Background: My father-in-law is engaged to a woman who is very emotionally intense and takes things personally. This includes her response to her granddaughter who is four years old and three weeks older than my son. Addtionally there are issues between her and her own daughter – overstepping boundaries, guilt tripping – that are then played out in her relationship with her granddaughter. Her daughter has largely cut her off herself but allows her to see her granddaughter regularly and to attend events with my family (husband, me, son and two daughters). End background
Today was over the top. We went to our town’s Veteran’s Day Parade and it started almost immediately. Nana yelled about EVERYTHING and everything the kid did was her being “defiant.” I don’t know what kind of day they’d had before the parade and I know from dealing with my own kids that stress can accumulate and suddenly you’re mad not because they stepped on your foot right now but because they threw a tantrum in the restaurant that embarrassed you an hour ago. The parade itself was mostly okay but when we went to lunch later it started. Nana started telling me in a really nasty tone of voice that the child had scratched her mother while she was trying to change her shirt and said, “Isn’t that nice? I always thought she was a nice girl but not anymore!” The poor kid was embarrassed, it was none of my business and frankly it was none of Nana’s business, either. It may well have been that it was an accident, Nana asked her mother about it and jumped to the conclusion that her grandchild acted like a hellcat (trust me, if there was an Olympic Conclusion Jumping Event she’d medal). Nana tried to pull me into it by saying, “Miss jazzbaby1 doesn’t think that’s nice” and at that point I told her to drop it. Later as I was putting my own kids in our car Nana was being insistent that granddaughter put on her heavy winter coat. She was already wearing long pants and a long sleeved shirt and did I mention that it was 63F today? I realize that she’s four but she should be able to tell if she’s too warm in her coat. Nana lost it and started ranting about how her granddaughter just loves her other grandparents and never acts like this with them and she treats her like gold and “all she does is (vulgarity for defacates) on me, just like her mother.” My father-in-law jumped into the fray at that point and said, “This is the last time we’re taking this kid anywhere, this always happens,etc.” Meanwhile, granddaughter had her head tucked down and wouldn’t look at me when I said goodbye to her (not normal for her). As a parent I was horrified. If anyone – ANYONE – ever spoke to my child or about my child in that manner I would want to know so my first instinct is to call her mother and let her know what I witnessed. I don’t want to gossip, though, and my husband doesn’t want me to get in the middle of it. What would you do?