It's 3:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve and I've spent the last couple of hours tossing and turning while trying not to wake the four-year-old I'm sharing a bed with tonight. So rather than continuing my futile quest for sleep, I thought I'd bitch about my in-laws for a bit.
B and I grew up with very different parenting styles. My parents were fairly permissive, as far as letting kids be kids by playing and exploring. B's were far more rigid, as far as I can tell. Naturally, this has carried over into our own parenting styles. I don't mind if the boys run around, climb on things, race cars through the house, make messes, and just generally act like little kids - within reason, of course. B has far less patience and tolerance for those sorts of things. He's not terribly far removed from the "children should be seen and not heard" mentality. I think he'll enjoy the kids more when they're a little older and can be useful to him and/or are more reliably obedient. His older sister and her husband, while not quite as inflexible as B, have a much more uptight parenting style than I do.
As a general rule, when my children and I are guests in someone else's house, I try to respect their views on what is and is not acceptable for kids to be doing. That's just common courtesy. For example, a couple of years ago W was playing with the magnets on my mother-in-law's refrigerator and was scolded by both MIL and older SIL. I personally have no problem with a kid playing with magnets that aren't safety hazards, but they weren't my magnets, so I respected MIL's rules. What I'm really curious about is when it's appropriate to push back against other people's parenting ideas, particularly when you're a guest in their home or at their function.
I really have an issue with the way my in-laws handle W. My sweet, sweet W is a *ahem* highly-spirited boy, but he's also very, very sensitive. As much as that child's spirit drives me crazy, I don't want to crush it and I do my best to let him be W (again, within reason). The general view from the in-laws (and B, too, sometimes) seems to be that W needs to change to fit in their mold of "good kid."
Take dinner last night. I was getting the boys' plates ready and had to take R and leave the table when he decided that the red sippy cup wasn't good enough for him. He absolutely lost it when he didn't get the green sippy cup (never mind that he'd been drinking from the red sippy all day...). While I was gone, I think W mistook R's plate for his and ate R's chicken nuggets while leaving his nuggets untouched. I walked back in as W was reaching for the serving plate of nuggets to grab some more. My brother-in-law smacked his hand and said in a rather gruff voice, "Get out of there! You have plenty of nuggets on your plate!" W's face fell and he almost started sobbing. Before a second child of mine had an epic meltdown at the table, I was able to explain that the plate that still had nuggets on it was his and he could eat those. But BIL really pissed me off. First, there was no reason to smack my kid; I'm the one who gets to decide if and when any sort of physical punishment is used on him. Telling him no or moving the plate out of his reach would have been sufficient, in my mind. Second, yelling at him was uncalled for when explaining to him that he still had food on his plate would probably have had the desired effect. I bit my tongue (literally) and didn't say anything because I didn't want to cause a family war at dinner, but I feel like I should have. I don't like my kid being treated like that.
The other thing that bugged me today was W coming up to me several times to ask me if he could suck his thumb. Now, this child has never one asked for permission to suck his thumb. I'm pretty sure that my father-in-law told him he wasn't allowed to suck his thumb, so when he needed that comfort, he came to me to ask if it was ok.
I HATE that he's chastised for doing things that are fairly harmless when we're around them. They do it to R, too, but it has less of an impact on him because he's not as sensitive and doesn't seek adults' approval like W does. I get that my in-laws entitled to parent as they see (or saw) fit, but I'm entitled to that, too. My kid, my rules, right? I mean, as long as he's not hurting a person or property.
I'm being too sensitive about this, aren't I? What would you do (or do you do) when you have to spend time with people who parent very differently from you and have some authority to quasi-parent your kids? Do you suck it up and let them do their thing, or do you say something?