Dear Annie: My daughter was recently ordered by the court to have her 5-year-old son visit his biological father and grandparents every other weekend. They live 200 miles away.
The boy has always lived with his mother, because the biological father felt he was not ready to be a dad and deserted them. He and his parents cut off contact for five years, and now they have decided they want to spend time with the boy.
Here's the disturbing part. When at their house, my grandson is not permitted to eat at the family table. He eats at a small table in the corner. He's only permitted to eat or drink at certain times, he cannot phone his mother when he wants, he sleeps in a room in the basement, he must call the grandparents by specific names or they won't speak to him, and most recently, he came home with so many mosquito bites that he required medical attention. Once, the biological father brought him home so sick that he missed a week of school.
Over the summer, his biological father tried to teach him to use the lawn mower, but the child refused because his mother told him (rightfully) that it is too dangerous and he is too little. As a result, he was sent to his room in the basement.
My gut tells me they are trying to injure the child, and I have serious doubts about their sincerity in wanting a relationship. My daughter's lawyer has been contacted, but is there anything we can do in the interim to protect the boy from such horrible abuse? - Worried Grandma
Dear Worried: Based on your information, we're not certain this qualifies as "horrible abuse." It seems more like neglect combined with incompetent parenting skills. The biological father and his parents have no clue how to properly treat or raise a 5-year-old boy. The lawyer should go to the judge immediately with whatever documentation he has and ask for supervised visitation, and possibly mandate that the biological father take parenting classes. If you believe the boy is truly being abused, contact the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453.
Editor's note: Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to anniesmailbox@ comcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.