"I'm no longer doing the gang-bang visits with my grandkids," a friend tells me. "I'm staggering them."
She and her husband have retired to a home near a lake in the mountains. What she is talking about is having all five of her grandchildren--three from one daughter, two from another--in her house at one time for an extended visit. "Having all of them together for a meal is fun, but anything more than that is stressful."
This has nothing to do with the children's behavior or ramifications from the variations in her daughters parenting styles. It's more personal than that. She's established a special relationship with each child--a relationship that she pursues and recharges every time she visits her grandchildren in their homes or when they visit her as part of their family's outing. "Each one has something special going on with me," she says, "and I can't replicate that when they are all here."
In other words, her stress comes from worrying that any one of her grandchildren will wonder just how special he or she is to grammie, that the feeling of being special or of having a special bond will break. If you have a special way of reading books with one child and of working on art projects with another, of playing "hit the bat" with one and poring over baseball statistics in the newspaper with another, does it diminish that bond if you dilute your attention and shower the gift on all of them? Do they notice?
On one all-one-big-happy-family visit, I realized that, past the age of toddlerhood, maybe they're oblivious to it. The cousins--my son's and daughter's children--don't live near each other, so on those few occasions when they are together, they are plain-old happy to see each other. They tend to run off to play, leaving Special Grammie and Grumps to fend for themselves. But that's a whole different stress.