MIL Taking Kids on Unapproved Field Trips

Updated on July 20, 2015
M.3. asks from Twentynine Palms, CA
32 answers

My MIL has done this before, we've talked with her about it and she did it again today...she is watching the kids overnight, she lives in a retirement community where there is a pool, she asked for the kids to bring swimsuits and let us know pool hours 3:30-5:30. That was okay with us the weird part was she took them to a park in a bad neighborhood and text pictures while she was there. Um, that didn't set well with husband. He called her out on it, again. This isn't the first time she has just taken the kids somewhere without us knowing. Its an uncomfortable situation because we want her to have a relationship with her grandkids but is it too much to ask for a heads up of the plan beforehand? My FIL has Parkinson's and husband doesn't want him driving the car with kids. FIL has had episodes of BP dropping and has had to call an ambulance from a restaurant before because he passed out. Supposedly its due to his medication but it makes hubby & I worry it'll happen again either during driving or in her old neighborhood (bad area). Are we being unreasonable? MIL acts put off by request but makes it super clear that she understands and won't let it happen again. What other than talking about it can we do? I don't want to take kids away but I don't want to get a call that grampa had an episode and something bad happened. I'm a worry wart but she already proved she isn't sorry and did it again. The kids are 11, 8 & 6. I want to put a GPS on my MIL!!!! Any advice?

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So What Happened?

I appreciate everyone's responses, its good to hear different ideas on this situation. My older SIL doesn't allow her children over to their house at all without supervision. Even on Christmas they aren't there for more than 3 hrs (supervised) maybe 1-2 per year). My husband thinks he was giving his parents that freedom but within limits. I think I need to be more assertive in asking for more open communication as I have been leaving the relationship between him & his mom. Due to my husband's anger issues (which we are in counseling for) this has been a trigger. I need a way to express this to him without triggering him. As he says a little of his mom goes a long way. I've always liked her but there is a bit of "she tells you what you want to hear" at play here. I like the idea of finding a different babysitter instead of using them as an overnight sitter. Yes the neighborhood was shootings & drug dealers living 2 doors down from them. I understand wanting to take the kids to a place she took her kids but I'm afraid especially of his BP crash at that place. You guys are right I should be concerned of that anywhere. I just want more open communication out of respect. Thank you for your input helps me get my mind straight before saying something I'll regret! Xo

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answers from St. Louis on

I don't understand why babysitting is part of having a relationship with their grand kids. It seems like you want a babysitter but do not trust that babysitter and that doesn't make a bit of sense to me.

If this is the only time they get to see their grandchildren then shame on you. I really don't know because you haven't really said why babysitting is their relationship with the kids.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My kids haven't slept at my parents in years. Partly because of drinking and my brother that lives there has PTSD plus too many animals (and one of my kiddo's has horrible allergies). My kids have a GREAT relationship with my parents still. My parents don't have to be caregivers or have overnights to have a good, strong bond with my kids.

Stop using them for babysitting or overnight visits. I wouldn't allow it ever again...and it doesn't have to be a big deal.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

My opinion?
All or nothing.
Can't trust them "some." You either do (allow it) or don't (no babysitting).
He could have an "episode" any time.
Letting them to go with conditions? Like saying you're a little bit pregnant!

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

Wow. They have to tell you when they go to a park?? Before we had our son, our nieces and nephews would always take turns sleeping over. Never in a million years would I have thought I needed to call mom before heading to a playground. She was just thrilled to have a break! You sound very controlling. I assumed that your kids were babies until I got to the end.

If grandpa passes out he shouldn't have a driver's license.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

I didn't require my mom to ask my approval for every item on her agenda when she kept my daughter.
I figured that if she managed to raise me, and I didn't die and turned out okay, then she knew how to take care of my kid.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

My 9th grandchild will be here in about a month. I have taken care of my grandchildren many times over the years. NEVER have I asked if I could take them outside to play or to the park or any where. I raised my kids and all survived with a few minor injuries and trips to the ER. I guess my kids know I will take care of their kids and TRUST me with them.

