Trying to avoid drama between protective mother and laid-back grandparents
August 28, 2010 6:11 PM   Subscribe

Grandparents (my parents) want to take my precocious ~3 year old and his ~5 year old cousin out for the day, wife is nervous and wants me to go, but the grandparents are put off, how do I handle this diplomatically?

My parents would like to take their grandchildren on an outing in a place with lots of crowds and constant activity. They offered this a week ago and we were happy to have a break, as we've also got a newborn to take care of. Since then my wife's gotten increasingly anxious about this and wants me to go along. She's uncomfortable voicing her concerns because my parents aren't exactly approachable, but they do have a pretty relaxed attitude because I was a much more manageable child (supposedly) and it does make us nervous sometimes.

Of course my father wants this to be "just them and the boys" and is unwilling to accept my accompaniment without a debate that will come down to "we don't entirely trust you, we're worried that something will happen." Doesn't help that our son is pretty high maintenance and likes to get into everything like most toddler boys and they said "don't worry, the other kid will keep him in line." I guess they haven't noticed that when the two kids are left alone, the 5 year old likes to practice arm locks and various wrestling moves on my son, who mostly doesn't seem to mind but when I catch this in the act it looks pretty borderline abusive to me and I break it up.

I can handle the conversation "please don't think for a second that you can let a 5 year old keep his eyes on a 3 year old" and I think they were *mostly* joking (the older kid's mom was present and I spared her feelings and didn't shoot this down then and there), but I'm not sure how best to handle this without hurting a lot of feelings everywhere.

Ultimately I think it comes down to making mom-with-new-baby feel comfortable and it's my job to protect her comfort level so she can relax and be at peace while nursing new-baby every hour, but she's quite protective in general and we can't really take advantage of the kindness of various members of our family to watch our child for very long without setting off an anxious panic in my wife. I have concerns too but would like to give them a chance, and if they aren't willing, I'd like to be able to go with them without setting off an emotional chain reaction in my parents. I wish dad was a little more approachable, but what can you do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (41 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd remind your wife that your parents managed to raise you well enough so a day trip will be no problem.
posted by NoraCharles at 6:21 PM on August 28, 2010 [6 favorites]

If she doesn't want the child to go she needs to speak up to them herself. Part of being a parent is advocating for your children.

I personally think your kid will be fine with the grandparents but I am not your child's mom. MOM needs to speak up if she is the one with the concerns. If you have concerns as well then you need to speak up with her.

Trust me, life will give you plenty of uncomfortable opportunities to choose to either freak out or advocate for your children. Now is as good a time as any to get used to it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:22 PM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is wife willing to be the "bad guy" here? (I ask partly because I would be willing, so it seems reasonable to me.)

If so, you could take your parents aside and say something like, "We're excited that you want to do a grandparent/grandkid outing, and we're happy that you're so interested in our kid, but (wife) is just REALLY nervous about letting (son) out of her sight. Can you help me reassure her? We just want to go over some things about (son) to make sure you're explicitly aware of his (whatever). And maybe you could set things up so that it's more reassuring to her, like one of you will be full-time watching each kid during the outing."
posted by galadriel at 6:22 PM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you don't want your son to go on an outing with your parents you need to be a grown up and tell your parents no--tell them the truth. That your wife is overly protective and in a nervous state right now. Or better--have her tell them since she's the one with the (I think unreasonable) concerns. I don't see the cause for alarm here at all. Your wife seems to be inventing a crisis. Life is full of crowds and constant activity that a healthy, well-adjusted child will need to get used to. --Why stunt your child's social development in this arena? And worse, why keep him from the love of his grandparents?
posted by applemeat at 6:28 PM on August 28, 2010 [13 favorites]

While it would be great to be able to say where the anxiety is really coming from, perhaps you can frame it as more "Dad how about this first time I tag along to help out a bit?" I'm not sure how advanced your son is in regards to toilet training and cleaning up poop avoidance may be a good excuse to help out.
posted by gomichild at 6:28 PM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I guess they haven't noticed that when the two kids are left alone, the 5 year old likes to practice arm locks and various wrestling moves on my son, who mostly doesn't seem to mind but when I catch this in the act it looks pretty borderline abusive to me and I break it up.

