Your Child And Your Parents: Part One: Make Room For Grandparents
You have beautiful dreams for your family. Your parents, probably, have similar feelings. How do you juggle your role as parents, while negotiating the changing role your own parents have in your life? What are the boundaries, anyway?
It is a life change more profound than any other human experience. From the day you become a parent, you are forever completely changed. Whether you have one child or six, having a child alters a family because your child is a person from the very beginning. Each new life brings a thousand times a thousand joys and concerns, opinions and memories just waiting to be made. The beauty of this indescribable.
For your parents, especially if this is their first grandchild, the changes are similar. They now have not one but two generations following them. Most grandparents I know say that their grandchildren are a source of profound joy in their lives and that the experience of being a grandparent is wonderful. It contains all the fun parts of parenting without the pressure. I have to say that this is how I feel about our grandchildren.
In some families the roles of grandparenting and parenting get a little confused. How much control and influence is appropriate for your parents to have in your home and with your child? How much responsibility is appropriate for you to expect your parents to take for your child? What are the rules and protocols? Who gets to decide how baby is raised into adulthood? Sometimes the passion we all have for the youngest generation causes stress.
How can you lovingly influence the grandparent who wants to be too involved in the day to day decisions surrounding a new baby or your older child? What about the grandparent who "helps" by criticizing? To sum it all up, how can you follow your God ordained mandate to raise your children while honoring your parents and keeping that relationship strong?
As you might have guessed, the answers are complicated. First and foremost, it is up to you to set the tone and the parameters for these relationships with your own parents. You deal with your parents, your spouse deals with theirs. Your child and your marriage are your number one priority. Raising your child is going to be the work of a lifetime, and you are never released from the bonds that are created when you have a child. But hte
Neither are your parents. You are still their child. They love you. They love your child. Chances are good they love your spouse. But this new relationship will take time to gel. For the first few years, as baby changes and grows so rapidly, the relationship between you, your parents, and your child will be constantly shifting.
Let's take a look at some ways that you can help your family maintain a healthy balance of power when it comes to your child. The quality of these relationships has a tremendous impact on your quality of life, not to mention how much everyone enjoys holidays so it is well worth taking a bit of time and energy to work out the boundaries of grandparents.
Invite your grandparents to have a significant role in your child's life.
Grandparents are a significant source of security and love for your child. Grandparents connect your child to their heritage in a way that parents can not do. They offer a different, less constrained, kind of love than parents. As your child gets older your parents can be a bridge between you and your child helping them to gain some perspective on your expectations. They are also living history books. Grandparents can tell your children about the culture you grew up in and how things have changed through the years. All of this to say do not shut your parents out of your child's life no matter what your relationship with them may be like. Even if your parents weren't great parents, they may be wonderful grandparents. Your child needs your parents' love.
2. Explain your family's medically based diet rules, but give a little grace here.
If you have you have some extreme customs in your home concerning diet, please don't shut out your parents if they are unable to follow suit. Your parents may not even know what the word vegan means, let alone know how to prepare food in that fashion. The concept of being gluten free, unless your child is part of the 1% of children who have celiac disease, may be too confusing for your parents to need to understand. Completely eliminating all treats such as candy or cookies sounds harsh to most grandparents. In addition, if your parents raised you on a healthy balanced diet that contained reasonable amounts of gluten, sugar, and animal products they probably believe that these restrictions make feeding your child unnecessarily difficult and restrictive for your child. They may be right.
3. Part of the fun of grandparents is that rules are more relaxed. Get over it.
With the exception of the basic rule of respecting the person and the property of everyone around you, the rules of your home may be pretty different from the rules in your parents' home. Grandparents may feel that eating ice cream on the couch in the living room is just fine. Even if it wasn't when you were growing up, it may be fine now. Just go with it. But remember: just because your parents allow it doesn't mean you have to. This is a great way for your children to begin to understand that rules change from place to place. It is okay if they can do things like have an extra cookie or watch a movie that goes 30 minutes after bedtime. This is a rare treat that gives your parents a separate and special role.
Allow room for your parents to be in your children's lives without any unnecessary restrictions. Your parenting style may be radically different from your parents or your in laws, but if you know that your children are safe from harm, just let them develop a relationship with your children that is their own. Enjoy being a family.