Not to want recovering alcoholic FIL to look after the DC (2 and 5), DH says IABU(98 Posts)
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.
YANBU but I have some sympathy for your DH. He has been through the pain of seeing his DF in the grip of alcoholism for 15+ years. He has probably dreamt of the day that his DF cared about something other than booze. Now that day is finally here and his DF wants to get involved with the grandchildren. It will be very difficult for your DH to say no.
Surely you can agree that letting your DC stay with their grandfather is an aspiration, but you need to take it gradually for everyone's sake? No elderly man should be exposed to a 2 year old for 24h hours if he has never looked after a toddler by himself . As others have said, get him to stay with you initially and (provided you are happy that he is learning how to cope), build up to letting him care for them for a few hours while you go out. Eventually he can have them overnight but not yet. But you have to convey to your DH that you are not rejecting his father; that your concerns are practical and that you will support his DF becoming more involved with the gc.
Littlebairn, he isn't a lifelong alcoholic, maybe for around 15-20 years? Still a long time!
Athinginyourlife, I hear what you're saying, DH has a blind spot when it comes to his father, despite the way FIL has behaved over a long period of time DH is weirdly overprotective of him. He just wants everything to be OK and think the best of him. And has lost sight of the risks to the DC.
An update, as the situation is still difficult. We have seen FIL a few more times, for a family gathering over easter, once at ours for a thing at school, and another weekend at his. All went fine, he says he is still sober, and seems it, although there was a small amount of alcohol in the house (wine and beer, for guests) and he says he plans to have champagne when he scatters his partner's ashes (no date planned).
He spent time with DH and made an effort with the DC. One scary incident, we were all out together, he pushed DC2's pushchair out into a busy road, not right into the traffic but way too far out IYSWIM. He has also recently had a car accident (his fault) and is replacing the car with a sporty one.
He recently had DN (age 4) to stay at his overnight (BIL and SIL have obviously agreed to this) and is now asking if DN and DC1 can stay at his together "for a night or a few days" in the summer holidays.
he first mentioned a few times that he plans to buy bunkbeds for his spare room. Then he brought up the direct request with DH (I don't know what DH said) in the evening once I'd gone to bed, then with me the next morning when we were alone. I said that I hoped we'd all spend time with him in the summer, but didn't think that i would be happy for DC1 to do that at this time, then we both let it drop.
Not yet discussed with DH (who has since been very busy at work and not home much). Am worried we will fall out over it, again. But still haven't changed my mind, I would never forgive FIL, DH or myself if I did and something went wrong.
Your husband seems to think his children are playthings to be doled out to mollify some people and to punish others.
I would be really disturbed at his priorities here.
Bestowing a 5 year old on an alcoholic stranger as a favour is not good parenting.
The fil should also be seeking to establish non drunk relationships with the rest of his family, not just the gcs.
Personally I'm very very wary of Al-anon the one my mum was connected to was very cultish.
As someone who has/had alcoholic grandparents (fairly young and like to have grandchildren and great grandchildren) I would say NO for the time being.
2 months is not long enough in my opinion for someone who has been a life long alcoholic I would be waiting at least a year.
In the main time I would expect my FIL to build a relationship with his GC seeing them regularly. It's quite a turn around to go from seeing someone a few times a year to over night visits I would want to make sure he is committed to being an active part of his DC life, not just a whim because he feels lonely.
I have little sympathy for lonely alcoholics, it's usually their selfish alchol dependent behaviour over many years that creates the loneliness they can't just pretend it didn't happen they need to work hard at reconnecting with family.
Thanks princess, I have actually directed DH to al-anon in the past, but he has never contacted them as far as I know, will mention them again.
Aldi, I have said throughout that I will help FIL to spend more time with us all. Will try to support him etc. admit that am uncomfortable with the GC (rather than his own - lovely - adult children or family as a whole) being the focus of the kind of hope you mention.
Can recognise FIL in bridget and others' descriptions of the impact of alcoholism on mental, physical health etc. He has a lot on his plate right now.
Tidydancer, I haven't lied to DH, and don't have an agenda to prevent unsupervised contact in the long-term, but it is early days.
Just to clarify OP. Other posters may not understand but when you drink to alcoholic levels it's not a matter of simply stopping, having a hangover then feeling normal.
When you are drinking to alcoholic levels you won't feel physically or mentally normal after days, or weeks. A lot of damage will have been done on a physical and mental level which takes a long time to heal.
I think the people who are saying 'just let him' don't really realize the level of that damage and think that two months later he will be fine. But he won't. I suffered severe levels of forgetfulness and intense emotions for a long time after stopping. Also depression and sometimes thoughts that weren't really in touch with reality for a long time.
YANBU. I have had problems with booze in the past and it does seriously affect you mentally. You have problems remembering things, problems with controlling emotions, problems with dealing with situations.
I know a lot of recovering alcoholics who are fabulous with kids and I would let mine spend loads of time with (including myself).
But two months is just two soon, the recovery is too fragile, his mental state won't be sufficiently stable and recovered.
Some people on this thread are being terribly politically correct and telling you that you must do it. I don't believe that they have much real experience of alcoholism and how alcohol affects your mental state - not only when you are drunk, but the rest of the time too.
For both your children's sakes and his sake please don't do it. It's too soon.
Tell your husband that he can do it in the future but not yet.
If you're unsure in any way then it's your right to be as U as you see fit.
Therefore YANBU to suddenly be expected to pack off the children for overnight stays after only two months of sobriety... YANBU.
