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To have said this to FIL?

(89 Posts)
InsertFlameHere Sun 07-Aug-11 08:43:48

Probably, yes. But please read what happened and put yourself in my position. (Have namechanged as this is enough to out me, and I'm never sure if my SIL in on MN!) Sorry, it's a bloody essay. grin

Just spent a week with PIL while DH was staying for a few nights at a work event nearby. I had both DSs with me - DS1 is 3, DS2 is 7 mo. We stay up with PIL a few times a year, and it's nice for them to be able to host their grandsons rather than slog down to us, a long, expensive drive for them. I never really enjoy my stays up there - it's very much on their territory and all the predictable mother/MIL stresses tend to come out. I also have problems with my FIL - he loves winding me up and I'm generally rubbish at resisting and letting it flow over me (to give an idea, his general stance is to channel the DM, though I don't think he reads it: favourite rants include Foreign Call Centres, Immigrant Labour, Unneccessary Laws Regarding Driving, and EU Interference. grin). He always seems to target me with some of his ranting when I'm there (or indeed, when he's down here), but I'm entirely prepared to acknowledge that I'm now paranoid about him winding me up and probably far too defensive. Anyway.

All week long FIL had been chuntering away about 'stupid car-seat laws' because we obviously had to fit car seats into their 4x4 from our own car. He was moaning about how these silly laws meant that if you chose to have more than two children, you'd have to buy a more expensive car because you couldn't fit three childseats in the backs of most cars. I think I may have pointed out that the laws were there as a result of research and crash-testing, and that if you wanted three children then you'd factor that larger car into your choice. Anyway, it was obviously his Rant du Jour.

One day towards the end of the week, we set off for a day trip, me in the back of their 4x4, just about squeezed between the two seats and strapped in safely. On the way, the baby started screaming. He hates car travel and if he's not asleep, he's generally pissed off. sad I did my best to distract him and it worked for a while (he's not used to me in the back!) but eventually he was just inconsolable. He wasn't in pain, he had recently had a feed and was just pissed off. The crying got to my PIL, understandably.

My FIL started chuntering about how absurd it was, these 'new' laws regarding child restraints, because as any parent knew, sometimes babies just need to be picked up and consoled, and it was ridiculous that it was 'now illegal' for me to pick up DS2 and give him a cuddle. In a moving car. (we were by then on a motorway, doing probably 70 mph +)

I did try to let this flow over me and if I'd just said nothing and biten my tongue at that point, I think he'd have dried up. But I couldn't let that pass, because basically he was saying I should be picking up my baby in a fast-moving car, on a motorway. He kept on saying how these laws were made by people who didn't understand what they were legislating about, who didn't have the practical expertise or life experience to understand the issues. hmm (He comes out with this number ALL the time.)

I pointed out, relatively calmly, that the laws were evidence-based and that people had studied at length exactly what happens to small children who are floating around, unrestrained, in the event of a car accident, and that personally, I was happy to comply sensibly and to cope with DS2 being unhappy for a while because he was strapped in. I then said that surely only an idiot would consider taking a small baby out of its restraints in a fast-moving car.

He exploded at me, basically. 'No, YOU'RE the idiot!' Apparently, I was being absurd because the risks were very small and I could comfort my child quickly if I picked him out of his seat. When I said that DH and I have occasionally pulled over if one of our boys is really upset or we're concerned about them, he said 'well, you can't do that on a motorway! It'd be much more dangerous to sit on a hard shoulder' - which is true, of course, it IS dangerous and I don't think we've ever done that. What I mean is that we sometimes pull into a service station or even come off the motorway at a junction to tend to the boys. He said this was a stupid thing to do (?) and that some motorways didn't even have services... <sigh> He went on and on. I should have left it, and at one point, as we were both shouting by then blush (fucking stupid of both of us, we were in a car on the motorway, I know it was stupid and I was BU to continue arguing) I said 'Look, I'm not arguing this any more, it's pointless. I don't want to discuss this any more' but he rode straight over that. Some other things he came out with:

-HE had been driving for over 50 years and therefore knew what he was talking about, I had only been driving 4 years (correction, I've been driving for 5, but FFS, what has that to do with it??) so I didn't know what I was talking about. hmm
-HE had brought up 2 children and therefore was in a position to say all this, and I in comparison, didn't know Jack. (I do have 2 children. I'm not sure why the fact that they're not yet fully grown really excludes me from having an opinion on car-seat safety.)
-When I said that he was the only person I had ever met who held this opinion, that it was OK to take a baby or small child out of their restraints in a fast car to comfort them, he said he didn't care and didn't believe me. I several times asked him to stop shouting at me and take it up with his son, who shared my views and thought that seat restraints were sort of important, but he said he didn't care about his son's views, he was talking to ME and I was the Idiot, etc. <sigh>

I finally just said, without thinking about the implications -
'What you're saying to me, the way you feel about seat-belts and car-seats, makes me think that in fact, you're not a suitable person to look after my children'.

