Co-Grandparenting And Its Pitfalls

From time to time, G and I talk about what our lives might have been like if we had met earlier. We speculate about the usual things–would we have traveled earlier, thought about having kids, etc.  However, over the years, I have come to realize a couple of things: 1) We met exactly when we should have met and 2) I am so grateful that we DIDN’T actually have kids together.

The grandsons were over Tuesday night and most of yesterday. They had their respective open houses at their school on Tuesday night and my daughter had class that night, so we took them and sat in for her.  Then, she had class most of the following day and they had a teachers’ work day and wouldn’t be in school, so we let them sleep over since I was off. As always, though G happily claims them as “her” grandkids, I always feel like it’s putting too much on her to deal with both of them alone.

Right now, they’re at a fun and frustrating age.  They’re old enough to do things, but still want to whine and pout and make a big deal if they don’t get their way. I know that mom doesn’t put up with this, and I have pretty much learned to ignore it because I know the wind will change in 10 minutes or so, but G takes it all so seriously, like a personal affront and when they don’t “help” me (by this I mean immediately jump up awake and put their sleeping bags away, and pick all clothes, toys, etc. and be ready for the day), it hits her stress spot, i.e., her gut and acid flows, and nothing is pleasant.

Being around her when the kids are here now just puts me on edge. It’s not fun anymore. I keep waiting for her to lecture them on something–drugs in school, how to talk to “grown ups”, why they need to fold up the blankets, how I work here and they can’t bother me, etc.  Granted, when we kept GS2 when he was a lot younger, he couldn’t seem to tear himself away from me at the computer trying to work, but now he’d rather be out in the workshop with G than inside with me. They have grown and changed and it’s like she doesn’t see that.

These are not 2 devious, spoiled-brat boys (okay I freely admit to grandparent prejudice). They each have their likes.  GS1 is on his way to being a total computer geek, but he also loves to play football.  GS2 would do anything G asked him to do, up to and including moving the house off its foundation if that’s what she wanted.  He also loves to listen to my MP3 and we have found common ground in Lady Gaga! They both love to be outdoors.

But yes, sometimes they whine and sometimes they pout.  I say “so what” and let them because I know if I go on about my business, pretty soon their curiosity is going to get the better of them and they’ll forget about whatever it was that got them upset in the first place.

G has to “address the issue” and give a big lecture on how they’re “too big” to be tossing tantrums or whatever.  She never belittles them or treats them badly, but just continues to focus on the behavior, when my strategy is to just ignore it and go on with things.

And cooking. Dear God, it’s like you should drop everything and eat if gramma (me) is cooking something for you.  This is not a restaurant, etc. etc.  Sometimes, yes, I like to fix us a nice sit-down dinner and I don’t fix something different for each of them.

But yesterday was kind of an unexpected visit, so in the morning, I needed to cook up a supply of small breakfast steaks/thin-cut pork chops so that G has access to quick, easy protein.  GS2 LOVES to help me in the kitchen, even thought he is a terribly picky eater.  I showed him how to turn on the grill, let it heat up, scrape it with the wire brush.  He helped me season the meat and then oil the grill with a brush so the meat wouldn’t stick, then helped me flip it and take it off the grill.  THEN, he wanted to cook his own scrambled eggs, so I let him.  He fixed himself 3 eggs and had one of the small steaks and he was happy.

During this time G was slowly waking up (I had been up at 5:30 and managed to get 2 hours of work done on a freelance transcription job I had picked up), and GS2 asked if he could play on the computer.  I said okay.

We hadn’t really discussed what we were going to do that day because we usually take the boys out and do something outdoorsy, which they love.  But, no plans had been made and once GS2 decided to fix his breakfast, I figured we’d eat at the house and then if G had some errands to run, we could do that and then do something “nature-y”. G was still half awake and it’s really no good to talk to her in that state.

So, at some point, I came back down here to get a bit more work done, GS1 decided that he wanted to cook his eggs, too, which he did, and so they got fed and G said she had to drop some papers off at the VA and the boys got to talking about this lake or river or pond or something over by where they used to live, so we decided to run the errands, then go to Starbuck’s then go find this place.  All fine.  But then the boys start fighting/pouting over these 2 “action figures” of the WWF that somehow ended up in our house (no idea).  This set G right off.  Lectures ensued.  Tears ensued. I just kept my mouth shut because I feel that regardless we need to present a united front.

