‘Helpful’ Grandparenting

I overheard a conversation today at a toddler group at the library. Two grandmothers had brought their grandchildren along, and were clearly enjoying the bonding time together. These young grannies were possibly mid fifties, and both had grandchildren of about 18 months to 2 years, about the same age as my own son.

What caught my attention initially was their talk of nap times. “Oh it depends how long I have her for” one grandma said, “if she’s with me for the whole day, she’ll have two naps.” The other grandma expressed surprise that the child was not down to just one long sleep in the day, to which granny #1 answered, “Oh yes, my daughter tells me only to give her one, but how can I get anything done that way? I always give her two, it’s much easier for me, I dont mind that she’s sleeping more than usual”

I’m sure you don’t mind, [I wish I’d replied] because it isnt you having to settle her that evening, and having no idea why she isnt tired! I was really irritated by her attitude, but not overly surprised. I’ve often heard mums complaining that their own parents dont listen to the ‘rules’ they’ve put in place for their children.

The whole concept kind of confuses me. Our parents tell us they are so proud of the way we raise our own children, they praise us for being great mothers and fathers, and yet find it impossible to keep to our guidelines.

Do you not trust us? Is it hard to see us as grown up enough to make sensible and thought out choices about our own offspring?

I can imagine that after a lifetime of being able to make the rules, it must be hard to suddenly have to listen to your own child, and adhere to their way of thinking, especially where it differs from your own. I can see that when times change, and what you did as a young mum is no longer the norm, it can seem OTT or uneccesary to be strict about routines or some of the more modern parenting techniques which involve unwavering consistency.

This explains how parents might get in interesting and spirited debate with their kids about how rules and customs have changed over the years, and how child-rearing has evolved in the last generation. None of this explains to me how a grandparent can see no problem whatsoever with nodding in agreement when their daughter gives a direct request, “put him down at 1pm” “don’t give him anything sugary” “no TV please” and then go and do the exact opposite, and not even mention it. Especially when they probably went through the exact same thing with their own parents!

Maybe this is harsh, but having control over eating/sleeping/treats and the like, is simply not one of the perks of being a grandparent. There are so many, and I’ve heard many say that they actually prefer it to parenthood. But making those decisions is not your job. It’s the parents job. And it makes sense, because the parents are the ones who have to deal with the inevitable consequences of too much/not enough sleep, or the wrong kinds of foods, or a overstimulated toddler bouncing off the walls.

Dont get me wrong, ‘m sure I speak for all parents when I say that any help or babysitting from grandparents is incredibly kind and helpful. After all, you dont have to be offering at all! And maybe I’m the one being OTT now. But I speak only for ourselves when I say, that if our parents were secretly doing the opposite of what we were asking them to do, even with the best intentions in the world-that kind of help we can really do without.

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