Sharing Vacation With Brats

by admin on August 30, 2012

My boyfriend’s grandparents, who live across the country from us, have a timeshare in the Bahamas. They usually visit the islands for two weeks each spring.

They were kind enough to invite us last year, but we had a schedule conflict and could not go. They are planning the upcoming spring trip now, and have asked if we’d be able to make the trip out this year. We’d absolutely love to go, but are wary of spending a week with the boyfriend’s nephews and (new) niece.

Boyfriend’s sister, “Alice”, and her new husband, “James”, are very nice people whom we get along with very well. The issue is Alice’s three sons from a former relationship. The 12-year old is relatively well-behaved. The 11-year old has severe ADHD that is not well controlled by medication or therapy. During their last visit to us, the 11-year old knocked over furniture, would scream for no reason and dart out of the room (or once, almost into traffic), jump off stationary objects in public (stranger’s cars), and randomly hit and kicked people. His mother is mostly oblivious to this behavior.

The 6-year old is even worse, in my opinion. He’s been the “baby” of the family since he was born, and has often been cared for by Alice’s grandmother. He has no manners whatsoever, finds it amusing to scream into people’s ears while they are having a conversation, and had to be physically restrained from punching another child (a stranger) during a Chuck E. Cheese visit last year in an attempt to steal the other child’s game tickets.

Finally, to my question! Is there any polite way to ask if Alice’s children will be there at the same time we will? I’ve made several attempts to frame this question to Alice or the grandparents, but can see how any and/or all of them may sound rude or offensive. “We’d love to go, but don’t want to visit when the kids are there” sounds awful, even though its true. We are getting pressure on schedule from the boyfriend’s grandparents, and I’m afraid of appearing aloof or ungrateful at the offer.    0816-12

Due to your status as the girlfriend, I would strongly recommend that you make no further attempts to ask questions but rather leave this piece of conversation to your boyfriend.  They are his family and he needs to be the one interacting with them on this matter.

Boyfriend could frame the question as being interested in he and you wanting to be there alone with the grandparents in order to spend more quality time with them.  Or commit to going BUT wait to make reservations until it is known when Sis and kids will be there and then schedule your appearance to overlap the kid visit by a day or two but leaving the remaining days there as child-free.

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

jena rogers August 30, 2012 at 5:45 am

How about something like this? … “We’d love to go and are looking at our schedules to see about the possibility. So is anyone else going to be joining us?” Said in an excited tone that invites further conversation. And uncontrolled kids… yikes…

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Cherry August 30, 2012 at 5:58 am

If you do find yourself on holiday with this group, I would advise making an ally of the well behaved 12 year old.
As the girlfriend of a family member, your input may not be well received, but the oldest son is probably as sick to death of his brothers’ behaviour as you are and in a better position to be listened to. He’s also probably be very grateful for someone to acknowledge that he is a good kid, it’s just his brothers that are monsters.

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--Lia August 30, 2012 at 6:20 am

Actually, I don’t have a problem with stating the obvious. I see nothing wrong with asking “Ooh, what a lovely invitation. We’d love to go, but first I have to ask if B, and C will be along. You know I’ve had trouble with their behavior in the past and would rather not come if they’re there.” I think that’s better than pretending that the problem is really that you’re interested in quality time with the grandparents. If you say that, they’ll answer with something about how they’ll spend quality time with you while the kids are “playing.”

I also see nothing wrong with being upfront with Alice. I wouldn’t bring it up if she didn’t ask, but if word gets back to her that you don’t like being around her kids and she should confront you, I could imagine saying “I wouldn’t tell you how to bring up your children, but for my part, I don’t enjoy living around that much noise and violence. I’m afraid I’ll get hurt or I’ll watch someone else get seriously hurt, and even if injury isn’t involved, I can’t relax or enjoy myself knowing that the children are the center of attention in such extreme ways. That’s not my idea of a good time. If you want to vacation with us, I’d recommend seeing a family counselor who can help you learn how to deal with them.” That may not be short and sweet, but it is blunt and has more chance of helping over the long run than dodging the subject.

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Margo August 30, 2012 at 6:57 am

I think your b/f should ask his grandparents whether anyone else will be there. Is his relationship with them is close enough that they are asking him (and his partner) to holiday with them,it’s close enough to be upfront and honest.

Also – how big is this timeshare? if Alice and her family come along, wouldn’t that be 9 people in total, which might be problematic even if there were no issues about anyone’s behaviour.

If it turns out that Alice and her family are invited, then you and b/f may want to discuss with g/p how things will be arranged – you might find sharing accommodation more bearable if (a) it’s not your home being trashed and (b) you don’t have to be with them 24/7, but can do some days out or side trips which don’t include the children. Presumably the grandparents are aware of the children’s behaviour issues?

