Annie's Mailbox: My children are left unattended

Dear Annie: My husband and I have two small children younger than 5. He watches them on the weekend so I can get my errands done.

On more than one occasion, I've come home to find him fast asleep on the sofa while the kids are watching TV beside him, often eating snacks. I have repeatedly asked him to stay awake because the 3-year-old particularly could wander off and get hurt. Not to mention there's always the risk of one of them choking while Daddy snoozes away.

He argues that I am overprotective and that he can hear them while he's asleep. Annie, we've been married eight years and the man sleeps like the dead. Last week, his parents encouraged me to take an hour to buy groceries while they baby-sat. When I returned, both of them were sleeping on the sofa while my daughter played with her dolls.

I would never tolerate this behavior from a baby-sitter, so why should I allow it from family members? Am I overreacting? How do I delicately tell his parents that they must stay awake when baby-sitting? I appreciate their help, but I'm starting to think it's not worth the risk.

- Wide Awake in Florida

Dear Florida: It sounds like the whole family has a sleep disorder. You are not overreacting. Little children need to be supervised for precisely the reasons you state.

A lot of people find the TV to be an excellent sleep aid, so suggest they take the kids to the park, read them stories or play a game together. If they still can't be trusted to stay awake, hire an alert baby-sitter when you need to run errands, and don't be shy about explaining why.

Dear Annie: I am in a marriage of convenience. We have a 13-year-old son who is a smart, happy kid.

Here is my concern: People have told me I am somehow damaging my child because my husband and I live completely separate lives (including sleeping arrangements). Granted, I wish the marriage were different, mainly because the loneliness is overwhelming at times. However, we are civil toward each other and come together in support of our son. Do you think this situation is hurting him? If so, what should I be looking for?

- Caring Parent

Dear Parent: The behavior you model is what your son will bring into his future relationships. Is there visible affection or kindness, albeit slight, between you and your husband? Do you have family meals together? If your child is doing well, at home and in school, and his parents put up a convincing display of compatibility, we wouldn't worry too much. And if you think counseling will help your marital situation, by all means, go.

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