Seeking charitable advice on in-laws involvement with my kids


#1

Awkward question. I know there is no hard and fast rule over how involved grandparents should be in their grandkids lives, nor should there be because every family is different. My own scenario is worrying me however, from a Catholic point of view, and I don't know if I'm handling things as I should.

Here's the history: strained relationship with in-laws in the past, (who live 10 mins away) lots of boundary crossing by them as regards my husband when we first married, they saw him as a free farm hand, even though he was struggling with his own business at the time - it was a take-take situation for ages, though that has eased off now.

Next, along come my 2 kids. Not having had any experience of in-laws or kiddies before, I admit I was over-protective at first and very much kept the in-laws at arm's length, also because of my general dislike for their money-obsessed lifestyle.

Then, I re-converted to my faith, re-established good relations with them, apologised for any hurt I had possibly ever caused in the past - even though there was never an all-out row. But boundary issues with the kids are still there and I'm having a hard time handling them charitably and then I feel guilty for all the feelings that well up in me when they do something to annoy me.

Example - as I said they live 10 mins away, I visit their home every 2nd week, granny comes here every other week, so they see our kids once a week, very spontaneously arranged. Grandad doesn't visit our home, he instead comes knocking at the window, says to my 4 yr old son, "do you want to come back to our house?" Sociable 4 yr old son says yes, gets airlifted out of window. I get "see you later" from Grandad, no time of when they're coming back, where they're going, nothing. My blood boils.

Then my faith kicks in, and I think, maybe I should be letting them over there more often, maybe they're lonely, maybe I shouldn't have all these resentful feelings, etc, etc. The other issue is, we never require babysitters because we have no money to go out anywhere, I'm a stay at home mom, my hubbie is a part-time farmer so we're broke and very much confined to house/garden activities that are free. As regards my parents, they live a bit further away, and see us maybe every 2 weeks. Charitable advice welcome.


#2

You seem like you're handling it all charitably, don't worry about that part. As far as the unscheduled visits go, maybe next time Grandma taps on the window, say "I'm so sorry, but I've arranged to go to the park/zoo/store/somewhere today. Can you call next time so that we can set something up?" You don't have to say when you made other plans, it could be that second. A few times doing that and Grandma should learn to call first if she want to visit the kids, and that's when you can decide how long they'll visit, what they're going to do, etc. Better and easier for everyone.


#3

While I can't directly relate to your situation (we've always had good relations with both our parents)... I'd like to share what we do to involve them in our lives...

We have weekly dinners set up with both sets of grandparents. Normally we go over to THEIR houses, but sometimes they end up coming over to our house. My MIL's night is either Monday/Tuesday (depending on her schedule) and my parents' night is typically Thursday, but we are flexible.

It's routine, it's expected, it's looked-forward-to, but it's short and sweet and never really dramatic. Just part of our weekly routine. Everyone reconnects, then goes home.

Also, since I work full time, the grandmas are part of our daily lives when it comes to picking up the kids after school and watching them during the summer months.

My (widowed) MIL also babysits for us on a REGULAR basis... weekly on Friday nights, in fact. We have the opportunity to reconnect as a couple, and the kids love "Grammy night".

So, while it may be difficult to set up some of these routines in your situation, it may be something to work toward slowly!
HTH!


#4

I'd like to add on because I know it's a complicated subject...

Now, I certainly have differences in how I'm raising my kids compared to how my parents and MIL raised me and my husband... so there are always opportunities for comparisons and judgmental tones and questioning of tactics... I think this is very normal. It's not always easy or peachy-keen happy 100% of the time... but fundamentally we all compromise and bite our tongues once in a while in order to keep the peace. We feel the overall relationship that grandkids have with their grandparents is very special, so efforts are made to maintain that.


#5

Let me give you a short bio so you know where I'm coming from.

My ILs have always been very much involved in my husband's life, and while it's eased off some, it's never going to go away. I've had to accept it. My ILs live about 4 minutes from us, and we're over there 3-4 times a week, usually after we have dinner at our house. They rarely come to our house. It's easier for me, because I always feel like I'm being judged about the state our house is in. I actually react differently to my MIL when we're at her house. I guess I just like keeping our house for us only. Anyway, my point is I really understand how you feel.

