Monday, August 13, 2007

my open letter to dear abby

Dear Abby:

My husband and I have been married for 13 years and are the parents of 2 (almost 3) year old triplets and a 1-month old baby boy. For as long as we've been married, we've lived 6-hours from my husband's relatives and 3,000 miles from mine.

Although we have often wished that we could be closer to our families so that we could participate in birthday, anniversary and holiday celebrations, we are only able to see members of our families once or twice a year, at best. This has been difficult for us particularly now that we are parents, because we would really like for our children to grow up knowing their aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents better than they do.

But with my husband's family on one side of the country - and mine on the other - such is life.

My husband and I have been raising our children without any outside assistance. This has been our choice and is not something that has been dictated by a lack of financial resources. We have made this decision because although we believe that there are competent people who could care for our children, no one will look after them as closely - or love them as much - as we will.

We enjoy our children tremendously and most days do not feel an overwhelming need to "get away from them". It is due to this phenomenon and the fact that we are social recluses and/or have no life, we have left our children no more than ten times, and only with family members, to have dinner and catch a movie when they have been in town visiting and after our children have been put down to bed.

We believe that caring for toddler triplets is not an easy job and certainly not a one-person job, particularly if that person is not familiar with the demands of multiple toddlers who have a tendency to get in to everything. Moreover, we have not been comfortable leaving our children until they are at an age where they could communicate to us, if there ever was a problem.

When we learned that we were expecting our fourth child, we were approached by some of our relatives that told us when the new baby arrives, they would like to take our 2-year old boy back to their home with them for a few days. They believe that this will give them a better opportunity to "bond" with our son.

From the very first time I heard their request, I have been uncomfortable with the proposition. Aside from the fact that this is a retired couple who have recently had some significant health issues, they would be transporting our little boy approximately 6-hours in a car, across state lines.

It is not that I do not trust these particular individuals, I just believe that our child is too young to be taken from our home and away from his siblings, without a parent, for any length of time. I also am not comfortable with him being in a vehicle, driven by someone other than my husband or I. Add to that the recent health issues that this couple has faced, and I do not believe it is a good idea. At all.

Every time that we have seen our relatives since the first time the request was made, their desire to spend some "one-on-one time" with our son (and each of our children) has come up. And each time, we have jokingly shrugged it off, hoping that they would understand our position.

Recently, our relatives informed us that they will be coming to visit and staying in a local hotel. When they again requested to take our son for a few days, we skirted the issue. When pressed, we refused and offered the alternative that they could come and "bond" at our home.

Our relatives are perplexed and disappointed with our decision. They believe that we have "trust" issues and need to let go of the "fear". My fear is that these relatives, who have been very kind to us, think that we are trying to keep our children from them. I also fear that if they continue to press the issue, it may cause a rift in our relationship.

We understand that our children are growing up. One day, they will be boarding a bus and going off to summer camp. But right now, they are still in diapers and a 5-point restraint car seat. They are still babies.

Our opinion is that relatives can come and visit at our fully "baby proofed" home as frequently and as long as they want. But we do not feel comfortable with them, or anyone for that matter, taking our young children outside of our home.

Abby, when our newborn son isn't keeping us awake at night, this is.

What do you think?

An Uptight Mom in California?


  1. I am right with you. I don't even feel comfortable dropping my kids off at my parents house, even though I absolutely know my mom loves the kids with every ounce of her body.
    Maybe just tell them that when you feel comfortable letting your kids go out for a trip, they will be the first to know.
    I know it is hard and you don't want to hurt any feelings.

  2. Love your blog!
    They are your kids and it is your job as the parent to make the right decisions that you are comfortable with. Could you imagine if you "gave in" to the pressure and something terrible happened to your kids?

    I think that Dear Abby would agree.

  3. Weird that you posted this today. Tomorrow, Tuesday (I guess that makes it today) my Mom will be taking ONE kid and my best friend will be taking another leaving me with one. How strange this feels and how much anxiety it gives me is unreal. Yet, they are healthy, local and bringing my children back to me by 10:00am. That is all I am comfortable with for right now.

    My best friend calls it "Triplet Syndrome" where moms of triplets think that all three need to be together all the time, doing the same thing.

