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When Grandparents Become COVIDiots: Now Is Not the Time for Family Visits

The minute the news started reporting that older adults are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than anyone else, many of us began to worry about our parents — especially the ones who didn’t want to take the threat of the virus seriously. Even with the pandemic worsening across the globe, some of these grandparents have been questioning why social distancing should apply to them and their grandkids. Members of the Reddit group JustNoMIL (mother-in-law) have written to vent about this potentially dangerous behavior.

“[My] husband and I decided we are staying home this Easter because [of] COVID19,” wrote one mother on the subreddit. “His mom has a big Easter dinner, and we don’t want to risk it this year! We have a young child, and I’m in the second trimester of my pregnancy, and I just don’t want to get this virus. Husband told her we aren’t going, she made a huge deal, and he said well we will think about it. … Now I am going to have to call this woman and tell her WE AREN’T GOING. She will either cry or act like a huge B.”

A dad wrote in to tell about his mother-in-law’s impromptu visit while his doctor wife was at work.

“[S]he comes in and starts talking about how upset she is that she [doesn’t] see the kids anymore,” he wrote. “I reply with. ‘Have you been watching the news lately???’ And she was like, ‘Yes, I have and I don’t care.’ … She pointed her finger at me and said that I’m the one who’s looking for an excuse to keep the kids away from her.”

And another woman said her own mother doesn’t understand her reason for their social distancing. “Now my parents, mostly my mom, have been badgering me to bring over our boys (2 years; 6 months) to visit,” she said. “They are acting like I’m crazy for refusing.”

The JustNoMIL community has been quick to support these complaints.

“You are not overreacting at all; you are following the instructions of your government,” MunchyLorne replied to the woman being badgered by her mother. “You are contributing to keeping your society and most importantly, your young family, safe. You are doing the most important thing you can do right now. If your parents can’t understand that, then maybe you need to warn them that every time they suggest you visit, or try to guilt trip you into it, you will hang up and will not be in contact for 24 hours. Take a break and don’t feel guilty; you are doing the right thing.”

This is all the more infuriating now that we’ve seen children and younger adults dying of the virus. We’re no longer just worried about our own parents’ health, but our own, our children’s, and our neighbors’. A 7-week-old infant in Connecticut just died this week. Would news like that convince these stubborn in-laws?

We understand how hard social-distancing must be for older adults who are lonely, might not have as much keeping themselves busy at home, and aren’t as comfortable connecting online. Maybe they can get a drive-by wave from the car and a long conversation on speaker-phone, if they can’t do video chats. But please, let’s make sure everyone gets to have a beautiful, happy reunion on the other side of this.

We can’t control our parents, but at least we can make sure our kids’ lives are still enriched. Here are some activities that can help.

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