What would you do?


#1

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?


#2

So *her *mother wasn't there? It was just you, your DD, FIL, Nana, and Nana's granddaughter... right?

No doubt, I'd call her mother. I'd flat out explain that you weren't comfortable with how Nana was speaking to her DD. I'd say, "I know she's your mom, but I'm sorry - that's just not right!".


#3

It was Nana, her granddaughter, my father-in-law, my two daughters and son and me. The pickle is that my husband doesn't want me to say anything about it and I should obey him even if I think he's wrong. He doesn't want his dad caught in the middle if she's cut off from her granddaughter. A couple of years ago we cut her off from our kids because she walked off with my oldest in the middle of a crowded mall after I'd told her to stay put and it took me fifteen to twenty minutes to find them by which time I was totally panicked. The cutoff actually had to do with the fact that she refused to admit that she'd done it to anyone and even tried to tell me she hadn't done it when I was there and knew full well she had. My father-in-law was put in the position then by her of choosing between us and her and it was really hard on him so I understand where my husband is coming from but I still think the kid's parents need to know.


#4

Nana seems very unhappy in life. She's taking it out on the grandchild. Maybe her unhappiness with her daughter and the fact that they don't get along, or maybe she's just one of those people who are never happy. Sounds like the misery loves company syndrome to me.
Pray, pray hard for Nana. Everyone deserves to be happy and to enjoy life, and this lady sounds miserable.

If the childs mother asked me, I'd tell her what I observed. I don't have a solution, I'd avoid Nana as much as possible I suppose, and I wouldn't let her be alone with my kids for sure. I feel so bad for everyone, I don't know what it would take to make her happy, that needs to come from within to a great degree I think. I'll keep this in my prayers.


#5

Would YOU want to know if she was treating YOUR children like that? Oh, you DO know that she treats your children like that and you took steps to prevent her from doing it again. Isn't your niece entitled to the same? The issue is not your father-in-law's "feelings", it is the verbal and emotional abuse of a little four year old girl.


#6

[quote="Catholic1954, post:5, topic:219248"]
Would YOU want to know if she was treating YOUR children like that? Oh, you DO know that she treats your children like that and you took steps to prevent her from doing it again. Isn't your niece entitled to the same? The issue is not your father-in-law's "feelings", it is the verbal and emotional abuse of a little four year old girl.

[/quote]

You're right and I want to make the call. I just don't feel right about defying my husband. I guess what I'm asking is how I can convince him to let me make it or even if it would make a difference. The child's parents know full well how Nana behaves but they let her bully them into letting her have time with her granddaughter. Everything is about fairness with her...if the other grandparents have the daughter for the weekend because the parents are out of town then she's entitled to equal time, etc. She doesn't think that maybe they leave her with her other grandparents because they actually enjoy her instead of yelling at her.


#7

Taken as a whole, the phrase “very emotionally intense and takes things personally” sounds like code for immature, lacking in self-control, and prone to hold a grudge and act out when offended. Yours was a nice way to put the situation, at any rate. In defense of people who are emotionally intense, though, this morally-neutral psychological make-up does not give one carte blanche to attack 4 year olds who cross you. A great many emotionally intense people realize this, and act accordingly.

Concern yourself with whether you are going to let your DD be exposed to behavior like that. That is your business…plural, yours and your husband’s, but I think that both of you ought to have a veto pen on this one. Personally, I don’t think that I would consent to witness that again, nor to be used in such a rude manner. You were right to refuse to let her use your name to badger the child. So while maybe I might spend time with your FIL and his friend, I would not do it if she has her granddaughter along to abuse. Making a child watch another child be verbally abused and badgered is wrong; some even think it is itself abusive.

I would also not let my child be with her grandfather and friend without me there to remove her in case of a similar outburst, whether it is sent in her direction or not. If a woman would abuse her own grandchild like that, I’d have every reason to believe she’d either do the same to my child, if I weren’t there to stop it, or else would subject my child to listening to the other child be put down behind her back. I’d not have either one.

I wonder, though, if there is any point in making a phone call to a mother who is undoubtedly very much aware of how her child is likely to be treated by her mother. She knows her own mom, but has apparently decided that the risk is worth the child having a relationship with her grandmother. If you think the mother may allow the visit in her absence with the idea that you and your daughter will be there to keep things toned down, you might want to tell her that you won’t be joining your FIL and his friend for a repeat, and why.

At any rate, you are probably wise to respect your husband’s sense of family politics until there is a situation where you must either call the mother or else call the authorities. You can let DH know that you will not require his permission in that case, as moral law will oblige your course of action. You can judge whether the situation you have already seen reaches that level. Since he has a little girl of his own, he might have a change of heart about what he would want done on behalf of his own child, if the tables were turned. Put in that light, he may rather have one of you call the mother now, after all. If he’s willing to be that one, though, let him do it. It is far better for immediate family to go to bat on these things than the in-laws.


#8

Wouldn't you want to know how your child was being treated away from you?
I would.
Make the call or write a letter.


#9

[quote="Musician, post:8, topic:219248"]
Wouldn't you want to know how your child was being treated away from you?
I would.
Make the call or write a letter.

[/quote]

If the FIL were being in any way abusive or inappropriate towards his lady friend's grandchild, of course you would call. In this case, though, you have to wonder if it is even possible that the child's mother does not know. I would be extremely surprised if this was not the "kinder and gentler" version of the same upbringing she got herself. It is terrible treatment, but it is not the kind of thing that gets a child removed from her mother.