Now, if my FIL came and took my son (especially throught the window :eek:) without even asking, I would be [not a polite word] :mad:. I don't know why he thinks that is appropriate, but I could not handle that. Especially not knowing for sure where they're going, when they'll be back, or what they'll be doing. It's very sad to me that your FIL doesn't respect you enough to let you know those details.

As for what to do...I would leave it to your husband. Discuss with him what you are both comfortable with, and then he needs to set boundaries. It's not your place to tell your PIL what to do or to schedule visits. If you were closer to them, then it might be, but it's hard all around for people who don't like each other to do something like that. My DH sets the boundaries with the PIL, after we've discussed what's appropriate. Sometimes he changes things on the spot so as not to upset his parents, but that's something that the two of us then deal with. I don't get into it in front of his parents.

Grandparents are a great gift to grandkids (and vice versa), and I believe it is important for them to have a good relationship. It's one of the many things I missed out on as a kid due to deaths and divorces, so I try to make sure that DS sees his grandparents as often as possible. With my mom, that's difficult due to distance (4 hours apart), but we Skype and visit about once a month. I can do better with my PIL, so I make it work for DS's sake.

You mentioned their money-obsessed lifestyle, so I assume they have some money. Maybe they can babysit for you, and you can do something fun and free with DH. You don't have to see them for too long that way, but they still get time with your kids. It's something you'll have to work out, especially to keep your kids sheltered from a love of money, but it's doable.


#6

Hi Trials,

I have little to add to the posts above, except to add my own encouragement to you to set firm boundaries as quickly as you can, since I don't think it's safe for a kid to disappear with Grandad without Mom knowing where they are. You have the right to veto any activity that might make you uncomfortable.

Sometimes angry feelings are a good signal that something is wrong. We can respond to them, as long as we use charity in doing it.

God Bless,
Joan


#7

Have an activity or plans at the ready for when this happens and say "I"m sorry, but we are about to leave for the playground" or "We are just about to start story time. Maybe another time. Just call first to see if we're available"

And, keep the blinds down, windows closed (if at all possible) during the times when he normally comes by. And, tell them it is a security risk for them to establish that it is normal for a child to leave the house by a window! What would they think if the child decided to do it when you were using the Necessarium?


#8

Or you could make a point of spending every available moment over at their home, after a week I can imagine they may ask you for a schedule of when they can visit you at a time that suits you all, just a thought.


#9

[quote="JackyB, post:8, topic:249089"]
Or you could make a point of spending every available moment over at their home, after a week I can imagine they may ask you for a schedule of when they can visit you at a time that suits you all, just a thought.

[/quote]

:thumbsup::rotfl:


#10

Thanks for all contributions, you're really helping me because this is not something I can talk about with my husband too well, you see I'm also conscious of not wanting to drive a wedge between them and my husband - I was guilty in the past of that, and succeeded in making a bad situation worse, so now I go out of my way to never say anything bad about them to him - ok, maybe just the occasional innuendo. Then Confession time again.

[quote="harpoonie, post:7, topic:249089"]
Have an activity or plans at the ready for when this happens and say "I"m sorry, but we are about to leave for the playground" or "We are just about to start story time. Maybe another time. Just call first to see if we're available"

And, keep the blinds down, windows closed (if at all possible) during the times when he normally comes by. And, tell them it is a security risk for them to establish that it is normal for a child to leave the house by a window! What would they think if the child decided to do it when you were using the Necessarium?

[/quote]

Having plans ready is a good idea, thanks, as long as I'm not lying about our plans. I also did for a while leave the blinds pulled (but felt very guilty doing so, since I knew it was because I was dreading seeing his face squished against the window). Anyway, he still hammered at the window even when they were down, plus he'd know from the car outside that we're home. :shrug:

The thing that makes me feel bad also is that I feel they resent me not leaving the kids over there more often without me. The thing is, I never got babysat by my grandparents when I was younger, both sets lived in another country, so this whole situation is new to me and I don't know what the "norm" is. Am I depriving them of "bonding" time? Secondly, as I said earlier, we never really need babysitters. Maybe 3 times a year if that - honestly.