As you say that both Alice and James are lovely people, it should also be psossible to talk to them. he kety would be to be polite and synmpathetic rather than accusatory, and to make it about you, not them.
“We’d enjoy seeing you, but we have very limited vacation time and really want to be able to relax and unwind. We don’t have kids, so it’s hard for us to relax with kids around, we haven’t developed a parent’s ability to ‘switch off’ occasionally. I’d hate for your, and their, holiday to be spoiled by us gettting cranky as a result, so it wouldn’t work for us as a vacation to all be there together for a week. It would be fun to overlap for a day or two, if that’s practical”
it makes it about you not wanting a kid-focussed holiday, not about *their* kids being young hellions. And if they are nice people, I’m sure they know how high-maintenace and exhausting their children can be.

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Lo August 30, 2012 at 7:13 am

I agree that this is really an issue the boyfriend needs to take up with his sister. Not being family there’s really no way to get this across without coming off as judgemental in a bad way. It’s not fair that it should be so, as these kids are obviously a chore to be around, but you don’t want to alienate people who are so important in his life.

Not being a “kid” person myself, I often find that the best way to deal with this is to not let yourself be roped into dealing with them. It’s hard to sit by and watch a child from a group you’re in behave badly without wanting to intervene or die of embarrassment but they’re not your responsibility and so your sphere if influence is extremely limited. If the littlest one were to scream loudly in your ear, for example, you could stay, “stop that!” and then you could say something to his mother, but you can’t exactly punish them for it or try to control them.

Kids know when they’re not liked, trust me. If they are crying out for attention (and it seems the two younger ones are) it’s better to not play into it by getting overly frustrated. Giving them the cold shoulder sometimes forces them to try for your attention in a more appropriate way. I have a wonderful niece with a very bratty side who loves to be the center of attention. The silent treatment works wonders when her behaviour goes from irritating to disrespectful. It also helps if you talk to them like adults, as though you don’t expect to have to get down on their level. Leave the parental woes, worry, and embarrassment to mom and they can’t ruin your day. I know it’s easier said than done.

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Katrina August 30, 2012 at 8:12 am

I struggle with the same issue, only now that my husband and I have our own child it is more difficult. My nephews have such wonderful potential, but are turning into bullies. Grandma does not see this, and often “surprises” us with joint visits. We love these kids, but my pretty tough kid is upset by the mean behaviors and aggression. I have all the sympathy in the world for you. If you guys plan on having kids, make a plan now on how to handle this. Try forming an alliance with another family member to tag team the kids.

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Green123 August 30, 2012 at 8:26 am

I like the suggestion of ‘will anyone else be joining us?’ as a good neutral approach. That said, I’m not a child person at all (well behaved or not!) so I’d probably take a more direct approach.

However I’m not sure I agree with Admin and others that the OP is not ‘family’ because she is a girlfriend not a wife. I don’t know how long OP has been with her boyfriend, not that it matters, but if she is being involved in family events and a family holiday I think she is as entitled as anyone else to an opinion on family matters. It’s 2012, for goodness sake – one doesn’t have to have a wedding ring to be part of the family!

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Hemi August 30, 2012 at 8:37 am

I agree with @–Lia: Be upfront about it. BUT- I think at this point, the boyfriend needs to be the one handling it. I would bet that Alice, Jame & older brother are all tired of the non-stop stress involved with living/dealing with a child with apparently uncontrolled ADHD and another who raised with no manners or self-control. She probably is hoping everyone shows up and “helps” with the kids. I would decline that offer if it means spending my entire vacation with Alice & co.

I have a son with ADHD; he is now 19. When he was younger, I did allow him to take medicine during the school year to help with his impulse control. It can be tough to parent a child with ADHD. But you have to actually parent and not expect medicine and therapy to do it all. If his ADHD is so severe that medicine and therapy are not helping, I think it’s time to talk to the doctors about further testing.

If you do go and Alice & co is there, maybe you & BF could take the 12 year old on a day trip/outing? I bet he needs some adult attention and down time from his brothers.

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Roslyn August 30, 2012 at 8:38 am

No real advise, but you are not alone. My husband is the oldest of four, we have two kids who have been raised to be respectful. If they know they are going into a situation where they “will be bored” they arm themselves with books, hand held games, laptops, coloring books (depending on how old they were at the time.)

His three siblings all have kids and every single child is an animal and allowed to be an animal. We used to vacation at the beach and they ALL live near each other on the way to the beach so we would stay with his Mum and everyone got together etc. We put a stop to that (at the loss of our own vacations) because of the siblings behavior and later their wild children.

Thanks to me we are organized as a group and we were always ready to go and sitting and waiting sometimes for HOURS for them to organize etc for outings or days at the beach. We would arrive and I always had snacks and drinks for my kids, and they had nothing. So I started packing extra for everyone (at my expense) and then I would have to listen to the complaints of how “we don’t like this, we like that instead!!!”.

The last few vacations have been stealth vacations. We would go and get a campsite in the area and tell NO ONE and go to the beach and enjoy ourselves. They LIVE near the beach and never go, we love the beach.

