Mom’s House of Horrors

Dear Annie: I am a stay-at-home mom with three children under the age of 6. They currently go to their grandmother’s (my mother’s) day care one day a week to give me a chance to run errands and do extra housework. Lately, I have noticed signs of negligence. Some are minor, such as dirty faces and rear ends not properly wiped. Some are more serious, such as a 2-year-old child’s being left unattended outside with a small kiddie pool. Children frequently play unsupervised in a basement with litter boxes and alcoholic beverages within reach. Bathrooms are often unsanitary, and the play area smells of cat urine.

Additionally, I have witnessed my mother calling children names and talking cruelly about them in front of other children. My children also report this happening when I am not around. She has even spanked one of my children out of frustration, which she didn’t tell me but confirmed later when questioned. It is not unusual for accidents to happen at the day care without her knowing or mentioning them to parents.

I have voiced concern about the amount of processed food given for most meals and snacks, as well as the amount of time the television stays on during the day. I have spoken with other parents who have similar concerns.

I could go on and on with my list of complaints. The bottom line, however, is that I don’t want my children to spend time at their grandmother’s house without me anymore, but I don’t want to ruin the relationship I have with my mother. I’m not sure how straightforward to be with her, as she is not likely to change her practices after 30 years. (She most likely behaved the same way when I was a child, and now I’m in therapy.) I’m also not sure whether her day care should be reported to any authorities. Any suggestions would be most welcome. — Concerned Parent

Dear Concerned Parent: Act first as a concerned parent and second as a concerned daughter, because it’s the children at this day care who need you most right now. Place an anonymous tip with the relevant local agency (find out what agency that is in your state at and let the authorities confront your mother about her negligence. Encourage other parents to file complaints, too. And if you ever witness a child being physically abused or otherwise put in immediate danger, dial 911.

Dear Annie: I’m writing because I’ve seen several people write to you to complain of friends or relatives who repeat stories. My elder brother shared this helpful hint with me when I was caring for my 88-year-old father and 90-year-old uncle. Each time you are listening to a repeated story, you must come up with a different question to ask about that particular story. Because you have heard it before, you don’t need to listen as intently — and it keeps you from becoming aggravated, as your mind is distracted with trying to come up with a new question.

It also makes them happy because they’re able to tell their stories and not be dismissed. It worked wonders for me and the people with whom I have shared this hint. Thought there are others out there who could use this tool. — Grateful Sister

Dear Grateful Sister: I love this tip because it’s a way to improve our listening skills and become more compassionate. Thanks for sharing.

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