His Only Spank

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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?

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Author: sarah

Sarah has been involved with API since 2002. She is the mother of two school-aged kids.

6 thoughts on “His Only Spank”

  1. Wow. That story makes my blood boil! I am so sorry you and your son had to go through that. I think you handled the situation really well by sending that email, and I don’t blame you at all for not speaking up more when your MIL first told you what she did. I would have been completely overwhelmed to the point of speechlessness!

  2. Reading this makes my stomach turn. This is exactly why I haven’t allowed my in-laws to watch our 9 month old son. They have very different ideas about parenting and I know that they’ll do things “their way” if they ever care for him. It’s enough to have to deal with the comments about nursing and co-sleeping (he’s only 9 months! just wait until he’s 2!). We are definitely the black sheep in our families as far as child rearing goes. I would never berate any of my family members for their parenting choices, but they all seem to feel the need to let us know about ours. Not sure what the answer is–we’ll just keep making the best choices for our family and do our best to tune everyone else out.

  3. I’m thankful that I don’t have any substantial differences with my parents with regards to child rearing and my in-laws live on the other side of the world. That said, my mom recently got a computer and started reading my blog and now considers everything I say about how we want to raise our kids to be a criticism of how she raised us. Sigh.

  4. When my daughter was 16 months, I became ill and needed my mother to watch her for about a week. During one visit to see me, I was astounded when my mother spanked my baby because she didn’t want to sit still. She had never been spanked and I could feel her hurt feelings right along with her. I love my mother and accept that she believes her parenting style (also no co-sleeping and OK with cry-it-out) to be right, because at the time when I was born, that advice was what was “right.” However, while she would give advice, I continued parenting how I wanted to…and letting my mother know what I prefer in discipline. It took a little while, but through persistence and not waivering, my mother finally accepted that I do things differently, that it’s OK, and that my children won’t turn out spoiled…and in fact, more loving. Today, my daughter is 3 years old and my mother is as much an AP grandma as I am an AP mom.

    I realize that this doesn’t happen with all families, although I think that if you are firm and confident in your AP techniques, eventually most people will give up and let you be. I do have a couple people who used to be friends that really believe in spanking and who would not stop bugging me about that…and this has certainly affected our relationship. We’re no longer friends because of this, but I don’t need “friends” who don’t support me and instead feel inclined to try to convince me at every turn that what I’m doing is bad for my children. So, while I think we need to give our family plenty of chances, I also think there is a point when it’s OK to give up.

    Just keep on doing what you feel is right, because what matters is your children and their relationship with you — not what your in-laws, parents, or other people think.

  5. Personally, I would press charges if my mother came anywhere near my children. I rejected their abusive parenting methods, and since they dared not to apologize, I rejected them as well. You shouldn’t have to cohabitate with a “family” that has abused your body and wishes to do the same to your children–and you would probably be a better parent if you showed them the door permanently.

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