Glad You Asked: Grandparent Edition
Though I haven’t yet experienced it first hand, I hear that being a grandparent is the height of bliss. You get all of the benefits of enjoying children: adorable sidekicks, an unconditional love that knows no bounds, and a pet name that you yourself get to choose. “Granny” is so 1985! Sugar, Honey, and GaGa are all the rage. Another plus? You can spoil them rotten, discipline them rarely or not at all, and send them home to their parents as soon as you’re sick of watching Moana for the 82nd time this week. What’s not to love?
There’s no doubt, though, that relationships between parents and grandparents can wear thin. When we asked our readers recently about topics that they’d like for us to address, one was overwhelmingly present:
“How can I, as a grandparent, enjoy and love my grandchildren without derailing family goals?”
I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED! Let’s dive right into it.
Disclaimer: My children have four very loving grandparents, whom they (and we!) adore. All of the content in this post is said out of nothing but love and appreciation. I would be unable to function without the encouragement and support of my children’s grandparents - I mean it!
1.) Respect the Routine
For my three-year-old twins, an overnight invitation to Honey’s House (my mom) trumps any incentive that I could ever offer. More often than not, their three (older) cousins are also present, and my boys experience their own Nirvana: all the treats their bellies can hold, Netflix galore, and a bedtime of approximately whenever they would like.
“It’s 3 a.m. and you’d like a cookie? OKAY!” It’s funny how my once-strict mother turned into the good witch from the Wizard of Oz, her tutu lined with snacks, the second her children were grown.
Though it’s always nice to have a “night off,” so to speak, my husband and I always brace for the storm that comes once we pick up two sugar drunk, sleep deprived toddlers.
I’M NOT TIRED!!!!!!!!! I WANT A LOLLIPOP!!!!!!! HONEY SAID I COULD HAVE A LOLLIPOP AND HONEY IS IN CHARGE!!!!! PUT ME DOWN!!!!!
...can’t you just hear the joy?
Though I know it’s tempting, please, for the love of all that is holy… respect the routine. While I don’t expect my kiddos to be tucked into bed by their normal 7:30pm, I also don’t expect for them to be jumping on yours at a cool 12:30am. They won’t stop loving you because you give them structure; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Plus, you’ll find yourself getting a “yes” far more often when asking to keep them - because their parents know that you’ll return a well-rested angel to their home.
2.) Don’t contradict us in front of our children
I know it’s hard. As a grandparent, you want to come to your grandchild’s rescue whenever possible. It’s hard to watch your precious angel be disciplined when you know that all that they want is a second cookie that their (hateful) mother just won’t give them. But when my child looks at you for a different response once we’ve already told them no, know that it is your job to reinforce our decision, not offer an alternative.
If there is something that you feel like we could be handling differently, please do your best to address it when the littles aren’t watching. I know that in the heat of the moment it can be hard, but ultimately, they need to know who rules the roost (i.e., not them.) That way, when you leave to go home for the night, there’s no confusion.
3.) Treats ≠ Love
When it comes to being a fantastic grandparent, fancy toys or a bottomless bag of candy aren’t what’s important - it’s your presence. When I think back on my memories with my sweet grandmother, I don’t think about the things that she bought me or the candy she let me sneak - but the time that we spent together. I tear up just thinking about it!
Going with her to the farmer’s market, watching 60 Minutes in her big bed in my jammies, and long talks in her kitchen are among my fondest memories.
Though the occasional treat is certainly appreciated, the truth is that my kids usually don’t need another toy or a bag of fruit snacks in the back seat. What they do need, though, is someone who loves them unconditionally and sets aside time to pour into their little hearts and lives.
I know it sounds morbid - but think about it. What memories do you want your grandchildren to have of you when they’re grown? Chances are, it won’t be of the fancy gadget you bought them instead of taking them to the museum. Time is fleeting - and that’s what they need!
4.) Offer to Help
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best at asking for help. Even though I now have four babies aged three and under (I mean it when I say: even typing that gives me heart palpitations), I have a hard time asking others to help me with this here circus I’ve created. I have a habit of dragging napless children to Target to pick up a box of diapers that I’m sure my mom would be happy to grab for me - simply because I don’t want anyone to feel obligated or put out.
That said, when grandparents offer to make a Target run, or watch three of mine while the littlest has a doctors appointment, I feel like I have won the lottery (and, thanks to my sweet mother, that feeling comes often.) These acts of service are appreciated more than I can say, and a phone call asking to keep just one of my children for an hour is a call I’ll answer any day.
Last year, Mike’s parents gave us the greatest Christmas gift of all-time: they’d come to town and keep our children while we went on vacation for three days. WHAT!? Seriously!? I fell out of my chair. This incredibly generous offer to help in a way that they knew we’d never ask for was such a testament to who they are as people.
Now, I realize that I need to work on my being comfortable in asking for help, but still - offering to help can never hurt.
5.) Let Us Make Our Own Mistakes
Our dear pediatrician makes a point of meeting all of his patients when they are fresh, wee babes in the hospital. He is always sure to invite grandparents to this first visit, so that he can deliver a message that only he can. As he looks over the new nugget, he firmly but lovingly explains to grandparents that their time to parent has come to an end, and that it’s now their children’s turn to do so. Though they may have strong opinions, it’s not their job to give them unless asked. (There are, of course, exceptions to this - but you get the gist.)
The thing is, we all have our own quirks. Some things are important to us as parents that we can’t explain well to others. But the thing is, we don’t have to. Our limits on screen time, quotas for green beans, and preferences for toys (please, FOR THE LOVE, do not bring another toy into this home that lights up or makes noise OR I WILL…. UGH) - don’t have to be justified. They are able to stand on their own simply because we, as parents, decide upon it.
If you see us making a parenting decision that you yourself wouldn’t have made, or, a lesson that you learned the hard way - let it be. The thing is, we need to make mistakes. We need to try and fail and try again, so that we can figure out how to best parent and guide the children that we’ve been given to care for. Each child is different. Each situation is different. It’s our job to find what methods best work for our family.
6.) Remember How You Felt
Growing up, my mother wouldn’t let me leave the house without a smocked dress over my lanky body and a gigantic bow stapled to my mane of hair. As a grandparent, however, her standards have… changed. It’s not uncommon for her to willingly (and gleefully) let my children wear cartoon pajamas out to dinner - something that would have happened over her dead body 20 years ago. Balanced meals of pork tenderloin and sautéed spinach have been replaced by gourmet spreads of “jelly on bread” with a side of four bags of Doritos.
I understand. My mom didn’t “spoil” us, so now it’s her turn, right? Not exactly. When I find one of our precious grandparents acting in a way that I know they would have taken great offense to when we were growing up, I remind them of that.
“How would you have felt?”
The same thing goes for our baby’s first fever. The fact that we’re unwilling to spend a night apart from her just yet at the ripe age of… three. Her first day of school. Though you know full well that these things pass and, in the grand scheme of things, aren’t that big of a deal - to us, they are. How did you feel when we had a cough that we just couldn’t shake? When you wanted so badly for us to just SMILE for a freaking family photo, only for us to pick our nose?
Give us grace. Give us encouragement. Don’t downplay our fears and problems simply because you’ve been there before. We know it’s no big deal in the long run - but sometimes (especially if you’re me) we need a moment to freak out, to vent, to worry. Because even as a “seasoned” mom of three, I still need you to be my parent and listen. Even moms need their moms.
This post is in response to a question we received from a reader. Have a question or topic you’d like us to address? Leave it in the comments below, or email us at email@example.com.