If this behavior did not concern the FIL--the OP seems to imply but does not say that he was tacitly complicit--there is no way I'd leave my child alone with either one of them. That would become a non-negotiable policy.


#10

If someone treated my child that way, I would definitely want to know. I would tell the mother in a quick phone call, because I think she has a right to know when someone is speaking to her daughter that way. If I were the child I would be pretty traumatized by that kind of treatment. There is a good chance mom is not aware of exactly what the grandmother does to her grandaughter when she is not around. I doubt grandma would be quite so cruel if mom were around because any parent would put a stop to that very quickly if they saw it. I would never leave my child alone with someone who would treat them that way, family or not.

I know your husband doesn't want to get involved, but this poor child will have no one to advocate for her if everyone says "It's not my business" and buries their head in the sand. For the sake of the child, the grandmother's behavior has to be stopped.


#11

Why does the husband not want to get involved? Is he afraid of something?

gen


#12

[quote="Charlotte1776, post:10, topic:219248"]
There is a good chance mom is not aware of exactly what the grandmother does to her grandaughter when she is not around. I doubt grandma would be quite so cruel if mom were around because any parent would put a stop to that very quickly if they saw it.

[/quote]

How I wish this were true. As it is, I cannot think of a harsh and nasty grandmother that was not a harsh and nasty mother first. Instead, what you usually hear is the mother being harsh with the child, grandma protesting that that mom is being too hard on the child, and mom turning on her mother and bristling with the retort that she isn't doing anything differently for her child than what grandma originally gave to her.

Think about it: How did grandma know that the child's mother had been scratched by the little girl earlier that morning? If the grandma was jumping to conclusions, then she must not have witnessed the incident. If she did not witness it, then who told on the little girl? OK, maybe Mom answered honestly about why her arm was bleeding, and instantly regretted it. Still, maybe "Grandma"'s scolding was only a continuation of Mom's. Don't jump to that conclusion, but before you call Mom and criticize such terrible behavior, do realize that this is one possibility.

If the daughter only lets the child spend time with her grandmother when grandma's friend and his relatives will be there, if you know she would never endure seeing her daughter treated that way, then by all means, call her. You have some reason to believe that she has the idea in her head that the company will put "Grandma" on good behavior. If you think that the daughter really thinks "Grandma" will not be her nasty self with a 4 year old, then call her. But if you have every reason to believe that the daughter is fully aware of what her mother is like, then I would not call someone I barely know in order to criticize her mother. At the very least, consider that you may be criticizing "techniques" that the mother uses herself. She may cut her off herself from her mother, but having someone else criticize her, that is another cup of tea. The messenger who calls with that piece of news had better have a bullet-proof vest on.


#13

[quote="genevievelives, post:11, topic:219248"]
Why does the husband not want to get involved? Is he afraid of something?

[/quote]

Not to be sexist, but sometimes men are quicker to make the judgement that discretion is the better part of valor. As a rule, they put a higher value on minding your own business, as well.

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread, but there are a lot of mothers who would rush the throne of Evil itself if they thought it might help a child. Nothing against dads, but moms are just like that. Bears aren't the only ones who have mamas that ought not be fooled with. People just have mamas that are that protective over more than just their own cubs.

"Another great help, where the parties concerned are male and female, is the divergence of view about Unselfishness, which we have built up between the sexes. A woman means by Unselfishness chiefly taking trouble for others; a man means not giving trouble to others. As a result, a woman who is quite far gone in the Enemy's service will make a nuisance of herself on a larger scale than any man except those whom Our Father has dominated completely; and, conversely, a man will live long in the Enemy's camp before he undertakes as much spontaneous work to please others as a quite ordinary woman may do every day. Thus while the woman thinks of doing good offices and the man of respecting other people's rights, each sex, without any obvious unreason, can and does regard the other as radically selfish." Screwtape Letters, Letter #26


#14

[quote="jazzbaby1, post:6, topic:219248"]
The child's parents know full well how Nana behaves but they let her bully them into letting her have time with her granddaughter. .

[/quote]

I think this says it all. If the parents are know full well, then you have no moral obligation to tell them. If you feel it is bad enough to call the authorities, then do so. But if the parents are aware and let it happen, calling them up will make them think you are criticising them.

Pray for the little girl

CM


#15

[quote="cmscms, post:14, topic:219248"]
I think this says it all. If the parents are know full well, then you have no moral obligation to tell them. If you feel it is bad enough to call the authorities, then do so. But if the parents are aware and let it happen, calling them up will make them think you are criticising them.

Pray for the little girl

CM

[/quote]

First, thank you all for your advice. I have been considering it the last few days. A couple of points I wanted to clarify.

First, the little girl's parents are not strangers to my husband and me. The mother and my husband went to Catholic school together through 8th grade. My FIL and the grandmother have been involved for almost 20 years (they were both divorced long before they became involved). That's part of what makes something that would be clear cut for me in other circumstances so clouded in this one.

The little girl's parents know how the grandmother acts and it's not just with her granddaughter. The way she speaks about and to her daughter and son-in-law is just as bad. I'm going to speak to the mother this week about Thanksgiving anyway so I'm going to pray that if God wants me to talk to her about this specific incident that she somehow asks about it ("How was the parade?") and take His direction in it.


#16

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