Don’t ruin a vacation, the time and money to be miserable with someone else’s kids. You may adore the parents, you may want to spend time with the parents, but if they can’t keep a leash on dangerous and wild children it WILL ruin your time.

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Shalamar August 30, 2012 at 8:51 am

Ooh, boy, uncontrolled kids. My personal pet peeve, especially when the parents don’t do anything about it. We stopped visiting a friend of ours because her son, who also has ADHD, was a nightmare to be around. He thought it was funny, for example, to head-butt my husband in the stomach very hard (and once he hit my husband a bit below the stomach, if you know what I mean – the poor man was in pain for hours afterwards).

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Cami August 30, 2012 at 9:02 am

In my experience, there is no way to ignore that sort of behavior. Especially when it’s dangerous (running into the street) and destructive (climbing on other people’s cars or trying to punch/steal from others) and the parent is oblivious, it’s impossible to ignore because, well, someone has to keep the kid from killing himself. And the screaming? Honestly, I have hearing loss, but I can’t ignore screaming. It all sounds like a recipe for a ruined vacation and unless you have unlimited vacation time and funds, I can’t imagine why you’d waste money and even more precious, vacation time dealing with spoiled brats.

I’d ask my boyfriend to confirm if those family members are going. If they are, I’d excuse myself from the vacation. No ultimatums, just a simple decline of the invitation.

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Patti August 30, 2012 at 9:29 am

Wow, This certainly would be a vacation horror, Honestly, Yes, I would ask about the kids, and If the answer is yes, they are comming, then would say nicely, I am sorry, we need a vacation to relax and to visit with grandparents. I would not In any way go and spend that much time with those kids, , you would have a miserable time. Let the grandparents spend time with them. I would take a relaxing vacation with my boyfriend In piece and quiet. Enjoy your vcation alone.

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Snarkastic August 30, 2012 at 9:34 am

@Lia That’s a good way to start a family war.

OP, JUST DON’T GO! Get a kiddie pool and a heat lamp and call it a day. Haha.

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TJ August 30, 2012 at 9:42 am

you could ask who else is coming hinting that you might want to try to coordinate. they just wont realize that you’re coordinating the week opposite of them. if anyone asks you just say “so sad that we couldn’t join the same week, maybe another time”. There is no reason to upset the apple cart.

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Library Diva August 30, 2012 at 9:56 am

I agree that the OP’s boyfriend needs to be the one handling this. That said, I see no reason why he can’t be blunt with them. “We really want to come visit you, but we don’t think we can handle a full week with Alice’s kids. When is their family planning to come?” The grandparents no doubt are tired of the behavior of their great-grandchildren. What OP described just sounds objectively awful: knocked-over furniture, deliberate screaming into people’s ears, bullying of other children. But if the OP’s boyfriend doesn’t want to be that blunt, the admin has suggested lots of great dodges. He could also vaguely allude to “too many people in the condo” or something like that.

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Lisa August 30, 2012 at 10:40 am

There seems to be more going on with these kids than bad behavior. I’m not a licensed counselor but have to think that medicine is only one part of controlling ADHD. Cognitive therapy comes to mind. Where is the Dad? If the current treatment is not working, perhaps the mother needs to find a different therapist. Also something to consider is she might be exhausted having to deal with this 24.7. A little understanding goes a long way. That being said, it’s not the girlfriends place to weigh in on this; her boyfriend is the one who needs to step up if that is what they wish to do.

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Raven August 30, 2012 at 11:05 am

Lia – your suggested response sounds unkind, and frankly, rude. “If you want to vacation with us…see a family counsellor” – seriously?

1) This couple with the kids wouldn’t be vacationing with the letter-writer. They would all be vacationing with the grandparents, who are the hosts, and who have the absolute right to invite whomever they choose. Other guests do not have any say in who comes.

2) Suggesting they see a family counsellor, especially as a supposed condition of getting to go on the vacation (again, not up to the letter-writer) is really rude. Do you think these parents don’t know their kids are a handful? Do you know for a fact they haven’t already gone to a counsellor?

3) If the letter-writer says any of this, especially as the girlfriend (and not the blood relative), she will likely find herself uninvited from not only the vacation, but future get-togethers as well…and rightly so, in my book.

Kids can be a handful. Misbehaving kids even moreso. Learning to deal with them (either by making alternate plans or simply not stressing about it) is part of being involved in a world populated by more than yourself.

If the OP can’t deal, then she shouldn’t go. She should not make requests of other people, as this would prove her to be a most ungracious guest.

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Another Alice August 30, 2012 at 2:29 pm

My first thought was the idea of side-trips. I feel like when there is a trip involving a large amount of extended family, usually the individual immediate families sort of “break off” and do things on their own. I think it’s sad that the OP and her boyfriend would miss out on a great vacation, so the key to me is planning. Plan, plan, plan. Also, if this relationship is serious enough to be invited on a family vacation, in the end, the OP and her boyfriend will have to learn to deal with each others’ families. You can’t avoid forever, and precious time with elderly family members is extremely important.

