...she is 74 and has a weak bladder...

Received Tuesday, June 24, 2008- Perspective & Opinion
I really need some perspective on this….

We have a relative caring for our only child – a 3 year old son. She likes to take him to a busy playground in New Jersey that is fenced in on 3 sides but open to the parking lot. Outside in the parking lot are bathrooms.

Yesterday, when I had my son at the same playground, I made him come into the bathroom with me when I had to go. He gave me an argument and wanted to keep playing. Then he told me that our relative always just leaves him to play and tells him “I’ll be right back” when she goes into the bathroom. I’m not sure if she even asks someone to watch him – but she doesn’t really know anyone by name at this playground – maybe just chats with some of the mommies there.

Hearing this, I felt like an icy hand just went over my heart. I cannot believe she would do this! but apparently, it happens almost every day – either in this public playground or on rainy days, in the for-fee indoor “playstation” she takes him to. (Son says she always takes him to bathroom with her when they are in a store or at the library but at a play areas or playgrounds she just lets him play)

I sympathize, she is 74 and has a weak bladder, so I know she has to use a bathroom often. I still can’t get over that she doesn’t make him go with her though. And then I remember she IS 74….and although this sounds ageist, but maybe she is not mentally up to caring for children. It’s hard b/c otherwise is in fantastic physical shape (lifelong gym rat). But b/c of her physical athletic appearance, I often forget that she is as old as she is…. Still, her leaving him there for even 2 minuts, I think , demonstrates an unbelievable lack of judgement when it comes to caring for my son.

Also, she has been losing things – she has multiple sets of keys and reading glasses b/c she is always misplacing them. She has forgotten my son’s coat, gloves, hats etc. at the mall, too .

I wonder if she is suffering from early dementia? my husband is defending her b/c he is fond of this relative andmy son loves her. But I no longer trust her to care for my son by herself.

Am I over-reacting, like he says?
Any thoughts?


erics mom said...

It may be too much for her to take care of your son. It sounds like shes taking care of him for at least 40 hours. Wow, I can't imagine being 74 taking care of a three year old! All day. It doesn't seem fair for either of them.

Why not put your son in pre-k or a summer program? Not sure what your work schedule is. Maybe, she can be with him in the early morning, before camp to help get him ready to go. Then around 3pm he can come home, either a bus or another mom can drop him off. Then your relative can watch him in the house or backyard until you come home.

Anonymous said...

Stop blaming your inlaw. Its your fault. Why not hire someone to help her out. I can't believe you expect her to watch your child all day. Your leaving your son with her all day shows how greedy you are, to save money.

And what I am thinking she probably doesn't think anything of leaving your son while she uses the restroom. In her day they never had to worry about kidnappings, etc. I am sure it wasn't done to be malicious.

ATL Nanny said...

I would sit her down and talk with her. Explain that the world is dangerous -- it's not the place it was 50 years ago when she was raising her children. Also, tell her how much you love her and how wonderful it is that she helps you with your son. But make it clear that she doesn't have to do it full time if it's too much for her. Look into options like preschool, day camps, and possibly hiring a PT nanny. Perhaps if your relative is only responsible for your son a few hours a day or a couple of days per week, she won't be as overwhelmed and scatterbrained. Of course, if you cut back and the forgetfulness continues, it may well be early senior dementia, and that's a whole other issue.

You're lucky to have a relative who loves your son so much and has helped you out thus far by providing child care. But it sounds like it's time to reduce her responsibilities.

Marissa M. said...

How does a 74 year old "gym rat" keep up with your son?

Just because she is loving doesn't mean she is responsible. She is clearly portraying bad judgement- in my opinion regardless of her age.

She could have a heart attack or stroke in front of your son any day and how traumatic would that be for him to witness something like that?

Get new care for him, please

Anonymous said...

Is this what your 3 year old son told you? Or did you see this first hand? If not your son could very well be lying. Sorry to say that but i work with tons of kids and families all the time and if a child is playing and having fun they will tell you anything just to keep what they are doing. He every well could of just told you that because he didn’t want to go into a bathroom with you. BUT if you believe your child and think that he may be in danger because she is too old to care for him then find someone else. OR simply ask her straight up if she is and tell her that you should never do this.

Anonymous said...

Eek! 74? I hope she's not driving him around to these places and they are taking a bus instead. That's scary by itself. I would not leave your son with this relative anymore. It's good intentions, but she obviously cannot keep up at her age. Not to mention, a lot has changed since her generation, and even her generation of raising children, so she might not even realize the magnitude of leaving a child alone at a public place while she went potty if you tried to confront her to not do it. I would set up a new child care situation asap.

