Carolyn Hax: Lax grandparents want to take 5-year-old on vacation

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My parents want to take my 5-year-old son on a vacation with them. This would be at least partly to give me and my husband a break (we also have 2-year-old twins), so we would stay behind.

I would really love to just say yes, but I am struggling with the idea of their being in charge for five to seven days straight. They would never knowingly put my son in danger, but they are typical grandparents, meaning they do not enforce rules. He can eat whatever he wants, stay up as late as he wants, refuse to follow directions, no limits on screen time (amount or content). All of that is okay for even the occasional overnight, but I get very anxious thinking about a whole week where he is 500 miles away being indulged the whole time. (And we are not that strict — for example, we follow the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on screen time.) Also, they might say they are going to enforce certain rules but then don’t. He once came home without having brushed his teeth.

But saying no might deny three people I love a really lovely experience together.

Do I need to just relax and say yes? Is there a way not to feel like a negligent parent?

Anxious: If I were confident he’d be safe, then I’d do it. The difference between a junk-food overnight and a week of junk food won’t have meaningful effect — whereas the effect of grandparent bonding can be lifelong.

That said, failing to limit screen content does open the door to harm, by degrees, so weigh that risk and your options for minimizing it, if any.

Plus his reentry into your rule structure promises to be

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