Some new parents (our sons and daughters and/or their spouses) don't like it when we call their child and our newest grandchild, "My Baby." To judge by the complaints I've read in advice columns, they don't just dislike it--they deeply resent it. The child is, of course, their baby, not ours. The resentment may be a reflection of their relationship with us (worst case) or of something in their past or of nothing at all (best case). There's nothing wrong, of course, with using the two words. They may not mind at all. After all, most new parents love our enthusiasm for their children. We just need to check with the parents first.
I bring this up to note that I've been keeping tabs on the little things we get wrong vis a vis our grown children. That is, little or big things we do that may offend our children or their spouses and bring tension to our relationship with them. I'm focusing here on our role as grandparents. With reason. “I would place ‘intrusive grandparents’ in the general category of challenges that adults and couples face in managing relationships with their respective families of origin, and with parents in particular.” Thus spake a clinical social worker whose clientele are working through these issues.
In the interest of keeping our sensitivity antennae in working order, here are some of the offenses I hear young parents complaining about (about us) with some regularity:
Serving our small grandchildren foods or drinks that are verboten in their households. Who among us hasn't learned the hard way that a good number of young parents see sweet treats and sugary drinks--even those innocent-looking mini-boxes of orange or apple juice--as the equivalent of poison. (If we have more than one child starting a family, we may have difficulty keeping tabs on which household doesn't mind our serving their child a grandma-baked cookie and which does. C'est difficile.)
Offering young mothers and dads a constant stream of advice on childrearing--of what worked for us back in the day. It may make young parents feel like they are being judged and put them on guard to defend themselves. (That said, one of the mothers making this complaint added that, annoying though the constant advice is, she realizes her mother has the best of intentions and is grateful to have her in her young son's life.)
Taking it personally and being unkind when a small grandchild takes his or her time to warm up to their grandparent, even one they see regularly. One young mother complained that her mother-in-law would get so offended when her toddler son clung to his dad that grandma would walk away from her grandson in a huff or tell him she was not going to play with him today.
Just to put all this "wrong-doing" in perspective, one young mother said that despite the occasional misunderstandings with her mother over discipline and food, she valued the benefits her child experienced by having a loving grandmother. Here's how she put her Aha! moment:
“Grandma’s house isn’t home, and grandparents get to have a different relationship with our children than we do. When I’m not there, it’s O.K. if my daughter eats an extra candy or gets to eat applesauce, graham crackers and a marshmallow for lunch. Those times [with grandma] are memories she will have forever.”
painting: Frida Kahlo