DEAR ABBY: My wife and I are very worried about the safety of our two toddlers -- a 3-year-old boy and a 15-month-old girl. Their twin 7-year-old cousins have no manners, discipline or consequences in their lives. They have recently begun seeing a psychiatrist because they have been found with knives, or making stabbing motions toward themselves screaming, "Kill me now!"
Every member of the family agrees they are out of control, but nobody does anything to correct their behavior. When we told my mother-in-law we didn't want our children around the twins without direct supervision, her response was she "couldn't watch them every minute." We said fine, we would bring the kids over and one of us would directly supervise them. This led to an uncomfortable silence that lasted a few days, until today when my wife took the kids to her parents' for a birthday party. The afternoon went by with the twins' usual defiance, rudeness and belittling of any adult in sight.
After she returned from my in-laws', my wife proceeded to tell me their bay window had a hole in it because one of the twins had shot a loaded gun through it. I am stunned that while we have been discussing the safety of our children, her parents have been leaving a loaded gun lying around. (Publish this for the world: If you need a gun to defend your bird feeder, especially when it's smack dab in the middle of two houses -- get rid of the bird feeder.) My wife said her father yelled at the twins, although he had left his loaded gun in plain sight.
How can I make it clear to my in-laws that they must step up their level of supervision, and that my sister-in-law's kids are headed for serious trouble? -- WORRIED DAD IN VERMONT
DEAR WORRIED DAD: To paraphrase an old saying, there are none so blind as they who will not see -- so stop trying to "reason" with them. To leave a loaded gun lying around with children in the house is reckless endangerment. Because it should be clear to both you and your wife by now that your children are not safe at her parents' house, visits with their grandparents should be at your house or on neutral turf. And their time with their cousins should be limited and strictly supervised, if permitted at all.