grandparents that disobey

June 11, 2010 at 7:43 am 3 comments

Echo spent some time with my mom tonight and came home high with happiness. She kept squealing, “I’m broken from laughter!” I was the consummate mother, looking at the clock and hoping to corral her into teeth brushing and bed, but she was just too delirious. Apparently Grammie and Echo had gotten the giggles on the way over and Echo simply did not want the fun to end. She kept flinging herself on the dog bed and forcing out loud guffaws. The laughter wasn’t even natural anymore but she kept at it, trying to keep the magic alive, drunk from hilarity.

Eventually she threw herself at the Feeleez poster and said “I feel like this girl. Happy.”

Bedtime scheduling aside, it was so pleasing to see her in this way. She was a different person. The hour apart, the influence of a loving grandparent, the scent of someone else’s bubble bath, all conspired to create a new being. Of course I recognized my little girl, but it was delightful to see who else she is.

When you parent like we do, that is to say when you pay excruciatingly close attention and make daily, hyper-conscious choices in the raising of your children, it can be tricky making room for a grandparent. Will they say what we want them to say? Will they remember to use empathy as a first response? Will they buy organic string cheese??????? We’ve thought long and hard about these things and it’s difficult to suddenly let them go.

My sister and I spent every Friday night with our beloved Gramma, even into our teens. Eventually Emily, the older sister, was having to decide between keg parties with surfers or Love Boat with Gramma, that’s how long the ritual continued. But Gramma recently told me that when my mom and dad dropped us off at her house they always left her a long verbal list of rules and regulations. Apparently Gramma smiled, nodded, agreed, shut the door, promptly erased the list from her mind, and did what she wanted with her grandkids. The kid in me thought this was hilarious, the parent in me was alarmed.

Grandparents eschewing the rules parents have diligently researched? Oh no.

But when I saw Echo tonight, I put to rest any concerns about our parents parenting our children “correctly”. They aren’t going to do it the same way that we do, and  our children will still be just fine, even better. Parents have a HUGE influence on their children, an influence that, for better or worse, follows them into adulthood, so an evening with Grammie does not run the risk of erasing any well-intentioned conditioning we have attempted. What the children will remember from the night is not that Grammie deviated from the proper script, but that she is silly, fun-loving, and that she adores them.

And even when grandparents do ad-lib, improvising their own solutions to child dilemmas, the girls get the benefit of seeing how other people do things, how they respond, or how they feel. These experiences, especially when they come under the protection of loving family, are enriching.

Our little Echo found new parts of herself in the presence of Grammie, parts that might have remained hidden if my mother had performed a perfect imitation of me.

Entry filed under: life lessons, parenting principles. Tags: , , .

slack belly revolution happy birthday, here’s some poop

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Shelly  |  June 11, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    How do you let go when you have a parent that did so many things “wrong” to you? My parents were abusive and harsh so I worry. My husband, son, and myself are all vegetarians and our families think this is ridiculous and unhealthy. I truly don’t trust them to not feed our son meat. I guess I just have no trust or faith in them.

    • 2. nataliechristensen  |  June 11, 2010 at 3:49 pm

      Oh wow, no trust sure would make it a lot more difficult, wouldn’t it. My parents are pretty well-intentioned and are sincerely attempting to follow at least the basic/serious rules. i think if i didn’t trust them I wouldn’t exactly celebrate a relationship between my son and them.

      Anyone else have any ideas?

  • 3. Debbie  |  June 11, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Shelly – I felt like you when my son was born. My parents weren’t physically abusive but I absolutely have abandonment issues due to the emotional neglect. I swore I’d never leave my parents alone with him and while they’ve never watched him for more than an hour, my parents are complelely different with him than they were with me and my brother. He’s their grand-child and they love him to bits. They also respect that he is MY child and while I’m sure they will sneak him sweets when I’m out of the house – this is hardly damaging him.
    In your case, I think I’d be feeling the same as you. If there is no trust then how can you open yourself up to them – and your child to them? That has to be hard. Bottom line is you NEED them to respect you as a parent. You concerns need to be heard. (My mother-in-law doesn’t ever hear me, so I know how this feels.) I also completley agree with Natalie; a parents influence is going to far surpass that of a grandparent whom a child spends a few hours with now and then. Good luck to you. -Debbie


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