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Partner’s parents’ drinking keeps them from their granddaughter

Dear Annie

Dear Annie: My partner and I were surprised to find ourselves expecting with my very loved rainbow baby. We had known each other less than two years and had just moved in together. So far, my relationship with his parents had been rocky at best. Both parents drank to the point of blacking out daily, which often made them unpleasant.

When I first got pregnant, I had been hopeful everyone could be part of my daughter’s life. It became increasingly doubtful as my delivery date approached. Then, my partner’s mom missed our baby shower because she was sick and vomiting. She was admitted to the hospital for alcohol-induced pancreatitis a week later.

My daughter was born, and we invited his parents to the hospital. They also came to visit the baby several times over the next few months. My partner’s father always showed up incoherently drunk and would yell and swear, at times getting nasty.

His mother tried to hide it, but she had never really stopped drinking after the hospital. She acted nasty toward me, too. My partner got text messages from his siblings trying to see if anyone was free to drive their mom home from the bar so she wouldn’t drink and drive. Their drinking was a problem.

It was already hard to visit with people because we were busy taking care of the baby, but we started to visit with the parents less because their behavior made me uncomfortable, and I didn’t want to expose my child to it. I also didn’t want to rely on them for help because I refused to let them be alone with the baby.

People’s feelings were hurt, but no one’s behavior changed. After becoming increasingly erratic and forgetful, my partner’s mother missed my daughter’s first birthday party because she was incoherent. She ended up in the hospital shortly after, this time for alcohol-induced ammonia poisoning.

My dad, who raised me and two of my three brothers on his own, hasn’t had a drink in decades. He joined AA early on in our childhood, and we’ve never seen him stray. In fact, events on his side of the family were almost always dry. In my teens, all three of my brothers were addicted to heroin at some point. My youngest brother is still in the throes of addiction, but two of my brothers got clean and just recently bought a house. Watching my family’s journey has made me incredibly sensitive to substance abuse.

I’m afraid I’m unfairly withholding my daughter from her grandparents on my partner’s side because I’m letting my sensitivity to addiction cloud my judgment. Am I unfairly punishing my partner’s parents? — Affected by Substance Abuse

Dear Affected: You’re not withholding your daughter from her paternal grandparents — you’re protecting her from them. On their best, sober days, I believe your partner’s parents probably have nothing but good intentions. But it’s clear that when they are drunk, which seems constant, they cannot control themselves or be trusted around your children. I’m sure your partner would agree.

Being part of your daughter’s life is a privilege, not a right. If her grandparents want to be active in her life, they must do so soberly and play by your rules.

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