Dear Annie: Setting boundaries with visiting parent
Dear Annie: My children and I live about 350 miles away from my parents. Since moving away 13 years ago, my father has traveled out every month and stayed at our house for about a week each time. These visits are welcomed by my children, who really enjoy his company. I understand that this time is important for them, but these visits are wearing on me because of his lack of respect for my house rules and boundaries.
I’ll give you some examples. For one, he shows up unannounced every month. I have a general idea of what day but never exact dates for his arrival and departure. This makes planning activities around this stay problematic. Despite being asked not to on multiple occasions, he brings a lot of candy, doughnuts and other treats to the house for the kids. I have one child who has behavioral issues when he eats too much sugar, and I am able to control it much better without these temptations in the house. Also, my dad smokes on the front porch and refuses to use an ashtray. I am left to clean up the mess. He controls the TV and has it blaring day and night, leaving me feeling frazzled.
I have tried to subtly ask for changes to be made, but they are ignored. I am increasingly frustrated with each month that passes. Could you please offer some advice? Should I just tolerate it because he is my father and the grandkids enjoy him? -- Frazzled Daughter
Dear Frazzled Daughter: Though your children might enjoy seeing their grandpa, I doubt they enjoy seeing their mom so stressed. Kids absorb our emotional energy, even when we do our best to keep it from them. Your continuing to hold in this resentment would not be healthy for you or for them. Consider this a teachable moment in setting healthy boundaries.
You’ve tried subtlety when talking with your father; now it’s time for directness. Emphasize that you and the kids love seeing him, but tell him that while he’s in your house, he needs to follow your rules. If he still refuses to make an effort? Barring him from visiting altogether would probably not be a realistic or good option, but you could ask him to visit less often and for shorter durations. One week every month is a lot of time to spend feeling frazzled.
Dear Annie: It breaks my heart to read letters such as the one from “Disconcerted in Distress.” I will never understand why people can’t just always love their kids with all their hearts. I know it is really tough sometimes, but our children are amazing, and if they are given the love they need, they can do amazing things.
I am the mom of a lovely transgender person, and I love him so much. It was a struggle to understand his feelings at first and harder for some family members than others, but our job is to support our children and help them figure out who they are and continue to love them no matter what. My son is the same person he has always been. He had to grow up and figure that out the same way we all do as we mature. He is a wonderful human being, and I am sure that “Disconcerted in Distress” is, as well.
“Disconcerted in Distress,” please know that there are people out there who will love you no matter what, and if you have a hard time finding them, reach out to support organizations to find help. We are here! -- Still Love My Kid in Vermont
Dear SLMKIV: Congratulations on raising a wonderful human being, and thank you for offering words of comfort and encouragement for “Disconcerted in Distress.”