A friend is planning a trip to California--to see old friends whose eldest grandson is about to have a Bar Mitzvah. The California friends date back to my friend's youth and the two families--one on the east coast, the other on the west coast--have stayed close for years. My friend's children and their children are invited. It will be close-friends reunion.
As a special treat, my friend is planning to fly out to Los Angeles four days ahead of time with her 10-year-old granddaughter, her first and oldest grandchild. It will be a mini-vacation together for the two of them. Last year, she took this much-loved grandchild to Paris. She sees the Los Angeles trip as a continuation of a tradition: Grandmother and granddaughter going someplace special together--and bonding ever closer.
Then her daughter, the mother of her Grand, had second thoughts. Maybe she got cold feet. Or just wanted to be part of the holiday. Or something. "I'll come with you," she told her mother. "Wouldn't that be fun?"
My friend said no, it would not be fun. It was, in fact, a deal breaker. It would change the whole nature of the trip. When the parents are around, grandchildren relate to their nanas and poppies in a very different way. Instead of being the center of the grandchild's world for those few days, the grandparent--no matter how loving or special--is second fiddle. There's no longer the one-on-one relationship. Actually, my friend put the bottom line this way: If her daughter came along, she said, "I'd just be a credit card."
"It's not a problem." This is what a woman I am talking to at a party tells me when I tell her I've just posted a blog on the subject of grandparent rivalry. Her son, his wife and toddler twins live in Los Angeles; she and her husband--the grandpop--live on the east coast. The other grandparents live in Los Angeles and "are co-parenting" the twins, says my new acquaintance. But it is not a problem, she says, because they are "very giving people." When she goes west for a visit--usually for four or five days-- the L.A. grandparents make themselves scarce, giving the east coasters plenty of space to bond. "It works out just fine," she assures me. Except once.
The once: She went out for a longer visit--nearly 10 days. And while she was there, her son asked her if she would mind if the other grandparents came by. They wanted to say hello to her--and they wanted to see the children. "I told him, if they have to come they have to come. But I'm very angry about it. If you ask me if it's OK with me, it's not." They did not come.
I came away from that conversation thinking about what was at stake and how I would feel in her place. Are the stakes the fear that the toddlers will love the other grandparents more? That they will have a stronger bond and more allegiance to the other set of grandparents? Despite my previous blog on the subject-- based on a Dear Carolyn Hax query by young parents--I was surprised by my party-companion's reaction. And shocked.
I'd like to think that I would be more generous and welcoming, that I wouldn't ask my son to have a "you can't come by" conversation with his in-laws who have, as the east coast grandmother has already acknowledged, been "very giving" to her son and his young family. But emotions can run strong--and overrule what is in your head.
But there's another emotion running around my head when I'm the out-of-town grannie visiting one of my children and their children: loneliness. There I am in a city not my own, away from my usual routine and comforts, far from my walking buddies, husband, job, whatever. It doesn't matter how warm and loving the grownchildren and their children are, it is still lonely. Personally, I would welcome a visit from the other grandparents during the long, slow daytime.And a chance to talk ad nauseum about my grandchildren. Who else would be willing partners in such a conversation?
This recession is hard on everyone--more so on those it affects directly: those with the lost job or the diminished 401k. But that hasn't stopped many of us from using what we've got to help those we love. A study out of Britain may reflect what's happening here as well.
Here are the basics of the report:
13 percent of British grandparents are filling up savings accounts with money for their grandchildren to inherit:. A
fifth of this group are saving upwards of £400 every year, which will turn into a £10,000 nest egg when the children turn 18. Additionally,
a tenth of these over-50s are putting money into savings
accounts to help their adult children through the recession.
study is in sharp contrast to a report released earlier that revealed that six in 10 over-50s are
concerned that their pensions and savings will be insufficient to look
after them in retirement.
Meanwhile, back here in the U.S.A., a friend tells me what she's doing to assure that her 33-year-old daughter--unmarried and still struggling with job losses in this economy--will have savings in the bank on her far-in-the-future retirement day. She's has set up a Roth IRA in her daughter's name and is funding it for her--for now. More on this interesting idea in a future post.