Family gather for a picture...Grandma directing. My children
do not want me to do this anymore! We now have a professional
photographer in the family!
My husband and I are grandparents to 11 grandchildren. We have three children. The oldest grandchild is 19 and the youngest will be 1 in February. What we know we have learned the hard way. It has not been perfect but our family still hangs together and our grandchildren are well rounded, healthy and great. This is a familiar story and one I hear all the time. I would like this list to be much longer so leave a comment.
I am not everything to my grandchildren! They love me a lot and they know I love them beyond reason. BUT in our family dynamic, we are not the center of their universe. There are very good reasons for why we have chosen to fulfill the role of occasional backup baby sitter. In our mind, we want for our children to reach our age and be very proud of the job they have done fulfilling their role as parents. We do not want to taint the job with too much advice or criticism. But most of all we know too much, have seen too much and find danger is every move. So we stand back at a safe distance and try to remain helpful but not intrusive. Here is how we have done that:
- When our first grandchildren were born we resisted the temptation to move very close to them. It kept us all sane for those first few years.
- When we moved closer we found a life of our own. We golfed and found a circle of friends to play and travel with. Our children did not find us living in their back pocket. When they brought our grandchildren to visit us, it was very, very special.
- We tried to keep family gathering simple and encouraged our children to be responsible for their fair share. Standing back is hard but sometimes we have to let our children fly. Grandchildren were the reason we gathered but healthy responsible children raise wonderful grandchildren.
- Our grandchildren are not our children. It is none of my business! Daughter-in-laws do not want my advice. Go figure. Learning to keep my own counsel has worked very well for us. Now, when my daughter-in-laws ASK for my opinion about our grandchildren my very first question is "What do you think?" Then we talk about the issue from that perspective.
- We know that we all have an unconditional love for each other. Family is a group of people that is given to you. You do not get to choose them nor do you get to exclude anyone for any reason. That is a "family law". Grandchildren benefit from the example we set for them and are loving toward cousins and aunts/uncles. We are a whole! When we take family pictures it is difficult to figure out who the children belong to.
- Speaking of examples...grandchildren are watching our every move. They know when you have picked a favorite. We do not treat them all alike but we do let each one know how important they are in our lives!
- We have set boundaries although no one knows that we have. We simply do not have the energy nor the desire to become parents again. We have told our children very clearly what we can and cannot do. Taking care of two toddlers? Sigh...love does not get the job done! Our children understand.
- We leave for several months every year. We are not rich but we can afford a very small park model in Arizona. We try to stay away at least 4-5 months. Yes, I do miss my family but I also have a wonderful life here. My children are watching us enjoy our retirement and are learning that life is long so we need to find many roles for ourselves. Parenting and grandparenting is only a part of that life.
- We are not perfect. We apologize when we realize we have gone over the line.
- We do not demand "equal time" with the grandchildren. If there is a grandparent in our family that is the grandchild's favorite we try to rejoice in their love. I still laugh about my naughty little grandson when he was about 3. He was in trouble with me so he said "I like my other grandma better." Out of the mouths of babes!!!
Have a wonderful day Grandma and Grandpa. I would love to add to this list...what do your do to be a "perfect" grandparent?