Raising children is difficult and as parents we often rely on the help and guidance of others that we trust, including friends and family members, to help us. They are ‘the village’ that is needed to help raise our children into well adjusted, contributing members of society. It’s important that parents surround themselves with a village that shares their same values and beliefs so there is little conflict when it comes to raising children, but what happens when one of your trusted friends or family members crosses a line?
In a letter to Slate’s Care and Feeding parenting advice column, one mother reveals she’s torn after her husband bans her father from caring for their son. “I have two sons, 3 and 5 years old,” the woman writes. “My parents watch them one or two days a week while my husband and I work. Recently, my 5-year old reported his grandpa hit him on the bottom. My son can be difficult: He does not like rules, hates to be told no, and can terrorize his brother. He is also prone to hitting us (parents and grandparents) when he doesn’t get his way.”
The woman writes that she and her husband are very against hitting their children and don’t use spanking as a means of punishment. She said she spoke with her father who “feels horrible about it and said it will never happen again.”
My dad feels absolutely terrible that he lost his patience, and he’s sworn he’ll never do it again. https://t.co/3BpFhFF5WF— Slate (@Slate) October 3, 2019
The woman is OK with what her father did and can understand where he came from, writing that she’s been tempted before to spank her son. Her husband, however, is furious. “He says my parents should be happy he didn’t call the police and refuses to let them watch the kids,” she writes. “This has torn my family apart. My parents are upset and miss my kids, the kids miss their grandparents, and we have to pay for extra daycare and are struggling to find after-school care.”
This mother of two is feeling very conflicted, and her husband is feeling a lack of support from his wife, and they both need some guidance.
Columnist Rumaan Alam understands why the letter writer’s husband is upset, calling her father’s actions a “violation.”
“The challenge is how to move beyond this. Your father’s contrition (I’m assuming he actually apologized to your husband, as well as you—if not, he should do so pronto) satisfies you,” Alam writes. “Have you asked your husband whether breaking off relations with your family is the only way he can imagine this being satisfactorily resolved?”
While Alam agrees that the father is overreacting, he notes that they are his children he’s overreacting about. “I hope at least that you can all spend time together; perhaps your husband will be reminded that he can, indeed, trust his in-laws with your children. Because the key, I think, is to focus not on what this break with the family is costing you (extra childcare) but what it’s costing your kids.”
He went on to add that if the father knew what his hard stance was really costing his children, he may be more likely to bend. “They miss their grandparents, and their grandparents miss them. Your father inflicted one kind of pain on your son; your husband’s response to that is inflicting another kind. Maybe if your husband heard it framed thus, he’d be willing to work toward restoring peace in the family. Good luck.”
Navigating the rules of parenting and raising children with your village can be difficult and sometimes people may cross a line, but is it worth it to cast someone, especially a parent out of your village for a mistake they clearly feel awful about?
What would you do in this situation?