AKA….This isn’t your granny’s era
Sometimes it’s too quiet in my house. Way too quiet. This could mean one of two things. Our three children, their spouses, and our eight grandchildren have gone home from another fun and noisy family gathering, or I’m babysitting any number of our eight grandkids and they are getting into things.
I honestly didn’t realize what kind of impact welcoming grandchildren would have on our life until it happened to us, on September 24, 2009. That’s when our first, a baby boy, made his way into our hearts and our lives. He was born to our son and his wife, and that, was only the beginning. In the eight, nearly nine years since then, we have welcomed seven more littles. We are grandparents - I am a grandmother. But I don’t feel like a grandma – wasn’t it just yesterday that my eldest child was born?
For as joyful and wonderful a time this is in our lives, not everything has been easy. Watching your children raise their children, and learning to respect their parenting styles and personal family values can present some obstacles. It’s a tough concept to get your head around when this should be a time of sweet love and new baby cuddles.
Shortly after the arrival of our grandson, my daughter-in-law and I had to acknowledge our relationship challenges. We both had to learn to work together to find a balance – I wanted a lot of access, she had boundaries, we both needed to express how this was affecting what should be a beautiful and happy time. I had never been a grandmother before, she had never been a mother. And my son, well, he just wanted to enjoy his new baby and his allegiance was in the right place, with his wife and newborn son. I get that now – but I don’t know that I did at the time. Now, nearly nine years later, we have worked through our challenges and with two more children in their family, our relationship is strong and honest.
We are parents first, and then grandparents. And, I have learned, we never actually stop parenting our children, even when they’re adults. But we need to learn to respect that our children and their partners are adults and have their own way of doing things, and let’s face it – the years bring change. Beliefs and parenting styles (thankfully!) have evolved since my children were little – what I did then doesn’t apply now, nor should I expect it to be status quo. As a grandparent, it’s important to get your head around this change – it’s different. I remember my own mother-in-law and her good intentions – and I remember rolling my eyes at her suggestions. It’s tough to acknowledge that I am standing in her shoes – but I can make this experience different for my children by letting them parent – their way.
We feel a loyalty to our children – an obligation to be there to provide help. But sometimes, what that looks like can cross the line of being a bit too involved. Often when I am with my youngest daughter, I find myself scolding her children right alongside her, when she is already dealing with a behaviour situation. I must admit, she handles me well – she simply raises her hand in a ‘stop’ fashion and says, “Mom, I’ve got this, please take a step back.” I get it. My job is to love and snuggle and soothe these babes – and not discipline, unless I’m left in charge, and only then, by respecting their parents’ discipline approaches – nothing more.
My advice to anyone who finds themselves in the best job in the world, being a grandparent, would be to let go of the old and just love this new adventure. Do the things with your grandkids that you didn’t have the time or patience to do with your own kids. And let your children parent – they’ll make mistakes, just like you did – but at the end of the day, it’s all going to be fine. Trust me on this one.
About Nancy: Nancy Critchley is a mother to three, grandmother to eight and wife to one. She is also professional photographer, a writer, and an avid skier. She can often be found surrounded by the greatest accomplishments of her life – her family. She splits her time on their farm just outside of Edmonton and their home in Sun Peaks Resort, BC.