I've been biting my tongue a lot lately. I should, really. It's the right thing to do because frankly, it's not any of my business.

But really, it's hard.

And it's starting to hurt. My tongue that is. All that biting you know.

It's simple. It is someone not quite related to me (but could, some day in the short term future, be engaged to be related to me...if you know what I mean.) She has a daughter. One older than either of mine - but a bit, not a lot. At least not a lot in the grand scheme of things.

Our parenting styles are polar opposites. Case in point, one night my relative, the girlfriend, my two kids and I had dinner together. Logan was being difficult about eating dinner. He didn't want what we were having (something he's had a many times before); he just wanted peanut butter. And I, being as stubborn as he is, wasn't about to get up and make him something different when I knew he'd eaten what was before him in the past - happily eaten it, I might had.

The protest started. A few well placed "humpfs", a generous "No fair!" and a big pouty lip. Having an audience always seems to heighten the drama for a young kid. I didn't say anything at the table. Instead I took Logan by the arm, led him down the hall and spoke firmly to him.

Looking him right in the eye I laid out his choices - eat this without a fight or there is no playing the game with girlfriend after dinner. We're leaving when I'm done eating and since it's nearly 7pm anyway, you're going right to the bathtub then right to bed - no stories. No fun.

Logan did not like his options but he settled on eating dinner quietly. As he took his seat and started to eat - quietly - my dear, slightly younger than me, relative nudged girlfriend with his elbow and then grinned at me with that sly shit-eating grin of his.

"So, what did you have to bribe him with?" he asked me.

I didn't even think. I confess to this fault. Sometimes my mouth just spits out words before my brain can register something coherent and controled. I was surprised by the question and responded with a bit of a haughty tone, "Bribe? We don't bribe our kids. I gave him his choices and he didn't like the other option."

Girlfriend paused in her chewing. She never looked up. My relative raised his eyebrows slightly and winked - giving me the "Thank you" message without saying it. Instead he tapped the girlfriend again and said, "See what I mean?"

I was mad at him for it. I don't agree with her methods (or, quite honestly, lack there of) but I didn't want to be used to embrass her or nag her. Instead of replying or admitting I noticed anything between them I busied myself the kids.

Then there was this past week. Another story. When we hear the story from girlfriend and relative, I simply smile polietly and nod at the right moments. It is later that I roll my eyes a little and whisper to my husband or a close friend, "Would you ever...?"

And then I feel guilty. Yet that feeling passes. I hear my husband clear his throat and measure his words. He's trying to find a nice way to say that he's not sure this pre-teen our family is bound to inherit one day is someone he ever wants to baby sit our kids. It sounds shocking to me the first time he says it and then I hear it for what's behind it - the same sentiment I'm feeling. The wonder of what this means for her. What she'll continue to grow into based on what she is like today. Wondering how the lack of any real displine is going to continue to play out. How a child just shy of double digit years can still throw a real temper tantrum and not be a bad influence on our kids in some way.

I nod quietly in the dark as we nestle into our respective pillows. And then I rub my poor tongue along the roof of my mouth.


Nicole said...

Been there and can understand why your tongue hurts so much. My five-year-old nephew is (admittedly) a handful, but the parenting style doesn't help in the least bit. I try try try not to be too critical, but it is sometimes really hard, especially when his behavior starts to be an unfortunate model for my daughter.

Shannon said...

I think we've all been in this situation. Not just with family, but friends, too. Parenting styles are all over the board and I've received my share of criticism (however well intended). Being on the receiving end, I'd have to say that it really is best to bite that tongue. There will always be "bad influences" out there, but parenting is tough and no one wants to hear that they are doing it "wrong."

Cath said...

Wow, i think you did so well not to say anything. I'm one of those tactless people that may have said something and regretted it later. But i agree, i have a sore tongue on occasions too. Just rest easy in the fact that you know you're a great parent!

thatgirl said...

You're lying. You do so bribe. :) We all do.

But I know what you mean. And I can see how and why it sucks. Ick.

Sandy said...

Actually I don't bribe - not in the traditional sense. Yes, there are times I will reward behavior, like not fighting the nurse over shots. However, typically if I need compliance and I'm not getting it I offer a choice - but the "continue to ignore me" option comes with a negative consquence.

The difference between reward and bribe in my mind: the reward is not promised beforehand typically. At least the way we approach it. Logan opted to help with serious pit digging today. So we rewarded him with a 'bonus' to his allowance. He was off being a legitimate help long before he knew his money jar was going to get the boost.

thatgirl said...

I'm totally with you on the negative consequence. And we too reward, but we also unabashedly bribe. Sky doesn't want to help clean the playroom? When she knows she can go outside to play if she does, she'll do it. And she knows that she doesn't get dessert if she doesn't eat her dinner -- we don't force her to eat; she just won't get dessert. Life is all about bribes: doing less pleasant things in exchange for more pleasant things. Like working for a paycheck. :)

We don't promise candy or a new toy, though, no. Not that kind of bribe.

Yvonne said...

I so would have kicked that relative under the table...LOL...No seriously, I would have. Lovingly of course, but, he shouldn't have used you like that to score points in obviously what is ongoing "disagreement" between them.

Parenting is such a touchy subject and I swear almost every person/couple have their own style. Heck I have friends in battles with their spouses becasue they are polar opposites when it comes to parenting.

I hear decadent, expensive ice cream is really good for bitten tongueitis.