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Aster's avatar

NSFW How do I explain why this was disrespectful to her granddaughter?

Asked by Aster (15834 points ) June 27th, 2014

A dear friend of mine flew to Washington to visit her son and two granddaughters who have lived a very sheltered life. She goes once a year. On the last trip my friend was sitting on the toilet while her granddaughter, twelve, was bathing “just to talk.” The girl’s mother was indignant about this and expressed it but my friend said the girl “couldn’t see anything because I adjusted my slacks so she couldn’t.” I think it was disrespectful to the girl but I know my friend would not understand why. My friend had already gotten into hot water with the mother by asking her GD, “how did you feel when you found there’s no Santa?” and the girl was crying her eyes out. My friend feels quite persecuted by her daughter in law. Do you agree the toilet and bathing incident was disrespectful to the girl? And yes; I can stay out of it. They have three bathrooms.

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46 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Did your friend ask for your advice?

If the 12-year-old daughter wants privacy when she is in the bath tub, she simply says so. :“Grandma, please do not come in the bathroom while I am bathing. Please do not use the toilet while I am in the bathroom.”

if the mother of the 12-year-old doesn’t want her mother (if I have the family lineage straight) using the toilet while her the girl is bathing, she says so. “Mother, please use the toilet privately.Please stay out of the bathroom when grandaughter is in there. Is that clear?”

The Santa Claus issue must be history, given the age of the girl. The mother should have learned then how to set guidelines for her mother. “Mom, we’d love to have you for a visit, but these are the house rules…no exceptions. Thanks. What time is your flight due? We’ll pick you up at the airpoint.”

CWOTUS's avatar

There is a difference between “sitting on the toilet” and “using the toilet”, and I’m not sure that I comprehend which activity your friend was involved in. I’m sure that I don’t really want to know, either, so I’m unfollowing the thread now.

Aside from the pronoun hell we frequently visit, now we’ve got “ambiguous action hell”, too, apparently.

cazzie's avatar

I wouldn’t go into a bathroom to go to the toilet to do my business if there were other toilets around. BUT, if the kiddos were in the tub and I had to go and it was the only place, then I would go. I would knock politely, and ask first. We are very much of the attitude here, ‘We’re all family.’ No big deal. My kid sees me fresh out of the shower all the time, and I often am in the toilet and he barges in to brush his teeth. We live alone together and that’s life in our house. If a visitor came in, my kid would be embarrassed if they went to the toilet while he was in there. I don’t know if it was disrespectful to the granddaughter. Kids take their cues from adults. If it upset the mom, then, it was disrespectful to the household. Daughter in laws have rights that must be respected.. which leads me to this:

I had the other situation when I was 19 and in New Zealand. I was living with my fiance and his parents and his mother dominated the one bathroom in the morning with a very long, leisurely bath. No bubbles. We all had to use the shower (the toilet was separate, thank goodness) while she was soaking in the tub. I found ways around it, mostly by getting up earlier, but it bothered me, looking at that fat whale in the tub, if I had to go in and brush my teeth. (and no… I called the whole thing off and ran away from that nightmare!)

Aster's avatar

My girlfriend is the grandmother of the twelve year old girl taking the bath. My gf was using the toilet chatting and tinkling. She took the opportunity to talk with her granddaughter while the GD was bathing.
The woman complaining about it and about the SAnta incident is the girl’s mother who has always been rude to my gf but “makes up for it” by taking my gf for day long trips to the Seattle mall and on boat rides, dinners, etc. Her husband is my GF’s son who keeps his mouth shut, never telling his wife to lay off his mother. They do not live in a “nudity is fine with us” type of household. The girls are sheltered.

FlyingWolf's avatar

IMO, it is inappropriate for Grandma to use the facilities while the 12 year-old is in the tub and if I got wind of it I would kindly and respectfully ask her to utilize one of the other bathrooms, or hold it until the bath was over. If it is all about chatting, they can do so after she is done in the tub and dressed.

