When my son was 18 months old, he developed a yeast infection. His entire diaper area was exceedingly red and angry, and it was obvious it was causing him pain. Changing his diaper was excruciating; either my husband or I would firmly him, and the other one would very quickly change the diaper. The pain was so great for him that he’d try to scurry away, and I can’t say I blame him; it had to have been miserable for him! We were following the pediatrician’s recommendation of applying yeast infection cream to the area, but this treatment had just started the day before, and the healing had a long way to go.
About this time, my husband and I had plans for a date. We were going to leave our son with my in-laws for a couple of hours so my husband and I could go see a movie. As we dropped of our son, I explained to my mother-in-law about the yeast infection, and told her about how it’s a trial to change the diaper. I gave her the cream, and further explained how it’ll take two people to change his diaper for the next couple of days until the yeast subsides and he’s no longer in pain. She seemed to understand, and sent us to the movie, excited for some quality time with her only grandchild.
When my we returned a couple of hours later, I asked my mother-in-law how the diaper change went.
She responded, “Oh, I did it by myself. I was getting so frustrated because he kept trying to get away, so I slapped his behind so that he’d know to stay still to get his diaper on.”
WHAT?!? My baby, who had never been hit in his entire life, was hit because he was in pain and understandably didn’t want to get his diaper on? He was spanked on his already miserably sore bottom?!? After I specifically told her about his very tender bottom?
My mind reeled with the news. What messages did my son get from this? That’s it’s not good to run away from pain because you’ll just get more pain? That his Nana who he adores hurt him?
I’m ashamed to say I immediately didn’t jump to the defense of my son. I was too overcome with anger and intense sadness. My mother-in-law and I have at best a cordial relationship, and I didn’t want to offend her. I knew my son wouldn’t be spending time alone with her until this is dealt with, but I couldn’t voice it right then. My husband was equally shocked and dismayed and angry. Even more so, as it was his mother. But we weren’t sure how to proceed.
Later that evening, I received an email from my mother-in-law. She wrote that it was obvious was I angry that she spanked my son, but that I have to understand that he was running away while trying to get his diaper on. It would have been so much quicker if he had just laid still.
Right then I knew it didn’t matter that my mother-in-law and I weren’t on fabulous terms. What was there to lose? I emailed her back that my husband and I do not believe in spanking and that we find it barbaric and disrespectful. I pointed out that my husband had previously told her our beliefs on the matter, but still she disregarded that and spanked him anyway. I referenced research against spanking. I don’t even remember everything now that I wrote. But I was angry, and I let her know it.
I’m happy to report that my son is now seven years old, and that one time remains the only time in his life he has ever been spanked. I know he doesn’t remember it, and I know that the one time didn’t cause any lasting damage. But that one instance, above all others, made me realize the vastly different way we are raising our kids as compared to the rest of my husband’s family.
The good news is that since then, the way my husband and I raise our kids has been accepted, if not understood.
How have you all handled differences in child-rearing within your families?