No Use Crying Over Spilled Sweet Potatoes

, , , , , , , | Related | August 13, 2020

My sister is a single mom with a seven-year-old son. I don’t have kids, so I don’t actually know how hard it is to raise them, but I think he’s basically feral. [Nephew] has no concept of right and wrong, he does whatever he wants without consequence, and he physically fights back if anyone tells him what to do.

My sister says that as both the mother and father in his life, she doesn’t want to be the bad guy and risk their relationship as he grows up. She would rather let him learn on his own than tell him what is right and wrong. 

One day last summer, he tried to steal something from my jewelry box. I caught him with the jewelry in his hand and tried to take it from him. He responded by grabbing my arm and biting me hard enough to break skin. My sister sided with him, saying he felt threatened and I shouldn’t have touched him. I am the host of my family’s Christmas dinner this year and I wasn’t going to invite her back, but my parents reminded me that she probably didn’t have anyone else to spend the holiday with.

We all sit down to our meal, the feast laid out on the table. [Nephew] tries to take the sweet potato casserole, but I reach out and block him. He glares at me but sits down. We all fold our hands and close our eyes to say grace led by my father.

It only lasts a few seconds before we hear a dragging sound followed by a crash. [Nephew] has tried to take the sweet potatoes again, but it was too heavy and he dropped it. The dish shattered, sending potatoes and marshmallows everywhere.

[Nephew] screams like he is on fire. My sister scoops him up immediately and begins kissing his face and trying to soothe him. My mother and I pick up the shards and start scooping up the food.

Father: *Sighs* “Stop.”

Mother and I look at him.

Father: “Stop cleaning.” 

He looks at my sister.

Father: “Is he okay?”

Sister: *Cradling her son* “He’s okay. Just a little scared.”

Father: “Okay. Then he can clean this up.”

Nephew: “No!”

Sister: “Dad, it’s broken glass.”

Father: *Sternly* “Yes, he can. He made the mess.”

Nephew: “No! It’s [My Name]’s house. She can clean it up.”

He looks at me.

Father: “Come here, [Nephew].”

My father takes [Nephew] and, in the blink of an eye, lays him over his lap and spanks his butt two times before putting him on the floor. We all stand there in shocked silence. I can’t remember a time my father spanked either of us; he was more of the “go stand in the corner, no dessert for a week” kind of punisher.

Sister: “Dad! What the h*** are you doing?!”

She grabs her son.

Father: “What were you going to do, tell him it’s bad and ask him not to do it again?”

Sister: “I— I— I don’t know! I wouldn’t have beat him!”

Father: “Disciplinary action and abuse are two different things. Two swats on the butt is not abuse.”

Sister: “You had no right! You could have hurt him!”

Father: “[Nephew], next time you’re at the table, are you going to grab something without asking?”

My nephew is in tears, holding his butt, and he shakes his head.

Nephew: “N-n-no.”

Father: “Do you understand that bad behavior has bad consequences?”

Nephew: “Uh-huh.”

My father holds out his hand.

Father: “I am sorry. Is your butt okay?”

Nephew: *Nods* “Yes, Pop-pop.”

Father: “I love you, buddy. I really do.”

They hug.

Nephew: “I love you, Pop-pop.”

Sister: *Grabs her son* “You’re a monster.”

My sister promptly left and has cut all contact with us. I’ve heard from mutual friends that she still lets him run wild, but sometimes he looks over his shoulder like someone might discipline him the way my father did.

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