Too Young, Too Long to Leave Child?

Here is one of those dilemmas, in which I completely agree with the advice of Carolyn Hax, but could see it being such an explosive topic that she got skewered for it.

A father — very entitled IMHO — wrote to her that he and his wife went on a two-week trip to Europe. They left their 21-month-old with his mother-in-law, who after a few days of caring for the child, “burnt out” — his words — then left the child with her other daughter. That daughter had a business trip and then left the child with an ex-girlfriend who he said was “not connected to our family in any meaningful way.”

The father is livid that they weren’t called, while his wife has told him to drop it. Carolyn sided with the wife saying that this young child was too young to be left so long by his parents. Here was Carolyn’s response and that of those who agreed and disagreed with her:

Carolyn Hax: In the kids shoes, would I trust my parents after this?

You left a too young kid for too long for too nonessential a reason. Parents do need to get away, but not that ambitiously. So, yes, your mom made a serious error in not calling you right away when she started to feel overwhelmed. Your sister made a serious error in not calling you when your mom handed your son over and when she passed him along again. Who knows what your sister’s ex was thinking–”poor kid,” probably, but how hard would it have been for her to say to your sister, “You need to call the parents, NOW”?

If you and your wife had deployed or been in the hospital or something else, then I’d have a completely different answer. But you took two weeks off from being parents, and you got what you got, and I think it’s time to listen to your wife and drop it. If you were planning to give your mom two weeks in Europe to thank her for caring for your boy, then it is okay for you to withdraw that offer.

Seriously. Carolyn also asked the father why he didn’t call while he was in Europe. Who. is. this. guy?

Still, people came to his rescue and called Carolyn “judgmental.” I don’t like judgy people either, but in this case, I really felt for the kid. The most my husband and I were away from the kids were five days and we called every single day. I missed them desperately — and that was with my mother-in-law’s assurances that they were fine. Read on:



Washington, DC: Regarding the parents who went to Europe – I think the LW has a fair point about finding the MIL and SIL untrustworthy. The MIL made a commitment and did not honor it.

Carolyn Hax: I did too. I said they made a … “serious error.”

I knew I’d be criticized for this answer, because I’ve disagreed vehemently before with someone over a similar issue.

When you ask an above-and-beyond favor of someone in a situation when you have other options, I believe you sacrifice your right to take complete umbrage if that favor is executed poorly.

That it was executed poorly (here and in that old argument I had) is not open for debate here–all the caregivers really screwed up.

I just don’t think the person who asked the favor has the right to go on a you-done-me-wrong tear. I believe that’s the hazard of asking favors when you have other options; you sacrifice your right to be angry about how well (or poorly) the favor was done.

My old argument was about something very different, but I think it’s actually useful because it takes the emotional of child-care out of it. It was about getting repair work done by a buddy who had a shop, instead of paying someone full price for a straight business transaction. When the work wasn’t done correctly, my argument was that it wasn’t okay to go back to the buddy to complain about the poor workmanship. That option went out the window when you chose to save a few bucks by asking a friend.

Another friend involved in the transaction completely disagreed with me, and said the responsibility for the work is entirely on the other person upon agreeing to do the favor.

Back to the kid. Why didn’t the parents call?

_____________________

“not connected to our family in any meaningful way”: Looks like she is, if she was willing to do that big a favor for your family. Time to graciously thank this woman, send her a LARGE bouquet of flowers, and humbly ask if she will teach you to be as thoughtful of others as she is, starting with being as thoughtful of YOUR OWN CHILD as she was.

Carolyn Hax: Ah, there’s that, too. Thanks.

_____________________

Too young to leave?!: Carolyn,

We’re about to go on a vacation for 1 week, and leave our 20 month old son in my mom’s care. Do you really think that’s too young to leave? Why?

Carolyn Hax: “Parents do need to get away, but not that ambitiously.”

_____________________

Re: 2-week trip: Carolyn Hax: “In the kids shoes, would I trust my parents after this? You left a too young kid for too long for too nonessential a reason.”

Judgmental much???

Carolyn Hax: Completely. And had he given his own actions even a passing glance, it would have been a completely different answer.