I get the issue about FIL and driving. I would insist he doesn't drive when the kids are in the car. In fact maybe you or hubby should contact the police or DMV and tell them of his passing out. He should not be driving at all.

Other than that as a grandparent I would be insulted if you told me I had to check in and get permission to take the kids on an outing.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i can see both sides.
yeah, if you don't want them driving ANYWHERE, they shouldn't. but you don't say here whether or not you've been clear with them about that. and i don't mean hints. have you or your husband said to them unequivocally 'dad, i love you and trust you with our kids, but the parkinsons makes driving anywhere with them an absolute no. you guys have all the adventures you want right here, but i must insist that you don't put them in the car, ever.'
there needs to be no wiggle room. i'm betting there has been.
but that's the only red flag i see here. your kids aren't babies. they're old enough to go to a park and play with their grandparents nearby, close enough to take pictures. what do you think will happen?
my parents and my in-laws, for all the wackiness and crazy episodes, both raised large passels of kids to relatively normal adulthood. when my boys were with them, we trusted that they wouldn't break mine either. we never put parameters around where they took them or what adventures were 'allowed.' we were both permitted the freedom to forge independent and wonderful relationships with our own grandparents without a lot of parental micromanaging, and it was very important to us that our kids have the same opportunity.
and i pray that when i have grandkids that our boys aren't so untrusting of us that they have to 'approve' every move we make with them.
i just can't believe there's not a large space for reasonable compromise here. presumably the doctors have cleared your FIL to drive, but if you're not comfortable with it, put your foot down. but contemplating 'taking the kids away' altogether? no, i can't for the life of me see why that's even on the table.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I agree with Julie S. Clearly they aren't good babysitters so don't use them that way. You can still spend time together as a whole family and your kids can have a relationship with them that way.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Don't let them babysit your kids. Just plan visits with your in law and don't leave your kids in their care.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I think you either trust them to have good judgement when they watch your kids or you don't. If you trust them, then they don't have to ask your permission about every decision, such as what pool to take them to, etc.

Or you don't trust them, in which case they shouldn't be watching your kids.
They can still spend lots of time with your kids - going to their games, dinners at your house, etc. Just not alone with them.

ETA: Well, with your SWH, here are the things I find most compelling "my husband's anger issues" and "she tells you what you want to hear". Do you understand that these things are probably directly related? And that it's unlikely you'll ever develop open honest communication within your family (immediate family and extended family) as long as people are in fear of, and will do anything to avoid, your husband's anger?

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

From the post, it sounds as if you, your husband and his parents have all developed expectations that their "having a grandparental relationship with the kids" means "babysitting the kids overnight or spending substantial time alone with them." The in-laws, and you as well, need to change this expectation, and it won't be easy at first, because your MIL seems to feel it's fine for her to be in charge of the kids (meaning she takes them wherever SHE feels comfortable) and you are not fine with it. Don't worry about whether others say you're overprotective or you're not protective enough. Go with your guts. But she is going to be hurt and upset and maybe angry, so your husband -- not you, your husband, their adult son -- needs to navigate this with compassion but also firmness.

That means you stop talking and asking. You say, "What other than talking about it can we do?" You stop expecting MIL/FIL to take the kids, and you go with them on any visit, and you and husband drive. Inconvenient, yes, but necessary. You have tried the talking and explaining and you know it does not work in the way you want ; stop repeating a "solution" that doesn't work. You also know that FIL has a serious medical condition and should NOT be driving your kids (and probably not driving at all).

Start saying "Sorry, no, we're busy then" to all overnights. Start going with the kids to see them (which your husband should do anyway, because frankly, if his dad has Parkinson's, MIL needs a break from FIL and your husband can spend time helping out around their house). Your kids can still see them plenty:

You all go over to visit and you and husband stay (doesn't have to be overnight). Or husband takes just one kid over to visit and stays (good time for MIL/FIL to get to know the kids as individuals). Or you take just one kid over, etc.