Let me be clear, I am not a fan of tantrums and do not encourage them. If this had happened in a public place, my reaction would have been different, i.e., I would have directly addressed it with the kid doing the tantrum and we would have left where ever we were. SOP. But at home, I don’t get so drastic.

We finally got in the car, the boys playing with their toys, and off we went.  Dropped off the papers, got coffee for G and me and lots of sugar and caffeine for them (we really are good grammas 😉 ). Then we drove over to their old neighborhood, and I realized that what they’d been talking about was simply an extension of the river trail that runs from the reservoir in Pueblo all the way to the mall and back on both sides of the river.  So we went on a great nature walk.  We gathered milkweed pods and showed the boys the silky seeds inside, we saw poison ivy, so I could show them what it looked like (it’s rare here), G found a stand of cattails and we showed the boys how to test the ground to make sure it wasn’t boggy. We saw a big flock of turkey vultures and huge crows, caught grasshoppers and ladybugs in my empty coffee cup and generally had a wonderful nature walk on the Equinox.  GS1 had  a paragraph to write about autumn using the 5 senses so we talked about what he was seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting that day. GS2 found a woolly bear caterpillar which immediately took the place of the grasshoppers, etc. in the cup to go home and be released in the garden (he was very happy in the zinnias later).

But interspersed with all this were the “lectures”. It seems like when we’re with the kids, nothing can just “be”. There always has to be some “moral” or some kind of social teaching, I don’t know it’s hard to explain.  It’s not just a walk in the woods, it’s about picking up trash or watching for drug paraphernalia or something.  I just wish she could relax for a little bit.

Still, after the speed bumps it was a pretty fun day. GS1 got his paragraph written, GS1 read his book to G in the garage while they worked on a project, I got my freelance work done. But at the end of the day we both felt exhausted, rather grumpy and out of alignment. A coffee pot incident set me off like I hadn’t been in ages.  I don’t know why, and I don’t know why she gets so uptight when the kids are over, but I hope we don’t have to quit having them all together. They love coming here, and if they squabble and quibble a little bit, so what?

Maybe I’m too laid back and maybe she’s too strict.  I hope we can find a happy medium.

Any suggestions?

GG

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10 thoughts on “Co-Grandparenting And Its Pitfalls

  1. I have these conversations with friends all. the. time. Co-parenting (and, clearly, involved co-grandparenting), is a hard gig. Everyone has a different style. My situation is REALLY different from yours, but I tend to do it my way and let the co-parent do it his way and not increase the angst by making an issue about it.

    I think it’s also helpful to remember that if we’re really anxious about our kids (grandkids) at a certain age, it’s probably that we had something issue at that age, maybe trying to protect them from what we went through by our anxiety. In that case, trying to get the other parent to relax is pretty futile.

    Roundabout way of saying that the best strategy, unless the kids are being harmed by this treatment (and of course it’s worth reflecting on whether you believe that is the case), is to not increase the anxiety by, well, noticing it.

    I actually don’t know how you do this with a co-parent you are having a relationship with though. So my thoughts stop there.

  2. Yes, I do try not to notice her “lecturing” behavior, but sometimes I just want to say, can’t they just have FUN when they’re here? I agree to maintaining manners and general courtesy towards others, but they have enough family chaos in their “regular” lives that I think being here (since it’s not as often as it was) ought to be a good time, and not being lectured about social evils and watching out for drugs, or whatever the lecture topic of the day is. I want their time here to be laid back. If one wants to play computer games all day I don’t really care. I want to enjoy them the way I didn’t get a chance to enjoy my daughter without feeling parental “responsibilities” yet always letting them know this is a safe and loving place. We are in agreement about that, but it seems to come out in very different ways.

    No easy solution, I guess. Thanks for the input!

  3. I agree, these things don’t have easy solutions – parenting, as you know better than I, tends to bring out things about us that nothing else will surface. I was actually wondering if she was lecturing a lot because she wants to make sure they are safe at home, something like that. But yeah, this shit is hard. Make no mistake, those boys are lucky to have you both, even with parenting styles that you aren’t feeling like they mesh well – they know they are loved. Awesome grannies.

