MIL Takes Inappropriate Photos

Mrs. - posted on 08/20/2013 ( 10 moms have responded )

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My MIL has issues with boundaries. It's pretty clear (through dropped hints/behaviour) that she does struggle with manic periods and very low depressive periods. To up the confusion factor, her relationship with my husband has a bit of an uncomfortable, unreciprocated Jimmy Darmody/Gillian vibe to it.

We have had issues with her judgement when it comes to watching our JK aged daughter . When we have tried to address it calmly, she becomes extremely defensive. It takes a while to build up trust again with her after an "incident", but we keep trying despite the escalation of this behaviour.

This last incident has me at a loss. She took our child to the park, which had some water sprinkle features to it, stripped her down to her white underwear, and took pictures. That is something I don't approve of; we live in a big city with a lot of creepy folks in it. The photos are pictures of her straddling park equipment, etc. She briefly posted them to facebook. They were promptly taken down (I think someone reported them). Afterward, she PM'd me saying she didn't post them but thought I HAD to see them.

I'm thinking about restricting her contact with my daughter but have no idea if this is the right move. I was abused as a child, and I am frightened her behaviour could lead to something happening to my little girl. I hope my own experiences aren't colouring my response.

I'm very pregnant at the moment, and this was one of the reasons we let her take her overnight and to the park. We needed the help.

My husband is planning on having another talk with her, but I'm not sure it'll make a difference. Any thoughts on how to deal with this latest issue?

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Stephanie - posted on 08/21/2013

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Honestly, it doesn't seen that talking to her is going to do anything. As hard as it is, I suggest limiting her time with your children to supervised visits only. Doesn't sound like she is every going to change, and that is very scary behavior.

Chet - posted on 08/20/2013

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I'm not scandalized by a three or four year old wearing their underwear in a public sprinkler. I wouldn't say that it's the norm, but I've certainly seen it plenty of times. I used to follow a very left-wing parenting parenting board, and topics of conversation like "when does a little girl need to start covering her top half?" and "how old is too old to wear just your underwear at the splash pad?" would come up reasonably often. Opinions varied widely, but the fact that people asked the questions made it clear you weren't alone if you let your preschooler get wet in just their underwear. As for the pictures, it's very difficult to say without knowing your MIL or seeing the actual photos. Although, her wanting you to see the pictures suggests that she had no ill-intent. All that said, this is your child. You're the parent and shouldn't feel pressure for your child to be in situations you aren't comfortable with. It's reasonable to restrict the times and places you MIL and your daughter are together if you feel like you aren't on the same page and can't communicate. Lastly though, please don't think kids are at greater risk in cities because there are more "creepy" people. Moving to the suburbs or the country doesn't protect kids from predators. A lot of what protects kids is about making them the kind of kids that a predator is not going to be interested in, making sure they aren't easy targets.

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Chet - posted on 08/21/2013

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Like I said, it sounds as though you're concerned about the right things for the wrong reasons. Of course, I only know what you've posted here. The fact is, if it's impossible to reach some kind of resolution with your MIL when childcare issues come up you may have no choice but to discontinue extended visits where your daughter and MIL are alone together. If you can't stomach the choices she makes on your child's behalf don't give her the chance to make them. It's the details about the "creepy people" and "attempted abduction reports" as justification that make the situations difficult to dissect. Are you upset about a general communication issue with your MIL? Are you fearful because you believe that she constantly puts your child in the path of legitimate danger? Are you upset that her style of caring for your daughter undermines what you're trying to teach her and this causes problems? Because your original post makes is sound as though you're afraid that your MIL is putting your daughter in danger, but the risks you've identified (creepy people and attempted abduction reports) are not very likely. Other people might identify failing to enforce social norms, sun exposure, future embarrassment, differences in values and expectations when it comes to public situations as their concerns with the scenario you described. You need to figure out what you are comfortable with and what is not okay... but while you sort this out, keep in mind that it does benefit kids to have relationships with a wide network of trusted adults, and to be exposed to diverse individuals and values. Just because you haven't done a good job here of explaining why time with MIL is risky or problematic doesn't mean that it isn't. Just be clear on what you want to accomplish and that the decision you make will actually forward you goals.

Mrs. - posted on 08/21/2013

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Thanks for your opinion.

I've tried pretty much all I could to negotiate with her in the past. I've gone to therapy to talk it out, my husband and I have gone together, we've calmly discussed things, I've used all the techniques I've could to reach her with kindness and reason.

