Show Up, Be Supportive & Other Parental Pointers
Published: May 25, 2018
By: Kerrie McLoughlin
Grandparenting can be tricky. You grandparents have raised your kids already and may think you did a pretty awesome job. Now your babies have had babies and you don’t know how to act.
All of a sudden, your children — who turned out perfectly having been brought up on junk food, public school, television and without seat belts — are telling you what to do around the kids (“no sugar,” “we are going to homeschool,” “no screen time” and “take the booster seat”).
Some of you turn passive aggressive and do the opposite of what you are asked; some just stop showing up. If you can find a happy medium, you’re doing better than most.
Here are some common issues we parents have — and I’m talkin’ straight at you, grandparents!
DON’T START A TRADITION YOU CAN’T FINISH. You are the one who wanted to buy each grandchild a $50 Build-a-Bear stuffed animal, and you started that tradition nice and early. I realize most people don’t go out and give birth to more than two children these days, but you’d better start padding your savings account, Mee-maw, because I have five kids and might have more! If you do something for one, you can bet the others will be watching and bugging me about it constantly. I suggest starting cheaper traditions, like taking the grandkid out for an ice cream and to the dollar store every year for Valentine’s Day.
DON’T PARENT THEM; THAT’S MY JOB. I expect you to spoil them! If I’ve said “Go for it,” then give them candy, let them go on a cartoon binge and by all means buy them the entire set of Harry Potter books! Likewise, though, if I ask you to not smoke, drink or watch Dexter around the kids, please respect that.
BITE YOUR TONGUE. As Jen M.L. of the popular People I Want to Punch in the Throat blog says, “You had your chance to [mess] up a kid and now it’s my turn, so pipe down with all the unwanted advice.” Michelle Pfeiffer, mom of one, offers: “Don’t be a helicopter grandparent. Let the parents make the same mistakes and learn from them. We all turned out fine.” Unless your grandchild is in serious danger, it’s best to keep your thoughts to yourself, or share them with your friends
at work or the community center.
SHOW UP! You don’t need an engraved invitation to a Little League baseball game; if I emailed you the schedule, I want you to come. If you don’t show up to any of the birthday parties because you are mad at me or too busy, that’s only hurting the relationship with your grandchild. Let’s talk it out.
TAKE IT EASY ON THE MATERNAL JUNK. Most kids have tons of random junk they never play with. May I suggest a lovely family gift of a zoo membership next Christmas? Or if you insist on dropping $50 on each birthday, how about a $10 gift and a $40 savings account donation?
LEAVE RELIGION OUT OF IT. This is a loaded topic for grown adults, so don’t bring it up around your kids and grandkids. Your job is to love the grandkids and just get along and help out if you like. Asking them in private why they don’t go to church is not acceptable.
NOTHING STAYS THE SAME. Jody Kwan Jones, mom of three, says: “Grandparents need to remember that times have changed. They seem perfectly willing to accept the new technology that makes life easier, like nice cars, computers, fancy TVs, etc. Why then are there endless repetitions of, ‘It was good enough for you as a baby, so it’s fine for your baby.’ Ummmm, no, I will NOT be giving my baby whiskey in a bottle to put him to sleep!”
BE SUPPORTIVE. If your grandchild is struggling with something in school or life, it’s not always your kid’s fault. Instead of blaming or saying your grandchild never acts that way around you, ask what you can do to help. Can you watch the other kids while your grandchild goes to therapy? Come over for a while to cook or just sit and read to your grandchild? Maybe your grandchild is struggling with science and you are a chemical engineer. Think help instead of snark.