First off (and this is all if the kids are going), ask the grandparents about activities that are around the time share. Snorkeling, surfing lessons, jet skis, restaurants – I assume they’re in abundance. Plan something per day that you and your boyfriend want to do. It would 1.) Get you out of a potentially insane situation ahead of time and 2.) Let you feel excited about the upcoming trip. Also, if it’s only a few hours/day, I doubt that your family would feel excluded or that you were avoiding them. After all, most people understand that on vacation, people want to have the experience in their own way, and probably wouldn’t think much of you doing things that wouldn’t involve children. In addition, I would plan at least one private dinner with the grandparents in order to thank them for inviting you. That’s easy enough to explain: “We really wanted to express how grateful we are and get to spend a little one-on-one time with them.” Again, there’s the additional idea that since the OP is close enough to be invited on a vacation with her BF’s family, that it makes sense she’d want to get to know individuals as well.

However, here’s the caveat: Do the same with the “more difficult” family. One personal, private outing, even if it’s just spending one afternoon on the beach with them. I think one intense afternoon is worth six or more other days of relative peace. And not only planning activities, prepare your own reactions ahead of time. It’s a lot easier to keep calm if you’re not struggling with how to deal. So, deciding things like, “When little Jimmy screams in my ear, I am just going to get up and walk to the other side of the room,” gives you more control over the situation.

I apologize for the extent of this comment, but as I said, I just think it’d be sad to miss out on vacation, so for me the issue is more of how to deal with it should they be invited, as opposed to figuring out IF they’re invited. As I said, the boyfriend’s family isn’t going anywhere, and if it’s anything like my family, all extended members are invited to a lot of things, and you’ll have to deal with it eventually.

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Cat Whisperer August 30, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Some comments:

1. Admin is absolutely spot-on that this is an issue for OP’s boyfriend to bring up. OP does not (yet) have status of family. She can say what she wants to her boyfriend, but ultimately it’s for him to broach the subject with his family.

2. While the kid with ADHD is undoubtedly unpleasant to be around, he did not choose his condition and as a child, he is not responsible for how it is dealt with medically or with therapy. Compassion for his condition and his probable future is called for; he is obviously disliked, avoided where possible, and very likely is suffering as he experiences rejection after rejection from people. Additionally, his future is being trashed with every day that goes by as his parents and other relatives fail to deal with his problems.

3. “Alice,” the kid’s mother, deserves some compassion. While she is not dealing with her son’s issues in the best way possible, I’m sure she didn’t ask to have a child with ADHD. It may come as a surprise to people who have never had a family member with mental illness, emotional or behavioral problems that arise from a medical condition, but the diagnosis of a problem does not automatically bestow on the family members instant knowledge of what it means, how to deal with it, or what you do when you run out of resources (financial, emotional, supportive, whatever) or have other problems that need your attention come up and conflict with the issues caused by mental illness. And it can be absolute hell on earth to have people who can (and do) walk away from the problems playing “armchair quarterback” and criticizing what you are doing to deal with the problem and villifying you when you get things wrong. (Funny thing: when you do manage to deal with the problems in a way that minimizes their impact on other people, you can never expect any thanks or praise for what you’ve accomplished.)

4. Some of what Lia said about being blunt applies. Yes, it does: these people are family members, and if OP wants to judge the way family is dealing with the problem, family deserves to know how OP feels so they can judge her. This situation may be a dealbreaker in the relationship between OP, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s family; if that’s the case, the sooner they all realize that and move on, the better for everyone concerned.

5. The minimal requirements of etiquette are to be civil and behave with decency and good manners, which means avoiding contact with the people you dislike if that’s your choice. It also means that you do not speak badly of the people involved outside of their presence and you avoid pejoratives, insults, or general bad-mouthing behind the backs of the people involved.

6. Class and graciousness would be shown by reaching out to “Alice” and asking her if there is any way you can help her with the kids, if you can say that and mean it.

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Cat August 30, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I would not get into this even if we were all staying at Buckingham Palace at the personal invitation of Her Majesty, the Queen.Having someone screaming into my ear, hitting and kicking me, and destroying property is not a vacation.
My brother was like the two younger children and every vacation was a never-ended nightmare as my parents rushed around trying to accommodate him in every demand he made. We could never go out to eat without his screaming temper tantrums. The happiest day of my life was when I was finally able to say, “I will never see him again” and meant it.
Find something you can afford, arrange to swap houses with someone in an area you would like to see, or save money until you can afford to pay for your own accommodations.

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anonymous August 30, 2012 at 4:14 pm

1.Some people do not like to be around kids. That is their choice and perogative. Nothing wrong with that.