#11

If it was me, it would be time for a sit down with my husband and for both of us to come up with a plan to address the issue of granddad taking the kids without asking AND without providing information. It doesn't sound like you are objecting to your inlaws spending time with your children, just that you have NO info when granddad shows up and takes one of the kids. I don't care who it would be, relative or a regular babysitter, I'd want all the info that they could provide about their activites and I would be the one that sets the time to expect them back. Then my husband would be having a talk with his parents, me present, but he'd do all the talking, and we would present a united front.

I would also be teaching my children they can not just go off with anybody, even granddad, without coming and asking me first.


#12

[quote="trials, post:10, topic:249089"]
Secondly, as I said earlier, we never really need babysitters. Maybe 3 times a year if that - honestly.

[/quote]

:eek:

I NEED a night with my husband alone. I'm not talking about getting all fancy and going out on the town... more like take-out chinese and a netflix! :D
It's totally win-win-win-win-win... :thumbsup:

Then again... maybe that's why we're pregnant with #4... :hmmm:


#13

Keep in mind that YOU and your husband are the parents. While you of course want to have as good a relationship as possible with the in-laws, it's your home & family, your rules. Your husband really needs to be involved in this. If setting reasonable boundaries drives a wedge between him and his parents, they have bigger problems than their relationship with you. And it's not saying anything "bad" about them -- it's just having your own family rules.

One thing -- this taking the child out through the window needs to stop; he's going to grow up thinking this is OK, and in this day & age, that could be dangerous. There's nothing unreasonable or unfriendly about requiring anyone who's going to pick him up to come into the house to do so.


#14

You must be one amazing lady... if someone grabbed my 4 year old out of a window and took him without my permission, I'd turn into a momma grizzly.

My best advice is to let your husband set all of the boundaries with them. Most people will only hate the daughter-in-law for ANY boundary-setting.


#15

[quote="lovemyboys, post:14, topic:249089"]
You must be one amazing lady... if someone grabbed my 4 year old out of a window and took him without my permission, I'd turn into a momma grizzly.

My best advice is to let your husband set all of the boundaries with them. Most people will only hate the daughter-in-law for ANY boundary-setting.

[/quote]

The reason I'm being a doormat is because I know I was uncharitable about them in the past, talked behind their backs, etc., and so even though I've moved on to a much better place with them where I've charitably forgotten their wrongs and apologised for my own, I am uber-concious of avoiding sin again with them, through lack of charity. And there is one verse in the New Testament, Romans I think, "Let love be genuine" which I can't get out of my mind. I've confessed this a million times now - I outwardly do all the things I should be doing, the visits, the kindliness, but inside, sometimes, my heart is not in it. I feel I'm doing it as a duty more than a natural urge to be nice to them. Does that make sense? So my love isn't genuine. Especially because every time I see their car coming my heart sinks - that's not Christian charity is it?

Anyway, as to the husband talking to them idea - they wouldn't be great communicators as a family, so if he were to say or hint at anything, it would blow up into something huge, and they would know I was the instigator.

I'm praying that God will show me the charitable path through all of this. I feel sometimes like I'm walking through a minefield - as I'm sure others do on their spiritual journeys.


#16

You sound like a wonderful person with an amazing conscience, but I don't think God wants you to be a doormat. You're the mom and when it comes to your own kids, I believe you have the right to make the rules (even if your husband won't do it). I like what Em was saying about having something scheduled once a week. I personally couldn't handle unannounced drop-ins... stress!!


#17

[quote="lovemyboys, post:16, topic:249089"]
You sound like a wonderful person with an amazing conscience, but I don't think God wants you to be a doormat. You're the mom and when it comes to your own kids, I believe you have the right to make the rules (even if your husband won't do it). I like what Em was saying about having something scheduled once a week. I personally couldn't handle unannounced drop-ins... stress!!

[/quote]

Yeah, I'm going to re-re-suggest it! :p
BTW - because of these regularly scheduled visits... we NEVER get unannounced drop-ins...
that WOULD stress me out, so I agree that your feelings are legit here, and that you don't have to be a doormat in order to show Christian charity.

