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Grandpa won't childproof house, so sweeten deal for him to visit

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Grandpa won't childproof house, so sweeten deal for him to visit

Miami: My widowed father-in-law's house is literally a hazard for my two kids. A few examples: He leaves large spray containers of insecticide and weed killer in the dining room. He has lights near the floor, uncovered, with no bulbs. He leaves full buckets of dirty mop water in his kitchen. He leaves power tools on his desk in the living room.

My 2-year-old has tried spraying these jugs, putting his fingers in the light sockets, bathing in the mop water and pulling a chain saw onto his head. I was able to catch him before he did these things, but it scares me. It's all my husband and I can do to keep the kids out of danger when we visit. We've asked his dad to please make the house a little more kid-friendly, otherwise we can't visit. He gets irate and says I should teach my kids (did I mention they are 2 and 3?) to stay out of things that don't belong to them. Am I fair in deciding we can't go to his house anymore, and he needs to visit us (we're only a few miles away)?

Carolyn: Fairness is not the issue here. Safety is, and you have to protect your kids.

I have to wonder why you're even asking, though, given the almost cartoonish extremes of the hazards. Are you and your husband in agreement about staying away?

Meanwhile, this house sounds like a hazard to your father-in-law. When was the last time he got a thorough checkup?

Miami again: We are in agreement, but feel guilty about it. In the 15 or so years I've known the man, his house has always been like this. It was just never much of an issue until we had kids. We try as much as possible to get him to visit at our home but to no avail. He will grudgingly come every once in a while and then spend the entire time complaining that we never visit him. I feel bad for him.

Carolyn: That's good news, that you and your husband aren't working against each other.

But you're both giving your father-in-law way too much power. I can see feeling bad for his inability to act in his own best interests — that is hard to watch. But the circumstances are making it as easy as possible to withhold visits (which is, admittedly, always difficult): He's completely in the wrong, completely unreasonable about it and completely out of line for guilt-tripping you. You have a black-and-white danger issue where so often there's only gray.

Because you obviously want Grandpa in your lives, I would suggest sweetening your invitations (offer rides, for example) and declining his with a set response: "We'd love to come to your house, and we're happy to come help you childproof it." Say it every single time. At minimum, you never validate his argument that you're snubbing him personally. Best case, he actually relents and lets you help him clean up his house — and bring a playpen, some baby gates, etc., that you can store there for future visits. In the bathtub, perhaps.

Grandpa won't childproof house, so sweeten deal for him to visit 04/23/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 22, 2010 6:18pm]
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