Even if her mom didn’t feel that way, depending on the relationship the 12 year-old has with her grandma, she might not be comfortable asking her to use another toilet while she is in the tub. I am pretty sure my 12 year-old would be mortified if his grandma turned up in the bathroom while he was bathing, but he would not feel comfortable asking her to leave, so he would sit squirming and incredibly uncomfortable until she made her exit. I hypothesize that he would then ask me to intervene and make sure that it doesn’t happen again. I guess I would hope that Grandma would understand the child’s perspective and do her business elsewhere during bath time. @CWOTUS , based on the description of strategically placed clothing, I understood that Grandma was using the facilities for their intended purpose.

As far as Santa goes, I wouldn’t comment on the jolly old fellow’s existence unless the child was at least 11 or 12, or unless I knew the cat was out of the bag.

It sounds like Grandma needs a little tutoring on healthy boundaries and personal space.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I agree with @FlyingWolf. I know my 12-year-old doesn’t want anyone else in the bathroom with him while he’s showering, let along someone else using the toilet while he’s showering. I also know my 12-year-old would not be fooled by the “just to talk” and clothing put in positions to hide what she was actually doing.

Did her granddaughter have a problem with this? That would be the biggest concern to me as a mother. In our house, we respect each other’s privacy when it comes to our time in the bathroom (showers, baths, using the toilet), so having someone just come in would be a big deal.

Aster's avatar

@gailcalled she didn’t directly ask for my advice. She tells me details of all her goings on with her family and has for years and has always waited for my responses. It comprises a big part of our relationship.
You can decide if that’s “asking for your advice” or not. One expression she uses a lot to me is, “can you believe that?” Good friends , in case you’ve never known this, often give unasked for advice with no hard feelings. It’s casual ; not stiff and formal like some friendships.

Aster's avatar

@Seaofclouds I have no idea what the GD thought of this. I do know the GD was cold towards her on this latest trip.

gailcalled's avatar

@Aster: Really good friends do not give unasked for advice, in my experience.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Aster Then I would probably thing the granddaughter did not like her grandmother coming in during her bath.

Aster's avatar

@gailcalled how odd. Well, good luck to you! I treasure my friends’ advice asked for or not .

FlyingWolf's avatar

If you feel like you want to discuss this with your friend, maybe you could show her this episode of Modern Family. There is a great story line about one of the characters not quite understanding her son-in-law’s physical boundaries. It even includes a bathtub scene!

Anyway, I think it is about a gentle conversation explaining that people have different levels of comfort with nudity, personal hygiene and bathroom business, and that a 12 year-old girl might have some especially strong feelings about such things. Explain that the best choice in order to respect the privacy of others is to err on the side of modesty and giving them privacy.

Aster's avatar

^^^^^^^^^ Fantastic post @FlyingWolf ! She was born and raised in Mexico in very poor circumstances and there are certain things she doesn’t understand.

FlyingWolf's avatar

@Aster my sister’s mother-in-law was raised in Mexico, and the cultural differences pretty much defined their relationship and made it difficult until the day her MIL died. Interestingly enough their biggest issues revolved around bathroom situations.

zenvelo's avatar

Wow, Grandma has a lack of boundaries! 12 is too young to expect someone to set boundaries for a Grandmother, and 12 is way too old for a grandparent to invade a child’s privacy.

We set an expectation of privacy for our kids about the time they were 6 or 7; it doesn’t matter that it was a Grandmother and a girl, Yes, the Grandmother needs to be told to respect the child’s boundaries.

marinelife's avatar

The grandmother should respect the rules that the parents set, and the parents attitudes.

