SS, weekend visitation and flu-like symptoms

happyfamilySeptember 28, 2009

Hello all! I have a situation that I could use some advice with. I'm a newlywed, a new stepmother, and a Christian, so if anyone can offer a more seasoned, experienced perspective, I'd appreciate and welcome it.

BACKGROUND: I'm a mother of 3 who recently remarried to a wonderful man that has 2 children of his own. That being the case, I have 2 new stepchildren (they live with their biomom during the week & my husband has visitation every weekend, so they are with us each weekend. My 3 live with my husband and I and have visitation with their father (my ex-husband) every other weekend.

SCENARIO: My SS has been ill over the past 5 days with flu-like symptoms. He has a dry cough, sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, headache & a fever. His biomom kept him home from school several days last week as a result of the sickness. She also apparently took him to the doctor early last week (before the onset of fever), and she was told to keep him home until he was feeling better. Apparently, he felt better on last Thursday and went to school, but on Friday he was worse than ever, and the high fever started. On Friday, despite my expression of concern about my SS's symptoms, the current swine flu outbreak, AND my suggestion that we forego this weekend and instead have his son come over for 3 additional days toward the end of next week after he got better (i.e. have him come over this coming Wednesday and stay through the weekend), my husband made the decision to have my SS come to our house for visitation as normal.

As I stated earlier, I have 3 children that live here in the house with my husband and I (and this past weekend was NOT their weekend to go with their dad, so they were here at home with us). During the weekend, my SS's symptoms persisted, and he refused to stay quarantined in the bedroom. Instead, he was up and around playing video games, coughing without covering his mouth, sneezing into his hands (not consistently washing his hands) and laying around in everyone else's bed. Any time I asked him to wash his hands or went behind him with a Lysol wipe to disinfect game controllers, etc., I could tell that my husband was getting upset with me for "making a big deal".

THE PROBLEM: It's my perspective that my husband's independent decision to bring his son over and expose not only my husband and I, but also my 3 children PLUS two other neighborhood children that were over for a sleepover was irresponsible. Furthermore, I think that because his biomom has no other children at home, that it would have been much wiser to allow the sick SS to stay with his biomom this weekend and give him the opportunity to really rest and recuperate (at least he would not have had the temptation of all the other children and the party-like atmosphere to deal with). The fact that my husband disregarded my concerns is really the more fundamental issue. I believe that my husband allowed the guilt that he feels over the fact that he no longer lives at his son's primary residence (although he will not pursue shared physical custody) and his desire to spend time with his son regardless as to any consequence to overshadow the need for he and I to establish a unified decision. And if our marriage stands any chance at success, we must be able to provide a unified front in all circumstances and situations!

OUTCOME: This morning, one of my 3 children woke up with a dry, hacking cough, and I have a sore throat and headache. I really hope we're not coming down with the flu!

WHAT I NEED TO KNOW: Am I being unreasonable? Am I making a big deal out of nothing? Or should he have been more reasonable?

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Let me first say---I totally understand your concerns and I don't think any of us LIKE to be exposed to illness.

Dh has joint (50-50 physical) custody of his son, and SS has come to our house MANY times with strep throat or the flu, a bad cold, diarrea, etc.

No one likes to be exposed to illness.

HOWEVER, he is my hubby's son and our house is his house, too. I have sometimes thought to myself "gee, this is bad timing" or "gee, I hope we don't all get sick" but it's all part of the package.

My own bio-DD gets sick, too, and I am exposed to whatever she's all part of parenting OR step-parenting IMO.

So while you obviously do not want your kids exposed to SS's illness nor do you yourself want to be exposed to it---I think to deny visitation or re-schedule is not right. Your SS is your DH's son, sick or healthy.

And I guarantee you there will be times one of YOUR kiddos is sick and your SS will be over for the weekend, and he might catch whatever they have. You would not like it if your DH suggested your sick child go to their dad's for the weekend, would you?

The same rules apply.

The only time I DO think it's okay to reschedule is if a child is really too sick to want to move houses OR if either parent is just too sick to care for the child.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 12:50PM
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I can see where you're coming from, and your views don't seem unreasonable to me. But I've also got to agree with LH that dealing with sick kids is just a fact of life that has to be dealt with. Though it would be nice if your Hubby would be more supportive about keeping his son quaranteed during his illness to avoid spreading germs.