I also want to point out that in the original letter, the child was left for two weeks — not one. Oh, but there’s more:

Nashville TN: Are you saying a one week vacation away from a small child is too much?

Carolyn Hax: No, that’s not what I was saying. I said two weeks was too long for this age child for that type of trip. I really was answering specifically for the facts of that question, and I don’t think anything extrapolated from that and applied to a different situation can be said to accurately represent my views.

I’m answering this because there are a lot of these in my queue–how about X years old, Y weeks, whatever–and all I can say is that the answer changes when you change the facts.

_____________________

Too young to leave?: Sidestepping the issue of how long is OK to be away or how far to go…when planning to be away from children, the parents should always 1) plan for back-up in case something happens to the assigned substitute care giver. (Friends of mine left their son with his mother, who was in a car crash. This can happen to anyone.) 2) expect to call DAILY to check on on both child and the caregiver, and 3) purchase trip insurance in advance so that, in an emergency, you can get home fast.

Also, the first-line substitute could probably use respite if they are responsible for more than a couple of days. Build that into the plan…arrange a sitter so they get few hours off. This will help prevent them from getting burned out while you are traveling.

Carolyn Hax: I like all of these, thanks–very useful. The “also” is just as important as the others, though, and not as a “could probably.” For one, parents can’t expect a caregiver to put in more time than they do themselves, and it’s hard to imagine parents in a situation when they’re “on” for X days straight. Even if it’s one parent handing the child to the other parent, there are little breaks here and there. A solo caregiver needs every one of those breaks a parent gets, and then some, because it’s not their child(ren) they’re caring for.

Even when parents go away for as few as two nights, it’s good for the kids for you to arrange a sitter for the sitter, if it’s someone doing solo duty.

I completely agree with the advice at the end of this piece. Thanks to MIL’s generosity — and yes, it is a huge favor — DH and I have gotten away for little trips here and there. The farthest and most we were away was five days to St. Maarten island. And even with my MIL’s reassurances to not worry about the kids, we still made sure that our nanny helped her, that she had downtime, that she had all emergency phone numbers including the kids’ pediatrician and our closest friends, that we called everyday, and that we brought lots of presents for her and the kids as it was a long time to be away from them.

This father sounds way entitled IMHO. Yes, grandma and aunt exercised a huge error in judgement and they should have been upfront about not being able to handle a 21-month-old at this point in their lives. But I feel that these parents should have known this or taken a much closer and shorter trip.

What do you all think?

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Bon Voyage (Again)

I’ve got nothing as I am packing my bags once again.

Ari and I will be headed to Erika’s baby shower this weekend. We are hopping on a flight to Orange County today, returning on Sunday. I will definitely post pictures from the weekend either Sunday or Monday.

Until then, have a good weekend! What are you up to?

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Midday Coffee Break

What’s up?

Like I said earlier today, I did see fellow MotherTalker Jenna and her beautiful family on our Chicago trip. Here is a picture of us with her adorable son Toby.

Here is another one of Ari and Avery. They were wild together! Here they are having a quiet moment.

It was such a great trip that DH and I were not ready to come home. We could have continued to hang out with friends and family the rest of the week.

What’s up with you?

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Bon Voyage (Again)

This has been a couple difficult weeks for me. First, my 84-year-old grandmother had a stroke. I immediately booked a flight for New Hampshire as I was told she was in and out of consciousness and would probably never recover to leave the hospital.

Miraculously, she regained consciousness and was transferred to a rehabilitation center. Then I received some shocking news. My 52-year-old aunt — my mother’s baby sister — died of a heart attack in front of her young son. She had children at a later age, so she leaves behind her 13-year-old son, a 10-year-old son with a severe case of Down’s syndrome and an 8-year-old daughter. I am sad that I have not spoken to my aunt for at least 8 or 9 years — I just did not keep in touch with my mother’s family as much as my father’s — but I am especially heartbroken for my uncle and cousins. They are in Pennsylvania so I booked another flight to join my mom and sister (who is traveling with me from California) to attend the funeral.