2.Most people only get certain amount of vacation time. If they do not want to spend it with misbehaving children, they should not and they should not be made to feel like they should just so Alice can get a break.

3. No, Alice and child did not choose to have ADHD. But since it happened, they need to “man up”, so to speak, and deal with it. Others having to deal with your misbehaving children’s behavior because you have not learned to deal with them is wrong. OP/BF/other family members will not have any more success getting those kids to behave if they try to help out. They deserve to enjoy their vacation and not have to worry with kids that can not be controlled.

4. Nothing wrong with being blunt, if you do it nicely. I believe Admin has stated many times that etiquette is not always about making others comfortable (I may not have the exact phrasing right). Maybe if Alice and family see that othes are avoiding spending time with them because of the children’s behavior, maybe they would try new ideas, therapies, something to help the children. Alice is the mom- I know it’s tough but it’s on her (and the dad) to help their children learn to get along with others in the world and hopefully help them be successful.

5. For all the snarky comments about Lia’s comment- we all are on here judging other people and giving our opinions. Just because you don’t agree with her doesn’t make you any more right. Maybe everyone who is being snarky to Lia should offer to help watch Alice’s kids and you can give them all the compassion, understanding and support you are suggesting others do.

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Sara August 30, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Cat Whisperer, I understand your point, but I respectfully disagree. No, it’s not the child’s fault that he has ADHD, and I think that the fault clearly lies with the parents, not a 6-year-old who is not getting the help he needs. Yes, parenting a child with ADHD or any other behavioral/mental illness is extremely hard. I know this because I have ADHD, my younger sister has learning disabilities, and my older sister has several mental illnesses including bipolar disorder and depression. (My older sister and I are both adopted.) To say the least, it was extremely trying for our parents, and they still worry about what’s going to happen to my older sister, who has the most severe problems of the three of us, after they’re gone.

However, when I was growing up (and I’ll only speak to my own experiences) they took the bull by the horns and made it clear that while my ADHD might make it more difficult for me to control my behavior, it was in no way an excuse not to. I was a difficult child with almost no impulse control and poor social skills, but I was not allowed to get away with rude or disrespectful behavior and was taught to behave even though it took constant effort from my parents. I would have a lot more compassion for Alice if it were clear that she’s making an effort to PARENT her child with the help of therapy and meds; but it seems that she’s under the impression that the therapy and pills will do all the work and she’s off the hook for anything else. (It’s true that for many kids with ADHD, therapy and meds are a big part of the picture, but they’re not the whole picture–the parents also have to make an active effort.)

Now, as an adult with a master’s degree, a promising career and a family of my own, I can say with confidence that if my parents had allowed me to use my diagnosis as an excuse for poor behavior or lackluster performance in school, I would very likely not be where I am now. It certainly would have been easier for them in the short run, but I’m eternally grateful that they didn’t take the easy way out.

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Rebecca August 30, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Spending even one day of my vacation time with screaming, bratty children would be a no-go for me. It just isn’t enjoyable and my vacation time is too precious to bend on this. I also think that some parents have to realize that if their children are unruly, it’s going to make people not want to be around them. If they take offense to that, that is their problem. (I do understand that children are not perfect all the time, have shorter attention spans and other issues that adults don’t have, so it’s not as though I’m totally intolerant).

I’d ask if it was “just us” or would other people be coming too? If the answer is that they are trying to get Alice and the kids all there at the same time, I’d simply reply that “we’d prefer to come at a different time if possible.” And just explain gently that being non-parents, and given that you have limited vacation time, you need some down time and to spend your vacation in an adult-only environment.

I mean, seriously, who in their right mind thinks that a couple without children would want to spend a week of precious vacation time with other people’s screaming kids? Surely most people would understand?

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LC August 30, 2012 at 5:32 pm

While I agree that the boyfriend should be the one talking with his grandparents, I don’t think its at all rude to simply come out and ask plainly if Alice plans to bring her kids. I doubt the children’s atrocious behavior has escapted their notice. You shouldn’t critisize the children, but there’s nothing wrong with saying you’d prefer a quiet, relaxed vacation and visit. That may spare you any further invitations that include Alice’s children.

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FRM August 30, 2012 at 5:41 pm

C’mon people- let’s be honest- If it were *your* vacation that could be and was ruined by known “brats”, you would be submitting that story at night hiding in the closet of the vacation house. Or if it were *your* child getting punched over Chuck E. Cheese game tickets, you would be furious and submitting that story on the way home in the car.

My point is, if OP feels that strongly, just decline the offer. It’s not rude to decline an offer. You want to go to the beach house. You know Alice and the kids will most likely be there. Either rent a room and visit the beach house or don’t go.