It did sort of bring him up short (for a few seconds) and then he offered to put me off at the next junction, since I was so keen on pulling off the motorway, and let me find my own way home. I suggested that if he do that, he also leave my two sons with me, because I wasn't happy with him driving them without me there. He back-tracked.

Ok, so now I've basically said I think he's unfit to be in charge of DSs in certain circumstances. I have no doubts that both PIL are devoted to their grandchildren and love them very much. They often have taken DS1 off in their car, either down here or staying up there, either to give me a break or to give DS1 a treat. Now I'm wondering exactly how careful they are with him in the car. Actually, I don't think they'd be as stupid as my FIL was arguing, but it's now opened up a whole area of doubt and I feel uncomfortable about them driving him around. I especially don't want my FIL driving the baby around, especially if MIL were sat in the back (she often does with DS1, so she can talk to him). Was I being unreasonable? Heat of the moment, and all that. I should point out that though this argument was three days ago now, I still feel shell-shocked and very upset, not just because of the implications, but because FIL was throwing these things up to try and undermine me - I haven't been a parent long enough, and haven't been driving long enough, to know what I'm talking about, apparently. hmm

(Incidentally, at some point during this exchange, DS2 calmed down and started chewing my hairbrush happily. When he started up again while we were crawling about looking for a parking space, in desperation I managed to contort myself over him, still strapped in, and stuck a boob in his face. I'm not sure I'd have done this at 80 mph on the motorway, but I was still strapped in. Clearly not something I could do in our own car, since it won't accommodate my generous bum between the car seats.)

slartybartfast Sun 07-Aug-11 08:48:25

i don't blame you frankly.
it sounds awful, arguing like that on the motorway

there was probably a bit of stress on both parts with you staying and nobody loves a screaming baby in the car.

i assume it was just said in the heat of the moment.
just apologise and it will be fine.
are you going to apologise?

DoingTheBestICan Sun 07-Aug-11 08:50:35

Your fil sounds like he thinks he knows better & you would have been better to just ignore him,the car journey sounds very stressful.

ssd Sun 07-Aug-11 08:50:50

your FIL does sound opinionated but a lot of older men are

TBH I don't think you have a clue how lucky you are having in laws who love your children so much

do they babysit a lot?

hairfullofsnakes Sun 07-Aug-11 08:52:05

Your FIL is being an idiot and I don't blame you for not trustif him. What does your dh say about all this and how was it left after this incident and what about your mil?!

slartybartfast Sun 07-Aug-11 08:52:34

wehre was mIL
doesnt she difuse situation?

Mare11bp Sun 07-Aug-11 08:54:04

Gosh, he sounds a right cantankerous old git.

YANBU at all to have our doubts over his care of at the children. I would not allow them to go off in a car with them with views like that. What does your DH think?

I think, even if an apology is due, it's due on both sides.

Your last bit about the booby made me grin

hairfullofsnakes Sun 07-Aug-11 08:54:06

Eh slarty, why does the op need to apologise?! Can't she stand up foe herself when her FIL gets in her face with such stupid opinions?!

Honeydragon Sun 07-Aug-11 08:54:29

Your fil is a twat angry after that I certainly wouldn't leave my dcs with him in case he tried to prove a point and it ended in tears. What a fucking cock!

TattyDevine Sun 07-Aug-11 08:54:38

You need strategies to deal with this man

Starting with "it takes two to argue"

Its just a bad clash of personalities

Not helpful really, but try not to use your kids as pawns in this point scoring exercise...

InsertFlameHere Sun 07-Aug-11 08:54:41

Slarty, I'm not apologising, no. Sorry, should have made that clear. grin I shouldn't have said what I did in the heat of the moment, but I was sorely provoked and in a way, I think it was good for me to put my cards on the table - I need them to know that there are lines with safety that can't be crossed. I think they know I spoke out of protection for my children. What I think I ought to have said was sorry to be so blunt, but that I really did think it was important to be clear about how strongly I feel about this matter.

slartybartfast Sun 07-Aug-11 08:55:56

'What you're saying to me, the way you feel about seat-belts and car-seats, makes me think that in fact, you're not a suitable person to look after my children'.

sounds pretty cruel to me

just apologise and get on with playing nicely.grin
its easier. op doesnt have to live with PIL but nobody wants an atmosphere

count to ten, grit your teeth and smile, or put in your Ipod/MP3 whatsit

Claw3 Sun 07-Aug-11 08:56:54

What did your dh say about this?

cjbartlett Sun 07-Aug-11 08:56:56

Didn't mil intervene?

