8 Things Grandparents Wish You Knew
When my oldest son was 2, I got a "compliment" from my mother that still stings.
We were visiting my parents, and I was sitting on the carpet in my old room reading to him, trying to get him down for a nap.
My mother walked in and snapped, "Well, aren't you a good mother." The comment wasn't approving but filled with something acidic. "Why don't you just put him down and leave him?" she said. "Let him cry. It's okay."
I didn't say anything then, but I figured that she must have felt jealous in some way. My mother raised six kids -- very well -- but she didn't have the time to indulge in such pleasures as reading at naptime.
Recently, however, we talked about the incident, and she told me that she'd been concerned that I was trying to do too much for my kids (I had a 4-month-old, too). "I hated to see you run ragged, trying to be this perfect mother," she told me. "You're still my daughter. I can't help but worry about you."
I feel better knowing that her outburst was fueled by concern rather than by bitterness. But it struck me that there's much about our own parents we misinterpret as we raise our children.
Like many moms, I'm keenly sensitive to what I perceive as criticism of my parenting skills -- especially from the two people I've spent a lifetime trying to please. The whole generational relationship is complicated because many grandparents are hesitant to "interfere," which can leave you filling in the blanks. "Parenting issues are a no-fly zone with me, unless either of my daughters raises a concern or question," says Sheila Kowal, a grandmother of three from Denver.
But understanding how your parents and in-laws really feel about their role in your family can help life run more smoothly. Here, what many grandparents wish (but may not be able to admit) their own children knew:
"We need an adjustment period, too"
Just as becoming a mom changes you in infinite ways, grandparents also morph into new beings upon the birth of your child. One of the main things they have to adapt to is realizing they're no longer in charge. (The transition may be hardest for grandfathers, since many of them weren't as involved as dads are now.)
"A new baby notches everyone into a different generation with different role models and boundary systems," says Arthur Kornhaber, M.D., author of The Grandparent Solution. "The reflex for grandparents is to treat the parent as the older sibling of the new child."
The best way to get through this period is to talk to your parents or in-laws about their feelings before the baby is born. Then allow them time to get with your program (and to get used to the idea that it is your program).
Contributing editor Jeannie Ralston's last piece was "The Balancing Act," in the November issue.