Also, just because Alice wants time off from her OWN children does not mean that everyone else should suffer. Thousands, possibly millions, of parents have children with ADHD yet still manage to have fairly enjoyable vacations and family times. ADHD is also misdiagnosed quite a bit so if medicine and therapy isn’t helping, maybe it’s time to try something else. The 6 year just sounds like he was allowed to run wild and is following the ADHD kids’ example: act atrociously and get what you want. I wonder how much the 12 year old has to put up with and how much he is ignored because mom has to deal with the other 2? And WHERE IS THE FATHER?? Just because your relationship didn’t work out doesn’t mean you get a pass on parenting the children YOU helped create.

Everyone is entitled to there opinion/POV. Don’t be hating on others because they prefer the direct approach vs. skirting the issue.

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RedDevil August 30, 2012 at 6:18 pm

First; I don’t necessarily agree with Admin & ors response that it should be the boyfriend’s problem to deal with. In my family, my MIL talks to me directly about everything from Christmas Day planning to how the past week has been. It’s a female to female thing, we do all the planning. It might be the same in OP’s family. Also, just because she still has ‘girlfriend’ and not ‘wife’ status does not mean she is not part of the family – many couples choose not to get married, and many wait years to get married (like I did). I was part of the family long before we got married.

Second; I have difficult-to-handle children in my husband’s family too, they’re simply unparented though, no ADHD that I’m aware of. I find giving them clear boundaries and expectations when they’re at my house or around me goes a long way. Showing them what is acceptable by a short sharp “don’t do that” or on the flipside laughing and engaging when the behaviour is acceptable means they behave (mostly) around me. They understand that Auntie expects xyz from me and the payoff is not being told off and doing fun things with her.

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Marna August 30, 2012 at 7:12 pm

@Sara – Thank you so much. Our GS is ADHD and when he was small he was quite the handful. Truthfully, I wouldn’t have blamed people for wanting to stay as far away from him as possible before we as a family got a handle on the situation. Medications were only part of the answer, as you say; we had to work out other methods of helping him cope. We knew we would be doing him no favors by allowing him to act out and it became paramount to teach him that some behaviors were simply unacceptable. It was tough–but now at 14, he’s dong quite well and I am SO proud of this kid! Maybe with luck and effort, there’ll be a good outcome for Alice’s boys as well.

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catherine August 30, 2012 at 8:16 pm

I wonder if the parents just gave up parenting when he was diagnosed. I have a friend whose son is out of control. They weren’t doing to bad a job before, at least they were dealing with his behaviour, but when he was diagnosed at 8 with ADHD and ODD (oppositional defiance disorder) they now use the excuse that he can’t help himself and he gets no discipline at all now, they just ignore him when he misbehaves. Hes 13 now, he has had suspensions from school uncountable times, been arrested twice, first time at 10. Hes a bully to kids smaller than him, he has stolen money from peoples wallets, he is obnoxious and whiny and other kids won’t hang out with him because of his behaviour. He will pull his crap on kids his age and when they retaliate, he whines to his parents, and they say everybody picks on him. I’m lucky, I only have to deal with this kid maybe 4 times a year. If the OP marries her boyfriend, she marries the family too. Goodluck, you have my sympathies, lol.

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Jenn50 August 30, 2012 at 8:49 pm

I agree that nobody should use up their only vacation spending time with people who make them miserable. I agree that from the OP’s description, Alice doesn’t seem to be doing much about her kids’ disruptive and rude behaviour. But I also agree that having children with behavioural issues doesn’t automatically grant the parent the skills and knowledge to deal with them. Most people have kids thinking they are going to be “normal” but that they will just “learn to manage” if the child is born with, or develops issues. I know I did. My youngest was diagnosed with autism at 2.5 years old and every minute of every day is a struggle. I know that we have lost friends because people don’t like to be around the noises she makes, or the chaos she can cause when she’s having a rough day. I do my best to minimize her impact on other people, but short of keeping her locked up in our house, people are going to be irritated and inconvenienced by us from time to time. Frankly, I’m frazzled, and I don’t have as much sympathy as I probably should for people who get to do normal things like take vacations, and live in a house where no one smears poop on the walls. Nobody expects to wind up raising kids with higher needs, and when you do, you do the best you can. You don’t necessarily expect your family to give up their vacations to help you, but judgement from them when you’re doing the best you can is so hurtful. And I don’t think you can say “Well, MY parents didn’t tolerate that from us, and we all had (insert similar issue here). ” because you never know the extent of the problem, and what’s already been done about it unless you live in the home and are privy to details. For all we know, Alice is suffering with finances, depression or other mental health issues of her own, and is struggling to get through every day as it is. A little compassion goes a long way. Maybe her grandparents welcome the opportunity to offer her a little support and a bit of a vacation.

Let me be very clear; I am NOT suggesting that OP and her boyfriend go on a vacation with Alice and her kids. They would be unhappy, and frankly, I doubt the glares and judgement would be helpful to the situation. I agree that asking “Is anyone else coming?” and maybe even explaining that you’re looking forward to a quiet vacation is a good way to find out what the plans are without being hurtful.

