The arrival of a new grandchild is a moment almost as special and important as the birth of your own children was to you all those years before. You want to spend as much time as you can just relishing the magnificence of this new baby, especially since you know so well just how fast time flies and just how essential it is to savour every moment.
Naturally, you want the time you spend with your grandchildren to be filled with laughter and happiness, and as little as possible of the unpleasant things like disciplining a tantrumming toddler, or perpetually saying no to a 4-year-old’s pleas for something sweet. Perhaps this is the source of the stereotype of the grandparent who can’t help but spoil their precious grandchildren – we just want to enjoy them and not fight about rules!
That might land you in hot water at times, though, and it is not always easy to know when you’re overstepping the mark. Here are some tips for navigating these boundaries:
- First off, if you’re going to respect that mark, you need to know exactly where it is. Nobody wants to tiptoe around invisible rules all the time, and similarly, you’ll want to avoid discovering the rules by breaking every one (and likely ending up with severely curtailed visiting rights!) If you are not quite sure what the parents expect of you, it is time to broach that subject. Done courteously, it can save you much strife in the future
- Make sure to manage baby’s firsts with tact. The first smile, first bite of solids, first steps - these are things that hold so much significance for any parent. Even if your grandson utters his first word while you happen to be babysitting, it may be best to forget it or play it down, and allow the parents to enjoy the surprise for themselve
- Don’t make fun of or deliberately break their rule. If you’re really struggling to adhere to your daughter-in-law’s expectation that little Rosy eat only food that is organic, non-genetically modified, unprocessed, and hand-reared using special homoeopathically-blessed water, then by all means, speak up. Don’t tell her that hand-rearing using special homoeopathically-blessed water is lot of hogwash, rather say that you’re struggling to have such foods on ready supply whenever Rosy comes to visit, and ask her to help you out by providing the acceptable fare, or at least giving you a list of foods you can buy yourself.
- Present a united front to the outside world. If you disagree with certain decisions, deal with that within the family unit, and, regardless of the outcome, don’t intervene in the parents’ relationship with their children’s care provider, school or doctor. Unless you have serious concerns over your grandchild’s health or safety, this sort of action is very unwise.
With these basics in mind, you are set to cultivate a rewarding relationship with the parents of your beloved grandchildren. And in the difficult moments, put yourself in their shoes: think back to when you first became a parent, and try to recall your experience with your baby’s grandparents. Were they supportive? Critical? A bit of both? Ask yourself: how can you be even better – how can you ‘grandparent’ in the way you wished your own parents or parents-in-law had done for you when you were raising their grandchildren?
Date Published: 13 August 2015