Author Topic: If/when to tell my inlaws: your not supervising your kids in our home is not OK  (Read 7195 times)

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bigfun

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For the last 5 years, we've hosted a mother's day brunch at my apartment for my inlaws. This was my idea of a way to contribute something to the family, as MIL hosts all other events. The time is advertised as being 2 hours duration, 10:30 to 12:30. The personnel include:

Me and my husband
My husband's parents
Sometimes, my husband's single brother
My husband's sister, her 2 kids (now ages 4 and 8), and her husband who usually can't attend this holiday due to work

Without my 2 BILs that list would comprise a total of 2 children and 5 adults - typically a manageable ratio.

It's become clear over the years that my inlaws have no plan for supervision of children (man-on-man, or take shifts?) and all the family events end up with kids running wild, whether at our home or our inlaws' home(s). This has become unmanageable for me and I feel like it may be a situation where they just "don't get it". Some folks are comfortable with running in the house while others are not. My husband and I are in the latter category - plus we are childless and don't have a childproofed home.

What I would need for this event to continue is not an arbitrary set of rules like no running in the house, but simply a mandate that there is an adult with each child at all times so they don't end up in my office or our bedroom or closets or high-rise balcony. I don't care who is assigned to whom, just that there is a plan. I would leave judgement calls to the adult in charge. My feeling and experience now is that the concept of supervision will not happen in this particular family.

In the past I've tried to enforce a no running rule, but these children don't respond to me and aren't held to this rule in any other home since they mostly just play at their own home or their grandparents'. My husband has also taken the older kid outside to play when needed, but this doesn't solve the overall problem that we don't have a meeting of the minds between us and his other family members regarding supervisory expectations.

There have been other violations of common sense such as shoed feet on furniture, etc., but I'm focusing on the big picture and not a laundry list of behavioral rules. My sister-in-law will turn a blind eye to any such violations or simply deem them unimportant. I didn't object when I saw the kid(s) putting feet on furniture, which is why I call it a common sense issue and not one of my "specific rules". It simply happens and nobody says a word either way.

My question is: should we tell them the truth or should we just attribute the brunch cancellation to some MacGuffin such as a change in my health, a change in my work schedule, etc.?? (Invites this year haven't gone out yet, so by cancellation I mean the tradition being discontinued.)

I'm planning to ask my husband if he thinks there is any room for tactful negotiation with his family, and depending on the responses here, how to handle whichever decision we make. Thanks for reading!

Bottlecaps

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Safety trumps etiquette, in my opinion. Your home is not childproofed; these children running wild could break something and/or hurt themselves, and the balcony is definitely a no-no for children (not to mention your own personal space such as your bedroom and office). Tell them the truth. The way I would say it is, "While we really enjoy having the Mother's Day brunch here at our place, it's just not safe for the kids to be allowed to run around unsupervised, not to mention the fact that they're allowed to go into our bedroom and office. If no one is willing to supervise them and make sure they behave, then I'm afraid we won't be able to host the brunch this year."

Should you decide to have the brunch, is there any way that you can lock up your bedroom, office, and the balcony so it isn't accessible to the kids? Obviously they will still need to be supervised and prevented from running and acting out in other ways while in your home, but at least then you can have the peace of mind knowing that they kids can't get into your personal space.
"Some of the most wonderful people are the ones who don't fit into boxes." -Tori Amos


MindsEye

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Honestly?  It doesn't sound like you will be able to change your SIL and her kids, and you will probably have no end of frustration if you try. 

So... if you don't want to cancel the brunch altogether or invite only your MIL and FIL rather then the whole family, what about changing the venue?

Can you "host" the brunch at a local park and make it into a picnic?  That way at least you won't have to worry about the kids trashing your apartment while your SIL sits around and ignores the problem!

Eden

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I would either let them know the tradition has been discontinued or try a different approach which is for you to tell the kids they can't go in your office, on the balcony or whatever and if they do not comply ask their parents to make them comply. If their parents refuse, let them know you expect them to enforce the rules of your house and if they can't do that you won't be able to host in the future.

