Can Grandma be too Involved? Grace for Generational Conflicts
- Wednesday, May 23, 2007
This one’s a doozy! Granny and Gramps act as if they, not you and your husband, are the parents. They scold your preschooler in front of you; they worry about what he wears, what he watches on television, and what time he goes to bed; and they expect to spend massive amounts of time with their grandchild. Yikes!
In the next section, you’ll read about Lindsay and her “perfect” mother-in-law, who also likes to take over with the grandkids whenever possible. “Now that all her kids are gone and having their own families, she still wants to have that mothering role,” says Lindsay. “She tends to tell us how to parent every chance she gets. You can feel her kick into parent mode as soon as we walk in the door.” Lindsay has hit on a great insight here: Granny yearns to be back in the role that defined her life, so she can’t stop telling her kids how to run their lives. Essentially, she doesn’t show her son and daughter-in-law the respect they deserve.
Two panel moms commented on how their kiddies’ grandparents had a habit of interfering with naps (that alone is grounds for a restraining order!). “I am a scheduler,” says Amy. “What I mean is I have routines for my children. My mother and in-laws go by the demand-care system. They go by what they perceive my children to need. For example, if Ashley doesn’t appear tired, they might not give her a nap. But I rarely let her skip her nap.”
Christy has a similar problem. “Putting the kids down for naps when grandparents are around is always hard because they don’t understand that the kids need the naps; they just want to see their grandchildren.” Subtext: “We know better than you when your child needs a nap.”
One severe case of take-charge granny is Krista’s mother-in-law. “It’s like she thinks I’m a moron or something!” she vented. “Scott’s mom doesn’t seem to recognize boundaries in our home. She’ll drop by unannounced with lunch for her precious grandson—none for me, of course! She’ll even say, ‘Time for your nap, sweets,’ when it’s time for her to leave, although he just got up from a nap when she came.”
Bottom line: Who’s in charge here? That’s the question of the hour.
Extreme Granny makeover: Remind yourself you’re in charge—you and your husband—not Granny. It’s your household, your rules, your philosophy of naps. Just do things your way, be confident in your parenting choices, and enforce boundaries. For example, Krista could ask Scott to deal with his mother: “Mom, thanks so much for all the help and stuff, but we have our own way of doing things. How about this: when you take Scottie Junior on Mondays, your rules apply, and the rest of the week, our rules apply.”
Take-charge grandparents are basically well meaning—they really think they can help by doing things their way—but their choleric ways undermine your confidence and authority as a parent. Maybe they could scratch that itch with more one-on-one time with the grandkids. If you could use a break (and who couldn’t?), take advantage of their turbo grandparenting urges and drop off your kids for a few hours a week. If they felt more secure in their bond with the kids, maybe they would back off a little when you’re around.Granny Is “Perfect”
Now, my mother-in-law is a domestic queen who cooks and cleans circles around me, but she never rubs it in my face, which is one reason we get along so well. Lindsay’s MIL, in sharp contrast, seems to enjoy taking advantage of her superiority in the home arts a little too much.
I think part of what creates tension between Sue and me is the fact that she’s spent the last thirty years being a “supermom.” We’re talking candlelight dinners, gourmet school lunches (even love notes every day on their napkins), homemade cookies after school each day, and—get this—she heats everyone’s plates before every meal.
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