Well, it’s not quite a catastrophe.
My SIL and I don’t get on. We’re very different people. Recently she invited me over to afternoon tea, which I took as a kind olive branch, so I accepted. My two children, DS (almost 3) and DD (18 months) came too, because I’m their primary caregiver and it was a weekday. SIL does not have children and DS and DD are her only niece and nephew.
SIL and her husband recently acquired a German Shepherd puppy, which is lovely for them. They are dog people and it’s their first fur-baby so it’s a nice milestone for them. I’m not a dog person, but I’m happy for them anyway.
When I arrived at SIL’s house, Puppy excitedly jumped on DS. SIL pulled him away but this was the start of a cycle of Puppy jumps, DS and DD freak out and need comforting, SIL holds Puppy away, the children calm down, Puppy calms down but within 10 seconds, she’s is jumping on one of my children again. This happened 4-5 times before I said, “Can you please put Puppy away?” By this stage, I was actually quite surprised that SIL was just letting this cycle continue! Didn’t she see that my children were scared? Didn’t see understand that Puppy wasn’t going to magically stop jumping on my children!? As a guest to her house, with our current dynamic, I felt quite uncomfortable asking her to do something with Puppy. She put Puppy away but grumbled about how Puppy won’t like it. I wonder how long it would have continued before she realized that she should have done something about Puppy earlier! Not being experienced with dogs, I don’t know how else to have handled it. She was trying to tell DS to just tell Puppy “stop!” and push her away. HE’S TWO!! Puppy is the same size as DS. I had two scared children on my lap and was trying to push Puppy away and say “stop!” to keep her from jumping on us and then SIL would pull Puppy away! I would have felt better about just leaving, but I was making an effort at positive family dynamics. Once Puppy was in her crate, we had a nice time.
So now my children are scared of all dogs, even dogs they’ve previously been very happy to be around. This has been 2 weeks and they’re still quite scared. I’m doing what I can to reassure them and protect them when applicable.
So my question is this: what now with SIL? I think it’s obvious that I can’t bring the children around again, not until Puppy is grown up and fully obedient and trained. I don’t want to make my children’s fear any worse! But I would like to say something without attacking her and her dog-rearing skills. Please guide me on a polite spine when it comes to dogs and children! 1027-16
And the next day the OP wrote and sent in this second email….
I know it’s only been a day, but last night resulted in more conflict. I initially wrote in because I was apprehensive about a family dinner at BIL’s house (brother to DH and SIL). He is a single man and had invited the whole family over for dinner. I anticipated that SIL and her DH would bring Puppy. I expressed such trepidation to my DH, but he didn’t think it likely. So I worried about it. My fears were founded though, because lo and behold, they brought Puppy!!
Once we arrived, I asked BIL if they were coming and bringing Puppy, he said they were, but Puppy would be outside in the small courtyard. As soon as SIL arrived, Puppy tried jumping on DS. Puppy was set up outside with food and water. But soon after came inside on a leash. SIL walked her around the house and followed wherever she went. Soon after that, Puppy came OFF the leash. And tried to jump up on DS AGAIN! DS ran past DH who blocked Puppy, said “NO!” loudly and had to pin Puppy between his legs to keep her from chasing DS (DH was holding something, I cannot remember what). SIL was close by, but wasn’t looking at Puppy, so she chided DH for yelling at Puppy. DH replied that Puppy tried to jump. SIL defended Puppy saying, “She’s only a Puppy,” to which I replied, “…And DS’s only TWO!” which shut it down a bit.
At one point in the evening, Puppy was put outside again and DS went to go look at her (with the safety of a glass sliding door separating them). I didn’t want DS to make Puppy excited, so I called him to back and to leave Puppy alone. I felt it a courtesy towards SIL and Puppy so that Puppy wouldn’t get distressed being outside. But SIL said it was fine and encouraged him to go look at Puppy, so I let DS go to the door. Lo and behold, Puppy gets excited and is let in again to calm her down.Â
At various times in the evening, our concerns were dismissed, belittled and DS and DD’s fear ignored:
* Puppy played with a 2-year-old at a dog park the other day and that went fine (the subtext being that DS is the problem)
* Puppy running away from an old, slow remote control car was compared to DS’s fear of Puppy (look, they both run away, never mind that DS can’t actually outrun Puppy)
* No one else stood up to SIL and her DH to take Puppy outside or keep her more controlled. (all together at the dinner was me, DH, DD, DS, SIL and her DH, BIL, other SIL, MIL and FIL: all my husband’s immediate family, partners and children)
I left the dinner SO angry. DH is equally as concerned for future interactions and is much more sympathetic to my concerns given he’s now witnessed SIL’s lack of care and consideration for our children for himself. We won’t be going to family events that Puppy is also invited to, or maybe DH will go by himself. If it happens that we’re at the same event, we will leave immediately because we just don’t trust SIL and her DH with Puppy. DH will have a talk to SIL about our concerns for DS’s safety around Puppy.
DH is a passive, compliant sort of person, and around his family I try to take his lead, which means I’m not as assertive or forceful as I would otherwise be. SIL and I are both very strong, but different personalities which means we’re likely to clash on a variety of topics, extra reason for me to take my lead from DH for the sake of peace. But my children’s safety is not something I’m willing to be compliant on. I’m just glad DH sees it the same way. 1028-16