I have many nieces and nephews. Even when supervised some do things of which I do not approve in my home and when that happens, I speak up. I'm not talking about parenting choices here. Just things that put my home, property or privacy at risk of damage. For me that would include feet on things, food and beverage where they should not be, and being in rooms in which they have no reason to be.

Example: my brother and SIL let their young kids walk around with beverages and food (thus the stains all over their furniture.) I guess brother and SIL don't even think about the fact that others may not be okay with that. If I see that I my house, I tell the kids they need to sit at the table with their cups and then my brother picks up on it and enforces it.

TurtleDove

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while your SIL sits around and ignores the problem!

Herein lies the problem, I think.  The SIL does think the way she is parenting is a problem.  To her, she is not ignoring anything.  If you do not approve of her parenting, I don't think it does you much good to tell her that unless there is actual abuse, for example.  You can lay down rules for your household, but since you apparently have not been successful so far I doubt you will be going forward.   I would either accept that the kids will not behave as you would expect them to, or suggest that the events happen in the kids territory (or somewhere other than your place).

LadyDyani

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Seconding the change of venue suggestion.  Can you have it in the yard?  Does your apartment complex have a party room you can book?
English doesn't borrow from other languages, it follows them down dark alleys and beats them up and searches their pockets for loose grammar.

LadyL

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I suggest having the event outdoors or at a casual restaurant. Not worth the stress to have it in your home.

Kaypeep

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I think one adult per kid is kind of unreasonable.  They should be able to play by themselves with little supervision.  It sounds like your home is not conducive to such a visit though if you have breakables and a balcony.  I'd suggest an alternative meeting place.  Perhaps you could offer to bring brunch to your SIL's place, this way she doesn't have the hassle of packing up her kids and travelling to your place with her little army?  Maybe you can pick up your IL's too so your MIL doesn't have to drive, too?

bigfun

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Our building does have a party room, but it would be a lot of trouble to bring food down for only 7-8 folks and then we'd be back to square one, because they'd be running around a different room that I'd have to clean up and be liable for.

Other venues could include a restaurant with a patio or playground, but then it would cost more for me to host. A good idea though, and maybe the best option.

SIL lives 40 minutes away and I actually work later that day on the other side of town so driving there won't be an option for me.

My home doesn't have a lot of breakables, but a lot of issues I'd never think would come up. Like my nephew turns on a reading light for no reason and this light has a temperamental bulb that falls out sometimes, stuff like that. These kids cannot play by themselves.

To demonstrate the lack of "meeting of the minds", this is what happened in the past with our 19th floor balcony:

Nephew 1: "Can I go out there?"
Grandma: "No, that makes me nervous..."
SIL: "Well, it's OK..."
DH: "What if we had a buddy system where you have to hold an adult's hand?"
Everyone: "Good idea!"
--Kid goes out without holding a hand--
Me: "What about the buddy system?"
SIL: "It's OK, Grandpa's there..."

Kaypeep

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Our building does have a party room, but it would be a lot of trouble to bring food down for only 7-8 folks and then we'd be back to square one, because they'd be running around a different room that I'd have to clean up and be liable for.

Other venues could include a restaurant with a patio or playground, but then it would cost more for me to host. A good idea though, and maybe the best option.

SIL lives 40 minutes away and I actually work later that day on the other side of town so driving there won't be an option for me.

My home doesn't have a lot of breakables, but a lot of issues I'd never think would come up. Like my nephew turns on a reading light for no reason and this light has a temperamental bulb that falls out sometimes, stuff like that. These kids cannot play by themselves.

To demonstrate the lack of "meeting of the minds", this is what happened in the past with our 19th floor balcony:

Nephew 1: "Can I go out there?"
Grandma: "No, that makes me nervous..."
SIL: "Well, it's OK..."
DH: "What if we had a buddy system where you have to hold an adult's hand?"
Everyone: "Good idea!"
--Kid goes out without holding a hand--
Me: "What about the buddy system?"
SIL: "It's OK, Grandpa's there..."

