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Not to want recovering alcoholic FIL to look after the DC (2 and 5), DH says IABU

(98 Posts)
Graveyard Sat 16-Mar-13 08:19:40

FIL is an alcoholic, but following a recent bereavement (his partner died) says he has been sober for just under two months (I believe him). He is otherwise in OK health, in his early 60s and retired. Until recently, he has not spent much time with his (adult) children or grandchildren (he has six, GC our DC and Dh's siblings' DC, ages 0-5, all live 60-90mins from him), seeing them 2/3 times a year at events.

DH and I have argued in the past because FIL occasionally expressed interest in having our eldest DC to stay overnight "when they are bigger" or taking one or both DC out in the daytime in his local area, by car. I said no (to DH, FIL never mentioned to me directly): they do not know him well, he is not used to caring for small children, and is an alcoholic so I have concerns about his ability to keep them safe; but that if FIL wanted to spend more time with them, we could visit/have him visit/do things together with the Dc etc.

I also didn't like that FIL spent little time with DH and rarely even had a conversation with me (he was very detached, having conversations with him was hard, unless he was drinking).

Since his partner became ill and died, FIL has wanted to spend much more time with his family, and is even changing one of the bedrooms in his house to one suitable for children (bunk beds etc). He has once again raised with DH the idea of the eldest GC (aged 4 and 5, our eldest and our DN) staying at his. The idea is that he would pick them up by car (90mins) and we would pick them up the next day. Or alternatively we'd visit him and he'd take both our DC (5 and 2) out alone.

I am still against this: he is sober, which is obviously good, but still seems detached (obviously he is feeling really sad due to the loss of his partner) and it is early days. I don't trust him yet. I have suggested continuing to spend time with him and just giving it some time.

DH thinks that I and was and am BU and is upset about the prospect of hurting his F's feelings. I think DH is way too protective over his father (for various reasons) and shouldn't put FIL's feelings over our children's safety or be so angry with me for my views/refusal to give FIL what he wants.

We discussed it last night. DH was angry and said that I would never relent, was overprotective of the DC, would always make excuses, and threatened to "play dirty" by not allowing my parents (who live far away but occasionally have DC for the day, eg when we go to a wedding, or babysit in the evening) to have the DC alone anymore. I told him that was a nasty thing to say. sad

Emilythornesbff Sat 16-Mar-13 08:52:26

Oh, if it's about perceived risk then the more "protective" parent gets the casting vote. But coming to a compromise is better surely.

Graveyard Sat 16-Mar-13 08:53:51

fil was sober during his childrens' childhood, started drinking heavily after they had left home.

I have tried to be positive, eg "let's do x, y and z with FIL, let's visit him, he is always welcome here" etc. Dh keeps pushing things back to the unsupervised contact.

Graveyard Sat 16-Mar-13 08:55:19

Kalidanger, I have used almost those exact words!

sad

Finallygotaroundtoit Sat 16-Mar-13 08:56:34

No chance!
DC don't know him - how terrifying for them to be packed off with a virtual stranger.

Why doesn't he want to spend time getting to know them with you present?

Also why is he an alcholic?

mrsstewpot Sat 16-Mar-13 08:56:34

It's not about getting the final say ffs!

OP shouldn't just hide her concerns and put her DC in a potentially dangerous situation so as not to challenge her DH! Jeeeeez!

DontmindifIdo Sat 16-Mar-13 08:58:03

OK - if your DH won't compromise on getting your FIL to get to know the DCs, keep saying no, keep saying once your DCs have got to know him, it'll be different but you aren't sending them over night to a stranger.

raspberryroop Sat 16-Mar-13 09:00:02

Ideal- parenting decisions should be taken jointly
Reality - most women have a much better perception of potential dangers and also how their children will deal with a relative stranger.

MyFabulousBoys Sat 16-Mar-13 09:04:59

I cannot believe you are being told you are being unreasonable!!!! I totally agree with dontmindifido.

It is wholly unreasonable of your FIL and DH to think this is a good plan. I think your DH is in a tricky position. Has he had any counselling to deal with his father's alcoholism? Growing up with an alcoholic parent can be very damaging. FIL has been sober for such a short time - is he having any support? AA meetings for example?

This is nothing to do with you being over-protective or your parents vs DH'S . I am a very involved and much loved aunt and have two of my own and even so, we still took it slowly when I had my youngest niece to stay as we don't live near them and wanted her to enjoy her stays, not be anxious!