Having raised one kid and shipped her off to college, here's my advice: Address the above info with the grandparents, reassure the wife that you came out ok, and it's good to have the grandparents willing to do that and see what happens. The grandparents may not deal with the child exactly as you would, but that's ok, they're grandparents, they're not supposed to.

When the kids comes back, ask him how he enjoyed himself and what he did. Do it in conversational way, you're just talking. The point is to figure if the child was comfortable and if he was doing things you guys are ok with.

Also, I'd talk to your wife. Being over protective can be unhealthy, though it depends on the degree of it of course. I don't see much of a problem in your situation except your wife being overly concerned and unwilling to voice her concerns and wanting you to tag along. That's what is creating the friction here, it seems. That doesn't seem like a good dynamic and it seems like one that'll be repeated. After all, how long is she going to be that protective of the kid? Till he's 4? 5? 6? When does it end? I don't mean to be rude and of course I could be wrong, you know your wife better than anyone here. But looking at the situation, based on what you've written, your wife seems to be having issues with trust and being too protective and they need to be addressed, first and foremost.
posted by nomadicink at 6:35 PM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

When my little brother was around that age (4? maybe?), he went on a three week RV trip from New Orleans to northern Michigan with my grandparents. Nobody was concerned about this. He came back in one piece.

I'll also say that, as the oldest kid in my family, it was absolutely key that I was able to go off with my grandparents for a few days here and there when my brothers were little. For my own personal sanity as well as my mom's.

If the kid is potty trained, I say let him go. I don't know what to say to your wife, but srsly. The kid is going to be fine. More than fine.
posted by Sara C. at 6:38 PM on August 28, 2010

I wish you had given a throwaway email. Please create one and email me. Or use me-mail.
posted by bilabial at 6:44 PM on August 28, 2010

pretty relaxed attitude because I was a much more manageable child (supposedly) and it does make us nervous sometimes

Your wife just had a baby, has some anxiety, and your parents' casual attitude makes you both nervous. I'd strongly suggest having your parents watch your kid (this time) somewhere other than wherever it is they want to take him. Start off by having them watch him at their house. Have them bring him back before your wife is expecting him so she doesn't have a chance to lapse into anxious panic mode. You'll have to start off slowly and ease into those crowded, high activity situations where they have your son for the entire day. If I'm reading between the lines correctly it seems that you would probably appreciate some alone time with your wife too, so help everyone by explaining to your parents that everyone needs to take it slowly. If your wife feels comfortable, she's going to be more apt to say yes next time and the time after that. It's obviously hard for her to trust someone other than you with your children so she needs some time to adjust.
posted by iconomy at 7:28 PM on August 28, 2010 [5 favorites]

Please help your wife get over this. Because I suspect you both would really benefit from a day with just the baby. Seriously, what does she think is going to happen, that your parents are going to lose the kid? Children all over the world spend the day with people who are not their parents all the time, and come out just fine.

If it ends up being too much for your parents, they'll call you. No big deal.

You might have your wife read the Free Range Kids blog.

I would be praising the gods if my parents offered to take my kids for a whole day. And with cousin? Even better.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:31 PM on August 28, 2010 [5 favorites]

Just re-read your post... it sounds like your wife is feeling anxious about letting your child go with anyone, for any length of time. I'm going to say that your wife really needs some help in dealing with this. It is not healthy not to trust family and friends to babysit for brief periods.

Could this be a manifestation of some post-natal depression? Could she talk to her doctor about this? Is this some kind of guilt that the older kid is being pushed aside for the baby?

I know you want to make your wife comfortable, but dancing around and enabling unreasonable anxieties isn't healthy for anyone. Good luck.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:34 PM on August 28, 2010 [8 favorites]

Please don't say or imply to your parents that your wife (or even you) are being "overly protective". Your concerns sound very legitimate. You can talk about them gently, but don't be too circumspect. I would want my parents to protect me from a potentially bullying person almost twice my size.

