Q: My in-laws pick up my kids every Friday from school. When they come home after spending the afternoon with their grandparents they always have new toys. This is frustrating to my husband and I because we’re trying to teach our kids to be grateful and it’s hard when they get new stuff each week. Do we say something or just let ‘grandparents be grandparents?
For every parent out there who is struggling with hands-on grandparents, there are thousands of parents who wish they had grandparents for their children.
Having the advantage of being a mom first and now being grandma, I’ve experienced the joys and the challenges of both seasons of life.
I’ve been there and I understand, fully, the dilemma that the parents have when they have grandparents who appear to spoil their grandchildren. I have a friend who just had a baby and her mother responded on social media that “her grandson isn’t spoiled, he’s loved!”.
There is an audio book out that discusses how each person has a unique way of feeling love and showing love. “The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively,” by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell is a book I would recommend.
After many years of marriage counseling, the author Gary Chapman concludes that there are five ways that people speak and understand emotional love. They are as follows: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch.
One of my love languages is Acts of Service. I remember staying at my mother-in-law’s home for a while and one day I cleaned the bathroom from top to bottom. I did that while growing up and was praised for it, however my mother-in-law, was offended. To show love to her, I probably should have discovered what her love language was, but the book hadn’t been published yet. I struggled with my relationship with her. Towards the end of her life, she said she loved me on the phone. Those were strange words to hear after a lifetime of misunderstanding, but I hold those words close to my heart to this day. Finally, I felt accepted.
Going back to the quandary of parents who want to teach gratitude to their children as they deal with grandparents who seem to go overboard on the gift giving. I wish that I could have an easy answer that could solve it by this Friday, but I don’t. The reason why, is that the problem is probably not the real problem, but goes much deeper.
Back when I was pregnant with my first child, my mama passed away. Who would dote on my baby like only a grandmother can? Enter: my mother-in-law. I admit that I was trying to find someone to fill the void of my mum and I turned to my husband’s mom. Everything was going great until the day my two-year-old profoundly expressed that she wanted to be with grandma instead of me. That is when the problems started. I began competing for the love that my child was showing for grandma. Imagine that! Competing with a woman in a totally different season in life. I could compete with the girls in my high school, but I couldn’t manage this jealously I felt with my husband’s mother.
Here I was, a young mom balancing money, debt, meals, extended family, new and old friends, sleep and all while holding onto who I was and what I wanted out of life. To add on this long list of responsibilities, I now had a child who seemed to love her grandma more than me.
Or so I thought.
That was really not the problem but a symptom of the real one. I missed having my mom and I just didn’t feel my mother-in-law accepted me. I felt marginalized, less than and unappreciated. If I could just crochet, she would like me. We would have something in common, I thought.
Here was my child’s grandparents who let her roll in the dirt of their garden while they tended it, took her fishing, fed her hand-made fruit roll-ups until her belly popped and let her sleep with grandma in her water bed until she drifted off into her sweet slumber. I couldn’t compete with that. Because I was in a different season of my life of being a boring, duly appointed and responsible mom.
As a grandma and looking back, I get it now. There is a song called ‘Dear Younger Me’ by MercyMe. If I could have told my younger self everything I’ve learned so far.
Something that sometimes gets lost in the day to day structure of good parenting, is making children feel immensely valuable to them. As a mom, I was pulled in so many directions that I probably wasn’t ‘in the moment’ like I am as a grandma. Children pick up on that.
In this season of “grandma”, there is actually more time behind me than is in front of me. Being with our grandchildren is like a second childhood. We can touch dragonflies and the stars, dance with the fairies and talk to the moon with our grand kiddos. Then of course, take them back home to mom and dad. That’s the earned perk.
As a mom, I thought my predicament would last forever. It didn’t. As a grandma, I know the times we have with the young grandchildren will not last. Seasons change. The magic that happens between a grandparent and grandchildren is just that. Magic. You won’t be shown the trick until you get there yourself.
Dear Younger Me, Let Grandparents be Grandparents.