There is so much that goes into parenting—but at the end of the day, everything we do is to keep our kids healthy and safe. That nightly battle over eating vegetables? The fights over wearing coats outside or staying buckled into car seats while the vehicle is, you know, moving? Yep, it’s all about raising healthy kids.
We put so much work into making and enforcing our parenting decisions that criticism of them can feel deeply personal. And when it comes to your personal babysitting rules for anyone watching your children, well, that’s no different. It can be hard to keep your mama bear instincts from kicking in when someone questions your parenting choices, especially when that person is someone you want your children to spend time with.
One mom found herself questioning whether or not her reaction to a situation with her in-laws was warranted. She took to a Reddit forum to ask if she was in the right for banning her in-laws from babysitting her children over gun safety and now the post is going viral.
“My in-laws (80M and 70F) have a gun for protection,” she began her post. “They do not keep it locked up in a safe. They will not tell us where it is except that it’s in their bedroom, but my husband is fairly sure it’s under their mattress. My father in law assured me that he doesn’t keep it loaded, but will not show us where they keep it. All I have is his word.”
She then described her in-laws as “healthy and mentally sound.” While she allowed them to babysit her kids when they were younger, she’s uncomfortable letting the kids go over alone now that they’re more active and curious. “We taught my son what to do if he comes across a gun, but he’s still a kid. And so, we only visit if either me or my husband can go too to make sure the bedroom door is locked,” she explained.
The problem arose when her mother-in-law recently discovered that the poster’s parents regularly babysit the kids at their house. “My parents are younger and do not own guns. My FIL asked me why I don’t let them watch the kids and I told them because of the gun that they refuse to keep locked up.”
That angered her father-in-law, who told her it would be “impossible” for their son to find their gun.
“I said that I don’t care, there is a gun in the house and they aren’t exactly young, if my son came across it how exactly would they be able to stop him? He told me it wasn’t even loaded. I asked him to show me and he refused. He said there is no point in keeping it in a safe because it needs to be accessible for self-defense. I said well, then there will be no unsupervised visits.”
The mother feels that her reaction makes sense. If the gun is easily accessible for safety, then it’s easily accessible to a curious child. But the reaction of her family members has her questioning the situation.
“My MIL started crying a bit and then left the room. My husband started telling me that maybe it would be okay for them to watch them for an hour if they kept their bedroom door locked but I said absolutely not, they will not be watching them until I see the gun in a safe, unloaded and completely out of my kids’ reach. Every time. I refuse to compromise.”
In the comments section, the mother also mentioned that she and her husband even purchased a gun safe for their in-laws. They simply won’t use it.
She asked the Reddit forum if she was in the wrong for not allowing her in-laws to babysit over how and where they store their gun.
“They have a right to own a gun,” one person replied. “They don’t have the right to put your children’s lives at risk by refusing to keep the gun out of their reach.”
“Please stand your ground on this,” begged another poster. “A favorite student of mine accidentally killed himself playing with a gun. No child should ever die this way, but it is WAY too common.”
Another commenter broke down the situation succinctly. “It is a very simple choice you’ve asked them to make. And they have made it clear they’d rather have unfettered access to their guns at all times than unsupervised time with their grandchildren. Their choice. And a crappy one.”
“I love guns,” one person replied. “When I can afford it I intend to collect guns. I think they’re cool, I enjoy hunting for food, and I enjoy developing the skill. But part of owning a gun responsibly is having a solid gun safe. I don’t care if it’s for home defense, if there are children in your home your guns should be unloaded and locked away. It will not make them vulnerable to lock the gun away for a few hours during the day.
“If you aren’t the kind of gun owner who insists on a gun safe, you aren’t a good gun owner. If they’re that flippant about basic firearm safety I don’t trust them to be careful about locking the bedroom door.”
Not everyone likes guns and while it’s certainly OK to not be comfortable around firearms, this isn’t exactly about the mother’s comfort with guns. But rather it’s about her being a mom and doing what she can to keep her kids safe.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) the risk of homicide is three times higher in a home with guns. They also report that 58% of shooting deaths in children and teens are due to homicide.
It’s also important to note that recently Congress approved bipartisan gun control legislation. The new bill, which is expected to be signed into law by President Biden, would provide stricter gun safety measures. From enhanced background checks to freeing up federal funds for mental health checks and security in schools, plus so much more. This is the first time in nearly three decades that gun control legislation has been approved in Congress.
A version of this post was published November 2, 2020. It has been updated.