    So I suffer from Triplet Syndrome, and a bit of Heliparenting. I am OK with that. ;)

  4. I think that you are right to feel the way you do and even though I only have one child, I would feel exactly the same way. At the beginning of May I let my PIL take our son back to their place (a couple of hours away) for the night but I was a nervous wreck the whole time until we went to get him. He was perfectly fine but he was NOT happy with us for leaving him (as he saw it) and I can imagine that it would be even harder for your kids to understand the separation as they are always together. I recently left my son overnight again with my parents (who we live with at the moment) and despite being in his comfort zone, being away from me seemed quite traumatic for him and he has been a bit clingy ever since. You are so right in that much as they are growing and changing and becoming more independant, our kids are still babies in so many ways and they process things so differently to that way we do. I hope your relatives try and understand where you are coming fron. If not a "it`s not you, it`s me" type line might be necessary!!

  5. Yikes! Six hours in a car? One way?
    No way.
    That being said, my mom's cousin made a point to take one kid every few weeks. There were 4 of us kids born within 6-years, so we were very close. They would take us out one at a time and spoil us for an afternoon...usually a movie and a pizza. I remember those days well...not having to share the attention with my sisters and brother and feeling special.
    But we were older than William and we were in OUR NEIGBORHOOD....
    Linda (Chicago)

  6. Hi~

    Jen, don't question your instincts for a minute. I have a feeling that even if thousands of people, including Dear Abby, left comments that you were a deranged mother who had issues "letting go", in your heart you know you're making the decision that most suits your family, and that is always going to be the right decision.

    PGRAD (Karen)

  7. Random lurker here,

    If you`re that uncomfortable with it I would definitely say no. If anything, I would start with smaller day-trips if they want the one-on-one. Maybe suggest they take the kids one at a time to the zoo or something while they are visiting, or even back to their hotel for a few hours.

    If the children have never spent a night away from you, I don`t think it would be fair to them to send them six hours away, apart from not only you but their siblings (who I assume they have also never spent long away from).

    I won`t even put my son in my gym`s daycare! I don`t think it`s fair to him to put him with people he doesn`t even know for two hours a week. If I had to put him in daycare full-time then I would help him gradually get used to it, but for only two hours a week drop-in?? No way!

  8. I guess I am going to go against the other votes so far... I would probably let one of the toddlers go stay with them in the hotel for a night and see how it goes. If William wasn't happy, they could easily bring him back to you. Or if you don't want him to spend the night, then just go spend a few hours at a time. I haven't let my almost 3 year old spend the night at my mom's just because he sleeps better with his bed. I don't think I would be ready to let him go 6 hours away, but not because somebody else was driving, etc. Just because I would miss him. Yes, they are little, but they are not infants. My mom has always been around to help out. I leave my kids with her a few times a week. It is great for her and great for me. My oldest is 18 and has the best memories of his times with my dad before he died and the times with my mom. My other two are 8 and almost 3. Grandma is one of the best gifts God has given them. Good luck!

  9. I wouldn't feel comfortable letting them take a kid that far away for the first time either. I think the idea of letting them take one kid at a time for a few hours locally sounds about right to start with - lunch and the playground - or storytime at the library or the zoo. They would get one-on-one time and yet be close to home. If even that is too much for now, what about all going to the zoo, but let the relatives take one kid to visit the animals in a different part of the zoo?

    I hope you can find something you, the parents, are comfortable with.

  10. My Mom and Dad let me stay with my grandparents for the first time overnight when I was two months old (and I'd only been out of the hospital for four weeks). And they let my brother and I go with them to Florida for two weeks when we were ages 5 and 3 (which would have been a 24 hour drive each way from our house). I remember Florida as a wonderful experience and a great chance to be close to my grandparents. But my grandparents were young and in good health.

    I think that everyone has to look at their own situation and decide what's best for their family.

    My Mom today still wonders if she would do it again because she missed us so much. But she also wanted us to be close to our grandparents and probably needed the break.

    You know your kids the best and will make the right decision for them. Good luck.

  11. One of the great privileges of being the mom is... YOU get to do whatever you think is right. It doesn't matter what we think, or what anyone thinks -- they're your children. I know you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but just reiterate that this is "you, not them."

    And for the record, I agree with you.


  12. You're the mom, you know what's right for your children.

    My son, who is 17 months, has only been away from me one time overnight (and only 1 night at that). He stayed with my parents. We go with him there a lot, so I make sure it is child-proofed. And my parents come here a lot, so they know him well. It was really hard leaving him with them, but it was good for us. And we were nearby should anything happen.

    I would be reluctant to let out-of-town relatives take him that far. I totally agree with you. It sounds like your fears are completely warranted. Maybe when he's older it will be a differnt situation. Or if they just want to come take him to the park or zoo or something for a few your town. That's totally different than 6 hours away for 3 days. Yikes!

  13. I am the same way with my girls. My 5 year old has only been away from us when we gave birth to her sister. I have such anxiety about leaving my kids with anyone, except my mother. You are not alone, and keep them close as long as they will let you! I am facing, right now, the sending off to preschool anxiety, and it's no fun!