You might, long term, try to spend a little one-on-one time with the kids. It doesn’t have to be a long time. A car ride to the store for milk or a walk to to the park gives you a few minutes to bond, and hopefully a few minutes with a kid who is calm, so you can talk about how much you LIKE spending time with them when they’re behaving nicely. I find the best approach with ill-behaved kids is to catch them doing ANYTHING good, even for a second, and to praise the daylights out of them for it. “I LOVE how nicely you sat in the car!” (you don’t need to point out that they were only quiet because they were falling asleep) It teaches them that they don’t have to be little thugs to get attention, and that positive attention feels so much better. Then, they actively seek you out when they’re being good, because they know you’ll feed their need for positive feedback. It’s nice to be the auntie who inspires the good behaviour.

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Kate August 31, 2012 at 1:03 am

I would definitely try an approach like “Those dates may work for us, but we’ll have to check. Oh, by the way, is anyone else planning to come?”. That way, you haven’t committed to attending and don’t have to back out if you find out the children will be there. If they are attending, just say you have checked your calendar and unfortunately have plans for those dates.

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Rhiannon August 31, 2012 at 1:23 am

We don’t live near family so our vacations consist of going back to visit. One year my husbands niece and nephew were living with his parents while their parents were deployed. They were horribly behaved my children were younger and being made upset by seeing these two acting so rudely. My husband and I took the two out for a private drive and time together. We pulled around the corner and parked to give them a lecture. We explained how they were acting and why it wasn’t acceptable. They were stunned because no one else told them, though everyone was talking about it privately. They apologized and we all went to a nice lunch.

Those two are lovely adults who are a joy to be around. Sometimes direct can work.

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Sara August 31, 2012 at 5:39 am

Jenn50, thanks for your honest comments. First, it’s clear from your post that you’re trying your best with your daughter. I’m sorry that you’ve lost friends because they find it too difficult to be around her; I hope you at least have a few who are willing to do the right thing and give you the support you need, even if it’s inconvenient or sometimes less than fun for them.
I have a tremendous amount of compassion for parents of kids with special needs who are truly doing their best. But the strong impression I get from the submission is that this parent is just checked out–for whatever reason–and is not actively parenting her child. The fact that discipline is an issue with two of the three children, and not just the one with ADHD, seems to indicate this as well.
Also, I wouldn’t put ADHD in the same category as autism. One is much more severe than the other, and unless there’s something else going on kids with ADHD can control their behavior and should be expected to do so. It may take longer to learn, and it may take the help of therapy and meds as well as behavioral intervention, but I’ve never met a single kid with ADHD who was simply a lost cause. I have, however, met a lot whose parents, as catherine says, look at the diagnosis as confirmation that the child will never be able to control himself and therefore shouldn’t be expected to. I don’t judge Alice so much for the fact that her children do these things as for the fact that apparently, she does nothing when they do.

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--Lia August 31, 2012 at 6:11 am

Let me jump in here quickly and then let it rest. No one has hurt my feelings or been snarky to me. I’m glad to have a place where everyone can disagree civilly. I’m recommending being blunt with Alice. I’m fine with people being blunt with me.

I’ve reread my own comment and believe I did come across too harshly. Let me revise. Telling Alice that seeing a family counselor to get help learning better ways to deal with her children’s behavior should not be put in the form of an ultimatum. Not “seek help or we won’t vacation with you.” But recommending a therapist with more experience dealing with ADHD kids could still be kind and helpful. I get the idea that Alice is overwhelmed and in need of help, not lazy and abdicating responsibility.

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Raven August 31, 2012 at 7:50 am

Jenn50 – your comment was really insightful, and I agree with your points.

It’s not easy, and I do sympathize with OP’s situation. We all have people, for whatever reason(s), we’d prefer not to be around.

However, when you are part of a family, sometimes you have to make do. That doesn’t mean OP should go on this vacation if it’s going to be awful, but what about the next time? Family get-togethers are inevitable in most families, and she can’t run for cover every time. Learning to cope with the situation will be in her best interest, I think. There’s nothing stopping OP from saying things like, “I don’t like it when you shout in my ear,” or getting up and moving away if the situation requires it. I just think that simply blurting out that she doesn’t want to go if these other people go will make things difficult for everyone as time goes on. If OP is really part of this family (or hopes to be in the future), there is nothing to be gained by being hurtful.

Anonymous – I don’t know if I’m one of the people you think was “snarky” to Lia, but if you were: Whenever I hear someone say they aren’t afraid to be blunt/tell it like it is/be real with people (etc), I immediately imagine the in-your-face type who is likely to tell people EXACTLY what they think, whether it is rude or not, whether it is tactless or not, and whether it is necessary or not. That may be not what Lia intended, but that’s what I took from her comment. Being hostile and rude in the guise of being honest and direct helps no one, and only creates more drama.

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lkb August 31, 2012 at 8:55 am

Nothing to offer except sympathy for the OP — it does sound like a tough spot.

