Baby-sitting grandma puts freedom over safety

(Photographee.eu/Fotolia)

(Photographee.eu/Fotolia)

Amy Dickinson, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:06 PM ET

DEAR AMY: I have a concern about how my mother-in-law baby-sits my toddler son.

She is a very free-spirited woman who believes that my son should have a lot of freedom.

She feels that playing with sticks, running free in a store, chewing on ice and exploring the garage (which is filled with many adult tools) are all acceptable things for him to do.

His dad and I have told her many times how we feel, but she thinks we are being too protective, and she does these things and other unsafe activities regardless of what we say. She loves her grandson very much and loves to watch him once a week while I go to the gym or run errands.

We hate to tell her that she can't watch him but we are thinking about informing her that she can only watch him supervised. How can we tell her more clearly that these activities are unacceptable? We have tried but she doesn't see our point of view. -- Concerned Mom

DEAR CONCERNED: Rather than debate the relative merits of free-range vs. risk-reduction, let's boil this down to its most basic component: You are the parents.

The fact is that many readers (myself included) managed to survive childhoods that were dangerous -- certainly by today's standards. But I know of other children who did not survive their childhoods. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 9,000 children die each year (and 250,000 are hospitalized) due to unintentional injuries. At the CDC, they don't term these as "accidents" because they are "predictable and preventable."

Free play is wonderful, but no heartache could match that of a child being injured or killed while under the care of a loving grandparent.

Let's stipulate that you and your husband have the normal amount of anxiety about your child's safety. But even if you wanted Grandma to adhere to a gluten-free, risk-free, boy-in-a-bubble routine, she should respect your choice.

Your mother-in-law is behaving like a defiant, naughty toddler. There should be consequences. Invite her to spend time with him supervised until she shows she will respect you -- or until your son gets old enough to demonstrate better judgment than his gran has.

DEAR AMY: My husband's two sons (ages 23 and 19) have been selling drugs from their home for the past five or more years. They live with their mother, who is rarely home. Their mother is aware of this but doesn't seem to mind.

Both boys struggle to live responsibly. They pay no rent to stay there and have no ambition to go to school or get a job, etc. They party a lot and hang out playing video games all day.

I am concerned they will never grow out of this mentality if nothing changes (and nothing has in all of their formative years).

Knowing there is illegal activity going on (which is definitely a hindrance to their development) should I anonymously tell the police about it and "bust" them?

Is this my responsibility as a stepmom? -- Stepwondering

DEAR STEPWONDERING: Is it your responsibility as a stepmother to call the police on your stepchildren?

Um, no.

Your responsibility is to the father of these children. He is neglecting his duty to his sons, and you should encourage him to do everything humanly possible to intervene, in the hopes that they will choose to try to turn their lives around before it's too late.

Their father should make an effort to guide them, and you should support his efforts. If in his judgment they should be busted, then you should back him up -- but I believe you have a naive view of whatever magical effect an arrest would have on their development.

DEAR AMY: "Terrified" worried about a mom who insisted on riding a motorcycle without a helmet. You (and others) have deemed this "selfish."

I think -- hey, she is a grown woman. She can do what she wants, and she should do what she wants without being judged by the likes of you. -- Disappointed

DEAR DISAPPOINTED: The statistics on motorcycle accidents don't lie -- this person's choice does have a cost, which would be borne by others.

 


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