Invite the grandparents to more of the kids' school plays, recitals, dance events if that's their thing, sports games etc. -- not every single time, but frequently enough that MIL/FIL feel involved. Have them over to dinner or take them out. Drive them and the kids to do an activity -- mini golf, a movie, the park, whatever -- and drop them off and come back a bit later. In other words: You and your husband will have to put aside the idea that MIL/FIL can be alone with the kids for more than the span of an activity, and give up the idea of any babysitting. You know it's the only way to go.

To be really blunt: My own FIL had Parkinson's. It is very tough as it progresses, and it will progress. Your MIL will increasingly need support and help if FIL remains in their home, and she needs to focus on him without any thought that at any time she is responsible for the kids as well. And your husband and you are right that FIL should never, ever drive the kids (or be alone with them -- does your 11-year-old have the presence of mind and experience to know what to do if Grandpa passes out or falls and Grandma's not there?).

Be ready for the blowback or at least the teary "You don't trust me" comments but do not address them. Your husband has to just smile and persevere with the new way you do things: "Sally has a game this Saturday -- Wife will pick you up at 11 and we'll all go to lunch and then the game! How about it?" Make iappen, and stop talking and asking MIL to change. She won't. She does not see her old neighborhood as "bad" and your talking won't change that. I would focus much more on spending time with FIL before he's no longer able to do things with the kids (been there myself).

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

If you want to have the kids have a relationship with the grandparents take them for a visit where you stay. And pay a babysitter when you need one don't have them babysit and or leave the kids with them. For what it's worth you trust her or you don't. And it sounds like you don't. But all the examples you give indicate you leave the kids alone with them. Which seems more like you are using then as babysitters. I would never tell my mom she couldn't take the kids to a park etc because I trust my mom with the kids. You don't so don't even put yourself in the position of having to ask/explain.

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answers from Dallas on

I'm sorry, but the safety of the kids trumps hurt feelings and relationships. The kids no longer visit unsupervised, period.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

They are not up to your standard for caring for your kids, so do not make them responsible for your kids.

You need to invite them and take them out and take care of the elderly grandparents with your children.

Unless you are paying the MIL to watch your kids, I think you are out of line for making such demands.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

If your FIL shouldn't be driving, that is something your husband should discuss with his parents. My husband and his family had to insist his dad give up his license for health reasons, and I'm sure it was not easy. That is a real concern that should be addressed. It is also separate from your MIL going anywhere with your kids.

I am very fortunate to live in the same area as my parents and my brother. My parents watch the grandkids, and my SIL and I help each other out. We do try to give each other a heads up if we have thoughts of leaving the house and just in general share our plans, but we do not expect it. I can't imagine being upset if my parents or my SIL decided to take my kids to a park or McDonald's or something.

These are really two separate issues. That could be part of the difficulty. Definitely have your husband talk to his parents specifically about whether or not his dad should be driving.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Either you trust them with the kids or you don't. If you don't trust their judgment, then don't send them.

"Bad neighbourhood" can be pretty subjective. Are you talking drive by shootings? If your MIL feels safe there, is it really that bad? In my city, even in the worst neighbourhoods, it is quite safe to go to the parks during the day. The bad stuff tends to happen late at night. Some of the parks in the bad neighbourhoods are pretty great because the city puts extra money into them, realizing that the poor don't get to travel out to the beaches etc. I make a point of taking my kids out of their "bubble" once in a while to see how other people live.

If your FIL shouldn't be driving, then he shouldn't be driving at all, with or without kids. If you think he needs his drivers license revoked, then perhaps you need to alert the authorities to his condition.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

People you trust don't have to ask permission to do things. I have 3 of my grandchildren here for the week and all of my activities are planned between me and them. Their parents don't know what we've done until the phone call at the end of the night. Why? Because my daughter and her hubby trust me with the safety of their children and I don't do anything that would endanger them.