Is there any chance you all could start with a less challenging outing, so your parents will have a better handle on taking care of a more rambunctious child before adding in the crowd and the additional child?
posted by amtho at 7:36 PM on August 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

I think it matters that your parents aren't approachable. You don't specify what that means, but I'm guessing you mean that they either get defensive or dismissive when you or your wife expresses a view they disagree with, and that that includes your views on parenting. If this is the case, it's a serious problem. It's not at all overprotective to be wary of leaving your 3-year-old with people who are dismissive or disrespectful of your parenting choices.

I don't think this is necessarily about this one proposed outing, which may or may not be safe. I think this is about leaving your young child with people you both feel you can't be assertive with. I don't mean you should be telling them what to do step by step or structuring every moment they share with your kid, but I mean you should be comfortable talking honestly with them and expressing concerns you have. And if you're not comfortable expressing concerns to anyone, grandparent or not, that person shouldn't be caring for your child without you present.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:38 PM on August 28, 2010 [11 favorites]

Eh, I dunno. While I think it is generally true that they're your kids and you're perfectly within your rights to ask the other adults in your life to respect your choices insofar as how you want them brought up, and that there may be situations in which you need to have a confrontation to make this clear, in this situation my gut feeling is you're kind of over-reacting.

I mean, is there something wrong with you? Or your siblings? Were your parents abusive or neglectful in any way? Are your parents physically incapable of keeping up with little kids? Are your kids suffering from any kind of psychological or mood disorder? If the answer to one of these questions is yes, then I guess maybe you do need to have an extremely awkward confrontation with them where you question their parenting skills and imply that you don't trust them with your kids.

If, on the other hand, the answer is no, they were perfectly fine parents who are perhaps a tad more relaxed than you, then I think maybe it's you and the wife who need to chill a bit and let them hang out for a day. Because in that case I think the overwhelmingly likely thing is that they'll be out of your hair for a while, they'll be returned to you perfectly content and with the exact same number of fingers and toes they had when they left, and the next time their grandparents want to take them somewhere you'll be happy to see them go.
posted by Diablevert at 8:20 PM on August 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ultimately I think it comes down to making mom-with-new-baby feel comfortable and it's my job to protect her comfort level so she can relax and be at peace while nursing new-baby every hour

This is seriously the only answer. Your parents feelings might be hurt but it is not your job to protect them. Your job is to protect your wife and your children. Yes, your mom and dad will likely do fine with your son out in the world, but that is not the issue.

YOU need to tell YOUR mom and dad (do not even think about putting this added burden on you wife*) that what they want to do is not going to happen. Do not apologize, do not say it is your wife's over-protectiveness**, etc. Just explain what is okay and what is not and do not argue about it.

* I have a strongly held opinion that in extended family situations, the blood relative should speak on behalf of the immediate family. You have the lifetime of history with your family and you presumably know how to handle them the best. Also, it would be easier for your parents to make their daughter in law the scapegoat for any decisions they do not like coming out of your immediate family unit.

Also, your wife and mother to a newborn AND a 3 year old is severely taxed right now. It would be extraordinarily cowardly to hide behind her and ask her to have an unpleasant conversation with your parents who you describe as dismissive and unapproachable. Please do not do this. I usually do not like this expression, but Man Up and be your wife's hero. And it wouldn't hurt you to finally change the dynamic between you and your dad -- I doubt he just recently became unapproachable.

** If your wife is indeed over-protective, deal with it internally when the newborn is not so new anymore. Do not do the cowardly thing and put the blame on her if you do decide to stand up to your old man.
posted by murrey at 8:53 PM on August 28, 2010 [14 favorites]

This sounds like a ridiculous power struggle, one that the parents of the child should always decide. Your parents want to help, but only if you won't come along, this seems like a huge red flag to me. Help with conditions of your absence isn't really help, especially since it sounds like they are dismissive about your child is needing different tactics than they intend on using.