Good communication sometimes requires starting new trends... here's one suggestion that came to mind...
Preempt them!... If you've noticed you haven't seen FIL stop by in a few days, give him a call and say,* "Hey, would you like to stop by and pick up grandson for the afternoon?"... probably (because this is how things get started, and he probably likes doing things on HIS terms) he'll say, "Today's not good, I'll stop by another time."... but DON'T end the conversation there... say, *"Sounds great, but can you please call and let me know ahead of time? Our schedule seems to be getting busier lately and I'd like to make sure it doesn't conflict with other stuff."
*Continually *try to preempt their visits AND encourage communication... eventually it'll settle into habits...


#18

[quote="trials, post:15, topic:249089"]
The reason I'm being a doormat is because I know I was uncharitable about them in the past, talked behind their backs, etc., and so even though I've moved on to a much better place with them where I've charitably forgotten their wrongs and apologised for my own, I am uber-concious of avoiding sin again with them, through lack of charity. And there is one verse in the New Testament, Romans I think, "Let love be genuine" which I can't get out of my mind. I've confessed this a million times now - I outwardly do all the things I should be doing, the visits, the kindliness, but inside, sometimes, my heart is not in it. I feel I'm doing it as a duty more than a natural urge to be nice to them. Does that make sense? So my love isn't genuine. Especially because every time I see their car coming my heart sinks - that's not Christian charity is it?

Anyway, as to the husband talking to them idea - they wouldn't be great communicators as a family, so if he were to say or hint at anything, it would blow up into something huge, and they would know I was the instigator.

I'm praying that God will show me the charitable path through all of this. I feel sometimes like I'm walking through a minefield - as I'm sure others do on their spiritual journeys.

[/quote]

Well to be honest, sometimes loving any of our relatives can be more of a duty than genuine, as you describe it. There are just sometimes you have to fake until until you make it. I do though disagree with you that you are not being genuine with your inlaws. From what you describe, you are, you are sincerely trying to have as much of a charitable and loving relationship with your inlaws that you can. BUT, I think deep down you are upset that they continually cross the boundaries of your parental authority with your own children. I know I would be upset.

As someone said though, the "taking" of your children could become a safety issue at some point. That would be the angle I would use in setting some boundaries with the inlaws. If you start a discussion with them and make it about teaching the children to come to you to ask if they can go somewhere or that they always have to tell you their plans, make it about stranger dangers and keeping them safe, it takes the focus off of the inlaws as possibly being seen as the bad guys.


#19

[quote="trials, post:1, topic:249089"]
But boundary issues with the kids are still there and I'm having a hard time handling Grandad doesn't visit our home, he instead comes knocking at the window, says to my 4 yr old son, "do you want to come back to our house?" Sociable 4 yr old son says yes, gets airlifted out of window. I get "see you later" from Grandad, no time of when they're coming back, where they're going, nothing. My blood boils.

[/quote]

Look at it this way:

  • A man comes to your home and apparently doesn't have the courtesy or common sense to knock on your door. Instead, he sticks his head through a window.

  • A man wants to spend time with your small child, a child barely out of toddlerhood. A child who cannot in any way make an informed decision about his day by taking into consideration what plans his family might already have. Instead of speaking to someone who can make such a decision, instead of getting permission from an adult to remove a child from his home, he asks the child directly if he wants to leave the home.

  • A man wants to take your small child from his home. Instead of teaching this child proper home-leaving ettiquette (i.e., use the flippin' door) he pulls the child through a window.

  • A man takes a child from your home. He doesn't know what your plans for the day were. He doesn't know if you or the child had any appointments. He doesn't know if you've already made plans. He doesn't know anything. He doesn't know if he even has permission to do so.

  • A man takes a child from your home without giving you the slightest indication of when he plans on returning said child.

  • Have I already mention that a man has taken your child from your home without your permission?

This is the charitable Catholic in me talking. I don't care if this man was grandpa, Uncle Bob, Fr. Steven, Cousin Charley, my trusted neighbor, my husband's best friend, or my boss, anyone who took my child from my home without my permission, pulled my child through a window without my consent, would try it one time.