In light of this update, I'd suggest celebrating Mother's Day on a day other than MD if that day is problematic, but still find a plan where you get together someplace that is NOT your apartment. 

TurtleDove

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bigfun, I think you need to accept that you are not in charge of the parenting of these kids.  If you are concerned for your possessions, your best option is to not host them.  A mother saying it is okay to be on the balcony is going to trump an aunt/uncle/grandparent saying otherwise.  I am not saying your desires for the behavior of children in your home are wrong.  I am saying that based on the dynamic you have described, your desires are not likely to be met.

As other posters have stated, in my experience, children of the ages you described should be able able to play together with minimal supervision (or at least not the type of supervision you demand).  I am not saying you are wrong to want what you want in your house.  I am saying that you are setting yourself up for failure.

I haven't seen your balcoy, but I would imagine that it is up to code which would mean there should not be any real safery hazards for children to be on it. Especially not if an adult is supervising.  If you don't want the kids on your balcony, by all means ban them.  But don't say it's about safety when the mother of the kids thinks it is okay for them to be on balcony.

sweetonsno

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I'm on board with the general consensus that if that part of the family is unwilling to respect you and your space, there is no need for you to host. Don't host the brunch at your home, but I wouldn't "cancel" it so much as replace it with something else. The picnic is a nice idea (if the weather permits), or you could take MIL out for tea or dinner. I'm not sure how the kids behave at restaurants ("nice" or otherwise), but if their parents keep them on a tighter leash in public, perhaps you could include that part of the family there.

The benefit of changing the ritual (rather than canceling it) is that you may not need to explain why you made a switch. However, if you are pressed, you can present it as being for the benefit of the kids rather than a criticism of them. You can say that the park will give them lots of space to play and run around without mentioning that you hate the fact that they do it in your apartment.

bigfun

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Just to clarify, I'm not expecting North Korean minders for these kids, just that an adult is watching. The adult in charge (whoever that is, that's the problem) can decide what's safe. We never can tell who's in charge when we're at Grandma and Grandpa's and the default is that the kids have carte blanche.

Thanks for the suggestions, that helps a lot!

Hmmmmm

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I think it is reasonable to establish your house rules
- no running in the house
- no kids on the balcony
- no one in your bedrooms...lock the door
- no turning on lamps

And then you and your DH enforce the rules. It is completely within your right to tell any guest you don't want them in your bedroom, on your balcony or running in your home.

At the next event, make it easy hosting so that you and DH are available to stop behavior you don't want in your home. 

Child starts running, say "nephew, we don't allow running in ours house. Please walk." Physically restrain if he doesn't stop with a hand on his shoulder.

When nephew asks "can I go out on the balcony?" you or your DH immediately respond, "No, I don't want you out there." If his mother says, "oh it's o.k." respond "no, I'm not comfortable having him out there."

If you see a child touching something, say "Please leave that alone. SIL, can you find child a toy to play with so they aren't playing with the tv remote control."


Eden

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To demonstrate the lack of "meeting of the minds", this is what happened in the past with our 19th floor balcony:

Nephew 1: "Can I go out there?"
Grandma: "No, that makes me nervous..."
SIL: "Well, it's OK..."
DH: "What if we had a buddy system where you have to hold an adult's hand?"
Everyone: "Good idea!"
--Kid goes out without holding a hand--
Me: "What about the buddy system?"
SIL: "It's OK, Grandpa's there..."

It sounds like in your scenario the kid was supervised but you still weren't okay with it? I may be reading too much into it but it sort of sounds like you're nervous around children in general and are maybe muddying the waters between what is okay as far as protecting your house and what you're comfortable with for the kids' activities/safety (which is really more of their parents' call in my opinion).

I do think a different venue or declining to host this year are the best options.