Aster's avatar

@marinelife she tries all the time to respect boundaries even when they make no sense to her. She got into the bathroom without being directed to not do it. They never gave her that particular rule ; I guess it never occurred to them that my GF would go in there. They have many rules for my GF’s visits ; half having to do with clean hands.

syz's avatar

Good Lord, I would’ve been traumatized for life had someone come into the bathroom and used the toilet when I was a kid. Hell, I probably still would be.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I agree with the daughter in law, 100%. The whole thing was inappropriate. At 12 a kid is starting to undergo changes and they become fiercely private and they SURE as hell don’t want to have to see, or listen, to someone crapping right next to them. Sometimes older people forget all of that. As you age modesty becomes a little less important because you’ve already seen it just about every way it can be seen.

Just curious…. what does your girlfriend say about it all?

Aster's avatar

^^^^^^^^ she told me she had her feelings hurt when her DIL acted sort of shocked that she had chatted in the bathroom and seemed traumatized by the thought of her daughter seeing any part of a woman’s body . If I had been the little girl I would have been grossed out and nervous knowing how I was back then.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I would find it a little weird too. Pretend like your friend was a man and he did that. It would go to a whole different level, wouldn’t it.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

But your friend isn’t a man, is she? Don’t women visit the toilet all the time together in social settings (at the bar, out to dinner etc…)? So in a sense grandma was just helping prepare her 12 yr old granddaughter for…life!

On the other hand, wasn’t your friend recently chastised by DIL for ruining the whole Santa Claus game for the granddaughter? She should have been far more considerate and cautious when exposing the 12 yr old to this new way of living.

By the way, was she doing the #1 or the #2 (yes, it makes a huge difference).

Aster's avatar

@Dan_Lyons I may be an exception but I have only on very rare occasions gone to the bathroom with a woman in there with me. I can’t think of even once, actually. My GF was not preparing her for … life. She just wanted to talk small talk.
And yes; she was recently chastised for ruining Santa for the girl at twelve years old! I have no idea if she was doing #1 or 2. I suspect #1 but I really don’t know.

pleiades's avatar

Honestly 12 is too old to just be dropping in like that… That’s what? 6th grade? Possibly 7th? It seems grandma has a prepossession that these kids are overtly sheltered since that’s what she told you. I don’t think it’s up to her to try and raise them especially during a visit. She should just be enjoying what little time she has left with the grandkids not lecturing. Now all that kid will remember is how her grandma bullied her about there being no Santa. I’m sure she already came to terms that there was no Santa but the reinforcement of that reality that Santa doesn’t exist can come off as extremely bullying. Especially coming from an elder which probably came off as condescending.

You can’t say much honestly, old people have made up their minds.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Dan_Lyons If women go the restroom together it’s by mutual consensus. Further, they are hidden by stalls. If another woman followed me into the bathroom “Just to talk,” I’d be uncomfortable.

It’s sad that the kids are going to have these kinds of memories of their grandmother. That’s something she should consider, too.

dappled_leaves's avatar

All I can say is “Ewwww.” If I were the granddaughter, I would lock the bathroom door from now on. I think there is little use in explaining to people past a certain age that their actions are inappropriate. They’re just going to do what they’re going to do.

Dutchess_III's avatar

My mom had a really hard time understanding why certain things she did were hurtful or disrespectful. She just couldn’t see it. It got much worse when she began developing Alzheimer’s.

fluthernutter's avatar

It’s a cultural thing.

As a first generation immigrant, I understand both sides. Unfortunately there’s a double generation gap between the grandmother and granddaughter. I think it falls on the daughter-in-law to negotiate both sides.

She needs to be clear to your friend about respecting her child’s boundaries. Twelve is too young to expect her to set them herself. (It’d be great if she could, but not expected.) The daughter-in-law also needs to explain to her daughter the cultural and generational reasons why grandma’s popping in.

fluthernutter's avatar

Grew up with having people come in to take a dump while I was showering. Chit-chatting like it was no big deal. Only thing worse than a stinky dump is a steamy, stinky dump. So gross.

jca's avatar

Most 12 year old girls have reached puberty. I would imagine that a pubescent girl would not want grandma in the bathroom with her while she was undressed. I would also not want to pee in front of a twelve year old granddaughter, if I had one. If your friend doesn’t understand this, I don’t know how you could get her to comprehend and I don’t think it’s your place to try.

fluthernutter's avatar

Actually, I’d like to amend my answer. It’s not the daughter-in-law’s place to try, it’s the father’s task. It’s his mother after all.