So I am off to New Hampshire and Pennsylvania for 5 days total. Yes, I am sad about the circumstances that bring me there, but I am shamelessly looking forward to seeing all my family again. I need them. I will get to see my parents, siblings, paternal grandmother, maternal grandfather — who tragically outlived his youngest child — and aunts and uncles from both sides of my family. It is sad that it takes a funeral — and on a good occasion, a wedding — to get the family together.

In the meantime, Gloria and Erika will take the reigns and post the daily open thread as well as the occasional story. I will be back Monday, July 6. Thanks all — and stay healthy!

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European Hospitality Part III

Once again, we packed up three weeks worth of luggage and headed for the Greek Island of Karpathos (pictured on right) on the shortest flight I have ever taken: five minutes.

At the airport we were greeted warmly by Daily Kos frontpager “Georgia10“ (pictured in the center) and her sisters Sophia (left) and Francesca (right). They made sure to show us more Greek hospitality, although thankfully, they were thoughtful enough to let us take naps. That is, after we had our homecooked meal.

Karpathos is a fascinating island in that women own a lot of property and run businesses unlike many parts of Greece. It was an island founded by pirates so the women remained behind, running the place, while the men were away. There are many female property owners in Karpathos even though for generations in other parts of Greece men were the sole heirs to family land.  

Even the naming of children in Karpathos is maternalistic.

One thing that bothered Markos and I in Crete is that the family kept asking why Ari wasn’t named “Markos“ after his grandfather. In Greek tradition, the firstborn son is named after the father’s father, the paternal grandfather. A firstborn daughter — even if she is second in line like Eli — is named after the father’s mother, paternal grandmother. “Then you can name the rest of the children after the mother’s family if you’d like,“ a cousin told me. Gee, thanks.

In Karpathos it’s the opposite. The children are named after their maternal grandparents. Then Papi’s family can have dibs on names — if Mami allows it. I like that.  

Because we lost a day to rest, we saw only a fraction of Karpathos, which like Crete, is stunning: largely untouched rocky landscape and perfectly blue water.

There are more churches per capita in Karpathos than any other part of Greece, Georgia and her sisters told us. Now these are not big modern mega churches as we know them in the States. These are tiny, room-sized structures constructed by individuals who wanted to repay God for avoiding a near-death experience or simply wanted to go to Heaven.


While we were at the beach, we actually checked out one of these old churches, tucked way on a hill, with its original, but deteriorating walls and frescoes. The church was dedicated to Saint Lucas:

The beach itself was cold and stony like so many we saw in Crete. But I am not complaining. It was brutally hot the entire time we were in Greece — easily 90+ degrees — and we genuinely enjoyed just swimming and lying on a lounge chair. The difference in Karpathos is that it is breezy, which allowed us to remain cool at night.

The night sky, by the way, is amazing there. The two nights we spent on the island in Georgia’s uncle’s house, we would walk out to the porch and look up at the stars and Milky Way. Since the island is hardly developed, it was pitch black and quiet except for the natural light and dust of the stars. Beautiful.

While we could have easily gone out all night long as in Crete — I swear, the Greeks don’t sleep! — thankfully, Georgia and her sisters were kind to us and left us to our boring ways. Typically, we would eat at a restaurant with them and then peruse the shops in the downtown area, seemingly the only spot with a lot of buildings as most of the landscape is beautifully untouched.

Markos and I looked like tourists traveling with small children — all sweaty, dirty and bedraggled — and Georgia and her sisters were stunning, dressed up with high heels, makeup and all. I have to say that I was so impressed by Georgia. At 25 she is an attorney, writer and property owner in Greece. And I thought I had it together by 25!

And what a beautiful and kind family she has. Ari developed a crush on Sophia who is a school teacher. The two were inseparable. When we quizzed him on the places we visited, he made it a point to tell us that Sophia lived in Karpathos.

After we bid adieu to the three sisters, we dragged ourselves to our final destination: Athens. Stay tuned for the final part of this travel series…

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European Hospitality Part I

PLEASE NOTE: I updated this post to include more pictures and stories. I did not take as many pictures of Germany as of Greece because it rained almost the entire time we were there. We were in good company though so we had a blast. -Elisa

We were gone so long that I feel like I must readjust to American life. The kids and I have been going to bed at 7 p.m. because of the 10-hour time difference between California and Athens.

