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Feckless parents

(24 Posts)
jessie1608 Sat 12-Nov-11 21:51:46

I have known my husband for 9 years and we married 3 years ago. He has sons of 25 and 22. I have sons of 24 and 22. We didn't live together until the boys had all left home, and don't class each others children as our stepsons.
His eldest has two children aged 31/2 and 15 months, who come to stay for the weekend every month. They are lovely in spite of their parents, and this is where my problem lies.
Last month the youngest child arrived without any nappies, no warm cardigan or jumper and a coat that was filthy and too small for her. She has been walking for about three months but had no shoes.
Shoes, a coat, warm clothes and nappies were bought for her, along with a car seat a travel cot and bedding. (It was her first visit, although her brother has been coming since he was 3 weeks old).
This weekend, they arrived with 1 nappy, instructions that her shoes are too small and she needs a new pair, no toothbrushes or toothpaste, no pyjamas for the boy, need I go on.
The parents are both unemployed, he having worked for about a month in his life, and she never having worked.
Am I being unreasonable in expecting them to provide for their children, or at least not expecting us to provide for them without even a please or thank you.
I get more and more cross with every text from the parents, the latest being to tell us not to drop the children off until 4pm tomorrow as they are going out until 2.30.
My husband thinks I should just 'chill' but I think the more we do, the more they will expect us to do.

JessM Sat 12-Nov-11 22:08:51

Hi other jess. Sounds like a pain in the butt. I know of affluent ex wives who do this kind of thing deliberately and presumably with malice, but this lot do sound broke. If they are on benefits they will be skint. They are in their mid 20s and probably lots of their friends are fancy free and going out clubbing but it will be really hard for them to cover the basics of heat, rent, food, bills. It will be incredibly hard for them to get into employment if they do not have a work record. they would have to be really determined and if they did, they might end up worse off financially then they are now. None of this is stuff that you can do anything about.
It is hard for you not to feel resentful I am sure and you don't indicate whether you two can afford to buy things for the babes. The step relationship is a difficult one. Assuming that you can afford nappies and clothes then maybe all you can do is to try to focus on enjoying having some little step grand kids around now and again and don't spoil it by having judgemental and resentful feelings.

Joan Sat 12-Nov-11 22:24:19

I certainly understand what you are going through, Jessie, but I'm inclined to agree with Jess. Just do what you can afford to help the children out, and try to enjoy the fact that you can do this. Think of it as helping the little ones, not their parents. You don't need to spend a lot to make a big difference.

I've even bought clothes and shoes for children I was looking after as a day care lady in the 1980s. No thanks from the Mum (there was rarely a Dad around), but happiness from the children.

Carol Sat 12-Nov-11 22:39:44

Sounds like they are being a bit cheeky, whether they are living below the poverty line or not. Who pays for the mobile that they can text you on? How do they prioritise their money? If one of them got work, they could get working/child tax credits and would be eligible for a nursery place, so would not be worse off financially. If you can afford to help them, all well and good, but help in a way that is enabling, not being a free ride when they feel like it. They could get their toddler a pair of shoes from a charity shop for 50p, and show willing, surely? If your husband feels you need to chill, have you criticised without being concerned to enable them to stand on their own two feet. or is he a typical man, wanting to avoid any conflict? Perhaps a family conference would be in order, so everyone can collaborate on doing the best they can for the children.

greenmossgiel Sat 12-Nov-11 22:51:57

Although you feel resentful of the way this young couple are presenting themselves and their little ones to you, jessie - and I can understand your reasoning - can you try to see it from their side? They've no money, and they've probably not been able to gather much pride behind them, either. It may be easier for them to show bravado (informing you of the need for the little girl's new shoes), than to come along and ask you for help. By doing this they may risk rejection or at best a lecture on how they should be managing their money (what money?) All this won't be easy for your husband either. Regarding the late picking -up of the children after their stay with you....well, at least they let you know! My lot hardly ever appeared on time for the little ones. I'm not saying that that was ok, but it wasn't worth falling out over. Good luck, jessie. The wee ones will love being with you, and will reap the benefits of the love and attention you give them.

jessie1608 Sat 12-Nov-11 22:53:47

Thanks for the replies. The couple, although on benefits, are not on the breadline as my husband is always being tapped for money for various things. (Plus, I work for the Department for work and Pensions and know exactly how much benefit they get). Their circle of friends are all like them, none has ever worked, nor intends to. They have enough money for cigarettes, alcohol and the latest x box games so my sympathy doesn't stretch very far with them.
I think it possibly is the fact that my husband doesn't want confrontation/conflict so when I vent he just goes silent. I know he is piggy in the middle here, wanting to defend his son but being unable to.
A family conference is not possible since they have been to our house once since our marriage, and I have been to theirs probably half a dozen times and am yet to be offered a cup of tea! (They live over an hour away).
I just think they are completely feckless and know nothing of how to behave. Godness knows what will happen to the children.