As they were walking away with the child I would pull the man aside so as not to have this conversation around the kid, and I would explain that I'm the decision-maker, I need to be asked permission. And in the future I need him to knock on the door. I would let him know I need him to have the child back in one hour. If 60 minutes have passed, I would go get the child myself.

As soon as possible, I would then sit down with my husband and explain that he also needs to have a word with this man, that this man needs to understand that husband and wife stand united in this matter, that this man has breached boundaries in a very counterproductive way.

If the man tried to take my child from my home without my permission a second time, I'd call law enforcement. If this man doesn't take me seriously, perhaps he'll take felony custodial interference charges seriously.

Our kids. Our house. Our rules. Period.

As a Catholic mother that's about as charitable as I could be.


#20

[quote="karow, post:19, topic:249089"]
Look at it this way:

  • A man comes to your home and apparently doesn't have the courtesy or common sense to knock on your door. Instead, he sticks his head through a window.

  • A man wants to spend time with your small child, a child barely out of toddlerhood. A child who cannot in any way make an informed decision about his day by taking into consideration what plans his family might already have. Instead of speaking to someone who can make such a decision, instead of getting permission from an adult to remove a child from his home, he asks the child directly if he wants to leave the home.

  • A man wants to take your small child from his home. Instead of teaching this child proper home-leaving ettiquette (i.e., use the flippin' door) he pulls the child through a window.

  • A man takes a child from your home. He doesn't know what your plans for the day were. He doesn't know if you or the child had any appointments. He doesn't know if you've already made plans. He doesn't know anything. He doesn't know if he even has permission to do so.

  • A man takes a child from your home without giving you the slightest indication of when he plans on returning said child.

  • Have I already mention that a man has taken your child from your home without your permission?

This is the charitable Catholic in me talking. I don't care if this man was grandpa, Uncle Bob, Fr. Steven, Cousin Charley, my trusted neighbor, my husband's best friend, or my boss, anyone who took my child from my home without my permission, pulled my child through a window without my consent, would try it one time.

As they were walking away with the child I would pull the man aside so as not to have this conversation around the kid, and I would explain that I'm the decision-maker, I need to be asked permission. And in the future I need him to knock on the door. I would let him know I need him to have the child back in one hour. If 60 minutes have passed, I would go get the child myself.

As soon as possible, I would then sit down with my husband and explain that he also needs to have a word with this man, that this man needs to understand that husband and wife stand united in this matter, that this man has breached boundaries in a very counterproductive way.

If the man tried to take my child from my home without my permission a second time, I'd call law enforcement. If this man doesn't take me seriously, perhaps he'll take felony custodial interference charges seriously.

Our kids. Our house. Our rules. Period.

As a Catholic mother that's about as charitable as I could be.

[/quote]

Put it like that, it sounds like total disregard for any boundaries - and rightly so, it is. Yet still I have found myself sitting there smiling sweetly through gritted teeth when Grandad goes through this routine at the window. The last time he was actually gone 2.5 hours and I was asking my husband repeatedly to act - but he didn't. In the end, we had an appointment to keep so we had to phone to get him brought back.

I'm not a very assertive person anyway, as you've probably guessed by now, and trying to maintain a balance between keeping a good relationship with them and being respected as my childrens' mother seems impossible to me. I have chosen the path that appeases them in all situations, but that's because I'm having genuine difficulty in interpreting this "turn the other cheek" directive. I read of a saint recently whose husband treated her like dirt, paraded affairs and illegitimate children in front of her and the high society they lived in. She never rebuked or criticised him and stood by him through everything. When asked by one of her friends why she never said or did anything, her reply was, "And thus add my transgressions to his?"

When I read that I thought of so many situations where in the past I had let myself down by biting back at my husband in arguments, making the situation with my in-laws worse by winding up my hubbie about it. I was so unforgiving in the past. But trying to turn over a new leaf the last few years has now put me in this position where I'm the doormat, most likely enabling their behaviour, and not taking to my new role very well. The words "put up or shut up" come to mind too. I'm hardly accepting my cross well, am I??!!!


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