I had four huge suitcases to unpack thanks to Markos’s family who would not stop giving us gifts. I did put my foot down on a multiple gallon-sized can of Cretan olive oil. “No space!“ I told his aunt.

DH’s aunt actually dragged out one of her own suitcases to pack it. Due to our language barrier, I used my hands to point at the kids, the suitcases, the stroller, the car seat then to my DH and I to show her that we were the ones who had to carry it all. She understood. “Next time!“ she said.

Me: “Yes! Next time we take olive oil!“

I don’t want to bore you to death, but I can’t say enough good things about our friends in Germany and family in Greece. The hospitality — especially in Greece — was insane.

Of course, traveling with two small children is challenging. But overall, it was a great trip. I am tired, and Ari is getting over a stomach bug — just now he was able to hold down a yogurt and some crackers. Woo-hoo! — but I feel that we got to see new things, relax and have fun at the same time. It was a “productive“ trip.

Typically, we would arrive to a new country out of sorts because of the long flight (16 hours on the plane plus waiting time at the airport), time difference and settling down in a foreign room. It was a nightmare to get Ari to go to sleep.


I would question our decision to make such a long journey with a baby and three-year-old, and Ari would ask to go home. But two days into our stay we would have the time of our lives and fantasize about moving to that country.

In Germany, we stayed with our dear friends who have an 11-year-old and a sweet 10-month baby. They were the perfect hosts as they didn’t care if the kids made noise — even in the middle of the night — and our room was a mess. They took us everywhere in Bavaria: to Munich (okay), the small enclosed town of Rottenberg (beautiful!), Nuremberg and back to the spot in Bamberg where Markos and I were engaged.

Fortunately, our friends had a beautiful sunny day for their wedding in a small town outside of Bamberg. We got to experience a typical German wedding. We partied the night before at a bar. Since it was the day after we arrived from the States, the children amazingly slept on a bench in the restaurant, allowing Markos and I to eat dinner and dance to my favorite — cheesy 80s and 90s American music!

The wedding ceremony itself started around noon at a Protestant church. I briefly stepped out with the two fussing kids, but got to enjoy the sites around the church, which was very old. There was even a graveyard I walked through with tombstones from the 1800s.

Following the ceremony we went to a hotel where the reception would be held. We feasted on German cakes baked by the bride’s and groom’s mothers. I like German desserts, although I admit to not being a fan of German food. It is heavy on meat and very salty.

After hanging out with the family and feasting on cake for at least a few hours, we sat down for dinner and more cake. Except for the desserts at the beginning of the wedding, it is very similar to an American wedding. Another difference were the gifts, which Kathrin opened the following day. Rather than register for presents, the bride and groom received money presented in very creative ways: handmade ceramic piggy banks with cash, paper mache sceneries, in which the trees were rolled up Euros. A plant, in which its pot contained stones and Euro coins. One box even contained mice made out of construction paper and money. Very cute.

And we got to enjoy the sites. It rained while we were in Nuremberg and Rottenberg, but I could still tell that Rottenberg especially was charming. I felt like I was standing in the square of a 17th century village as there were no chain stores and the streets were in their original cobble stones.

Our friends actually owned a flat in downtown Bamberg where we spent most of our time. (See above photo.) It was near everything so Ari would walk to the market every morning with our friend Kathrin and baby Leo. He grew close to them and 11-year-old Carl who was the most polite and coolest kid. He was into video games, legos and robots. Ari would not leave him alone. He still talks about Carl.

Our friends generously picked us up and dropped us off at the Frankfurt airport, which was two and a half hours away from them. They would not let us pay for a thing. We fought — and lost. We begged them to visit us in California so that we can repay them for their hospitality. Now we wait.

DH and I agreed that we would return to Bamberg and continue to visit the surrounding area. We were not that impressed with Munich. Except for its old buildings, it has been rebuilt to resemble any other generic big city. It had skyscrapers, all the expensive chains such as Armani and Dolce & Gabbana as well as the ubiquitous GAP and H&M. I actually bought Eli these cute shoes from H&M and felt kind of silly like I came all this way to shop here?

After seven eventful days, we said our sad good-byes and left for Crete…

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