harrigran Sat 12-Nov-11 22:56:08

Oh dear ! jessie1608 I find this distressing. A baby of 15 months without adequate clothing and shoes. They really should not have children they can not care for. If my DGC came to me in that state I would provide for them but I would be reluctant to return them to their parents. No child deserves to be in that situation. Please God that they are otherwise happy sad

Annobel Sat 12-Nov-11 23:02:47

I can understand your getting cross because they have got you over a barrel: you don't want the children to go short and they know it. They are not very good role models for the children; however, you obviously are caring GPs and they will know that their parents aren't the only kind of adults.
Are this couple getting all the benefits they are eligible for? You have to be working to receive Working TCs but not Child TCs. Presumably they are getting Income based JSA plus housing and council tax benefits. There's a web site that can help with a benefits calculation:

greenmossgiel Sat 12-Nov-11 23:09:36

jessie, I understand a bit better now. It's a difficult one for you. I can see the sort of lifestyle that the young ones have, with their friends probably sitting around the house with them day by day. (It seems as if a new culture has come about, really). Your husband will clam up and just hope the problem will go away, or that you'll just stop talking about it (same thing, sometimes)! I don't think you can do anything to make them face up to their responsibilities, though. Is there anyone else in the family who can share this with you? Is their mother still around? Is there a way of agreeing with them that when the little ones need new shoes or a new coat, that you'll get these for them, and that you just keep a supply of nappies in the house for the next visit? If you can agree just on these things, perhaps it will ease their minds a bit, whilst understanding that that's all that's on offer?

Carol Sat 12-Nov-11 23:47:32

Does their local SureStart centre offer parenting/budgetting classes? I know a family that have attended them near where I live. They often have bags of good quality clothing and shoes for children, too. Would they appreciate some practical help so they can prioritise their spending and take more responsibilty for their children? If they are at a loose end in the daytime, associating with other young parents who are learning how to cope would be preferable to sitting around playing on the X-Box with unemployed mates. Their efforts could be rewarded with cinema tickets and babysitting, provided by you and your partner so they can have a night off when they bring the children to stop over. Constantly noticing and praising responsible parenting may help, too.

glammanana Sun 13-Nov-11 00:17:01

jessie I would be concerned with the little ones being in a home with alcohol and cigarettes,an inviroment not at all suitable for small children,and if they are buying x-box games they are not going out in the fresh air at all are they.I agree with carol about Surestart and also family health centres will arrange nursery places for little man,I think your DH does not want to be seen as the heavy handed parent in this and will continue to bury his head,maybe he is concerned that his son will not accept any advice he is given by his dad. good luck with the little ones,by the way when my DGs where little I always kept a supply of basic bathroom stuff at my house for when they came and it always stayed there so if by any chance they arrived in a hurry I always had a supply available for them

Granny23 Sun 13-Nov-11 00:24:44

I can understand your frustration with the parents but think you should try to put that in a 'box' of its own, quite seperate from your relationship with your (step)DGC. With four sons between you there will undoubtedly be more DGC in the future so, like all of us GPs, you will need to build up a stock of books, toys, spare clothing in case of accidents, wellies for wet weather, child friendly food in the larder and freezer and loads of nappies and wipes. You have made a good start with travel cot and car seat. We also bought a high chair and acquired a potty and a buggy. Saves a lot of hassle shifting stuff about when the children come here and we found that items such as toothbrushes were forgotten or lost in transit (family in joke - DH was a white van man), so we keep spares here.

My DDs and their partners are no way 'feckless' nor are they short of money but as they are all working they are short of time. It is my pleasure and delight to buy cute clothes for the DGC. I have the time to trawl ASDA and TESCO sales and Thrift shops, sifting through the junk and finding real gems often Brand new with tags, at low, low prices. I also knit, crochet and sew for them. My DGC probably have too many clothes - I think I am over compensating for my own childhood, spent as second hand Rose to my sister - and the struggle to clothe my own 2 DDs when they were small, with only one wage coming in and children's clothes much more expensive then.

You have the chance to make a real difference in these children's lives and to find much joy in doing so. It is your DH's responsibility to tackle HIS son. I fear any input from your goodself will be seen as unwanted interference.

Libradi Sun 13-Nov-11 09:57:27

jessie I don't think you are being unreasonable in expecting them to provide for their children. I buy loads of things for my DGD and enjoy doing it but if it were demanded then I would think twice. I don't think that there is a need for any child to go without warm clothes shoes etc. today. We have so many cheap clothes shops like Primark, Asda, Tesco and then there are the charity shops, boot sales.

