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They’re called boundaries, Dad!

It’s great that my dad has been helping to look after my son, but now I can’t get rid of him.

Establish a schedule, says our elder — for childcare and for “popping over”.

Dear EWC

My dad is single and right now is working from home so he offers to watch my son every day. My mom also wants to see my kid, and my dad will text my son every day to see if he wants to go with him even after I tell him my son is going to stay with my mom. On top of that my dad wants to come over to my apartment every day after work and on the weekends. It’s causing problems between my boyfriend and me.

Susan replies

It is hard to be torn between the wishes of both your mom and your dad, as well as needing to be there for your son. I expect that your son is having a hard time responding to the texts. Additionally, I know many couples who are frustrated with parents just dropping by all the time. It shows a lack of respect, even though the parents may see it as trying to be helpful. As you said in your letter, your father does have problems figuring out boundaries. I am wondering if this has become worse due to the closures for Covid-19 and that working at home is making him lonely. However, feeling lonely is not a reason for your dad to ignore your decisions about where your son will spend his time.

Does your father do a good job watching your son? Does your mom do an equally good job? Is your son happy at both places? I would suggest you consider having a regular schedule of which days your son goes to which of his grandparents. I think that a routine is especially good to have during this pandemic period of uncertainty. I think that a planned schedule regarding childcare for your son would be good for everyone. You might revise the schedule in a few weeks, depending on how well it works. I would then have you tell your dad what the schedule is and that he absolutely must not text your son about coming over. He should address all questions to you. You might tell him how lucky you are to have two parents who want to take care of their grandson, but that right now, it’s important that you, as the parent, make the decisions about your son’s childcare. You can decide if you want your father texting other things to your son, or if you want all texting to stop for now.

I think it will be harder to tell him he needs to be invited before he comes to your house, but I think you will need to talk to him about your wish to have time with your boyfriend. Maybe you can address your dad’s loneliness and discuss other ways for him to see people. Perhaps you and your boyfriend can also schedule how often your dad can come over and maybe have a weekly night for dinner with him.

I hope that will work for all of you. Perhaps now that some states are opening up, your father can start finding some other safe ways to spend his time so he’s not feeling as lonely. Feel free to write again anytime.

Letter #: 461168
Category: Family

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