We have a history of addiction in our families. FWIW a close family member is an addict, been clean for 14 years, sober mainly for that time. I still veto them having our kids because they are a loon! Nothing to do with the addictions!

lottiegarbanzo Sat 16-Mar-13 09:06:26

I wouldn't send the DCs to stay with anyone they hardly know, certainly not someone who is not accustomed to looking after small children.

I would spend time with him, all together, so he becomes familiar with them, they him, allow increasing amounts of time with him as primary supervisor while you're there and see how it goes.

You both need to feel comfortable with any carer. There can be discussion and persuasion but neither of you can be forced to place them in a situation you believe to be dangerous (very reasonably in this instance but the same would be true even if you were over-cautious).

Your H is being petty, childish and extremely unpleasant about limiting your parents access. He's treating your children as a commodity.

Nanny0gg Sat 16-Mar-13 09:07:38

My DH is a similar age and spends lots of time with our DGC who adore the bones of him - they climb over me to get to him!
He is fairly young for his age and fit. And after a day with the DGC he is on his knees! And he isn't even on his own! And I'm not entirely sure if he'd hear them if they were distressed in the night.
I think the OP is right to be concerned, even with taking the 'recovering alcoholism' out of the equation.
He doesn't sound particularly interested in small children. They don't really know him, he doesn't really know them. Heck, the OP doesn't really know him! He was a disengaged parent.
He has litlle knowledge of small children.

Not a lot of positives there.

It strikes me that since the death of his partner he's had a bit of a 'wake up call'. This is all very lovely, but he's moving too fast without thinking of the consequences.

I think he needs to spend more time with the families, getting to know all of them well before he has them on his own.

How would the DCs feel about being sent to stay with someone they don't know very well anyway? My DGC would be most distressed.

Graveyard Sat 16-Mar-13 09:10:28

FIL was an engaged parent and only started drinking heavily / being detached once his DC were teens/adults. No, DH will not have counselling (have suggested it in the past).

lottiegarbanzo Sat 16-Mar-13 09:12:16

Fwiw I would not have two children I didn't know well to stay with me, for fear of what could happen and, more likely, that they'd be miserable or badly behaved and not respond to comfort or authority from me.

If a friend wanted me to babysit for children that age, I'd insist on my staying at their house, with their parents a phone call away. I'm probably more tuned in to children and capable than you FIL.

binger Sat 16-Mar-13 09:16:22

As a child of an alcoholic, with long periods of abstinence I would say no way, don't do it. The risk is too great and I speak from experience. Yes perhaps I'm unreasonable as my case was extreme but I personally just would not do it.

kalidanger Sat 16-Mar-13 09:17:17

Kalidanger, I have used almost those exact words!

What did he say in response?? He's not being reasonable. Going slowly is the only reasonable response, putting aside the 'final say' stuff, which I also think its reasonable of you to have in these circumstances hmm

diddl Sat 16-Mar-13 09:22:52

Why is husband so keen on the overnight?

For his own sake or his father's??

I agree that he doesn't know the children well enough yet.

For that matter-why is FIL suddenly so fussed about overnights??

Fanjounchained Sat 16-Mar-13 09:23:11

His alcoholism aside, he doesn't know the kids and has no experience of dealing with young children. That in itself would be enough for me to say "no, you are not taking responsibility of my children". Throw his alcoholism into the equation and it's a no brainer for me. Your DH is being completely unreasonable and very immature with his threats.

My brother is an alcoholic. He now works abroad and I believe that he has been dry for around 6 months now. I'm happy for him and wish him the best. But I wouldn't trust him with my goldfish let alone the 2 most precious things I have. I am perfectly aware that people think I'm over protective, judgemental and very unforgiving. But I can live with that.

cantreachmytoes Sat 16-Mar-13 09:26:04

Am a bit shocked that so many people think OP is being U! Am wondering if there is either a misunderstanding about what being an alcoholic means or that it's just been missed.

Just because FIL has been widowed does NOT change the fact that he has an addiction/illness overnight! Sad, yes, made him reevaluate, quite possibly, but "cured" him? Certainly not. Yet. To keep away from alcohol is, I understand, a lifelong task for recovering alcoholics and definitely not an easy one. Many fail, many times. It's not long since his loss and as much as he, and OP's DH, might WISH to believe that he's put it all behind him already, it is not that simple (sadly).