    I love reading your blog...

  14. well, i guess i am in the opposite camp, altho i just have one.
    a week after duncan's first birthday we dropped him of with my folks and went to Costa Rica for a week. it was fun but we were showing strangers his picture the whole time.

  15. let me preface my comments with, trust your instincts. those mommy instincts are pretty good.

    I'm pretty laid back and have had lots of help, even having grandparents or night nannies that I trust spend the night occasionally BUT i do not feel comfortable with other people driving my kids.

    that said, I think it would be great for william to spend a half day or full day at a hotel with **trusted** relatives/friends.

    i think it would be great for him to get individual time and you could spend more individual time with your other children. my trio are almost one year old and i try each week to take each on a one on one outing. to the grocery store, go get coffee, or a a birthday party. the other two stay with nanny or grandma. it really helps me bond with them and I think it is good for them too.

    when they are older I want to start a daddy breakfast, where once a week (or more if schedule allows) he takes one child to breakfast before work for a special treat and individual time.

    i work three days a week so my children are already in another's care for a significant amount of time. i've had to get over that. i can't afford a nanny with out working and i just don't feel like i could do it all on my own.

    i do wish i could be more like you and some other triplet moms that i know that could spend 100% of my time with all three and not get worn out. i don't have it in me - yet. but maybe i will get better at this.

    just my 2 cents.


  16. vety thenuts mom8/14/07, 1:27 PM

    You know, when my boys were 5 months old, my best bud and her husband took them for a day and night to their house. Mind you they were only 1 hour away but it did a world of good to me. I think that if someone closer to you (distance wise) and without the health problems had offered, you might agree. My best bud and her husband are very safe and I've learned everything about child safety from them so that made it so easy and natural to say yes. I agree with some of the other comments though, let him try one day at the hotel when they're in town. You know though, they probably want to show him off back home too. That's precious.

    I think the 6 hour drive would scare me too but it's very touching that they are offering.

    I'm torn....let us know what Abby says, I read her daily!

  17. Trust your instincts. *I* think William is too young to go, and with all of the distance and health concerns of the folks taking him... no way. I also don't like that they are making you feel guilty for not letting William go. They should respect your decision, and not try to bully you into it.


  18. My triplets are nearly a year older than yours and I would never in a million years feel comfortable allowing one to go alone without Greg or I. It just wouldn't happen. Never. No way. Unless Greg and I were laying in a hospital and unable to move (God forbid), I can't see it happening. Nope. Now if someone wants to come to my house and watch all four kids for a few hours, they can have at it!!!!

  19. P.S. Why do they want William so badly too? Why not one of the girls?

  20. Your kids, your choice. Period the end.

    When they get older, it will be another choice and decision for you to make. As of now, you've made it and they need to respect it. Perhaps they can just take him out to dinner or something far shorter?

  21. I have a friend that has two lovely little girls. Last summer when her girls were 4 and 2 they decided to go to Vegas for the weekend. They left their children with me and my husband. It was the best weekend of my life. Prior to that she had a major surgery and had to be on bedrest for 3 months. I watched her girls everyday. I still had errands to run and things to do and so I drove them around town when they were 3 and 1. I know it's a scary thing to have to do. We've built a lot of trust with this family and it has always amazed me how she was able to let us do the things we do with them. Like I said, I know it's scary but we can experience growth by stepping outside our boundaries and doing things that are scary. With that said, your kids = your choice. The family should respect your choice even if they don't like it. Period.

  22. I also find it strange that they only want William AND that they specified they wanted him... Not we'd like to take one of the kids.. I allowed my in-laws to take my 3 year old and found that my mother in-law wanted him so that she could teach him all of the things that she thinks are lacking in his life. Imposing her religious views etc. Just wondering what their motivation is?

  23. Having spent 6 weeks with the amazing trips, I would not feel comfortable taking them in a automobile. It is too much responsibility and as you know, I never attempted to drive them anyplace. Yes, I loved walking to the Park and the Pool, but in a car---No-way. Even when we walked the dog, I had to put a harness on Elizabeth because she would run away from me.
    With my children, (that is you) I never left you out of my sight until you were almost 18 Yrs.(It must have seemed like that to you.)
    I just thought I would miss you and I did not want you to be away from me.
    I understand your feeling and appreciate that others might love to share in the fun of the children, but I think it would be great in your backyard.

  24. I would simply tell them that you have broached the subject with your darling son and he seemed upset by the idea of the separation.