When speaking with others who know me, her and the situation "hypersensitive" is not what has come up.

But, hey. Who knows? Perhaps my own childhood abuse does make me understandably guarded about my child's safety. I've spent a lot of years processing and learning all I could about my own experience. I guess everyone's experience is different in regards to this subject.

Chet - posted on 08/21/2013

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Don't consider the fact that facebook deleted the photos evidence of anything. Facebook deletes pictures of breastfeeding mothers. Either unprompted when their screeners find them or when clueless people complain.

Chet - posted on 08/21/2013

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You are clearly hyper-sensitive to this issue. Kelly's point about social norms and comfort levels is an extremely good one. The risks of sun exposure and sunburn would be another very valid concern. Wanting to control how images of your daughter are shared is also very sensible. I'm not opposed to underwear and bathtub shots of kids, but I think they can be really embarrassing to children of a certain age and so I don't think every friend and family member should have copies. You're upset about the right things for the wrong reasons though. There are lots of practical concerns to address before you worry about creepy people and reported abduction attempts. Because of that, it's really hard for me to just say your MIL is dangerous and should have extremely restricted access to your daughter. A lot of people would get twisted up and super defensive if they felt you were accusing them of putting a child they loved in the line of paedophiles... while that same person might be completely okay with a conversion that went more like: "Listen, it looks like Mary had a really good time at the park with you. It helped us out a lot having her stay the night at your house. The thing is, she's four now. We really need her to understand that people keep their clothes on in public places. I know she wanted to go in the sprinkler and she didn't have a bathing suit, and she's only four, but you know, she isn't going to be four forever. She's in preK and we really want to encourage her to be a little more conservative now. I worry about damage from the sun and skin cancer too, and those pictures could be so embarrassing for her when she's older. I'd feel better if you didn't post that kind of stuff on facebook just to make sure that everybody doesn't end up with copies. I promise to send her rash guard the next time she's with you. Mary really loves you and listens to you. It would help me so much if we could be on the same page with this stuff." -- So, I don't know if your MIL is defensive about stuff because she's difficult or because she feels attacked. I can tell you that you get more traction from conversations that come out sounding like, "I need you to help me... this is what I need from you... I appreciate all you do... You have the power to help me so much and be the hero here... please let's be on the same team... " as compared with conversations that sound to the other person like "here is a list of the things you did wrong... this is why they were wrong... I'm offering you no appreciation for your attempts to do good... do what I say or you won't see your grand daughter... ".

Mrs. - posted on 08/20/2013

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I do think that posting pictures of my child on facebook, in her underwear, tagging family members in them,etc, puts greater exposure on her perhaps being a child that not monitored all that closely.

I feel the same about the park issue. In my mind, it shows that, as parents, we are putting her in the care of a person who's judgement is not always up to par; that is what is risky to me, beyond the nakedness. It shows she is vulnerable and with the recent incidents—I don't want her being targeted because she is vulnerable with an adult who doesn't seem to have the best track record.

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Unfortunately, keeping her "covered up" will not protect her from pedophiles either--it's not the bare skin they are attracted to, it is the element of control and the theft of innocence. You could have her playing at the park in a full burka and she'd be no less of a target.

That said, the pictures may have been somewhat inappropriate for a child above one year, especially if anything could be seen through the wet underwear. Not so much because it makes her a target, but because it brings to mind the dangers our society now fears and makes those looking at them feel uncomfortable or feel that she has been exposed unfairly.

If I were in your shoes, I would try not to cut MIL out of the picture completely, but I would no longer allow her to take your daughter without you or your husband present. You don't even have to discuss it with her if you think she will be defensive, just decline the next few times she asks and make sure she still gets plenty of time to spend with her grandchild AND your family.

Chet - posted on 08/20/2013

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Are you saying that you think what your child is wearing will impact the likelihood of her being abducted by a random stranger at a playground? I don't understand why reports circulating would up your weariness. That same person was around before you heard the reports about attempted abductions.

Mrs. - posted on 08/20/2013

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I'm aware that creepy guys are everywhere. There were some specific incidents this summer, in our city (not far from us) where a man was trying to abduct little girls from just this type of park. This has upped my weariness of the parks and my need to keep her covered up.

I have lived in the burbs and wouldn't/haven't been less weary there.

I agree with not making them easy targets regardless.

I was pretty sure some people would be uneasy about the public half-nakedness and posting the photos...mostly because it looks like someone reported her to facebook. It is good to hear different opinions on the matter, so thank you.

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