Grandparents come in very handy when it comes to babysitting and advice, but as Ken Phelan explains, differing opinions on childrearing can sometimes cause tension.
Whether it’s how to darn a sock, remove a stubborn stain, lull a screaming child to sleep or reduce third world debt, there is always one person upon whom you can rely.
Always at the end of the phone (like a rather sedate, knitting Batman), waiting for another anxious call and dying to impart more useful advice, she sits, Buddha-like, and waits for another crisis to unfold. Though you can rest assured that she will resolve the issue at hand, it is sometimes done with a degree of smugness – a silent but infuriating sense of ‘know-it-all’ and an implicit understanding that, ‘Grandma knows best’.
“Things were done differently’ in her day – and better, of course. What better way to soothe a screaming baby than with a drop of whiskey on a soother? And unruly toddlers? That’s what wooden spoons are for. For all Grandma’s virtues (of which there are admittedly a few), there is simply no reasoning with her on some of her more archaic notions of parenting, however hard you may try.
That said, she is not simply ‘Grandma’ to your children, she is Super-Gran, a somewhat better version of you – older, wiser and somehow less beleaguered or weary. Mock or berate Grandma at your peril therefore – she is an octogenarian caped crusader, ready to spoil children everywhere, and God knows kids are suckers for superheroes.
For all of Grandma’s innate knowledge, she may not be quite up to date with modern parenting practices. This can sometimes be a sticky point, and understandably can result in a little defensiveness on her part. Issues like not letting babies sleep on their tummies, the use of soothers and discipline techniques can all be bones of contention. The important thing is to be open and to discuss any concerns you may have. Yes, Grandma raised her own children, but you would like to do things your way, with her help of course.
Despite how it may seem at times though, Grandma is an indispensable friend, a source of knowledge, and an invaluable (and free) babysitter.
Why Grandma knows best
There are several reasons why Grandma knows best, though we are often loathe to admit them. With age comes wisdom; this point may not be true for some individuals, but certainly for grandparents, would appear to be the case.
Secondly, not only has Grandma raised her own children (she’ll remind you repeatedly of this point), but she’s been through several recessions, various parenting fads, and perhaps even a war.
Thirdly, remember, for every problem you struggle through, Grandma more than likely has an answer. It may not seem quite the right answer at the time, but give her a chance and she may surprise you.
Grandmas are also invaluable when it comes to health-related problems and indeed seem to have a cure for every ill. Her little tips may seem akin to voodoo but rest assured she has a potion for every conceivable illness.
Finally, Grandmas (as mentioned) are rather good with grandchildren. Notice the glee with which they run to her instead of you when she’s around; this can be a distinct bonus when you need some much-deserved time-out, and what started out as jealousy of her zen like skills will quickly change to gratitude and relief. Two hours of relative peace is better than nothing, after all. Bones of contention There are certain issues that should be dealt with a little delicately when dealing with Grandma.
Perhaps she does things a little ‘differently’ to you, or has slightly different views on parenthood – whatever the reason, it is worth taking a deep breath and considering the following before proceeding any further…
Feeding: You may have a strict rule of no ‘goodies’ on week days, but Grandma may be a little more liberal in her views. Bear in mind that grandparents like to spoil their grandchildren before you decide to strangle her. Casually mention how you feel about treats but remember that, within reason, it’s okay to have different rules for Grandma’s house.
Bedtime: While in your own house bedtime is at 7pm, in Grandma’s it tends to be closer to nine, or even later. You may feel this is less than ideal, but it’s hardly going to scar Junior for life. Remember Grandma only sees her grandchild occasionally, so a little leeway can do no harm.
Discipline: Things were different ʻback then. If it’s an issue, speak to Grandma about your own views on discipline and that you’d like her support in this area.
Television: In your house, there is a strict rule of a half-hour of television a day for Junior; in Grandma’s, Peppa Pig, Disney Junior and Fireman Sam seem to play happily all day long. While it may be worrying, seeing your child sat on the floor gazing vacantly at a screen, remember you’re in Grandma’s house and must play by Grandma’s rules – again, within reason!
Burying the hatchet (figuratively speaking!)
So Grandma lets her grandchild stay up too late, watch television and chomp endlessly on chocolate and sweets, and when he misbehaves, simply smiles lovingly while offering some more. Don’t despair – remember Grandma’s rules are different and life can return to relative normality once you go home. Perhaps make a mental note to bring your partner along next time for support – that way, you can simply read magazines in the kitchen while he is forced to listen to Grandma’s latest string of ailments.
Lest you remain unappreciative, don’t forget the times Grandma helped when Junior was sick, the countless times she babysat, the advice she gave on so many occasions and the endless love she has for both you and your child. Remember, Grandma truly is a fountain of knowledge and wisdom and is a valuable friend and ally.
Finally, for those difficult times, remember that when all is said and done, in the interest of lasting peace and harmony, it’s best to swallow your pride and simply whisper: “Grandma knows best” – even when she truly does not. Better a placated Grandmother than a disgruntled octogenarian.
Elizabeth Inglis from Dublin is Grandma to three grandchildren.
“Being a grandmother is lovely; I’d do anything for my grandchildren. It makes you feel a bit old being a grandmother, but they bring so much joy. The good thing though is that you get to give them back at the end of the day, which you couldn’t do with your own! It can cause friction sometimes if you try to interfere in how your grandchildren are being raised, and the person involved might lose their patience. I don’t think it should cause any friction – I think you should be able to say “you’re not doing this right,” or “you’re not doing that right” without an argument. You should be able to comment on what they’re doing.
Sometimes I think my grandchildren are not being disciplined enough and that they’re let away with murder. One daughter in particular tells me it’s her child and gets annoyed if I say anything to her. For example, if a child won’t sit down for dinner, I wouldn’t be telling them over and over again to sit down; I’d just catch them, and make them sit down. I think children these days get too much of their own way too. I think they’re spoiled. It doesn’t matter what they want, they get it: phones, iPods, computers and everything else.
Mothers don’t believe in saying no to their children anymore. I do think that most of the time Grandma knows best, and I’d put it down to experience and age. Most of the time, my grandchildren just do as their Nana tells them and that’s it! I might be firm at times, but they know how much I really love them.”
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