Being an alcoholic doesn't mean just having a few too many at the weekend and there are a host of other traits that accompany it. If OP said her FIL has been addicted to soft drugs for years, but had been "clean" for two months, I wonder if the responses would have been the same.

There's nothing wrong with hoping this change is for the rest if his life, with giving him the benefit of the doubt about his drinking in the future etc, BUT that is not the same as packing her kids off to be alone unsupervised with him.

Being a grandparent isn't a right, it's a honour.

OP, I think you are DDDDNBU. I also don't think there is any harm in having him over alternate weekends etc, with you there. At least to start with. Then see how it goes. Baby steps, so everyone is happy.

Maybe you need to tell your OH that you also want your kids to have a relationship with FIL, with his side of the family, etc, you have no problem with that, but you don't want to put too much strain on FIL as he is in early grieving and not used to kids (don't mention the drinking, as it seems OH is touchy about that aspect and there's plenty else to go on without that) and the kids aren't used to him. You want your kids to have GOOD times with him and him with them. Maybe a "positive" spin would help?

If you had come on here saying "I left my DC with my recovering alcoholic FIL who was sober for two months but started drinking again without our knowledge and x accident happened to DC1" you would get roasted for being irresponsible. Two months, ESPECIALLY, after a loss isn't long at all. A good step forward, but not enough to mean it's definitely all in the past.

cantreachmytoes Sat 16-Mar-13 09:28:45

Aah, seemed the thread updated about 3hrs while I wrote ^...

WinkyWinkola Sat 16-Mar-13 09:32:11

It's nothing to do with owning children. What a weird comment. It's about responsible for them.

1. Your dcs don't know their grandfather. He is a stranger to them. I wouldn't let my dcs go anywhere with someone they barely know.

2. He's barely dry. It's not enough yet.

3. If he was an absent father then what clue does he have about children? What if the stress sets him off drinking again?

Being related by blood does not give you instant rights.

This grandfather would make to do an awful lot more effort before I would entrust my dcs, who are my responsibility - not owned by me - to him.

If he's really keen to get to know his gcs, then he should shake a leg a f make the effort to come and visit and accept you all visiting him. That way building up a relationship.

Going straight from nothing (because the gf won't remember much of his gcs before he was sober) to overnighters is frankly, crackers.

Op, you are responsible for them and I think your position of caution whilst encouraging the slow building of a relationship is the right one.

WinkyWinkola Sat 16-Mar-13 09:34:50

Bloody phone and my typos. Soz

Graveyard Sat 16-Mar-13 09:46:18

Thanks everyone.

Tbf, FIL wasn't absent during his childrren's childhoods. But he has been distant/absent for the last 15-20 years and until recently.

I think DH is overly worried about his father's feelings. it is complicated. But I do still think HIBU.

TheElephantIsADaintyBird Sat 16-Mar-13 09:48:45

Yanbu. My views might be tainted as my mother is an alcoholic, but I would never leave a child with one. The thing about a lot of alcoholics is that they're selfish, they only think of themselves first. Not good with young kids around!

I'd say if he really wants more to do with them then he needs to get to know them first, and build up your trust in him. He can't just say he's cured after 2 months of not drinking.

Graveyard Sat 16-Mar-13 09:50:19

Diddl, the occasional overnight arrangement is one that FIL had with his parents and DH and siblings: FIL's parents didn't want to spend time with very small GC to visit but enjoyed having the older ones visit overnight (one at a time) sometimes, with regular family visits etc in between. They lived near each other. These visits were something DH enjoyed as a child, although suspect he was a few years older when he stayed at his GPs.

fIL has sometimes expressed the view that small children aren't very interesting/enjoyable but that he looks forward to getting to know them when they are toilet trained/well-behaved, can converse etc hmm.

maddening Sat 16-Mar-13 10:03:56

Yanbu - a.recovering addict is not the best person to have the dc because he feels like it.

I would say lot of visits where you stay over as a family would be more suitable.

Whether you feel more confident later is a different matter but 2 months in to recovery while dealing with bereavement is not it.

TheElephantIsADaintyBird Sat 16-Mar-13 10:18:41

So has your DH ever seen how your FIL would be around your kids? My first step would be a visit as a family, but take a step back and see how FIL copes with the children while you're there.
Your DH is going to have to compromise and I think having a few more family visits would be the place to start.

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