It might also have been a good idea for you to have rescheduled the sleepovers. If I was the Mom of one of those other kids, I would be annoyed with you...

For what it's worth though, if you and another child are already showing symptoms, I'd suspect it's probably from contact that took place prior to this weekend. They say kids are most contagious before they begin to show symptoms...

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 12:58PM
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Thanks for the solid advice, LH & sweeby! As a concerned parent, I would definitely have rescheduled the sleep-overs if I had known that SS was sick and coming over. The sleep-overs were already in progress when sick SS came over. The sleep-overs were cut short, though, and all parents were advised as to why, and I apologized in advance if their kids happen get sick.

On an unrelated note, where do I find a key to tell me what all the acronyms stand for? other than the ones that start with "S", I'm not familiar with most....

In response to the comment about any potential infection on the part of my son & myself, it very well could be from exposure from a week ago, but I was surprised to learn that Swine Flu symptoms may be observed as soon as 24-48 hours following infection!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 2:00PM
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If one of our SC or BC are sick we cancell visitation. Never been a problem. When the kids were younger one of my SD got lice and we all got lice then the next weekend we had the SD's guess what the BM's did not treat for lice and we all got it again, this went on for months and cost me $1500. My children had long thick black hair and it took two bottles to just start to cover thier hair, the SK's have thin blond hair half a bottle will do but we always had to buy the treatment I finally just lost it after I had to cut both of my girls hair and shave my sons head - no more! If a SK or BK is sick they stay at there main home. I don't see anything wrong with this as if my SD (that doesn't live with us) comes to our house when one of the others are sick then it's not just her that gets sicks it's also her two brothers and her mom. This has always worked for us with out any problems. I do have to say that when we need or want extra time BM is very willing to let us have her extra and we are also flexable so that helps alot!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 2:05PM
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I have one biochild that has visitation with his father. I have to tell you it peeves me when his father thinks that since our son is sick he should stay home with me. I feel like he is "our" son and either of us should be capable of taking care of him when he is sick, as inconvenient as it may be.

I have 3 stepchildren that live with us full-time and my bioson. When one child gets sick we try to keep them quarantined in their room watching movies or something. We wipe things down like crazy and take all precautions. If one child was supposed to have friends over it is cancelled and we explain to the family why. It is just a fact of life.

But I think your husband should have been more active in helping you do these things around your home instead of acting as if you were overreacting.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 2:16PM
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Sweeby is right about "when you are coming down with something is when you are most contagious".

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 3:52PM
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I think it all depends on the prior family dynamics. Certainly Dad should've been proactive in quaratining the sickness.

What happens when one of your children is sick on Dads visitation time? Will your children leave the house so his children can visit?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 5:51PM
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If it were entirely up to me, (which obviously, it isn't) I'd probably prefer an arrangement based on what is in the best interest of all parties at any given point, but like bobaty mentioned, that takes a lot of flexibility and understanding on the part of all the involved parties. Nivea, you raise an interesting question. If one of my children got sick on a weekend (as they have in the past), I would (and did) send the well ones with their dad & keep the sick one at home with me - quarantined for the weekend. On the other hand, if the illness was serious & potentially contagious (as it was when one of my kids had strep), we notified the biomom of my stepson of the illness & let her make the decision to allow or disallow visitation that weekend (interestingly, she opted to keep my SS at home with her that weekend!).

