dad and Carla – because they married so soon after your mom died, because Carla isn’t like your mom at all, because they haven’t made time for you in a way you want. You resent that the time you all do spend together — and the time they’d prefer to see your daughter — seems to be all on their terms, but the truth is, you are being just as inflexible about the time you spend together as they are, and you’re using your toddler as the excuse.
Here’s where I probably differ from those who commented on your forum thread: I don’t believe having a toddler is a blanket excuse to avoid all things inconvenient, and I don’t believe YOU do either. After all, you say that part of the reason you’re hesitant to let your dad and Carla babysit is because you don’t trust them – so, they’re actually right about that! – and yet, when you need a babysitter – for a wedding, a date night, or an after-work appointment – you have no trouble asking them to babysit. And you sound resentful when they’ve declined and you’ve had to hire someone (“We are constantly paying for babysitters during those times.”) I mean, yeah: having a kid means “constantly paying for babysitters” when you need babysitting. If you are lucky to have family close by who can help, that is a wonderful privilege, but it’s not a guarantee and it’s certainly not something people are just entitled to.
Here’s another thing: having a child is inconvenient. Like, pretty much everything about having a child is inconvenient. And helping your child foster relationships – with family members, with potential friends – is no different. Sometimes it takes some sacrifice on your part – like going off a nap routine, paying for travel costs, spending time with people or at places that might not be your first preference. Here’s an example: I have two kids and my parents live in another part of the country. For a variety of reasons, it’s very hard for them to come see us, so it’s up to us to go see them. They don’t live driving distance away – we have to take a plane and there isn’t even a direct flight to where they live, so it’s basically an entire day’s commute to see them, and four round-trip tickets can cost upwards of $2,000. We go see them twice a year – sometimes three times a year. There have been years where we couldn’t afford more than a weekend getaway after spending our travel budget to go see my parents. And while we’re there, the kids get off schedule. Because that’s just what happens when you travel with kids. And don’t even get me started on the amount of gear we have had to travel with (even though my parents were great about stocking their house with many essentials). None of this is convenient. It’s definitely not cheap. Where my parents live is not where I want to spend a majority of my vacation time. And yet! We go see them – happily — because it’s important. It’s so important for them to have a relationship with their grandchildren and vice versa, and so we make the sacrifice and we are glad we are able to.
And, look, I know my situation is not your situation, but I read your letter and I see things like “it’s annoying to drive 45 minutes to their house,” and “they never offer to see her when it’s actually convenient for us” and I think about the many, many, many days I’ve spent shuttling my young children through airports and puddle-jumper airplanes so they can see their grandparents – I think about the thousands and thousands of dollars we’ve spent over the past eight years to help foster this relationship – and I can’t help but think you sound… a little whiney, to be honest. But here’s where I agree with other commenters: your dad and Carla are whiney and inflexible, too. All of you sound pretty selfish. And who loses out because of it? Well, all of you do! But especially your daughter, who is missing out on making a connection with her grandparents.
So, what do you do about it? You figure out where you are willing to compromise. So far, it doesn’t sound like you’ve made any attempt to compromise at all. You are willing only to meet them for an activity – what activity, by the way? Have you made any suggestions? Have you made any plans and invited them? Or have you had them come to your house, which requires little, if anything, from you? You know that what Carla and your dad would really love is to watch your daughter at their house. You don’t want to leave her alone with them there – understandably — but can you spend a day together with them at their place? Can you maybe even spend the night? Can you say, “Hey, we know a roundtrip drive is a lot, so we’re willing to come see you next month if you’ll come to our place the month after that. We can bring a pack-‘n-play, but it would be helpful if you could buy a high chair for our next visit.” Or, you could say, “We’d love for you to babysit, but we’d feel more comfortable if it’s at our home, where we have all the toddler gear and know the house is child-proofed. When she’s older, knows you better, and is a little more independent, we’d be open to her spending time at your place without us. Until then, if you want to spend time alone with her, we only feel comfortable doing that at our home.” And then, maybe, if/when they come to your house to see you and your daughter, you and your husband could sneak out for an hour – go have a quick lunch date or something — so that your dad and Carla can have that alone time with your daughter that seems important for them to have.
The key is to be very clear about what your conditions and boundaries are AND be clear about what sacrifices and compromises YOU are willing to make. Having a child doesn’t excuse you from ever doing anything inconvenient. If you want to foster relationships, doing so requires some give and take. You have to be willing to give a little, to bend a little, to get a little off-schedule or invest some time and money going places and doing things that might not be your first choice. Ideally, the reward is stronger relationships. If your efforts don’t result in stronger relationships, then you re-evaluate: maybe you make an extra effort or maybe you pull back and match whatever effort is being made by the other party. But you don’t get to make close to little effort at all, or only when it’s convenient for you, and then say things like: “I obviously want my daughter to have a relationship with my dad, but he and Carla make it next to impossible.” YOU are making it next to impossible, too. Step up, and show them the line you want them to step up to as well.
Do not send a text; send a card and a small gift. Or, send a text, but follow it up with a card and gift. The text, if you send one, should be short and sweet: “Thinking of you this weekend and wish we could be there with you to celebrate the very special occasion of your wedding. We’re so happy for you and look forward to seeing photos later.” In the card you need to send, write something like, “We regret that extenuating circumstances kept us from celebrating with you in person, but we’re holding you and [husband’s name] in our hearts and sending you congratulations and best wishes for a happy and long life together.” For a gift, choose something from their registry that’s within your budget.