It does sound a big fuss over nothing

Just laugh him off next time 'oh ho ho fil back in your day Noah was still building his ark' then turn conversation to something else

FetchezLaVache Sun 07-Aug-11 08:57:01

Does your DH know about this, and what has he said? I think he now needs to take over and tell his Dad in no uncertain terms that your stance on car restraints for the boys is non-negotiable.

But for me, it's about more than the car seats, it's about the way your FIL speaks to you, riding roughshod over your opinions, and calling you an idiot IN FRONT OF YOUR CHILDREN, one of whom is plenty old enough to be aware of this fact. I suggest you get your DH to make it clear to FIL that if he wants a relationship with his GCs, this doesn't ever happen again.

bagelmonkey Sun 07-Aug-11 08:58:14

I don't think you were being unreasonable to defend your opinions on child safety. I think something did need to be said at the time as opposed to later. It's very hard to talk bring up the discussion after the moment has passed.
It takes 2 to make an argument.
I would suggest that you apologise to FIL, tell him you think he's a fantastic GP, but that you need his reassurance that he'll follow your wishes re car seats, no matter how crazy he thinks you are. Tell him you don't care how nuts or precious he thinks you are, but to please always keep the DC in car seats. And he can't give you this assurance, you will have to consider if you will let him take DC in car without you there.

SageMist Sun 07-Aug-11 08:58:25

I think you both need to apologise to each other, agreeing to disagree if necessary, just to clear the air.

But even if that happens, personally I would never again be driven by someone who believed the seat belt laws were wrong, nor trust them to drive my children around.

InsertFlameHere Sun 07-Aug-11 08:58:34

MIL was sitting in front next to FIL, probably uncomfortable but staying well clear of the argument (DH says that she 'enjoys' me taking FIL to task because she often argues with him himself when he's 'being silly', but I think this was an entirely different class of disagreement. We were not bantering about whether it was 'unacceptable' for a call centre worker to have a strong Indian accent hmm, we were arguing about potentially a life-or-death situation and about my own children.)

She did say, when we'd stopped, in a sort of apologetic tone, that it was just that the baby's crying did go through you and tug at your heart. I do understand, and I'm sure FIL's stupid statement came out of his impotence to do anything about it. Mind you, at no point did he suggest pulling over so I could calm DS2 down. I would have suggested it if I hadn't been able to tell that in a few more minutes, he was just going to simmer down and go to sleep again. Which he did, after chewing my hairbrush!

cjbartlett Sun 07-Aug-11 09:00:54

I do admire you though. It's incredible selfless of you to go on your own there
I never stay at my inlaws without dh
They drive me mad

duckdodgers Sun 07-Aug-11 09:01:05

You havent mentioned your DH at all - what does he think?

Mitmoo Sun 07-Aug-11 09:02:43

Just apologise, storm in a back seat with tempers frayed. Hopefully he too will apologise.

catwalker Sun 07-Aug-11 09:03:55

I think it would have been less dangerous to remove your child from his car seat and pacify him than for you and your FIL to engage in a slanging match which undoubtedly was preventing him from driving with the right level of care and attention. I'm not saying you should have taken your child out of the car seat but I think the argument you BOTH engaged in was potentially more life-threatening.

InsertFlameHere Sun 07-Aug-11 09:04:54

"'oh ho ho fil back in your day Noah was still building his ark' "

Yup, I'll file this one away. grin Agree with the comments who are saying I just need to have backed off and let him chunter himself out. I never learn... but this was such an inflammatory thing to say, and much more personal (and important) than all the other things he rants about.

Yes, conflict of personalities, definitely. I have always had a problem with him, which means he's always had a problem with me. I think he deliberately winds me up - he has this idea that I'm Right On, so he used to enjoy baiting me with (probably fictitious) stories of Loony Left councils and banning Ba Ba Black Sheep, etc. hmm But I should just leave him to it. I'm getting better at it over the years, but this just lit my torchpaper. It was different.

DH, for those who asked, was away until that evening. I collected him from the station, we had a nince 5 mins exchanging anniversary cards and a present, since he'd been away over our anniversary, and then I confessed what had happened earlier. He was predictably rolly-eyes at me allowing myself to rant back at FIL, but agreed with me that FIL had been entirely unreasonable. He won't have said anything though. He never bloody does. sad he'd agree with the posters here who think it was a fuss over very little, and that I should just have ignored FIL.

Thanks for responses. I badly need some proportion on this incident or it'll eat me up!

evaangel Sun 07-Aug-11 09:05:16

Shouldn't the apology come both ways?

InsertFlameHere Sun 07-Aug-11 09:05:43

Oh, and yes SSD, I know how lucky we are to have two sets of grandparents who are devoted to their grandchildren and love them. smile

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