Do you remember your grandparents? I very clearly remember mine. I have fabulous memories of pancakes on Saturday mornings with gobs of butter and syrup. I fondly recall watching too many cartoons, playing penny poker, and secret candy hand-offs. These are memories that are very special to me — they were days when I felt like I had a silly sort of freedom from daily life. Of course I didn’t really. My grandpa was there to be sure nothing went wrong, but to me, days and nights alone with him were an oasis from what I saw as the hardships of childhood.
Over the last few months, I think I’ve read three separate articles on grandparent etiquette and perused as many or more titles of griping posts against mothers-in-law.
Grandparent etiquette, my foot. WTF is that?
I get that parents don’t always like what happens at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Especially in today’s world, every mom and dad has a strange desire to control everything about their children’s lives. We have to carefully control the amount of sugar our children ingest and are wary of too much television, and god forbid they do something with Grandma and Grandpa that we wanted to experience with them.
I understand — to a point. Obviously, if your in-laws are allowing your 7-year-old to watch R-rated movies and test out cigars, you have a problem. But this is not the norm, people. Grandparents only want the best for the children of their children. And honestly, they deserve a break from parenting. They already trudged through that 20-year storm with you or your significant other, and they have every right to enjoy their role as grandparents and have a little fun before returning your bundles of joy to their daily grind.
Your kids will be okay if they have a little extra candy at grandma’s, or don’t eat all organic, or stay up late and watch too many reruns of Looney Tunes. This isn’t a power struggle. They aren’t trying to win a parenting race. They just want to spoil their grandbabies, as they should. All of your rules and regulations regarding what your kids can eat, how early they must go to bed and rise, how much sunscreen they need to use — these are patronizing and ridiculous. These people raised you. No matter what your issues are with how that went, you turned out okay, and they aren’t trying tor raise your child anyway. They’re simply enjoying them, giving them a few memories to smile at down the road.
About a month ago, my three oldest children stayed the night at my in-laws. They were so excited to have a night without us dictating bedtime and nagging at them about chores. I don’t know what they had for dinner, but I assume it was something awesome like pizza or burgers — things we don’t spring for that often. They played outside until it was dark and went to bed much later than they should have. Were they a little more emotional and tired the next day? Yup. Did I have to deal with that? Yup. And I would do it again. It’s not about me. Time with grandparents is about my children.
This particular evening my oldest son also got the privilege of watching a PG-13 movie with his uncle. This is a movie that I have greatly looked forward to watching — one I would have liked to watch with my son and my husband, partly because I am a paranoid mother and wanted to be sure he closed his eyes at all inappropriate scenes. I was a little disappointed that I missed this experience with him.
But again, it’s not about me. He still talks about that night, about how cool it was to watch a movie unhindered by Mom, to have special time with his uncle and grandparents, and to be able to puff out his chest and brag that he saw a movie before we did. Did he probably see more than I wanted him to in that movie? Yup. However, I know that my in-laws love him to pieces and would never allow him to do or see anything that would harm him physically or mentally in any way.
Do your children get more freedom with their grandparents? Absolutely, and they should. They also receive a little more discipline in manners and gain a wisdom they cannot get from you. Grandparents have already been around this parenting block. They have learned what to let go and what to enforce. Your children will gain valuable lessons from these people. Reward them by giving them a break with your children. Let them spoil them and send them home tired and strung out from too much sugar. You will survive their moodiness, and they will have memories that will last a lifetime.
It really is okay to let go, let loose, and let your children live a little. They and their grandparents will thank you. Don’t wait. Start now. You never know how long they will be able to create memories with these amazing people. And let’s face it, the same quirkiness you see in your children’s grandparents will be seen by your children in you someday. It may shift a little or lag in a different place, but it will be there. I’m willing to bet that when that time comes, you will wish you had given your children the chance to enjoy the special love of their grandparents more when they were still here.