In your case I'd say that you don't trust your inlaws to make good choices. MIL is wistful about the old neighborhood and doesn't see danger. You've asked, she's ignored. This doesn't mean she doesn't care about your feelings she just wants to give the kids the experiences she gave your husband.

No trust equals limited contact. Work with your hubby to figure out how to deal with his parents so that they can continue to have a relationship with your children while not putting their safely in the back seat.

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answers from Los Angeles on

You need to set some ground rules and let her know that if she doesn't follow them, the kids won't be allowed to visit without you anymore. Don't take the kids away, just accompany them, or invite your in-laws to your house.

Rule #1 - Grandpa cannot drive with the kids in the car. Period. No debates. If he drives them again, they don't return unsupervised.

My mother in law takes my kids places when she has them overnight - usually McDonald's and Yogurtland (sigh), but sometimes on outings like bowling or the zoo. I don't expect her to ask permission or report to me beforehand if she's going to do this. I think you need to allow your MIL to take the kids places without your explicit permission, assuming she does so without letting FIL drive. However, if going anywhere is truly a sticking point with you, then make Rule #2 - don't go anywhere without our permission.

Finally, consider giving your 11 year old a cell phone to take on these outings so he can call you if something happens. It can be a disposable type phone that he only has when he's with grandma if you're not ready for him to have his own phone yet. Also, explain to your children that it's important to you to know what they do with the grandparents and that you expect them to tell you everything at the end of their visit.

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answers from Anchorage on

I think it is weird to put limits on my mother when she has the kids, and I would never expect her to give me a detailed list of everything they plan to do. I actually think it would be rather rude of me to get mad that she took them to a park. That said, I don't know the extent of their health issues or any of that so in the end you have to do what you think is best. Since it is his mother let him handle it and try not to put your husband in the middle of anything between you and her.

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answers from Chicago on

To be direct, if you don't like how they are caring for your children, why do you keep sending them there?

Solve the problem by staying for the visits or having visits at your house.

Sometimes the elderly "don't want to age" and hold on to places or activities that are no longer safe. You cannot prevent this, but you cannot prevent your kids from being a part of this by not letting them go with your IL's.

If its your judgement that your IL's cannot watch your kids anymore, then stop sending them but make arrangements so that they can still visit and not be put in these "risky situations".

Please also be aware that your IL's are aging and may need more of your care. Does your FIL's physician know about his incidents? You may want to find out who their doctors are and just leave a message with the physicians or start going (your husband or his siblings) with to their appointments.

Having gone through this myself, it is important for family members to be a part of medical care because the elderly will not report a lot of "facts" to their physician to avoid losing their independence (such as driver's license, etc). So it is helpful when a family member is at the doctor appointments to give the physician another perspective of the persons functioning.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I can sympathize with ypu regardingbyour worries about FIL driving. Is he the only one who drives? But otherwise I would not expect my parents or family to tell me their whereabouts. I watched my niece and nephews a lot and take them on fun outings all the time. I only recieved appreciation from their parents. It would not be fun or tempting to watch any kids if I had to check in all the time. But Again, I see where part of your concern comes from. Good luck

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answers from Austin on

Your last sentence in your original post made me think: with your FIL having Parkinson's Disease, there is more to consider than blood pressure dropping. There is also the real possibility of him stumbling and falling, perhaps injuring himself, or having a tremor that results in something dangerous occurring (knocking over a glass, resulting in someone getting injured, for example). And of course, the blood pressure and the medications are always a consideration. So a GPS of sorts might be a good idea!

Would your husband be able to convince your MIL and/or FIL into getting one of those neck chain or wrist emergency call buttons (the "help I've fallen and I can't get up" kind of thing - there are lots of them available now). The host of America's Most Wanted (John Walsh? I think?) advertises a system, and many of them now detect falls, and some are for more than medical problems (unsafe situation, for example). That might put your mind at ease. That's certainly "freedom within limits". You can tell your in-laws that this will allow them more peace of mind. If they can't afford the monthly maintenance fee, maybe you and your dh can. The newest one that I've seen advertised is worn on the wrist, looks like a watch, and another family member can get a warning message if the person calls for help, or in the event of other certain situations.