Aster's avatar

^^^^^^^^^ the son (my friend’s son and the girl’s dad) does not wear the pants in the family, keeps silent , and lets his wife run the show. In fact, he even took HER MAIDEN NAME as his when they married!! LOL
Amazing; he has a great job with Microsoft.

janbb's avatar

They don’t call it microSOFT for nothing! :-)

jca's avatar

I usually don’t get riled up over things in other people’s families. I have enough to worry about with my own stuff.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@fluthernutter I almost made a comment about the “old country.” My mother was the first of 9 siblings to be born here. The first 7 were born in Holland. In many ways she had old country views and attitudes, that can be very different from our expectations.

@Aster Is she, by any chance, an immigrant?

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

I’m with @gailcalled; if your friend, the granddaughter, or the girl’s mother haven’t asked for your advice, you should stay out of it.

As for opinions, the story gave me the willies. A 12-year-old girl isn’t a baby or a toddler; she’s a pre-adolescent who’s easily embarrassed and traumatized. The mother needs to put a strong lock on the bathroom door, so that the girl can keep her privacy during grandma’s annual visit.

FlyingWolf's avatar

@Dutchess_III she pointed out upthread that her friend grew up in Mexico.

Dutchess_III's avatar

K. thanks.

Most bathrooms have locks on them. I don’t know that you’d need a super strength one @SadieMartinPaul!

ibstubro's avatar

And yes; I can stay out of it.

Sounds like your best course. De/un drama your life.

The question and my quote from the question are miles apart.

flutherother's avatar

Your friend is very disrespectful to her granddaughter. With some difficulty I can put this down to ignorance however she is also disrespecting her daughter in law who is after all the child’s mother. She now seeks support from you to justify her behaviour. I wouldn’t give it.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

It depends on the family and their usual boundaries. Some families have an open door policy and nakedness is pretty usual. However, by 12 most young people want privacy even if they have grown up in very progressive families. I would say the grandmother should not have entered the bathroom without the child’s permission and I’d say she should have waited to use the loo. She needs to follow the family rules. By the sound of it, the family isn’t very open. Her granddaughter may have been too embarrassed to say she didn’t want her there if she just walked in and went about her business.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@flutherother I think most of it can be explained by the fact the friend wasn’t raised in the US. My mom tended to over ride me in my parenting because she was raised by immigrants from Holland. All of her sisters (she had 6) were very outspoken, direct, over bearing, domineering and insensitive. My ex husband had an uncle who was raised in Holland and he was the same way. It was very, very frustrating.

longgone's avatar

Lots of generalizations here. I know for a fact that not all twelve-year-olds get uncomfortable in this situation. Similar things happened in my family all the time…and no-one cared. We grew up with a healthy attitude about nudity/sex/bodily functions and didn’t giggle when we heard words like “fart” or “penis”.

That said, none of the above matters to the girl. She is the one who’s uncomfortable. That’s how she was raised. Grandma needs to ask herself whether she wants a good relationship with the kid. If so, she will have to respect her boundaries.

janbb's avatar

@longgone We actually don’t know from the story how the granddaughter felt. It’s all about the grandmother, the DIL and Aster’s feelings.

longgone's avatar

@janbb You’re right! In that case, we know nothing, and I would keep out of it all.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Aster Have you asked how your friend’s grand daughter reacted? Did she say something to her mom? Obviously some sort of deal was made out of it or your friend wouldn’t have even brought it up.

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