Building a great relationship between a grandson and his grandparents is a wonderful thing, but it should be done in accordance to what you and your wife feel comfortable with.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 9:00 PM on August 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Unless the grandparents are totally irresponsible adults, with no sense of responsibility for THEIR grandchildren, let them go.

This is real life, an opportunity for extended family experiences that many families lack/have missed. My children's grandparents never did anything like this, and it is not only my children's loss, but the grandparents too.

It may not be a totally bump-free experience for all, but if you can't trust your parents with your children ...

Yes, you may have some fears, but part of being an adult is handling our fears, and showing our children about meeting and dealing with our/their fears. Importantly, we realise what fears are real (ie soundly based), and what have more to do with imagination and irrationality.

The other issue here is what sort of hurdle are you setting for allowing unsupervised access to your chilren? Relatives, babysitters, childcare, friends, sleepovers, etc etc. Who will you trust, and how will you know you can trust?

Final word: Children are pretty indestructible - they handle broken bones, bloody noses, hurt feelings, upset tummies and the other tribulations of childhood probably a lot better than their parents (speaking from experience!).
posted by GeeEmm at 9:09 PM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

On the one hand, I'm sure your kid would be fine with the grandparents. Maybe a lot of stuff would go in ways that wouldn't be totally ideal, but the space between "unacceptable" and "perfect" is pretty huge.

On the other hand? He's your kid. You guys get to call the shots with him, just like your grandparents called the shots with you. If y'all aren't comfortable with it, then you're not comfortable with it, full stop, and that's your right.

And, on the gripping hand, your wife is operating from a place of elevated concern right now, dealing with a newborn. You both are, but her more. Whether her concerns are objectively justified by present circumstances or not, her feelings are really important and should be taken seriously.

My advice? Don't try to make your parents OK with it, and don't try to spin it, just tell the truth. Just say "Listen, Cuz can be a bit physically aggressive, and Wife is feeling nervous enough about it that she won't be able to relax unless I go along. It has nothing to do with not trusting you; I'm just familiar with their dynamic, and for Wife's sake, I'd prefer to come with." And then just keep repeating that over and over. You can't guarantee they won't be hurt, but you can make sure that you're speaking only from your own concerns and not from any place of judgment on them.
posted by KathrynT at 9:15 PM on August 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm voting that you need to respect your wife's wishes right now. We, the AskMe population, really have no way of knowing if she's being unreasonable or if there's something in the past that has made her a little suspicious, or whatever, but for the sake of the argument, I'm going to assume that she's not mentally ill or has some ulterior motive. If your wife really has "an anxious panic" every time you leave your child with a family member and you think there's a mental health issue, then that's a whole other issue that needs to be dealt with in time, but I don't think it affects what you need to do right now. Your first priority is to your wife and your children. If you let your parents badger you or guilt trip you into doing something that your wife is not comfortable with right now, it's going to cause much bigger problems at home.

Additionally, I do not think it's fair to throw your wife under the bus or make her be the one to stand firm with your parents. If your wife has trust issues with your parents, deal with it directly with her, but it is not at all healthy to stand with your parents and against your wife when the issue is the care and safety of your children.

When I've had to have this conversation with my parents in the past, here's what I've tried to convey: 1) We love them 2) We genuinely appreciate that they want help and we, in fact, need their help 3) We think it's important that they continue to play a large role in our child's life, but 4) My wife and I ultimately get to make the decisions about the care of our child, and while we'd like them to understand our rationale for making decisions they disagree with, their failure to understand our reasoning does not affect the outcome of the decisions we make. You can sugar coat it if you like -- perhaps you're feeling a little more protective than usual with a brand new baby at home, or maybe you think the place they're taking them is too crowded without you going along, maybe in the future it would be okay, maybe someplace quieter or more controlled would be ok, whatever. But ultimately, offending them should be way, way less important than you and your wife feeling 100% confident about the well being of your children. And frankly, I would expect my parents, having raised children themselves, to be sensitive to this.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:33 PM on August 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Only say no this time if your wife is willing to set a date in the near future for them to take the kids another time. Because really, it's only a matter of time and it shouldn't be put off for very long.
posted by hermitosis at 9:38 PM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another thought. You just had a new baby. Is it possible your wife is worried that your 3 year old might be feeling abandoned by his parents? That seems like a perfectly valid concern.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:51 PM on August 28, 2010