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 10:15PM
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I used to worry aboout all this stuff and now I just let it go. To be honest there is so much "Brain damage" with this back and forth and trying to protect the other kids from getting sick is a huge job and to me it wasnt worth all the chaoes and switching and swapping etc We just take it as it comes now and if they are sick they are sick. The only time I keep them where they are is if they are Puking their guts up. Other wise if they were all my bio kids and I couldnt send them off to another house we'd all be getting exposed anyway, (just like it is with in tact families). Hang in there, I understand, the unified front is tricky in coparenting. Its taken us 2 solid years to work things out (We are Christian too)It was/is TOUGH!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 12:07AM
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Fetbuzzy, as much as the logical part of me wants to do things my way, the rational part of me (they're not the same part) knows that what you've said is the best perspective. Thanks to you and the rest of the posters for sharing their own perspectives & experiences in order to help me make amends with my situation (I was really pretty conflicted about it for a while). Have a great day!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 8:20AM
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We have the opposite problem. SD10 lives with us and visits her mom on weekends. In our home, she is the only child (well, my two adult children still live at home but she is the only one school aged). She will go to her mom's house and come home sick. At her mom's, she will play outside without shoes/socks, no jacket, and she's around other kids (her mom's boyfriend has his kids EOW) So, when she comes home sick, I miss time from work, we have to take her to the doctor, pay for that & the medicine, etc. and it can really be inconvenient. But, I agree with "it's just a fact of life", a fact I don't like but what can ya do? I think a responsible parent would keep a sick child home (we would not send SD to her mom if she is sick BECAUSE there are other kids there... but that consideration is not reciprocated so you do what YOU can... we can't control the inconsideration of others) I understand your husband's frustration with your 'making a big deal' because he probably feels he has to choose his child or his new family, but it might help to take a (step) parenting course or talk to a counselor because it's very easy to fall into the guilty parent role. [maybe even just talking to him about it might be enough] He does need to realize how important it is to be a united front and make joint decisions but it's also important for you to understand his feelings and for him to understand your concerns without any resentment one way or the other.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 11:21AM
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My Sd (who lives with us FT) currently has H1N1. You should go get tested and get everyone on tamiflu to hopefully lesson symptoms. His symptoms really do sound like the flu. All five of us are currently taking tamiflu.
That being said, It should be your SS home too, and dad should be able to care for him when sick just as well as mom. I completely agree with keeping him in a seperate room as I would keep any of my children with something contageous in a seperate room.
but seriously what would you have done if it was your bio kid? you wouldn't make them leave the house till they were better would you? making him stay home and not visit (unless the kid doesn't feel up to it) is showing him that he is justa visitor in your home, and it is not his home too.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 5:32PM
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I repeat: "Thanks to you and the rest of the posters for sharing their own perspectives & experiences in order to help me make amends with my situation (I was really pretty conflicted about it for a while). Have a great day!"

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 8:45PM
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See what I mean?

I thought of this thread yesterday when I found out through BM's BF's ExW, that BM had her BF cancel his weekend with his kids because her DD14 has the flu. (She was told it is Swine Flu w/ high fever) but BM allowed SD10 to go for the weekend and then told DH that SD has been exposed to her sister's illness.. but didn't tell DH what the illness is.

Why would a mom allow her own daughter to come be exposed to an illness but not allow her BF's kids to? Makes no sense to me!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2009 at 1:22PM
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Why? So SD can bring it back home to YOU Dear!...

Which explains why she wouldn't expose her BF or his kids...

What a piece of work!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2009 at 3:06PM
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I understand your feelings...I agree about isolating sick children if possible but only to a point....

in intact families children are always there, sick children are there all the time, there is no place for them to go, we don't ban our children from home when they are I guess it is part of a deal to have sick children at home....It is their home too even if they aren't there full time.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 4:56PM
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If the child does not follow your rules (does not stay quarantined, cover his mouth, etc.) I totally agree that he should have stayed at BM's. (Your SS's age is important here, to know how to handle things, too.) If he could have come to your house and was willing to follow rules, rest, and be taken care of, it would have been the best place for him because it appears, his mother didn't want to, or couldn't, take care of him.

I also think having kids from the neighborhood sleep over when you have a sick kid in your house who does not stay quarantined, is a really poor choice.

I think you need to talk about all of this with your husband. I recall reading that stepfamilies have a 20% chance of success, as opposed to 50% for other married couples. You have a tough future on your hands. Do some reading as well. One book that was invaluable for me is "Old Loyalties, New Ties" by Emily B. Visher. She has several books on the subject. I am no expert, but I have loads of experience.

Sorry, I have not read any post except your original one. I wanted to try to help you and have limited time.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2009 at 12:12PM
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