The role of Grandparents in a child’s life

When I was little, my parents shared a house with my grandparents. The Polish reality of the 70’s. Even though this set up lasted just a few years, I have always retained a very close bond with my grandparents. I even moved back with them when I started the primary school to save me from commuting by bus. I loved living with my grandparents, but I didn’t have to wait long to see the painful side-effects of this arrangement. Although I eventually moved back with my parents and brothers, we never got really close. It was my grandparents who mostly influenced my up-bringing. Their opinion mattered to me more than my parents’. I talked more with my grandma than with my mom and I did more things with my grandpa than with my dad. He was my driving instructor, dance coach and a cooking guru.. My parents were just my parents. Regardless of how much I love my grandma and grandpa, I often wonder if my handicapped relationship with my parents could have been different if I had seen my grandparents just for holidays.

Now that I am a mom, I am pretty determined to be in charge of raising my own children. I don’t want to make the same mistake my parents did. At the same time, I realize that I can’t deprive my children of the time with their grandma and grandpa. How to find a balance? And secondly, how to make my perfect plan meet the limitations of the reality?

As it is, I am facing two extremes. My parents live on another continent and  we see them briefly every other year.  As a result, my parents’ role in the life of my children is almost non-existent.  Not much bonding can happen over the phone and from the pictures. And i actually wish it was a bit more. My parents-in-law, on the other hand, seem to be living for their grandchildren. They are always ready hop on the plane just to see  our son (two sons any day now), even though they live on the East Coast. They, come to  birthdays, send cards and gifts… My son is delighted to spend time with them and I am happy for him. I wouldn’t have anything to complain if not for two things. Firstly, gifts and more gifts.  And you know what I think about too many gifts if you read my earlier post,”Too Many Toys” by David Shannon.  Secondly,  spoiling and more spoiling. “Grandma will help you with this, grandma will bring you that…” And when I am trying to be assertive and state my parenting rules I feel like I am fighting with my generous, helpful and loving mother-in-law over her good intentions. According to grandma, she has the right to please her grandchildren. Does she? To what extent? Am I really mean and selfish trying to impose some rules and limitations in the grandparents-grandchildren relationship?  Is it parental insecurity?  Would it all matter less if my parents were more engaged?  Lots of questions, but here is one for you: what is the golden mean????????????

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. kirinjirafa
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 17:31:31

    this makes me miss my grandmothers- it’s a really tricky balance for families, getting the right amount of time and keeping the boundaries just right so that everyone is comfortable and all, but even with the awkwadness that came up with them from time to time, i’m still glad i was able to have that relationship with them. (I wish you well with your kids in this )


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