I’ll preface by saying that I think that normally, my FIL is wonderful with my son (B). They adore each other, and my son gets upset when his grandfather walks out of the room to go to the bathroom. I have no issues with him as a grandparent - but I do take issue with what happened this afternoon.
We went to the in-law’s house for Mother’s Day dinner tonight. Normally, one day a weekend, they will have him over for lunch and his nap so that we can get some stuff done around the house (we both work full-time). Today, my husband took him over around 11:30, and we came over around 3:30.
My son, who is 21 months, was a little bit crazy. He’s actually a pretty good kid for a toddler and listens very well, but he has several teeth coming in at once right now, and it makes him a little nuts - he also hasn’t been sleeping well because of his teeth, and unfortunately, that sets him up for bad behavior. He’s one of those kids who is perpetually happy, even when he hurts, but he lets out his feelings in other ways. He thinks he is ALWAYS funny, and that’s a trait he got from my side of the family. Even when he’s in trouble, he thinks everything is HILARIOUS. I’m not blind to his misbehavior, and today was one of those days where I could tell he was testing my father-in-law’s limits.
We have chosen not to spank. It’s a decision we made before he was born, and at the time, I was more on board with it than my husband was, but once our son came, he was with me on it. We have made this clear to my parents, since my nephew has been spanked (and my brother and SIL have given them permission to do so), and we wanted it clear that there will be no physical punishments given, including hand-slapping. I also thought we made this clear to my in-law’s, and I though they were in agreement because we’ve talked about discipline techniques.
Today, my MIL was loading the dishwasher, and my son was ‘helping’. I was clearing dishes off of the table, my husband was putting something away, and my FIL was closest to my son at the dishwasher. At one point, B reached toward the dishwasher to take something out that he had already been told not to touch, and my FIL slapped his hand. I saw this, my husband did not. I believe my MIL also saw it.
I chose not to say anything. B was obviously more shocked than anything else, and didn’t cry or really react other than to walk away, and I didn’t want to cause a scene. I’m sure bumping his head on the table hurt more than the hand smack. And although the Mama Bear in me came out, and I was seething inside, I made the decision to tell my husband on the way home since it was his father.
We left about a half hour later, and I told my husband what had happened in the car. He has said that he will bring it up to his dad, but I know he’s worried about causing friction. While his mom and I have always gotten along beautifully, his dad and I never really got along until the baby came - since then, we have gotten along much better, and I thought he respected our parenting decisions.
We’re not sure how to approach this with his dad. It may have just happened in the heat of the moment and was a one-off, but I don’t want his dad thinking this is an option for discipline. I really thought it would be my parents who had problems with it, but it seems to be the other way around.
(Please don’t turn this into a debate on spanking vs. non-spanking. This is simply the decision we have chosen as parents, and realize that others may make different choices. This isn’t necessarily about the actual hand-slap, but about my FIL respecting our decisions as our son’s parents.)