At a time when young moms and dads are feeling wiped out, here's why they shouldn't be too demanding of their own parents.
If you take a look at social media these days, it’s hard not to come across posts taking shots at grandparents.
There are articles stating that the older generations don’t babysit enough. Others complaining grandma is too interfering. And then there’s the post that more or less states that for grandparents to take an active role in their grandchildren’s lives they have to abide by a strict set of rules laid out by parents. There is no room for negotiation.
Now I’m far too young to be a grandparent — well … technically not, but my kids are nowhere near there yet. However, as an experienced mom of four I’ve dealt with the grandmas and grandpas in my children’s lives for over two decades. And I can’t help but feel the older grandparents out there are being treated unfairly.
1. The aging process
Firstly, aging is a privilege. My own grandparents died at a young age, and by the age of 10 I had none. Therefore, for children to have grandparents is a blessing in itself and should not be taken for granted. The time we spend with our grandparents is something to celebrate, not complain about.
It’s also important to consider what the elderly are going through. New parents are quite rightly focused on their young children — and the craziness that comes with raising kids these days. However, on the other side of the generation gap, grandparents often have to contend with illness, perhaps financial insecurity, and the awareness that their journey on earth is getting shorter. It can be quite a frightening time for them. They may feel lonely and vulnerable. Just as we cherish our newborns, we need to cherish our seniors.
2. A question of respect
There’s also the issue of respect. It’s difficult not to notice that society seems more youth centered. Kids’ wishes are not only seen as more important than their parents’, but their grandparents’, too.
Naturally we need to focus our attention on our children, but this doesn’t mean that they automatically rule the roost. By teaching our kids to respect their grandparents, and the elderly in general, it will go a long way in shaping them to become compassionate and caring individuals.
My parents brought me and my seven siblings up to have utmost respect for our grandparents. Their homes were almost sacred. When we went to visit, we had to consider their age, the noises they could cope with, and their various ailments! We were encouraged to chat with them, eat the coffee cake (which incidentally was something I could barely tolerate, but it was my grandfather’s favorite) that had been made especially for our visit, and then tidy up any board games we had taken out.
Was it a thrilling occasion? No. But it was necessary. It taught us to not only respect the older generations, but to spend time thinking of others, and taking their needs into account.
3. Everything has its time
I have a friend who was very angry over the summer as her mother said she didn’t feel capable of having her four grandchildren stay for a week. I explained to her that I felt she was being too demanding. Even now in my late 40s I don’t have the same energy to care for young children — maybe my own four have plain exhausted me!
It made me think about what kind of grandmother I want to be. I’ve been around children my whole life and I work with teens. They’re exhausting. Can I promise my kids that I’ll be a regular babysitter? No.
I know that I’ll be there for any emergency. And I know that I’ll love them with all my heart. But I can’t help but feel that my duty as a grandparent is to spoil my grandkids — as sensibly as I can — when I see them, teach them some life essentials (baking a coffee cake will not be one of them), and to also let my own kids take responsibility for the lives they’ve created. After all, there’s no greater reward than watching your children grow and spread their wings.
4. Things change
Growing up, my parents didn’t have to contend with car seats — we all flew about the back seats of our car with little notion for safety. I often looked (and marveled) at my bemused parents as they struggled with booster seats, window screens, and collapsible cots when they occasionally looked after one of their 29 grandchildren.
It could be daunting for them at times and a source of stress. Using all the mod-cons and taking on board all the new ways to do things sometimes left them feeling not up to the job. It wasn’t a surprise that they found babysitting exhausting and not that pleasurable.
Personally, I didn’t want my parents to feel that pressure, so my kids only stayed over if I was there. I feel strongly that my mom and dad have earned the right to reap what they have sown. I want them to sit back, watch their grandchildren grow without having to do all the hard work, and know that we are grateful for the lives they’ve given us. And, to be honest, I just want to cherish them for as long as I can.