Helicopter Grandparenting Is A Thing, And It Has To Stop

by Christine Burke
Peter Muller/ Getty Images

Okay, grandparents, listen up.

We love you, we really do. As parents, most of us can’t survive without the help of grandparents who are willing to pick up where we leave off and help us with the heavy lifting of parenting. And, watching our kids experience life with the older generation is amazing and we can see how much you genuinely adore our kids.

Really. We are very grateful. Very.


Some of you need to take a giant step back and let us have some breathing room.

Cuz, Grandma? Imma lose it if you outdo me one. more. time. with an over the top birthday present that I told you we didn’t need.

I’m going to go apeshit if I have to explain why it’s not necessary for my kid to have seventeen desserts at your house before he goes to bed seven hours after his bedtime.

And, I’m getting a teensy bit tired of feeling like my kids are your parenting do-over.

Harsh words, I know.

But, hear me out.

I loved having a special relationship with my grandparents when I was growing up. To this day, I can remember every sight and smell of my grandparents’ houses and I smile when I see Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal because the only time in my life I was allowed to eat sugar cereal was because my grandmother was the supplier.

My grandfather used to let me stay up later than my brothers by giving me a special wink just before bedtime. I’d sit quietly by his chair and delight in watching “Dallas” or “Falcon Crest” with the other grown-ups on a Friday night when we’d visit for the weekend.

Yes, my grandparents let me have special treats and bent the rules my parents had in place once in a while.

But, you know what they didn’t do?

My grandparents didn’t barge in and declare their grandkids as their Round Two of parenting.

These days, so much is written about helicopter parents, those parents who just can’t seem to leave their kids alone. Helicopter parents are involved in every aspect of their kids’ lives and we are now seeing a generation of kids who are struggling with life skills because Mommy and Daddy fix everything.

But, I’m here to tell you that helicopter grandparenting is a thing, too.

Grandparents are getting out of hand with their expectations when it comes to spending time with their grandkids.

I have witnessed full-on family arguments over trips to Disney World after grandparents are politely asked to stay at home in favor of making memories as an immediate family.

I’ve got news for you, grandparents: you aren’t entitled to go to Mickey’s Luau with your grandkids just to feel better about the fact that you couldn’t afford to take your kids thirty years ago. Moreover, why the fuck would you even want to go to Disney with young kids in tow?

You’ve earned the right to go by yourselves and drink yourselves stupid in Epcot and ride the rides that the grandkids can’t. So go. Alone. And let us have our Mickey memories, dammit.

Life is different for us now, Grandma and Pops. A lot different than when you parented us.

We have social media and overscheduled kids on top of work-from-home jobs that blur the lines between family life and work. The world is scarier and it’s just plain harder to raise kids and, sometimes, parents want nothing more than to snuggle on the couch with our kids for some quality down time — without the grandparents calling to ask if they can come over in their matching jammies to share the popcorn.

Believe me, I love our grandparents so please don’t misunderstand me. And, I recognize that for a lot of kids, grandparents are providing stable, loving homes for kids with parents who can’t toe the line. To those grandparents in the trenches of parenting with me, I salute you because I know how exhausted I am at the end of the day. I can’t imagine doing it in my seventies.

No, I’m talking about the over-involved grandparents who feel entitled to be room parent or the grandparents who demand to be invited to every single school activity. The ones who can’t seem to understand that it’s okay to skip the chorus concert on a random Tuesday.

I look around school events these days, I see armies of grandparents wearing their “I’m a Proud Grandparent” shirts and blocking my view of my kid with their iPads in the air while talking loudly about how proud they are of their grandkid who isn’t even singing. It’s one thing to be a supportive and loving grandparent, and quite another to be an over-stepping “extra” parent.

My friends tell stories of grandparents who show up unannounced in the middle of the day to play with their grandkids, despite knowing that homework and school activities should take priority.

One friend was reduced to tears on Christmas morning when the tickets to a Taylor Swift concert from her in-laws overshadowed Santa’s bounty.

Seriously, grandparents, do you not remember what it was like to be us, the struggling parents?

Do you not remember needing those moments of winning? Parents cling to those moments where our kids think we are the greatest parents in the world because, most days, we are holding our parenting lives together with bubble gum, Scotch tape and magic. Can you not remember what it feels like to be drowning on the good days and gasping for air on the bad parenting days?

I begging you to please step back and give us a little space when it comes to letting us have time with our kids. Besides, how can the kids miss you when you won’t go away?

And, please, for the love of Hello Kitty and all that is holy: please, please don’t hand me a list of presents you want me to buy so you can get the glory on Christmas morning. I can barely handle my own list much less yours, okay?

Take a load off, because it’s our turn to parent our kids.

And we promise we’ll post the pictures on Facebook so you can brag about your amazing grandkids to all your friends.