How to host a visit from my estranged father to meet his grandchild
November 7, 2016 8:10 PM   Subscribe

I haven't spoken to my father in 10 years. I now have a 22 month old and emailed him saying "Hey you have a grandkid. Come visit our town if you want to meet him." He wants to come for 4 days and stay at our house. I already know such a request is more than I could handle but I don't know what to tell him is more appropriate or logistically feasible. How do I plan this visit so that I don't cry too much or feel suffocated by awful feelings the whole time?

Background: He left my family when I was very young and I never developed a relationship with him past the age of 6. It doesn't help that his English is only okay and I don't speak his first language. In the past whenever I tried to engage with him on a personal level about anything he simply did not understand or would disagree and go silent. It was always awkward and he never did apologize for leaving. On some level I try to understand that he can't help who he is and is from a different time and place but I still have a lot of negative feelings towards him.

My relationship with my mother was similarly problematic so when she visited I enforced boundaries by having her stay at a hotel with her boyfriend, drive their own rental car, and only letting them visit while the baby was awake. I would feel weird asking my father to do this since he is not bringing his wife and would be alone for most meals and in the evenings. Is it okay to invite someone to take a 2 hour plane ride but then spend only a few hours with them per day? How many days is even appropriate here? I don't want the visit to end with guilt that I didn't allow him to spend enough time with his grandchild but I am also anxious about the specifics of having to planning this and how much I can handle. If you have experience with anything similar I'd appreciate your input on how to make this work. Thank you. Note: My household also includes my very supportive husband and we also have my lively 7 year old stepson part of the time.
posted by beekept to Human Relations (15 answers total)
Please feel no guilt. You are giving him a very generous gift.

Two hours one day, two hours the second day, that would be enough. Maybe he has a girlfriend or something, but if not, you could (unnecessarily) assuage your conscience by planning a list of places for him to visit that are interesting. A short list would be easier for you and better for him, too, since choosing stuff is hard (and if he's going to be picky he can make his own list).

He'll probably be fine at a hotel. He can watch TV or use his computer, or hang out at the restaurant or pool and read.

My experience is visiting parents and spending most of the time at the hotel or elsewhere. There's always plenty to do.

I realize that there is a different cultural expectation for him, probably, but he can work it out. If you want to be super kind you could find him a restaurant where his native language is spoken.
posted by amtho at 8:19 PM on November 7, 2016 [8 favorites]

Just because he's at a hotel doesn't mean he has to spend just a few hours a day with you guys. He can hang out at your house but I think it's incredibly healthy that he goes somewhere else after dinner or whatever. Not speaking for 10 years->every waking moment together for 4 days is bound to be rough on everyone. Just tell him you're not set up for houseguests (even if you have a guest room - just keep that door shut or something). Maybe invite his wife?
posted by bleep at 8:26 PM on November 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

Why are you in contact with him? It seems primarily so that he has a chance to know your child. You haven't really talked for 10 years, and you really don't have any relationship. Give him a chance to show that he is willing to have a relationship, but you do not need to open your home to him yet.

Maybe if things go well on this visit, there can be future visits. And maybe someday he can stay in your home. But not on the first visit. You really don't know him, and maybe you don't want him in your life. Protect yourself and be cautious. He can stay at a hotel.
posted by coberh at 8:35 PM on November 7, 2016 [9 favorites]

Four days staying with you is obviously way too much.

It's fine to tell him you aren't set up for houseguests. Suggest a hotel that's near something you can take your baby to for a few hours - a zoo? A nice park? 22 months is a tricky age because they are too big to sleep in a stroller but they are still easily tired babies... Still. There's only so much you can really do. Suggest spending morning with him at some nice place you can stroll, then when baby needs to nap you go home, then you can meet again after naptime for dinner, then everyone parts. Optional breakfast next day before he leaves.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:37 PM on November 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you're really feeling guilty and can afford it, maybe pick up his hotel tab. That should make this feel like a lot less of a burden for everyone.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:43 PM on November 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Okay. I'll ask him to find his own hotel and transportation to and from the airport and my house but will probably offer him with rides for the outings I don't trust him to navigate very well. 15 minutes in a car with him will be less trouble than trying to give a lost ESL speaker directions over the phone.