My outsiders uninformed opinion is you both, along with a lot of people apparently, need to relax. Barring some detail about your parents you left out of your description, I'm sure they'll be fine with the kids.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:01 PM on August 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think people are responding to two different things: A) "My parents are not approachable people" and B) "they want to take our kid to something they think is fine but we're not sure about." Part B shouldn't be read separately from part A. If communication were fine with the grandparents, and they were saying, "We'd love to take Jr. to the [potentially questionable event], can we?" answers would and should vary between "stand your ground" and "lighten up." However, if communication with the grandparents is a problem, they shouldn't be alone with your kid. Period. You must be able to talk honestly and directly with the people caring for your child.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:36 PM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I do not think it's fair to throw your wife under the bus

I just want to reiterate that if (wife) is willing, then it's not unfair to her.

There've been several situations where I encourage my husband to "blame" me for various precautions, activities, etc that might be harder if he didn't have a clearly visible reason, just to make that sort of discussion go more smoothly. Hey, he's done it for me, too. If the spouse in question is involved and comfortable with it, then it's not unfair. (Although it would indeed be most unreasonable to do such a thing without discussing it first, or without agreement from said spouse.)

It could be done the other way, too, with (wife) doing the talking and (OP) pulling the role of "absent bad guy."
posted by galadriel at 10:42 PM on August 28, 2010

I think it's impossible to give a good answer to this question without knowing what kind of scenario we're talking about: (a) Newmom has spidey-sense that Grandparents have forgotten how hard it is to keep their eyes on two active little boys in a crowded public place and legitimately fears her 3-year-old is going to get lost or beat on by Cousin; or (b) Newmom, in the fog of postpartum emotionality, is whipping up irrational fears about what might happen to 3-year-old in the hands of perfectly capable Grandparents.

I'm all for free-range parenting but we haven't been given enough information to say this is the time for it. I also agree with the opinions above that Newmom deserves a little deference at this stage.
posted by lakeroon at 10:46 PM on August 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

For what it's worth, my comments above were reacting to these two lines:

They offered this a week ago and we were happy to have a break, as we've also got a newborn to take care of. Since then my wife's gotten increasingly anxious about this ...


she's quite protective in general and we can't really take advantage of the kindness of various members of our family to watch our child for very long without setting off an anxious panic in my wife

I might be misreading, but I'm seeing a new mom who gets stressed when the kid is away from her for too long, even when everything is perfectly fine. So if that's the root of the problem--a mom too stressed to let her kid out of her sight--that to me sounds like the problem to deal with. Maybe not right now, but, then again, why not right now?

But I know a lot of overprotective and very anxious parents, so my bias is always against that.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:15 PM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

The sleep deprivation right now is doubtless adding to your wife's anxiety and she might also feel a little fear that all the attention she gives the newborn means she is not giving enough to the three-year-old so a day when the toddler is gone that sounded really good a week ago now causes some anxiety. What ever the reason, if she continues to feel anxious about this you should respect her wishes right now. Later the two of you can work on it.

I feel that the child's parents have to stand united on issues like this and that you each should deal with your own parents and siblings whenever there is a conflict. Whatever the reason for it, your wife is anxious about this and so are you. I wouldn't want a potentially bullying cousin along if I couldn't talk to the adults in charge about this issue. He, too, will will be free of his parents' scrutiny and might take the opportunity to play a little rougher than you've heretofore observed.

An additional area of potential concern is the reaction of the child to the sustained stimulation of crowds and activity. Eating junk food and becoming over-stimulated can result in some crankiness when the outing is over and might even bring on a difficult bedtime scene. This won't increase the attractiveness of an outing with grandparents in your wife's eyes.

