When Lola's daughter had Lola's first set of grandchildren, Lola was just a tiny bit jealous of the other set of grandparents. They had sold their condo in Florida and moved to Nashville to be close to their only son and his children. They were there to do the burping and diaper changing; they were available for babysitting. They were there to see the first steps and hear the first words. They bought the pretty yellow and pink quilt for the granddaughter's first bed and, when their son and his family went away on vacation, they painted the child's room to match the quilt.
Lola, who lives 700 miles away, is the visiting grandparent. She sees all the other grandparent's influences and it makes her wonder whether her grandchildren will know and love her as much as they do the other grandparents. And even more to the point, whether she will have the same influence over them--the same input on family history and family values.
If that was her concern when her grandchildren were toddlers, it is less so now. The grandchildren are teens and pre-teens. They no longer want their room painted by grandpa when they go out of town. And even more, Lola's daughter has her hands full with a mother-in-law who believes in order and imposes it wherever she goes--even in her son's house. She has redone kitchen closets, alphabetized the spice shelf, re-ordered her grandson's bookshelf and refolded her granddaughter's clothes.
This is not to say that either the grandchildren or the grown children love one set of parents/grandparents less. Only that there are irritations in proximity. The visiting grandparents are like visiting firemen--a novelty, a treat--and people whose advice or remembrance-of-things-past may come as a refreshing moment rather than an "here they go again."
A two-week stay with her daughter may be intense, but Lola leaves with the hope that they'll be glad to see her come again. And that her closeness to her grandchildren has nothing whatsoever to do with their relationship with the other grandparents. There's room for both. And just because they live nearby, doesn't mean they have more input into the way the grandchildren think about life, values and all the other important ways we hope to influence our children's children. One quality conversation with a child who's troubled about some issue can be the important idea that child carries with him or her. You never know where or when that moment is coming. It doesn't matter if we're a constant presence or a sometimes visitor to have it happen.