Then, I would get your oldest child a cell phone - the ones that simply make calls (no internet), and I'd make sure that your phone numbers were pre-programmed. I balked at getting my children cell phones at what I considered too early an age, but at the time my husband was stationed in a remote foreign country, and the home phones were really difficult to operate or often out of service due to a strike somewhere. Most of their friends' families did not speak English, so I got my kids each a basic phone. We role played what to do in certain situations.

So if you're going to let your kids visit their grandparents, just take a few steps to insure everyone's safety. Don't make your kids afraid, just tell the 11 year old that he's now old enough to be responsible (if he's generally a good kid) and often responsible kids have a basic cell phone. Tell him that if one of his siblings were to fall on the playground, or if Grandpa needed help, he can call you or 911. Practice with him.

If your in-laws aren't willing to understand the seriousness of your FIL's medical condition, and aren't willing to get a medic alert bracelet or watch or neck chain, and if your FIL insists on driving, then maybe it's time to re-evaluate the visit situation. Maybe it's time for you and dh and kids to drop by from time-to-time, or invite the in-laws over for a visit at your house.

Hopefully they'll be receptive to being safe.

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answers from Washington DC on

The solution is to no longer allow her unsupervised visits with the kids. Either you are there or they are not. If my relative was taking my children places I did not want them to go and didn't listen when I asked her to stop, then that would be that. She can have a relationship on your terms.

The fact that your SIL doesn't allow her kids there unsupervised means that you are not the only one who thinks MIL is out of line or it's dangerous.

I would pay for a different sitter or a more expensive sitter for the peace of mind that the sitter is doing what you want. Fire her.

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answers from Tampa on

This one is pretty easy...really. You do not allow them unsupervised visits with your children...period. You have let them know your expectations and they have ignored them for whatever reason. Your husband has talked to his mother and she still does the same stuff. Whether it is a health thing with the inlaws or just a flat out disregard for your boundaries, they should not be watching your kids alone.

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answers from Portland on

I get where you are coming from but I also think you have to watch to not insult your in-laws.

The way to do this (I've spent many years trying to figure this out) is to be absolutely clear on what you would like to see happen. And then let go of the control.

As for the driving, just insist the MIL drives. Be upfront with your concerns, and just tell her that's the only way it's going to happen.

But for the outings - do you really need to approve them beforehand? That's kind of insulting to older people who've already raised families. And it actually becomes awkward over time. You need to be able to trust them if you're going to leave your kids with them. Either they have say or they don't.

Unless you're comfortable saying "well we don't like the park you frequent". And hashing these things out every time. Trust me, it's just not worth it. So long as your kids are safe and happy, let grandma have say in what she does with them. If ever the kids are really in jeopardy (like the driving) then of course, speak up.

Good luck :)

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answers from Miami on

I'm sorry this is happening with your inlaws. You need to understand that when people get older and start having these problems, they don't think right AND/OR they are in denial.

Your MIL is definitely in denial. But she also isn't thinking right, mom. Really. Do you think she would have ever taken her OWN son to a park in the bad part of town? No. She would have known better then. She doesn't now.

Your FIL will continue to drive until someone takes his keys or he hurts himself. I know what I'm talking about. We had to take my dad's keys from him. He had Parkinson's. There is no way we would allow the driving anymore because he couldn't lift his foot fast enough to put it on the brake. It was scary. My mom realized it and asked me for help. I'm grateful for that.

There is NOTHING you can do except not leave the kids with them. I'm sorry. YOU are responsible. They aren't because they simply will not understand and do what you ask. It's not a matter of "reasonable". It's a matter of they are now elderly and don't think like younger adults do. It's the start of a slow decline and you must step up and do the hard thing.