YABU to not even try to find compromise. Your FIL has lost his partner, he's sober, he probably is desparate to make amends, to find peace, to be a better person, THE person he probably wishes he could have been to your DH. If you stop that, not only are YABU you are being heartless and cold.
However, there always ALWAYS is a middle ground. Softly softly. Baby steps. You invite him over more, Sunday lunch is always good. Get him involved in a fleeting, temporary routine. Then perhaps have days out together, all of you, visit him, see how your kids are, how his house is set up for them... after about 6 months of this and sobriety THEN you can naturally and organically start overnight visits. Surely?
YWBU to think "hey he's sober, lets drop the kids off and go to Monaco for the weekend" but equally YWBU to not start setting in motion a gentle process that may well mean that one day you CAN do that.
Losing someone you love often is a huge wake up call and regardless of that, I am huge believer in when someone wakes up, loved ones should be there to give them hope. You have that power. I totally understand your reservations, but start upping contact (supervised if you wish) and give him hope, give him a chance, and see if he grasps it or fucks it up. That way you can never be accused of being the bad guy.
I think you are absolutely right to be worried about your FIL having sole responsibility for your DC's. 2 months is no time at all in recovery and relapse is common. While I appreciate your DH want's to improve your DC's relationship with their Grandad this cannot be rushed. Your FIL needs to demonstrate to you that he can be trusted with his grandchildren and it is absolutely reasonable that you set the parameters for this. Some time spent together as a family on familiar territory will help your DC's get to know their Grandad, your FIL begin to understand what caring for young children involves, you to begin to trust him and your DH may be able to begin repairing the damage caused in his own relationship with his Father. Have you thought of contacting Al anon
www.al-anon.org.uk for advice? This is a charity that provides advice and support to family of alcoholics. You may find them helpful.
At the end of the day if you are not convinced if your children will be safe whether physically or emotionally (due to is apparent emotional disengagement) you should not be pressured into them having more contact than you are comfortable with.
If he wants to build a relationship with his gc and family he should be happy to come over and do park, tea shop, feeding ducks, Easter egg hunt whatever, and have gc over to visit for meals and fun, not leaping into overnights. GC are not grief therapy or alcohol distraction tools, and OP is NBU at all. Her DH is BU though, and what he said, even is said in heat of moment in grief is disturbing.
I often look after my grandson in the day, quite often for the whole day while parents at work, he has made it quite clear he doesnt really like to stay the night, however much he likes coming here = which is a lot. He likes to get back to mum and dad in the evening. Its about what the children want in my book not the grandparents. YANBU - this doesnt really sound ok, need to put the children first here.
Could your FIL not come and stay at yours for a night ? If his real priority is spending time with his grandchildren then when and where he sees them should be irrelevant
I so agree with this. I agree YANBU, he needs to get to know the children first and build up time with them, with you there. He can build up to small outings to the park etc once he feels more confident, and once you and your DH are confident they are safe with him. Two months from a bereavement is still such an emotionally difficult time, let alone with recovering alcoholism thrown in. Two months after my dad died I was still prone to sudden crying spells that came from no-where. I think you all need way more time before he has the enormous responsibilty of overnight stays.
Could your FIL not come and stay at yours for a night ? If his real priority is spending time with his grandchildren then when and where he sees them should be irrelevant. They'd be happy and settled in their own familiar enviroment and your mind would be at ease that they would not come to any harm.
I repeat that your DH is being totally irrational and not thinking of the welfare of his DCs.
If his main motive is the thought of a night of unlimited passion with you < at last>, then you can nip that thought in the bud, by telling him how worried you would be all night about the young DCs and would have to take a knock-out sleeping pill. < and wouldn't be. in the mood during the day either>
Ukatlast - don't be daft. Your post suggest that the OP's DH is not an equal parent and (if I read it right) that he wouldn't grieve as much if the DCs were hurt.
I can't even begin to explain just how ridiculous that concept is.
BTW - if your DH does say the choice is your DCs see FIL or you reduce contact with your parents, reduce contact with your parents, loudly call them when he's in the room telling them why, including that you aren't convinced that FIL has been dry long enough to be considered perminately sober, your DCs hardly know him but your DH won't compromise on some days with FIL at your house or days out with you there to get to know them etc. It's petty, but realising how it sounds might knock some sense in him...
Yanbu, 2 months is nothing. We have the same issue here, mil's husband died and she hit the bottle really hard (although she's always been an alcoholic). She has now also been sober for about 2 months after drinking so much that she put herself in hospital for 7 weeks and almost died (the reason for her eventually quitting the drink). She will definitely not be babysitting our dc, infact DP is pretty insistent that she won't ever be babysitting as he'll never fully be able to trust her.
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
Tidydancer she has the 'deciding vote' because she physically gave birth to them and therefore is likely motivated by their best interest.
She is the one who gets to grieve if the worst comes to the worst as a result of FIL's driving/drinking....whatever...
as someone else said kids are not toys to be shared and put down and picked up by all and sundry.
OP, you are not being unreasonable.
I have two relatives with alcohol abuse problems and even when they have "moments of soberity" I would not trust them with the welfare of a goldfish, let alone a child.
And your "D"H is a complete and utter prick for threatening to "play dirty" with your folks time with the GC.
Am aghast at your DH's comment about "playing dirty."
You're concerned about the welfare of your children, and your husband is openly planning to use the children to spite you?
Nobody will be happy if the children go to stay with FIL while they are all strangers. I think the way forward is to visit FIL as a family, and go out all together, and build up the relationship at an appropriate pace. Why is it so important to DH and FIL that he has the children alone from the outset?
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