DEAR AMY: My mother-in-law recently asked if she could take our kids for the day. My husband and I were nervous about this, due to the COVID pandemic. but we relented — with the clear understanding that our kids would not have any contact with their cousins (their father is a medic and is in contact with the virus regularly).
My mother-in-law assured me that it would only be our children with her, and that she would not get them together with their cousins.
Well, it turns out that she had all of the kids together to play.
I feel that she lied to me and put us at risk for sickness.
What would you do?
Frustrated in Nevada
DEAR FRUSTRATED: Assuming your narrative is accurate, your mother-in-law’s choice is fairly indefensible. Her reasons for overriding your very reasonable rule might be many and varied. She may have felt pressured by both sets of children, she could be a pandemic denier, overwhelmed for other reasons, or – simply not have much respect for you (and her son) as parents.
Grandparents sometimes believe that they know best when it comes to dealing with children (sometimes they are right), and sneaky grandparents will leap over boundaries in order to assert their own supremacy. (And where were these other parents who allowed their kids to get together with yours, by the way? Did they think this was wise?)
Unfortunately, there will be a consequence for this, and if you are all lucky, it will be relational, and not through anyone becoming seriously ill.
You’ll have to try to discern what your mother-in-law’s real motive was, and unless she has disrespected you and your husband in similar ways in the past, you could assume that this was a one-time terrible lapse in judgment.
The consequence for her lapse should be dictated by the CDC recommendations during this period. Because she put your children at some risk of exposure to the virus, your household should behave as if you might have it: No nonessential contact with others, take your temperatures each day, wear a mask whenever you go out, double up on your hand-washing.
Contact with the grandmother will have to be limited to distance video conferencing or phone calls.
She has also potentially been exposed to the virus (through her grandchildren), and you should express concern for her health.
Your other family members may believe that you and your husband are overreacting to this current threat. But – guess what? You get to react in whatever way you believe is wisest to protect your own family.
Quite simply, as parents, risk assessment is your job, and you are doing it.
DEAR AMY: We have been following shelter-in-place orders for 28 days.
During the first 14 days, I made an effort to reach out to all my friends through phone calls to check on their safety and to socialize. I am saddened that they have not reached out in return as time goes on.
Is there something I don’t understand about the shelter-in-place mindset that prevents people from reaching out? Or am I discovering that my friends are not as close and caring as I thought they were?
DEAR IGNORED: What gives is this: Everyone is different. People respond to stress, and personal, health, and national challenges in different ways. Some people are growing out their beards, learning to bake bread, and are setting up daily Zoom meetings with friends and family members, while some people are spending their days caroming between anxiety, sadness and worry – and doing it in solitude.
This is a tough time for most people, and the most compassionate response is to give yourself – and others – a break. I hope you will continue to reach out to friends, because that sounds like something you are good at.
DEAR AMY: “M” wrote to you about a situation involving a friend of hers who is staying in her guest house (for an indefinite period) in Los Angeles, while M is in Ohio.
I appreciated that you included some positive aspects of having someone living at her property while she isn’t there, but I wish you had urged her to consult a lawyer regarding her friend’s tenancy, and the legal implications of having someone living in her home without an agreement.
You said that if the friend pays rent, it could be difficult to get her to leave, but that can be the case with non-renters, too.
DEAR BEEN THERE: Absolutely. Thank you.
You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.