Anonymous said...

My dad is 72 and has a 19 year old son. I think people can be in very different places and different ages. Some are elderly in the 70's some are spunkier than most 50 year olds (my dad is in that category). I would talk to the relative. I see nothing wrong with asking another mom to keep an eye on your kid for a few seconds while she pees.

Marissa M. said...

Nothing wrong with that? And then people wonder why their kids go missing.....

What if this mom didn't care about watching your child but is just polite and says yes. What if something happens to her child, such as falling and fracturing his arm.... that mom wouldn't care to remember about your child for a minute.

Think people think!

Anonymous said...

I do think you are overreacting. First of all, you need to ask her if she leaves him alone in the playground. As has been pointed out, this used to be ok when her children were young, and in addition, it may just not be true.
Secondly, seventy four is not that old anymore. Plenty of people in their seventies who have led healthy active lifestyles still work, drive, and are sharp mentally.
You don't say what kind of hours she is putting in with your son, but if she is doing the full nanny schedule of ten hour days, that is probably too much. I know women half her age who can't handle that!

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you are not satisfied with the situation at hand. Have you talked to your caregiver to get her side of the story? Perhaps she did leave your son on the playground once or twice with someone she knew? Three year-olds may be likely to give a partial truth (rather than out-right lying--that often comes later) because they don't know the entire story.

If you are uncomfortable with this situation, but want to allow this relative time to spend with your child, perhaps you could arrange for classes they could attend together? Parks and Rec offers affordable classes and indoor playground time in my neck of the woods; perhaps there's something similar where you are. At least then, if she had to use the restroom, there would be a teacher (and in my experience, a room full of mommies she could get to know to help her out for a few minutes).

You may also consider preschool for your child. He's at an age where there are many opportunities out there for him where he doesn't have to be one-on-one with a caregiver, but she could be there to scope out the situation. Or, if you are looking for an easy way to let her know you don't need her to look after him anymore, explaining that he is growing up and will begin preschool will seem more of a natural transition to her.

If you are concerned that this woman has dementia, please please please discuss it with her doctor. Encourage her to mention her forgetfulness to him--even just in passing--to not only keep your child safe, but to keep her safe as well.

As for your husband, he may feel torn between two people he loves dearly--this woman and his child. It may be hard for him to see (or want to see) what is going on, or it may be normal to him because he grew up with it. Be gentle. You are not talking about an employee here, you are talking about a relative who will likely remain a part of your life regardless of her childcare responsibilities.

My experience: my mother-in-law is a horrible driver. I HATE the idea of her driving my children, but we do not own a car. I try to avoid activities where she will drive my children by suggesting an alternative close to my home, which is in a very walkable neighborhood. If it's completely unavoidable, I borrow a vehicle and drive the kids myself. My mother-in-law will always be there, and I am doing my part to ensure that my children will be, too, without alienating her or my husband over the issue.

UmassSlytherin said...

It sounds as if your gut is telling you that you are uncomfortable with your child in this person's care. I realize this is difficult since she is family, but you should trust your gut as the mother. I don't think a child that age should be unattended in a public place, that's just my own opinion, so I understand why that made you nervous. Talk to your caregiver and tell her what your child said, and ask her to take him in the bathroom with her next time.
Good luck!

fox in socks said...

Please talk to her and tell her that from now on you want to make sure she doesn't leave your son to play while she uses the bathroom. Tell her that perhaps you should have stated this more explicitly, but you've learned that this is what's been going on and you want to make sure she knows that it's extremely important to you that she doesn't ever leave him alone for even a second. If she reassures you and has an appropriate reaction in this conversation, maybe you will feel better.

I don't think she is suffering from early dementia. Losing a few things doesn't demonstrate this.

It's hard to say if caring for your son so extensively is too much for her or not. We all don't know her, your son, and the whole situation the way you and your husband do. Only you can make that call.

Keep us posted!

Anonymous said...

Marissa -

What are the chances that in the 2 minutes it takes someone to pee that the other mom's kid would fall and break an arm AND some pedophile would be watching and snatch up the unattended kid? Really?

I am all for watching kids and keeping them safe but I am also for helping each other out. I would have NO problem keeping an eye on a child while a mom made a phone call, got water from the fountain, or used the bathroom. I would hope someone would do the same for me as well. It would also depend on how frequently I went to that location and how comfortable my child and I were there.

If it was my neighborhood playground where I see familiar faces and could still hear the playground from the toilet, yeah, I wouldn't mind taking a bathroom break.

Oh, and you guys wonder why your kids are so paranoid and afraid of their own shadows. My parents were so afraid of me being kidnapped I grew up afraid of any van without windows. Lets not instill irrational fears in our children.

