Mr. & Mrs. X (my husband’s brother and his wife) don’t have their life in order. They are constantly making bad decisions, but appear happy with their lives. When others in the family have tried to say anything it has fallen on deaf ears. They are young and they have 5 children (ranging from 7 years old to the newest baby). Everyone in my husband’s immediate family feels stressed and concerned about them; often angry and/or frustrated. The only exception is my husband’s other brother who has an “It’s his life” attitude. The main problem we all have with Mr. & Mrs. X is how their behavior affects their little children. My husband and I are Godparents to one of their children, as are others in the family.
Some people feel Mr. & Mrs. X’s parents are enabling them. Because of this I’m torn between being very helpful in befriending this couple, and not doing anything out of fear enabling.
There are pretty serious things going on. Mr. X goes from job to job frequently, often leaving gaps in pay. Even when he is working consistently, they mismanage their money and sometimes don’t have money for necessities like food and heat in their home for the winter. Mrs. X comes from a family that, for lack of better description, just isn’t too bright. I think she doesn’t KNOW any better. However, Mr. X leaves most of the child rearing to her and she does not meet her children’s basic hygiene needs. I feel confident saying Mr. and Mrs. X do not meet their children’s physical needs- which is a requirement of parents according to our faith. Her children always have bleeding diaper rashes. I cried the last time I changed one of her children’s diapers. I know it is because she does not change her children’s diapers. You can smell the poopy diapers the moment the children walk in the door and when you tell Mrs. X the children need to be changed she will make a comment like “I’m not going to waste a diaper” or “I’ll do it later” (then never does). I even offer to change diapers for her when I can, but she says she will do it herself. Her children are always dirty, their hair ratty. Mrs. X lacks common sense and cannot take a hint. You have to be very direct with her, but I feel “mean” doing this. I also feel mean watching the children suffer. We found out the children now have lice, and one was playing with a dead mouse inside of their house (their house is another story altogether). CPS has been called on them before from someone. I know most of this information first hand, or from comments from others made in our presence.
I don’t know what to say to them or how to help them, or if it’s my place. Others in the family wish someone would say something but no one wants to be the one to do it. In the past the family has talked to them about being irresponsible, especially in regards to money, but never about the parenting which is honestly by biggest concern. We consulted our priest about them awhile back and his advice was asking if they would be receptive to correcting. This was about being irresponsible and not the parenting. At the time, we decided they would not be open to what we have to say and didn’t say anything. There have been new developments since then and I’m feeling frustrated about their situation again. I always pray for them. I feel like if we had to say something to them it would have to be a very direct, blunt conversation and it would be awkward to have that kind of conversation; not to mention it is only natural to expect them to be defensive.
I’m feeling inclined to say something since I feel they are being inconsiderate to others in the family by exposing them to health risks. This past week their whole family was badly ill and had lice and visited with the family, including other babies and my husband’s elderly parents. These people have vulnerable immune systems and now our family, and at least one other family, has gotten ill because of it. This has happened several times. Not to mention dragging their children out who are crying, sick, and unhappy the whole time because they don’t feel good. I worry for the health of my husband’s parents especially since they are elderly and it’s harder for them to recover from illnesses at their age. And everyone is susceptible to lice, and it is easily passed from person to person. Both my MIL and FIL and one of my husband’s sisters commented on taking extra vitamins after being around the family so they don’t get sick. My other SIL has stopped letting her children babysit for Mr. and Mrs. X or letting her younger children go over for sleepovers because she doesn’t feel the house is safe/clean enough for her children to be in. I also realize that caring for 5 young children is no easy task (I have two young children) but you also have to be responsible parents.
I honestly want the best for this couple and especially their children. These people do have good qualities that I try to focus on, but it is so hard with so many things going wrong in their life. I have thought about inviting Mrs. X and the kids over for playdates and trying to set a good example with the child rearing but now with the lice scare (and the children getting sick literally every time we are around these people) I’m hesitant to be around them any more than I have to be.
If this were you, what would you say or do? Nothing? Just pray? Do we have an obligation to our godchild? We are also worried about causing more of a rift in the family (long story- one already exists). It literally keeps me awake at night when I hear or see some of the things going on. I want to handle myself correctly and do things with love and charity and not with anger or hatred. Am I handling this situation wrong in any way? Is a call to CPS warranted or a better option? Others in the family have thought about it before. Please help.