Parents vs. Grandparents

‘She’s hungry.’
‘Put a hat on him.’
‘She’s tired, let her nap.’
‘She can’t do that by herself, go help her.’
‘Pick him up. I always picked you up immediately when you cried.’

Unfortunately it is this kind of comment that can drive a wedge between parents and grandparents. It is unpleasant to spend time with the folks when you keep being criticised, no matter how good the intention behind the comment.

A talk with a grandmother

I have a good relationship with my mom-in-law, so I felt comfortable enough to talk to her about the subject.
‘Who is the boss? Parents or grandparents?’ I asked.
‘Parents,’ she answered without hesitation.
‘Yes, but if you do anything to put Dylan in danger it is my duty to intervene.’

She also made some other points: that everyone is allowed an opinion, that she has brought up kids already and that kids (in this case young parents) often think they know everything, but they do need help.

When a child is in danger

If my child is in danger, I want him to be saved. Different circumstances however, calls for different approaches. If a kid is about to touch a hot stove or step into the road, by all means stop him.

If it is a more delicate situation – such as possible abuse or neglect – a grandparent (or anyone) swooping in can make things worse. In such a case first speaking to an expert about your fears might be the better approach, but every situation is different.

Everyone is allowed an opinion

This is true. We all have opinions and have a right to them. The question is: should they be given out loud? When you do give your opinion, how you say it also make a huge difference. ‘She’s hungry’ and ‘pick him up’ come across as a command. Rather try ‘could she be hungry?’ or ‘do you want me to pick him up?’ And if the answer is no, respect it.

Young parents don’t know everything

And we don’t believe we do. We just get our information somewhere else. We have a wealth of resources at our disposal – like Parent24, being able to blog about our experiences or Googling the colour of poop. Maybe grandparents just can’t help us much with electric breast pumps or video monitors, because they weren’t around 30 years ago.

So what do parents want from grandparents?

Love. Support. The trust that the decisions we make and the things we ask of you are because we want the best for our children, your grandchildren.
  • We want you to shower them with hugs and cuddles, take them for walks; show them the stars.
  • We want to visit with you and share the wonderful new things our kids are doing without feeling judged.
  • We want to tell you about using baby sign language and microwave sterilisers without being discouraged to try something different, even though you brought us up perfectly well without them.
  • You are our parents, now let us be parents to our children. And maybe once in a while say: You're doing great, Kid.
What do you want from grandparents, or as a grandparent?
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