This weekend we are traveling to see my in-laws. For over a month, the plan has been for my in-laws to come visit us, but they called this week and asked if we could come see them instead of them coming to us. I pretty much expected this call as I know they hate driving "in the city" and it's a long drive for them. This also isn't the first time they've called and either cancelled a trip or asked us to come their way instead of them coming ours. In fact, that's exactly what happened last time. So we weren't exactly unprepared when they called to make the request. Husband and I had already discussed it, and agreed that we'd simply go down and see them. And, now we are.
Traveling to visit my in-laws means a hotel for us. My in-laws recently moved in with my mother-in-law's father (Husband's grandfather) to help him out a bit. As a result, the house is a bit crowded. There are two households' worth of furniture squeezed into the house already. Another four people with all the stuff two preschoolers "need" to make it through a weekend just aren't going to fit. So, we get a hotel. As I noted, plans with my in-laws are often fluid, so we are often making hotel reservations last minute. And because I have bad luck, there is almost always some kind of giant event going on that makes getting a hotel room difficult or impossible. And this time is no exception.
As we were discussing the hotel difficulty to my in-laws, my father-in-law made us a tempting offer: he offered to keep the kids overnight at the house, so Husband and I could have a night to ourselves. Husband and I haven't had many nights to ourselves. The only time both of us have been away from the kids overnight was when Husband's grandmother passed away in 2010. I've been away on business a few times by myself, and Husband has gone camping or out with the guys, but that pretty much sums up our nights out since 2007. We don't even go out for dates. About twice a year, my parents will watch the kids and we go out for dinner. And once (that's right, one single time), we hired a babysitter to go see a play. But that sums up all of our nights out. No exaggeration.
The idea of having my in-laws is a tempting one. I would love to sleep one whole night through without having to get up to chase away monsters or console someone after a bad dream. I'd love to sleep past 6:57. It's not that I dislike these parts of motherhood. It's just that the idea of having one day of a break sounds wonderful. But Husband and I agree that we can't let them do it.
There's no question my in-laws love my kids. They'd never purposefully hurt them. But they aren't used to having kids around. And they do things at their own pace. I think I've written before about how they like to sleep in. When we visited when the kids were babies, it was not uncommon for the baby to be up and back to sleep for a morning nap before my in-laws got up for the day. And they leave their medicines around. Once, when they were visiting our house, one of them left a collection of pills on the night stand table - perfect KJ height. Thankfully, I caught KJ before he ate any of them. And once, when KJ was a baby, we left him with my in-laws for dinner while we went out with Husband's brother and sister-in-law. Honest to God, mother-in-law had a roast in the oven when we left. At 2 am, KJ woke up screaming in hunger. Turns out, mother-in-law never fed him the roast: she gave him green jello (and only green jello) for dinner instead. When I finally figured out he was screaming for hunger and asked what he ate, mother-in-law truly had no idea why jello for dinner was a bad idea.
Of course, none of these things make my in-laws bad parents or bad grandparents. They're just evidence that my in-laws are out of practice. They aren't used to having little hands around, and they've earned the right to sleep in (although the dinner things I still can't explain). But as a result, Husband and I just don't feel comfortable leaving the kids with them. Truthfully, the kids would probably be a little scared. Although they've been to the house before, the house they'd be staying at isn't the one they know and grandma and grandpa's. And the house is in no shape for small kids. Husband's grandma liked stuff, and the house is full of all kinds of hidden treasures. And really, even grandma and grandpa are kind of strangers at this point. It's been 6 months since we've seen them. All things considered, it the risks don't outweigh the (very tempting) benefits.
So now we're left with the problem of how to let them down gracefully. We don't want them to feel like we don't think they are good grandparents. We know they love the kids and would never purposefully harm them. But we also aren't convinced that they can handle a night (or probably more accurately, the early morning hours) with the kids. They certainly won't say "no" to anything the kids ask for. And I don't really want to deal with them watching tv all night long and eating cookies for breakfast. Any suggestions on how to decline gracefully?