    IMHO this is an extremely bad idea and I am quite surprised that anyone would be willing to take this on. THere is about a 99% chance that William will (rightly) throw a screaming fit when he realizes that he is supposed to spend the night at these lovely peoples' homes, and while a 15 minutes trip across town to retrieve your toddler if this happens would not be that big a deal, a 6 hour differential is NOT ACCEPTABLE as there will be no way to undo this situation once it occurs.

    Frankly I'm surprised that anyone would even make this request.

    Still pressuting you? Simply say in your most pleasant voice "we know you think we are crazy, and maybe we are, but it's really not open for any further discussion".

  25. You are right. They are too young. This is a no-brainer, in my book, and not even worth a letter to Abby.

    It might be okay with some people, but if you're uncomfortable with it for your family (as I would be, too), then it's not worth wasting any more energy on.

    Tell your relatives you love them dearly, and are thrilled they want to be close to your kids, but right now they're just too young for what they are suggesting. It's hard for me to understand why they continue to push the idea, even after knowing that it makes you uncomfortable. THAT makes ME uncomfortable.

    Consider telling them, too, that you're afraid if they keep pushing for this, in spite of the fact that you are so uncomfortable with the idea, it might cause a rift in your relationship. And that you don't want that to happen because they are such special people to you.


  26. I say go with your instincts. However, I have no problem with my children spending the night with either of their grandmas...but they both live within 20 minutes of my home. If it were me I would allow them to take the kid(s) for a half day or something similar while they are in town. Not overnight and certainly not out of state. I also thought it was very weird that they only wanted to take William. But, whatever you do are their parents and it is ultimately YOUR decision. You know what is best for your kids.

  27. I'm with the two commenters who are wondering why the relatives are pushing so hard to "bond" with your son but not your daughters...? Kind of ouchy for the slighted girls, dontcha think?

    As for the 6-Hours-Away thing, that's an easy NO FLIPPIN WAY---and you know I let my DH's mother drive my kids around town all the time.


  28. If these two relatives truly respected you, they would not continue to pressure you to let them take one of your children away. It sounds like they want to assert control over you and your children, but that is not their right.

    Also, it is not their right to put a guilt trip on you. They can bond with the children in your home and your neighborhood, not their home and their neighborhood.

  29. I feel the same way. My husband and I have only gone out ONE TIME in the past 5 years. We don't leave our children-even with family. We're also 650 miles from family so luckily we don't have to say "no" very often. We've invited family to come here but it only happens about once a year.

  30. dear uptight,
    I am with you, and i think your relatives are being unreasonable. They had children (I assume) and got to raise them the way they wanted. Now it's your turn.

    We do leave our children for the evening almost every week with trusted baby-sitters.
    Never over night. And some of them are teenagers!

    trust yourself.

  31. My daughter will be 17 next week. My sister has been wanting to take her to NJ where she lives for the last couple of summers to visit(we are in Ohio). A few weeks ago she finally went for a week and I cried the first 2 hours and then held the phone in my hand the next 7 days.....only dialing my daughters cell phone 2 or 3 times a day...most days.
    Yesterday my 19 year old son came home from work so excited to let me know he had found an apartment in a town about 45 minutes from here. I didn't puke or cry (until later) because it is near where he works and the school he wants to transfer to) but I am miserable. My point is in doesn't get a whole lot easier.

  32. You're the mom.
    You know best.
    Trust your gut.
    Stick to your guns.
    They will get over it.

  33. Jenn, I totally agree with you and your husband on this one. This would be me and my answer as well. My parents who I let come over here (they are from Italy originally) do everything for my two boys but the driving and taking my son(s) to their house or in the car is a different story. My mom can change diapers, cook for them, play with them, read to them but it's just the separation and them being in a different place. My boys are both in 5pt harness too. :) (ages 2 and 4) You know me as S~NJ on C's bb.

  34. I didn't take the time to read other comments before hand so I hope that I am not repeat upon repeat. But consistently you write my seniments on life so well. I battled with this topic from the moment my son was born and hurt many a feeling but still ask me if I care. Can't they even begin to imagin the STRESS that will cause. Anyhow I LOVE how you stick to your guns. I suggest you print this and hand it over to the family member, ( okay minus a few lines:) ALL family members. Ps now that he is a teenager, my phone is NOT ringing???? You two sure are a danga good parents!

  35. Yikes. It's almost a little weird that they're pushing so hard. I think I would just say, "Oh, you are SO nice, but we really want our whole family around during this Special Time. But you're welcome to join us!"

    I wouldn't really want anyone taking just one of my kids away. I'd feel funny about it. Not because of anything about the toddlers being twins--I'd feel the same way about any of my singletons.