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How Much Time Do Your Kids Spend With Their Grandparents?

Taylor Hengen Newman

We’ve been in New Hampshire since Wednesday, staying at my parents’ house—the house I grew up in. It’s been a fun time so far: my mom and I went shopping in downtown Concord (highlights include a fantastic local bookstore, an extensive and happening health food co-op, and copious cute boutiques), my brother and his wife drove up from Boston for dinner, and yesterday my parents hosted about twenty family friends—many of whom were at our wedding, and several of whom brought little kids of their own-- for a Meet-the-Kaspar cocktail hour. Kaspar, equipped with new toys (y’all did NOT need to bring gifts! Thank you!), cool air and ample space to run, is in heaven. And my parents… wow. They’re having a rockin’ good time. Aaron and I are enjoying the opportunity to put our feet up a bit as my mom and dad get their grandparent kicks. And this afternoon will mark our departure for Squam Lake (of On Golden Pond fame), where we’ll stay in a waterfront house for a week… Also with my parents.

Now, we’re being totally spoiled at present, and I’m enjoying catching up with my folks, but (call me crazy) spending ten days with my parents is not exactly what first pops into my mind at the mention of ‘vacation.’ In fact, Aaron and I have a little bucket list of places we plan to travel to in the coming years—Thailand, Copenhagen, the American National Parks (we’ve checked off a couple of those already), to name a few. Meanwhile, my parents have a little habit of bringing up our visits with them months in advance. Like, they mentioned this one back in February, when they came to Texas for Kaspar’s birthday. Aaron and I made eye contact across the room at the time, and gave some non-committal response; we’d been drumming up ideas for our own summer excursion—sans extended family. Vacation time is a precious commodity, and as much as I enjoy the family that raised me, I also have my own family now, and it’s not a ‘given’ for us—as it seems to be in my parents’ mind—that time off will be spent combining the two.

That being said, we understand that Kaspar is my parents’ first grandchild, and that they feel like we’re very far away down in TX. Skype and email make staying in touch instantaneous and easy, but they want to actually hug the little man. I get that. So, as the summer drew closer and they mentioned ‘our visit’ more frequently, we considered our options and decided that if there’s ever a great time to vacation with the grandparents, it’s when the grandchild is 18 months old. Having four adults keeping their eyes on a toddler is way easier than just one or two. And, as you can tell, we’re getting some good TLC ourselves, which is always nice. But it is still my parents’ house, and I am still their child, and as grown up as I am being a mom and all, I’m still gritting my teeth at some of the weird things they do that I don’t. And they’re still gritting their teeth when I swear, or use the wrong kind of fork for dessert.

Still, in her baby-time reverie, my mom’s started dropping references to next summer, already, and at some point I’m going to need to spell it out for her that, well, we don’t know yet what we’re doing next summer, and we’re going to want to come up with that plan ourselves. Whatever the future holds, though, it will include them— in person, online, etc.—because family is important to all of us, even if our expectations for what that means in terms of family-time-together differ somewhat.

In the meantime, I’m savoring the moment, watching my dad (who’s ailing a bit, which is unnerving) reading our family’s favorite books with my son, and watching my mom take Kaspar on walks through her garden. Baby smiles are contagious, and Kaspar’s makes its way from one person to another, around the room, until it’ss reflected in everyone here—my husband, my parents, and me—bringing us all together, in this place, right now.

How much time do your kids spend with their grandparents? Does your family live nearby (my mom is out with Kaspar in the stroller as I write this… I completely get the appeal of grandparents-next-door at this moment), or far away? How do you divvy up your limited vacation time amongst the enthused extended-family masses? How do you carve out family time just for your own little clan? Looking forward to hearing your approach to family time!