DEAR PARENTS: L2RELAX ABOUT THE GRANDPARENTS
Originally published September 8, 2015
Wow. So this list of don’ts for grandparents is…wow. I mean, I get it, I felt that way about a lot of things when I was a brand-spanking-new-parent who knew everything, but then I grew up a little bit and realized that maybe I didn’t know everything and it wouldn’t kill me or my kids if every day of their lives wasn’t a carbon copy of the previous day. Reading it, I feel like this is just one mom’s very public way to air all the dirty laundry she has with (I’m guessing) her in-laws.
Here’s the dealio, you know that thing your parents (and in-laws) keep hinting at? That thing where they managed to get 3 kids to adulthood perfectly fine? Yeah, that thing. It’s actually valid. No, times aren’t EXACTLY the same as they were 30 years ago, and we have learned some things along the way about childhood development…but the fundamentals haven’t really changed. Baby cries? Baby is hungry, wet, poopy, tired, or just generally being an asshole, as they do. I think – with the exception of a nursing child – the grandparents can just about handle any of those situations. You don’t need to swoop in every time your little snowflake sounds unhappy. Plus, if you’re the only one who ever soothes them, you will be the only one who CAN ever soothe them. Now, early on with baby #1, I really liked that little ego boost whenever I was the only one who could stop the tears. By the time baby #2 came along? Yeesh. No thanks. Mama needs a break, someone else entertain him for a minute.
So anyway, without doing a tired point-for-point counterblog about appreciating grandparents, I would like to make a list of my own. Before I start: I’m not addressing those of you who clearly need restraining orders (seriously, the comment section is terrifying on that post), and if your child has a legitimate medical condition that requires certain consistencies in eating/routine/whatever then assume I’m not talking to you either. Also, this probably shouldn’t need to be said, but I’m saying it: If you’re adult enough to be making babies, you need to be adult enough to have respectful adult conversations about reasonable boundaries with the grandparents of said babies. And you need to be adult enough to make some compromises.
HOW TO RELAX AND ENJOY – NAY, APPRECIATE – THE GRANDPARENTS IN YOUR CHILD’S LIFE
- Stop nagging them. Everything they’re doing comes from a place of love – a love you, as a parent, can’t even understand yet. Unless they are actually harming your child, relax.
- Remember that the in-laws are the same level of grandparents as your parents are. It’s easy, as a mom, to feel like your parents are higher on the totem pole – but that’s not fair to your husband, and it’s not fair to his parents. It took two of you to make that baby, and it took both sets of grandparents to make the two of you so you could make that baby. They’re even, so don’t treat one set like they’re secondary. They love that baby JUST AS MUCH as your parents do.
- Say thank you. Feel like getting bent out of shape about a surprise gift (whether it’s a coloring book or a car)? Stop it. They didn’t buy it to make you look bad, they bought it because they love their grandchild and wanted them to have it. Maybe they knew you couldn’t afford it and wanted to help. Either way, take a step back and remember what gratitude is supposed to look like, then emulate it.
- Chill out. Your child is not going to die from a few late nights or days fueled by Pixie sticks and Snicker’s bars. In fact, they might even learn to self-regulate when they have a tummy ache that night or are tired the next morning. Thanks for the teaching moment, grandma! If it’s not an every day occurrence, they really will be fine.
- Channel Taylor Swift. That’s right, shake it off. Unsolicited advice? Baby name suggestions? Political views? Religious opinions? Antiquated gender role talk? Just shake it off, and teach your kid to shake it off. Your opinion matters more to your kids than anyone else’s. Remember that. This provides you with a good opportunity to teach your kids about tolerance and acceptance of different viewpoints.
- Take their advice. Take it with a grain of salt, but take it. They have lived, y’all. Longer than you have. And they DID actually manage to raise you (or your spouse) to adulthood. Listen. I’m not saying do everything they suggest, I’m just saying don’t dismiss everything they say as though it doesn’t have merit. Sometimes things are hard to hear because there’s some truth to them. Maybe your kid would be less of a brat if you spanked him. (Doesn’t mean you have to spank him, but it likely means whatever you’re doing to “discipline” him isn’t working, so you need to try something else.) Plus that, THEY’RE JUST TRYING TO HELP.
- Respect their authority. That’s right. They are an authority figure in your child’s life, and if they have rules at THEIR house, your kid needs to follow those rules. Whichever rule is stricter wins, though. So if your rule is “no shoes in the house” but grandparents have no such rule, you can still enforce YOUR rules. But if grandma’s rule is “no feet (at all) on the couch” you don’t get to argue that rule, and neither do the kids.
- Followup to #6 – do not interfere if your child is being disciplined by their grandparent (unless they’re being abused, obviously). They need to respect their grandparents and know that they can’t get away with things just because you aren’t there to discipline them. Plus, grandparents catch kids doing things parents don’t see. Step back, mama bear, your kids will be stronger for this.
- Say thank you (yep, it’s here twice for a reason). A lot of grandparents (dare I say “most”?) would go to the ends of the Earth for their grandkids, die for them – just as they would for you, their children. They babysit for free, help out financially, and a host of other things I can’t even think of right now. They are family, they love you, and they love your kids. Stop griping and say thank you.
99% of the things in that Scary Mommy post could have been avoided by having an open dialogue instead of bottling everything up to make a list out of later. Communicate with each other, talk about whatever reasonable boundaries you would like in place, compromise, and keep communicating.
I don’t know a reasonable human being (let alone a grandparent) who would do some of the things on that list – like…the haircut, really?! So, yeah, you need to put some boundaries up ASAP – but that doesn’t mean cutting them out of your life. And coming into the conversation from a place of love and understanding (sometimes grandparents forget that they already got to have all their firsts, and it’s not really fair to want to have them with your kids, too) rather than frustration and anger is likely to help things along more smoothly. Remember, they LOVE your kids, and they LOVE you. That doesn’t mean you need to just “let them” do whatever they want, but it helps to think of them as people and not your enemies.
You will be frustrated with them. They will be frustrated with you. Communication is key to building a healthy, balanced relationship with your kids’ grandparents – on both sides.
And you will miss them when they’re gone.