Wanted to share an experience I had with a friend who’s children were diagnosed with ADD (probably ADHD). Their family and several others were members of my Bible study group. When we moved, I invited the ladies and their children to a housewarming party. It’s an old farmhouse with a balcony off the 2nd floor master bedroom (who’s door was shut before the party started). At one point, I had to go upstairs for something and found the approximately 11-year-old ADHD boy working on creating a rope swing from the balcony to the large cedar tree that was nearby but nowhere near close enough to safely swing to. I brought him and his audience back downstairs onto the back deck where the other women were and politely and discreetly explained the situation to his mother. Her response, “He’s got ADD, he doesn’t know better.” My flabber was gasted, especially as up until then, she seemed to be the most authoritarian parent of the bunch. I didn’t exactly work hard to keep in touch after that.

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Angel August 31, 2012 at 9:08 pm

I have been in a situation similar to the OP, only with close friends instead of relatives. With friends it’s a little easier, we just choose not to socialize with them as much. Or we go out without the kids. With relatives it’s a little trickier. I probably would just opt to not visit the time share and visit with the grandparents at another time. I wouldn’t ask if the sister and kids were going to be there and I certainly would not say “your kids are bad and we don’t like being around them!” Ouch! Even if you do feel this way, I think distancing yourself speaks a lot louder than actually voicing that opinion. It’s not fair that you probably cannot vacation with them, but thems the breaks! Not every kid is going to be well-behaved and not every parent is going to actually step up and parent their kid. The moment that I witnessed my friend’s little boy pushing my daughter down and trying to sit on her, I was DONE. It was almost a year before we saw them again. They are actually friends of my husbands’. One year later and the son hadn’t really changed. We’re on about 5 months of not hanging out with them. We keep in touch by FB. That’s good enough IMO, until the kid is in college!!!

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Angel August 31, 2012 at 9:10 pm

I also wanted to add, this doesn’t mean that the OP and her boyfriend need to avoid family get togethers totally, a few hours shouldn’t be that hard to take. But a week long overnight vacation is a little much to deal with even the best behaved children. With brats, it’s a friggin NIGHTMARE!

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kingsrings September 2, 2012 at 5:48 pm

I don’t think the girlfriend has a leg to stand on as far as her bringing this issue up. She isn’t family, I don’t care how long she’s been dating her boyfriend, and the only person who can address something as serious and heated as this is a family member. So, her boyfriend is the one that needs to bring this subject up.

I’ve experienced this with some friends of mine with their daughter. Literally since the day she was born, she’s been a very difficult child. Very bratty, mouthy, and absolutely refuses to obey anyone. I believe she must have ODD. Her parents unfortunately have turned too much of a blind eye to this behavior (either saying they don’t know what to do, not thinking their daughter did anything wrong, or saying that others just don’t understand their daughter), even when their daughter was kicked out of numerous pre-schools and not invited anymore to any kid birthday parties, even the ones held by family members. Now she’s 11 years old, and she’s homeschooled now because her parents think all her school teachers were “so mean” to their daughter (who was constantly getting in trouble and suspended for her behavior). And the same thing happened recently with a music teacher hired, she was fired for bringing up the behavior issues. I hate to think of what’s going to happen when their daughter is an adult and out in the real world!

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Enna September 6, 2012 at 10:06 am

I like Hemi’s advice. The boyfirend should be the one who talks to his grandparents and sister about the children. I also like the advice about the OP making firends with a neutral ally – it could help. Also about OP asking who else is coming along. Have to say unless the younger siblings to anything diretly to the OP she shoudln’t say anything direct. However if aunty is expecting other people to look after her children as free childminders she coudl have another thing coming.

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erica September 9, 2012 at 3:10 pm

I do think it should be the boyfriend should be the one to speak up and just tell them…that:
1) You have a limited amount of vacation time.
2) You would like to spend it without having to corral someone else’s kids
3) You should NOT comment on the ADD, medication, therapy etc… it just isn’t your place. Sorry. It’s just the truth. If boyfriend wants to …let him. But tell him to leave you out of it…or you are going to be forever known as that B#$%^ that hates their kids.

Good luck!

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acr September 11, 2012 at 9:02 am

No matter how long a couple has dated, dating isn’t the same as being married to many people. However, even if the LW WERE married to her BF, it still wouldn’t be a good idea for her to tackle this. She needs to be as tactful as possible. If something harsher needs to be said, the BF needs to do it.

One poster mentioned time with elderly relatives being precious – I just don’t think that, at Grandma and Grandpa’s funerals, the OP and her BF will be looking fondly back to the vacation they spent cooped up with these brats. Being in somebody’s physical presence isn’t the same thing as spending time with them or building memories with them.

I really like the idea of the overlap – perhaps the OP and the BF can arrange to arrive the day before Alice leaves, or vice versa? But if I were them, I’d have a back-up plan and find a nearby hotel in case Alice decides to extend her vacation!

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