Miserly Bastard said...

My parents are in their seventies, and my wife and I are careful to try not to ask them to do more than they are capable of.

To that end, while we might ask them to babysit so we can take a movie night, we're reluctant to ask them to care for our child all day. My dad likes to take a late afternoon nap, and my mom is a late riser in the morning--neither of them are up to the task of full-time care. (When my parents are in town visiting, they are usually accompanied by the nanny.)

On rare occasion, we have asked my parents to babysit a full day, solo. This happened when I was out of town, my wife had early morning meetings she could not reschedule, and the nanny was taking her annual vacation. My parents flew in and everything went fine, but we could tell it was absolutely exhausting for them.

Best to put your older relatives in situations where they can succeed, rather than to set them up for failure.

Anonymous said...

I definitely think you need to ask her. I am not a nanny but I baby-sit quite often and have baby-sat for the same children for eight years. More than once they have told me things that I knew were not true so they could continue doing something fun.

I just tell them "When you are with me, I want to do it this way." and they may fight but normally listen since they know I am in charge. But given your sons age, it is quite possible he did that. My kids have said but she let us do this, about me to their parents and some of the things I have to which the parents normally say, well thats with her (its stupid stuff like having the must louder in the car) to things that I never would have let them do and their parents know it.

My grandmother is 74 and I would definitely not call her old at all, I think it is more how they have kept theirselves up. And as for the reading glasses, my parents keep a ton of them because they loose them so I don't think loosing those are keys are a huge deal.

I think the best thing to do would be to ask her, because without asking you won't know. She may not be doing it or she may be asking another parent that she sees quite often to watch him. If she just leaves him I would definitely have a talk with her about that and if she is respectful you probably will not have a problem again.

Another option as mentioned above is split her time with a nanny if you work. This may be welcomed by her to give her time to relax but she just doesn't want to mention it. Best of luck to you!

seattlenanny said...

Oh man, I'm worried about when I get older because I'm always misplacing my keys and phone and I'm fairly young still.


My Grandma used to watch me while my parents worked. I have some amazing memories of time spent with her. She taught me how to be respectful, polite and honest. I'm glad my mom didn't think she was too old to care for me.

That being said, I agree with some of the other posters who suggested preschool for part of the day. Maybe she could take care of a your child a few hours before preschool and a few hours after?

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm odd, but I don't see 74 as being ancient. My Grandma is approaching 83 and she takes writing courses, swim exercise classes, and still travels all over the World every year. She recently went to Ireland (within the last year). Age is just a number. If your relative is as active as you say she is, she can probably handle caring for the child (maybe not for long hours, but for a few hours a week). Just talk to her and tell her you want your son with her and in her sight at all times.

marypoppin'pills said...

Your Relative may be spry, but it still may be too much of a workload for her.
Also, we have to remember that in her day, kids had a lot more freedom. I know I got to run all over the neighborhood when I was 5 y.o. -- But you certainly can't do that now.

Just have a talk with her and let her know how you feel. Ask if it's too much for her, and if so, try to make other arrangements to where she only gets the child a couple of hours a day.

tootired said...

i think elderly people can be excellent nannies in some ways and not so good in other ways. just like a teenager is good in some ways and not in other ways.

so, OP you should probably put your son in part time preschool or have a teenager or college student assist part-time with watching your son. maybe if it's a teen she could work with the elderly woman.

i think you may have to spend a little more money, depending on if the current nanny can afford a reduction in her hours. but i really do think she needs a reduction in her hours!

she must be very tired and probably does have memory loss. it's not going to get any better though so you do have to make those adjustments if you want to be satisfied with the situation.

Anonymous said...

FYI, People in their seventies serve on the Supreme Court, in the Senate, and conduct major symphony orchestras!

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you need someone who can work full time as a caretaker. If you, your husband and your son love this woman, you can still spend time with her and have her watch your son a few times a month. Perhaps it is best just to use her on occasion, like if you want to see a movie or go to dinner. She amazes me though: I can barely keep up with kids and I'm in my twenties!

erics mom said...

Okay 2:30

I agree with you. But I think raising kids is the hardest job there is out there. Even harder than the ones you mentioned. Besides being a physical job its alot of mental wear and tear.

Just my opinion.


Anonymous said...

I think you need to hire a yonger person to take the full time job and have the relative one day a week or less. Sounds like she is having a hard time. Three year old boys are very energetic and need lots of attention. She may want to do it but just can't.

Anonymous said...

Leaving a three year old alone, even to go the bathroom....that's pretty scary....