You take the kids over there on the weekend and visit WITH them. You spend time as a family. It's too bad that there are no more sleepovers or babysitting, but it's the way it has to be. And if you don't adhere to this, you will be to blame. I'm sorry to put it that way, but it's the hard truth.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Your kids are old enough to pick up a phone and call 9-1-1 if they need help.

They are old enough to tell grandma no, mom and dad didn't say we could.

No, you can't manage their time at grandma and grandpa's house.

Here's my bottom dollar opinion of HOW I am reacting to HOW you wrote this.

They are in danger while at their grandparents house, so much that I don't like them taking the kids anywhere. BUT BUT BUT I am so carefree with my kids safety that I continue to take my kids there and micro manage everything from my house.

So either don't take the kids over there or let them have some fun and don't micromanage them.

IF their health is so bad they shouldn't be driving them they are not safe enough for your kids to be there. Period. Plus if they're that unhealthy they might need more care and perhaps having them come to your house to watch the kids where you can manage the situation might be a better choice. Their health sounds really bad so the kids need to spend as much time with them as possible. Before it's too late.

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answers from Norfolk on

Visit them all you want or have them over to your house - but no more over nights or baby sitting or unsupervised visits.
My Mom reminisces about places where she grew up - and police won't even drive through those places at night anymore.
Fortunately she knows those places aren't safe - neighborhoods can change a lot.
Since your MIL is just telling you what you want to hear and then goes ahead and does what she wants anyway - she's proven you can't trust her with watching the kids - so don't let that happen anymore.
Talking is not working - so stop talking and take action.

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answers from Boston on

I don't know whether you are being too overprotective about these side trips. You do say that you are a worry wart so maybe you are going overboard. But to me, the main point is that she agrees to your terms and then ignores them.

I'm not sure why you are more concerned with your FIL having a blood pressure drop "in a bad area" than anywhere else. If he has an episode and needs an ambulance, her attention is not going to be on your kids - that's the same problem in her home, her community pool, or on any field trip. Your kids aren't tiny and the 11 year old is old enough to call you, maybe the 8 year old is too.

You and your husband make a decision, and your husband tells his mother what the deal is. Either you relax your standards, or the kids don't go to her house without you. There are plenty of ways for grandparents and grandchildren to have a great relationship without the grandparents babysitting. You all go to their house, or they come to your house. It's not that hard.

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answers from San Francisco on

I didn't personally need a call from my mother any time she took my kids somewhere, the few times she had them. But I'm not you and your husband, and if you don't trust his parents, you don't.

Can't your MIL do the driving? Does your 11 year old have a cell? Maybe he/she should.

Your husband needs to be the one to talk to his parents about this. "Mom, Dad, call me a worry wart, but when the kids are with you, I want you to check with us beforehand, any time you plan to take the kids out somewhere. Thank you"

Your husband should be able to make this very direct statement. Then, if the grandparents don't comply, he will have to tell them, "Mom, Dad, I asked you to tell me before you take the kids somewhere, and you refuse to comply with this simple wish. Since I cannot trust you, I will not be able to leave the kids with you."

He is going to have to be willing to let his parents feel annoyed or insulted by his request.

I disagree with the 'either you trust them or don't leave the kids with them' stance of some of the other responses below, because even if the parents are over-helicoptering, it's not that difficult for people to make a phone call before taking the kids out, and people shouldn't be so easily insulted. Reassuring overly-worried parents with a phone call isn't the most difficult thing in the world to do.

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answers from Hartford on

I would still allow them to go for overnights but maybe with the agreement that they are staying at home with your MIL and FIL. If there is a pool and such in the retirement community it should be enough to keep them busy for one night away. Your children are also not babies, while they do need supervisor they are starting to get a bit older so you can remind them of the rules while at grandma and grandpa's house.

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answers from Dover on

My ex MIL did/does the same thing. In fact, I would only find out after the fact or by coincidence. And sometimes she'd even leave my child with someone else (like...when did she become the parent instead of me?!). That's the one thing we've fought over through the years so I guess I'm lucky in that regard but still.

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