I think they are taking you and your DH for granted. Having said all that, I would probably buy for them if they turned up on my doorstep without warm clothes.
I also keep things like spare toothbrush, toiletries and nappies when my GD was a baby and have our own car seat/booster seat, toys and books.

Nanban Sun 13-Nov-11 12:22:17

I am completely envious of you having your grandchildren come visit and being able to help them out, buy them 'stuff' - wonderful, I only wish I could. You could, and probably already have, keep each their own special box for when they are with you and only send the barest minimum home with them.

Forget the rest, do what's important.

JessM Sun 13-Nov-11 12:26:11

I think it would be very hard to confront these two. They do not sound like good parents but there are a lot worse around. Yr DH may be afraid of falling out and not seeing his grandchildren. In our marriage my DH has been financially supporting his mother since his first pay packet. (She has had a lot of ill health etc etc long story) He also buys expensive christmas presents for 14 close relatives!! I have the occasional twinge of resentment but....
We have also supported my sons with money when they have been in a mess. (they are not his) and I still buy a lot of clothes for the DGKds and spend money on air fares. Expensive ones, to visit them.
We both try not resent the other family. Resentment and judgemental feelings are horrible and pointless. Tolerance and kindness are better things to feel... less unpleasant and corrosive. But more challenging.

Mishap Sun 13-Nov-11 14:55:40

If these parents really are struggling to be good parents as you describe , your role in their lives could be really crucial and precious to them.
As others have said, maybe you need to separate out your role wih the children from your entirely understandable irritation with their parents.

supernana Sun 13-Nov-11 15:35:17

Mishap has summed up my feelings in a few well-chosen words. jessie you love the children. They are the innocents. In your shoes, I would do my utmost on their behalf, and keep my irritations regarding their parents well and truly under wraps.

jessie1608 Sun 13-Nov-11 17:23:59

Thank you everyone. My husband is taking the children home, well fed and happy!
I know I have to separate my feelings for the parents from those for the children, and I do try, but when my husband gets a text saying don't forget to bring the nappies and wipes you have bought, I do get a bit cross.
Nevermind. We have had a lovely time with the children, at the park, bubble baths after getting filthy, (I love to see a really muddy child), and an hour spent 'tickling' this morning. Such simple pleasures that hopefully the children will treasure.

greenmossgiel Sun 13-Nov-11 17:25:53

They will, jessie. You can be sure of that. smile

shysal Sun 13-Nov-11 18:29:46

Maybe you could 'forget' to take the nappies and wipes, and if questioned you could gently say they would save you the expense next time the children stay. As so many posters have said, you would possibly enjoy buying a few bits if it were not demanded or expected! I would definitely keep any purchases at my place.
Does your other half pull his weight with the children ? My ex would have happily let me do all the work while he only did the fun bits. There were no step children, but this happened when we did fostering and respite care for disabled children.

harrigran Sun 13-Nov-11 19:16:50

It would be unfair to withold the nappies you bought, the child will suffer not the parents. I would fill a bag with basics for cleanliness and take them home with the children.

rosienanna Mon 14-Nov-11 01:02:45

i'm the same as Nanban..i would just love to be in the position to see the children and take them shopping sometimes for esentials and small treats..i go to charity shops and the beautiful shoes and clothing at giveaway prices! its only if these were teenagers and scrounging for booze and cigs..then i would feel can make such a difference to their little lives telling them bedtime stories....and stuff..

gillybob Fri 18-Nov-11 11:18:34

jessie1608 I gave up expecting children to arrive with everything they needed so I have a everything they need at mine. Nappies, food, toys, clothes, cot, buggy,car seats the whole lot. It saves so much hassle and it gives me a little bit peace of mind.

I too get texts from DIL asking me not to drop them off before 6pm (or whatever) even though I have had them for 48 hours sometimes. I find it really annoying but I would never cause an argument over it as I do it for the little ones. My son and DIL have very little money and struggle to heat their home so in some ways I am happier knowing that they are warm and well fed at mine.

grannyactivist Sat 19-Nov-11 15:31:21

jessie1608 I have a cot, high chair, car seat and pushchair which my daughter has provided, but I buy nappies, wipes, toothbrushes and paste, baby toiletries, Calpol (most important) and books and toys. I also buy clothes and bedding for my grandson so that I have plenty of spares here.
Of course you're going to feel irritated with the situation you find yourself in, but the best thing you can do is exactly what you are doing - and that is to model good parenting skills. I used to teach parenting skills and was always very grateful if there was a willing and able grandparent in the wings to reinforce the learning process. You're doing a good job and you obviously enjoy the little ones, so keep up the good work and try to develop a thick skin. Trust me; when they're older those little ones will treasure the memories you're giving them. smile