I realize that to most people outside this situation it all sounds simple but just hearing that it's okay to spend only a little bit of time with him is relieving, so thanks. The thought of having to do this for the next I-don't-know-how-long is bewildering and advice about starting slow is encouraging. And no, I don't want him in my life but this is what I personally have to make an effort to do.
posted by beekept at 9:30 PM on November 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

Remember, you're inviting him, not forcing him to visit, and if the (reasonable) terms that you outlined aren't acceptable to him, you still did a nice and gracious thing by reaching out to him.
posted by Pizzarina Sbarro at 9:31 PM on November 7, 2016 [11 favorites]

Definitely have him sleep somewhere not in your house. If there's anywhere nearby that has rooms with kitchenettes like a residence inn or something, set him up in one of those. You can go shopping and stock him with things for breakfast and snacks for the four days, and bring the family over to spend time in his room(s). You can bring the baby to him for some of the time, and if things go very well you can hand the baby off to your husband to spend some one on one time with him on neutral hotel lobby ground. This way nobody needs to worry about getting him breakfast, or really being in your house before noon. And your time with him is within your control - you get to decide when to leave when you're at the hotel. Many hotels will have shuttle service to and from the airport, so he can handle that himself. And depending on his first language, the hotel might even have someone who speaks it who can help him out with questions he might have.

For some people there's no such thing as "enough" time with their grandkid, but the flipside of that coin is that a 2 year old is a 2 year old and the time spent with them when you're not their parents is going to be pretty similar whether it's one afternoon or a whole week. You're being wonderfully generous and forgiving already by reaching out. After this, it's really on him to ask for more time with the kid, and entirely up to you whether or not you're okay with that in the future. Your responsibility is to your kid, and kids don't need grandparents who are blood related to them in their lives, they just need older experienced folks who love them.
posted by Mizu at 9:42 PM on November 7, 2016 [10 favorites]

I would actually love this set up. He's an adult and presumably used to time alone, if you did want him 24/7 in your home that could be overwhelming for him too. A few hours a day sounds like plenty for all.
posted by kitten magic at 12:11 AM on November 8, 2016

Hey, my dad also disappeared and we met up again under similar circumstances. You've got the arrangements sorted out but I want to pass along that when I reunited with my dad it was much more difficult for me than I had imagined. He was nice enough to everyone but seeing him with my kid really stirred me up.

Prepare yourself to have unexpected feelings, especially because now you're a parent. Plan for a lot of self-care, whether that's a run, a bath, ice cream, Monty Python, etc. Your emotional state will most definitely get riled up by seeing him.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:20 AM on November 8, 2016 [6 favorites]

Your obligation is to your child and the family that you have created, not to the family you came from. Given your father's choices with the family he created, he may not understand that. That's ok - it's not your responsibility to teach him or make him understand, even if you could.
posted by headnsouth at 5:01 AM on November 8, 2016

Plus a place w/a pool might be interesting for the 2yo.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:55 AM on November 8, 2016

Definitely don't host him. Tell him to find a hotel, and meet him for coffee o dinner in a neutral place without your child first. If that goes well, then you can invite him over. If he balks at this plan, reschedule for another time.

Trust your gut. Do not do anything you're uncomfortable with. Your first obligation is to your son.
posted by snickerdoodle at 11:15 AM on November 8, 2016

Update: I wrote him back saying he could come for 2 days (and perhaps dinner the night before) and suggested he stay at a hotel ... then 2 weeks later he wrote back saying he hoped he could see us soon? When I pressed for a more specific reply he said "maybe next year" and suggested we all fly to where he is and stay at his house. Yeeeeaah, no. Welp, back to just forgetting he exists most of the time! I hope he doesn't suggest visiting again anytime soon because this shit's exhausting.

Thanks for the advice, kind people. I'll use it all again the next time my dad suggests a visit and I have to think about it all over again.
posted by beekept at 8:39 PM on November 26, 2016

I'm sorry it turned out that way, but not surprised. Next time you will be ready with a disengaged "let me know the dates and where you're staying" and leave it at that. The exhausting part is investing emotionally in the belief/hope that he's changed. That buildup/letdown is a bitch every time.
posted by headnsouth at 6:00 AM on November 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

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