DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: My husband’s biological father died when he was little, and so his stepfather became his main father image. My father-in-law is not a bad man, but he is a strict one, raised in a strict, what I think of as old-fashioned home. Children are not to speak at mealtimes, have to address him and my mother-in-law as sir and ma’am, and never raise their voices, even when playing among themselves.
This is all familiar to my husband, who truth be told, had a real education when he became part of my big Italian family! We treat each other with respect, but it plays out a whole lot differently than what my husband is used to seeing. It is far more boisterous than the environment he grew up in.
I get the “my house, my rules” thing, but I now have to put up with balking kids every time they know we’re off to visit their father’s parents. I find it a little unnatural, and always stressful. And even when my in-laws visit us, I can see the stress gets transferred to my perfectly proper father-in-law. Consequently, they do not visit us too often.
What can I do to make life around my father-in-law more bearable for my normally high-spirited kids? --- KIDS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN
DEAR KIDS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN: Perhaps it’s your husband’s job to reach out to his parents and explain that your kids are used to a freer atmosphere than what they encounter on visits with their grandparents. It is, ultimately, as you say, their home, their rules, but if a little bit of compromise on both sides can be reached, such as silence at the table, but relatively free range during outdoor play, both lifestyles can begin to adjust to each other, and hopefully, lead to less stressful visits for all.