Possibly a postponement based on not taking them both together the first time or making the outing briefer would spare hurt feelings and allow you to take this more slowly and avoid too much anxiety.

You don't mention what your mother says about this. Is she not any more approachable than your father? If she is not more aware of potential problems on this trip than your father seems to be and you can't talk to her, either, maybe this is just too soon for an outing this fraught.

Grandparents usually will change their ways if they have to in order to have access to the grandkids. They might not like to, but they will. You really do hold all the cards here. Good luck.

Thumbs up for supporting your wife and understanding the physical and emotional demands on a new mother.
posted by Anitanola at 12:59 AM on August 29, 2010

Your kids should be able to spend time alone with their grandparents.

On the other hand, the grandparents must be willing to accept guidance from you on how to handle the kids, including such questions as where they take the kids. I agree with murray that it is the job of the blood relative (i.e. you) to have this conversation with the grandparents.
posted by alms at 3:17 AM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, grandparents are supposed to be more relaxed for two reasons- they have decades of experience bringing up kids and that gives them perspective and they had to enforce rules and make their kids eat their greens and because they are now grandparents they can be more easygoing about these things. Have you asked your son if he likes playing with his cousin, chances are he loves to and that he loves the playfighting they do as well.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:50 AM on August 29, 2010

but she's quite protective in general and we can't really take advantage of the kindness of various members of our family to watch our child for very long without setting off an anxious panic in my wife.

Eventually you two are going to want to go out for more than an hour. Maybe an overnight or weekend trip - just the 2 of you. That's going to be really difficult to pull off with 2 kids who have never spent a long stretch of time with anyone other than you and your wife.

And anecdotally, eventually your parents may stop asking you to take your kids places and end up taking the cousin and his current/future siblings. They'll be having a blast while your son and his sibling will wonder why they never get to go along. I lived that, and it was no fun.
posted by ladygypsy at 6:05 AM on August 29, 2010

I want to echo Anitanola (and others) one one point. This does sound like an issue to be addressed -- but, not right now. The key part here being the newborn.
posted by kmennie at 6:17 AM on August 29, 2010

I'm not sure what the question is: are you trying to figure out what YOU should be feeling here, and trying to figure out whether you agree with your wife, or with your parents? If that's the case, I think your parents are being perfectly reasonable. Some of the most fun times I've had with my grandparents was in these exact scenarios where they took me and by brother(s) out when the new(est) baby was new.

But if you are figuring out how to tell your parents no, then just tell them. "Hey, mom and dad, let's do it another time. The Mrs. is a little anxious right now and even though we probably do need the break, it won't really be a break for her if she's going to be all anxious the whole time."

It IS important how you "blame" your wife for this. If you do some version of "hey, I'm all for it, but you-know-who is saying no," you are increasing tension in the extended family. But if it is more like the above, where you simply explain the reason, and that you 100% support it, you aren't really "blaming" her as much as you are simply relating a family decision.
posted by gjc at 7:24 AM on August 29, 2010

I spent a ton of time with my grandparents from a very young age on up. These happen to be some of my best memories.
posted by Catbunny at 9:07 AM on August 29, 2010

My parents would like to take their grandchildren on an outing in a place with lots of crowds and constant activity

I keyed off of this sentence. When my youngest was 3 he would often be in his own world. He knew he was supposed to stay near me, but then he'd see something interesting in the distance, and just start wandering off. As a result, whenever I was in a place with lots of crowds, I was a nervous wreck, keeping constant watch over him, always holding his hand if possible. In a crowd, all it would take is 5 seconds, and he would be gone.

It all depends on your particular child and your particular grandparents. If you have doubts, then I second the advice of going with your grandparents to see how they handle your particular child.
posted by eye of newt at 9:54 AM on August 29, 2010

Wow. There are a bunch of things to balance here:

-Your wife is protective of her children. This is to be expected, up to a point.