  4. Wow. This is a pretty good description of me and T with the niece. Except that she is living with us so it is happening all the damned time.

    T is a lecturer. And, she has never raised a child. She definitely doesn’t understand the idea behind picking your battles. Some issues are not worth the effort of fighting. She wonders why the teenager shows a little attitude and stomps off to her room. Well, I tell her, it’s probably because you don’t know when to stop lecturing! Sometimes I will interrupt her and say, “You’ve made your point; let’s move on.”

    Has G raised any children? Either her own or someone else’s? I think if you have been down that road, you have a different approach.

    I can’t really offer any advice, except to say that when the boys are gone you should talk about it together over a nice cup of coffee and a slice of that chocolate and raspberry cheesecake. Mention how grateful you are that she cares about the boys and is willing to have them over at the drop of a hat. Bring up the fact that with their crazy home life, your house is a refuge for them. Let her know that you do not want to undermine her in any way but that you think some things only need to be said once. Give the boys a chance to show that they are learning from you. Point out that simply having fun is good for them and you don’t need to act on every single teachable moment. Communicating with each other has to be the most important part of this co-grandparenting gig.

    Good luck my friend! We all need it!

  5. e–G does have a son who is 35, but he went to live with his dad at age 10 and she was overseas in the military for much of his adolescence, so she hasn’t experienced that first hand. I am still reeling from my daughter’s teen-aged years and just simply do not want a repeat of those feelings. We have talked about it away from the situation but things don’t really seem to change, other than I get so uptight if the poor kids even open their mouths now that it’s just unpleasant to have them–not because of THEM but because of the energy of US. I am really trying to put a lot of the spiritual things I have learned into practice, and it sometimes feels that while the same things have helped her a lot on a personal level, it’s hard for her to apply them in dealings outside her self. Does that make sense?

    Anyway, guess we have to talk some more. SIGH. Lesbians!

    I appreciate everyone’s feedback, it means a LOT.

    GG

  6. Oh and I forgot, she and her former partner did take on the partner’s niece and nephew as sort of foster parents for a few years when they were going into their teens, so yeah, I guess she has had that experience. I don’t know, maybe it’s a case of the past coloring the present–neither of us want to repeat past “mistakes” and again, we just approach it very differently.

    Human psyche at its most–whatever.

  7. You have just described a somewhat typical situation between my husband and me regarding our boys, ages 5 and 10. I usually take your approach,,,ignore the behavior first to see if it’ll go away on its own. So much of kids’ behavior is attention-seeking. If the behavior persists or becomes aggressive in anyay, then I address it and I’m mighty strict. My husband, on the other hand, is more like G. Every behavior NEEDS to be addressed IMMEDIATELY or the child will NEVER learn. We don’t have these issues daily, but they certainly occur more frequently than I’d like. Sometimes I just want to shout, “GET OFF THEIR BACKS FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!” However, like you, I also see the importance of presenting a united front. I teach adolescents with behavior/emotional disorders for a living, have done so for 16 years, I kind of know how to handle behavior a bit, no?! We’ve talked ad nauseum about this topic and every so often I see him really trying to hold his temper and back off the lecturing, but it often seems like one step forward, 2 back. Sigh… I will be checking back on this post for future comments to see if you get any good suggestions!

  8. You didn’t really address how the boys react to her lectures. Do they get upset? Or, do they let it roll off them? If they still have a good time with you both, maybe the situation isn’t as bad as you think – from their perspective anyway – and you could relax a little.

  9. Liz, you make a good point. Right now, we are still kind of “super” figures to the boys. We know how to do cool things and we have cool things, gadgets, etc. and we do cool things with them, so they really look up to us. When G goes into lecture mode, they may still pout, but they at least look like they’re listening. What I don’t want is for it to become a “chore” for them to come over here. Not that I want it to be “where the wild things are” either. We do have “house rules” and enforce those, etc. I guess we will just take it one step at a time, and obviously the time to address it is when they are not here. I have got some good ideas about how to approach the subject in a more neutral manner, so that’s great.

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