DEAR CAROLYN: My wife and I adopted our grandsons, 10 and 12, due to our daughter’s long history of drug addiction and arrests spanning over 13 years. She is again working and has set up house with another man. She wants to regain visits with the boys, but I am resisting getting back into the cycle of visits on a lot of different levels.
She states that we’ve pushed her away from her family, but, less than three months ago, she got pulled over for speeding and tried to pass herself off as her sister. The arresting officer caught her real name and she just went to court for obstructing government operations. This is the fourth time she’s done this to her sister. She is still in drug court over possession of meth with intent to deliver and another charge.
The boys have lived with us since they were 2 and 4, as kinship foster children and then as our adopted sons. While I’m certain the boys love their mother and she loves her children, I can’t dismiss all the damage she has done, which includes setting up a meth lab in our home and using meth when she was carrying her firstborn. I see her now as the boys’ biological mother and not as my own daughter. The boys have different fathers, neither of whom has ever stepped up and contributed to his son’s well-being.
If I choose to let the boy’s mother back into their lives, there have to be boundaries. Her attitude is that she’s better (for now) so let’s just forget all the crap that’s happened in the past. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve witnessed this cycle. I just don’t want to continue to bear witness to a life less lived. Advice?
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DEAR B.: The recent arrest isn’t the only sign she’s not ready to own her actions; any criminal-court regular who still blames others for “push(ing) her away from her family” has a few more dots to connect.
So you have great reasons not to want to bear further witness, or “forget all the crap,” or trust your daughter with much of anything. To be fair, your daughter has great reasons of her own to want to see her kids. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to choose who gets the last word: You’re adults, so your reasons and hers are secondary.
What counts is the health of these kids, so that’s your last word. If your grandsons can’t afford the risk, emotionally speaking, of being exposed to their mother’s chaos, then you say no to your daughter and withstand the heat for it. If the kids would instead benefit from a carefully supervised reintroduction to their mother, then that’s what you undertake and withstand the heat for, because that’s what it means to be their parents.
I urge you not to assess this on your own. Given the boys’ history, and the teenage waters you’re soon navigating, a relationship with a good family therapist could be anything from a convenient reference to the beacon that guides these boys to safety. If you don’t have one yet, then please ask their pediatrician for names.
Remind yourself as needed: Doing right by them was — and still is — the only right thing to do.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.