- Your parents want to have a relationship with their grandson. This is fantastic, and to be encouraged. Grandparents really need un-intermediated time (meaning, no parental supervision) to really achieve this.

- Grandparents are supposed to be more permissive (I will never forget the time my MIL offered to give my son breakfast so I could go take a shower, and then when I was coming down the stairs post-shower I heard her say "now finish that cookie before your mommy gets here"--chocolate chip cookies for breakfast! But that's as it should be, really.)

-You describe your son as "high maintenance" and "precocious"- and you know your son better than your parents do. If your gut is uncomfortable with letting them take your son to this place with crowds and activity, listen to that.

All of these factors need to go into the hopper. You and your wife need to come up with a policy that works for your family, independent of how "approachable" your parents are. Once you've formulated the policy, then their approachability comes into play in how you communicate that policy to them. It may be that this is something to be eased into gradually, and your parents could start by having your son to their house, or taking him to the local park, for shorter periods than all day, and in situations where they can have 2 sets of eyeballs on your son for a while before adding another child to the mix.
posted by ambrosia at 11:08 AM on August 29, 2010

My kids are much older, and I was a pretty relaxed parent--my kids went to Guatemala with our nanny to visit her family--so my advice might be way off.

Unless the grandparents drink and drive, smoke in the car, or count a bag of Cheetos and a Bud Light as a suitable breakfast for a toddler, I don't see why they can't take the boys for a day. New mothers are hormonal, and typically very worried about the older kids' reactions to the new baby.

Has your precocious kid acted out in public before? What happened?

I guess I don't see the need for you to go, but you could have the big chat with your parents. Does your wife trust you to do that?
posted by Ideefixe at 12:15 PM on August 29, 2010

I totally understand where your wife is coming from!

You don't mention how old your parents are, but as someone who just returned from a 1-week vacation with my kids (ages 3 & 5) and my parents, I wouldn't be comfortable letting them try to handle my kids alone for an entire day...especially somewhere crowded and unfamiliar. Actually, after spending an uninterrupted week with my kids, I'm not sure my parents would even offer at this point. Not because they weren't great parents and not because they don't love my kids to pieces (they do!) but because they are pushing 70 and kids this age have no impulse control, poor decision making skills, an insane amount of energy and are friggin' fast. Things can get out of control quickly and your wife seems concerned about these "safety issues", not your parents giving the kids too much ice cream. Her concerns are totally legitimate and it annoys the hell out of me that people are suggesting that your wife has some "issues" she needs to overcome. POPPYCOCK!

Anyway, I'm all for grandparent involvement but maybe you could try what others have suggested and have your parents take the older child on this trip. It can be their special time together and they can take the 3-year old next time. Or maybe take both boys for the day but somewhere more mellow...the park, the library and then lunch.

Anyway, this is something you need to discuss with your parents and don't make your wife the baddie...she's not.
posted by victoriab at 12:48 PM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Victoriab, there's no need for that kind of language.
posted by applemeat at 1:06 PM on August 29, 2010

CLAPTRAP! Oh wait....
posted by victoriab at 1:24 PM on August 29, 2010

(a) Newmom has spidey-sense that Grandparents have forgotten how hard it is to keep their eyes on two active little boys in a crowded public place and legitimately fears her 3-year-old is going to get lost...

This! Because I've seen it happen in my own family, and there are certain members of the family who are NEVER going to be left alone with my child until said child is old enough to know how to stay out of traffic on her own. Age 3 is young. Parent X has gotten very slow. Parent Y has never exercized good judgement, even in her younger years. Our other parents are fine.

So it really depends on how much you trust them.
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:26 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

(Now I want to clarify that by "sounds like an issue to be addressed" I meant that OP and Mrs OP want to hash this stuff out together, not that Mrs OP "has issues" -- ta victoriab for clarifying a need for clarification there, though I do wish to make clear that I am aware that it was not specifically my own lack of clarity being made clear there. Possibly others may wish to clarify as well)
posted by kmennie at 1:13 PM on August 30, 2010

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