Having been the neurotic mom who was constantly freaking out (and yes, I still have my moments once in a while), I can relate to bumping heads with my children’s grandparents. Their diets, their discipline, their car seats, you name it, and we have talked about it.
But as my children get older, I am realizing more and more how crucial their extended family’s involvement in their lives are, and how letting grandma do things a little differently isn’t going to sink our ship. I’m so grateful that I have people willing and HAPPY to help me with my children.
They get a bad rap these days, don’t you think?
Then again, maybe you are even one of those people annoyed by grandparents…
They say things about how their kids slept on their stomachs and survived just fine, thank you very much! Or how their kids just rolled around in the back seat of the car and are just fine. Maybe they mention how all their kids were formula fed…and you guessed it, THEY ARE JUST FINE!
There was even a recent post here on Mothering talking about how grandparents sometimes try to push their way into that special newborn bonding time in the first days of life.
I know that grandparents sometimes say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing or give bad advice. In fact, navigating extended family relationships and setting healthy boundaries with family members is something that I try to talk about in every childbirth class I teach because family that doesn’t respect boundaries (especially at the time of birth) can be a real problem.
Healthy boundaries and adult relationships with those with whom we were once children is an important part of growing up and becoming parents ourselves. I actually lived with my mother-in-law for five years so if you want to trade stories, just send me a pm. I get it.
But these days, I am just grateful for grandparents. Not my grandparents, they are all dead, but my children’s grandparents. And it seems to me that often we pick a few things we think they do wrong and we won’t let them go. We forget about respecting the people who have gone before and walked the path that we are just getting ready to embark on.
There is a distinct possibility that your children’s grandparents actually know a thing or two about raising children. There is also a high likelihood that they did things wrong, and that as their child you remember a few of these things. There is also a very high likelihood that if you point these things out or wag a book in their face (likely written by somebody younger than them) that they will get defensive about it. If Facebook has taught us anything it is that people get outrageously offended when you spit on their parenting choices, whether they be right or wrong.
These days though, I need all the help I can get and it is nice to get help from people who seem to love my kids almost as much as I do. Time and age can be a great softener of hearts too. My oldest is 10 and I find myself more and more clueless all the time when it comes to parenting. As it turns out, parenting a newborn was much easier than parenting a 10 year old or a 10, a 7, a 5 and a 3 year old all at once…
I recall thinking I was pretty hot stuff at one point because I was nursing my baby and sleeping with him and being otherwise gentle in my parenting. Go me, I had a natural birth!
Now I realize that that was kid stuff. The playing field has gotten much more complicated as have the children. They talk, they walk, they have ideas, attitudes, emotions, anger and much more. All of this despite my best efforts to be a great parent.
Turns out all the stuff I thought I knew from, “The Baby Book.” was great but not quite enough as time went on.
Now when I look at people who have successfully raised decent human beings into adults I don’t judge them because they let somebody sleep on their stomach or cry-it-out or weaned too early. I just wonder how they did it and hope they will give me some small hint so I can do it too.
Also, grandparents will let my kids stay the night every once in a while, which frankly, is one heck of a relief. You can’t imagine how much quieter a house gets when just one child is away with grandma and grandpa.
My advice to those new parents feeling like telling their old parents what is up or what they did wrong or what they need to work on…
Bite your tongue. Not all the time, not on the really big stuff, but re-evaluate what the really big stuff is. You don’t have to agree on everything, but you don’t have to talk about the stuff you disagree on either.
Your parents made mistakes. You might remember many of them. That sucks.
But someday you might understand a little better WHY they made those mistakes. In fact, if you are anything like me you might just end up HOPING that your own mistakes are as small.
(Disclaimer- I know some people have downright abusive parents. This doesn’t apply to you so feel free to disregard. I think this goes without saying, but just in case.)