Your Child And Your Parents: Part Two: A Great Summer Visit
Grandparents are so in love with their grandchildren! And what's not to love? Your children are precious and smart and beautiful in every way. Grandparents want to spend time loving them and spoiling them...but...let's all remember that great relationships need a few boundaries.
It's hard to imagine a more lovely area than Virginia Beach, Virginia. It is a great place to raise a family and, for a time, one of our military sons lived there with his beautiful wife and children. We were able to go visit several times during school breaks and we enjoyed getting to see the children in their own environment. We went to some of their ball games, read aloud to them at bedtime, played cars and blocks with them, and other activities that made this grandmother's heart sing.
These boys' mother, like you, is a wonderful, conscientious parent who sets limits on sugar intake and insists on healthy meals and snacks. I used to do that too. Then I became a grandmother. I think that there is some kind of chemical change that takes place in the brains of some women when their first grandchild is born, and this new imbalance creates an irresistible desire to offer candy and other sweets. I was a victim of this brain shift.
Unable to help myself, I brought three bags of M&Ms to their home when we went to visit. I spent the five hour drive trying to devise a way to give candy to the children without my daughter in love feeling disrespected. Finally, I decided to just diffuse the situation with what I hoped would seem humorous.
When we arrived, we were welcomed to the shaded back porch and I pulled the children aside with a really loud whisper, heard by everyone, "I brought you all something, but we can't tell your parents. Okay?" Their faces lit up at the thought of getting away with something and having a grownup compatriot.
Together the three of us marched loudly off the porch announcing that we were up to absolutely nothing and that we were not to be disturbed while we were doing it. The parents, spying the candy I made no attempt to hide, smiled. Our son said, "Grandmothers get special allowances." He winked at me, and the children and I each enjoyed a bag of M&Ms while they told me about their friends and life in their world. It was great.
The rest of the visit I respected the dietary (and all other) wishes of the parents, and I thanked them for indulging me in sharing a bit of chocolate with the boys.
I learned a couple of things from what could have been an conflict had our son not married a saint. First of all, in retrospect, I believe that I was high handed and acted out of selfishness. Having said that, I would probably do it again...just sayin. So here are the takeaways:
Parents: Grandparents can be given some allowances when it comes to offering things that are treats like candy and extended bedtimes. This actually gives you the opportunity to teach your child that a treat is a treat because it is rare. This helps teach self control. In addition, it gives your children and your parents a chance to form a bond that is separate from you.
Grandparents: Your children are now parents and are worthy of having their household rules respected. You do not have the right to simply ignore a dietary or scheduling rule just because you don't agree with it. Respect your children's authority in their own home. Let them be in charge, and you be the esteemed guest. Your relationship will be sweeter as you learn to appreciate their adult ways.
Parents: A grandparent/grandchild relationship is precious, and not everyone gets to experience it. If your child has the opportunity to know and love your parents, do all you can do to help the relationship flourish. Don't stand in the way out of stubbornness or because your relationship with your parents is strained. This is a brand new start.
Grandparents: If your relationship with your child is strained, this is your do over. You get to do what you can do to repair the rifts by loving a new generation. Every hurting relationship needs a healer, and the healer needs to be you. Love is a river that flows downhill through the generations. The love of family begins with your example. Don't miss the chance to love your child by loving their child well.
Please don't misunderstand: I know all too well the hurts and scars that cause families to become estranged to the point that even the newest child is rejected. I am suggesting that this first summer after the Covid 19 shut downs is a great time to rebuild, renew and reconcile all that was wrong in the past. Be the healer. Even if your efforts are rebuffed you will always know that you tried. But you must try without rancor or arrogance. Rebuilding is about grace and humility. It begins with genuine kindness.
Parents and other readers, if you know a family who needs to hear this message please forward it to them. There is nothing more tragic than opportunities to love that are missed. Life is too tremendous a journey to spend it without grandparents and grandchildren loving each other throughout the summer vacations.