Grandpa needs Grandma Lessons

Tonight, I heard about a very unhappy Grandpa.  He visited his son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren, ages two and four last year in Boston, his home before he moved to Florida.  The son and daughter-in-law had just purchased a new home and he was visiting to see it for the first time.  The guest room was on the lower floor (used to be called the basement) and only had a sink and toilet, no shower or tub.  Before he left, he complained to his son about having to go up two flights to take a shower.  He said to his son, “please put in a shower before I come back.”  His son said no.  Shortly thereafter, his son and family came for a visit to Florida.  One of the two grandsons was throwing pasta at the table and a piece hit Grandpa.  He took the grandson’s hand, tapped it, and said something like how would you like it if I kept doing that.  His son got very angry and said they did not hit their children nor condone anyone else doing so.  Since, Grandpa has not had much contact with his son and has not seen his grandchildren for a year.  He is going to Boston for a 50th high school reunion and does not know how to handle getting in touch with his son.

Grandpa needs Grandma Lessons.  The house issue will be addressed first.  If the parents of our grandchildren ask our advice, we give it.  If the parents of our grandchildren do not ask our advice, we ask them if they would like to hear what we think.  If they say no, we say nothing.  We love everything they choose.  What is the upside in complaining or speaking ill of anything?  The possibility of not seeing our grandchildren is a great incentive to keeping grandma’s mouth shut.  Parents control.  Most states do not have grandparents’ rights.  We, as grandparents, will lose our grandchildren if we alienate either of the parents of our grandchildren.  We want to be invited to visit and be welcome to visit.

GrandpaIf the parents disagree, repeat back to each his or her argument, and say I understand.  Say nothing else.  Do not take sides.  If a parent speaks ill of the other parent, repeat back what he or she said so they know you listened, and say I understand.  Say nothing else.  Do not take sides.  Tomorrow their fight will be forgotten, but your negative comment about the parent will be forever remembered.  If a parent asks your opinion on a controversial subject that you know could be the source of conflict between you and the parent, turn it around into a question requiring the parent to respond.  For example, if a parent asks what you think of abortion, say, “If you are asking me this question, then I know it is important to you.  Why is it important to you?”

I digress.  The house.  Grandpa is 100% wrong.  We would not want anyone to tell us how to spend our money.  It is most probable that his son and daughter-in-law spent as much as they could to purchase the house, and it is insensitive to not realize how unwelcome and stressful and uncaring the request for a shower in a guest bath would be.  Empathy?  I bet this Grandpa did not give his son and daughter-in-law money to have a great dinner alone and spend the evening with his grandsons either during the visit.

Here is Grandma’s answer.  Grandpa, you want a shower, you say, “Thank you for buying a house with a guest room.  I feel so welcome and so enjoy spending time with you and the grandchildren.  I would love to give you a present to add value to the house immediately and make the guest room perfect.  I would like to pay for a shower to be put in the guest bathroom.  You choose the contractor and the fixtures and the tile for the entire bathroom so all the tile matches and I will pay the bill.”  Win-Win.  You gave a housewarming present to them that is a present for you!  If you cannot afford the shower, save up.  Tell them you are saving up so you can provide this wonderful present to them when you can.  Otherwise, remember the priceless time you had when the grandsons came into your guest room bed in the morning to watch television with you (Grandpa, their shows, not yours) and cuddled and hugged and how warm and delicious they felt.  Then, keep quiet about going up two flights to take a shower.

Next, the discipline issue.  Not grandparents’ job.  Sometimes it is so difficult to keep quiet.  I understand how difficult it would be to keep quiet if my grandson was throwing pasta at the table and the parents of my grandchild said and did nothing.  Ouch!  I would be wondering about what I failed to do as a parent with them that this was acceptable behavior.  However, touching or tapping or hitting a grandchild is 100% wrong.  Only discipline is safety.  Only discipline is to keep them from getting injured.  Otherwise, I laughingly say,”freeze.  you are misbehaving.  I have to get a parent to discipline you.”  In the pasta incident, I probably would make a joke to see if the parents are brain dead or paying attention to what is happening.  Something like, “I guess he is learning to be a great pitcher.  Should we take the bowl outside so he can throw every piece in the bowl and see how far he can throw?”  Hopefully, they will act.  If not, say nothing and do not serve pasta again for several months.   Yes, it will hurt to do nothing.  But it will not hurt as much as not seeing your grandchildren for almost a year as this grandpa has not.

So, what should Grandpa do when he goes to the reunion?  As an aside, if Grandpa has a wife, she should not ever, ever let Grandpa go to a high school reunion alone.  High school reunions are breeding places for unhappy people to try to reconnect with an old flame to rekindle their youth, either through a sexual encounter or outright flirting and trying to steal Grandpa (yes, even Grandpa) right in front of Grandma!  Happened to me.  Honest.  Drunk lady propositioning Grandpa in front of me! Many shaky marriages end at high school reunions.  You might not even know your marriage is shaky and find out when Grandpa comes home and asks for a divorce.   Grandma is a hawk at Grandpa’s high school reunion!

Grandpa should email son and say he is coming to Boston for his high school reunion.  He should say Grandpa would love to see everyone and take them out to lunch or dinner or Sunday brunch– pick the best restaurants for each that are child friendly that do not serve pasta.  Give at least three options.  Use a little guilt.  Let loose that Grandpa is not feeling well lately.  Who is feeling totally healthy at our ages?  Grandpa would love to see the grandchildren.  Grandpa has been collecting presents to bring for the grandchildren (start collecting).  Is there anything his son and daughter-in-law would like Grandpa to bring specially for the grandchildren?  Is there anything his son and daughter-in-law need right now that he can help with when he is there?  Be needy and helpful in the same breath with the dose of guilt.   Grandpa should apologize for everything he has done to make his son feel distance is necessary and wants to get close again and hopes that they can forgive him.  And make sure to let them know you will be staying in a hotel but would love to see the house after a year, if that is a possibility for them.   Hope to get a positive reply.  Then, sometime soon—offer to pay for the shower!

Grandpa should not have waited a year.  Grandpa should not have waited a month.  Grandpa should have apologized long ago.  Grandpa needs Grandma Lessons.   Life is too short.  Grandchildren grow up too fast.  The two and four year old are now three and five years old.  They need Grandpa in their lives.  Grandpa needs them in his life.  No hurts should be too big to separate a grandparent from a grandchild for too long.  Swallow any pride as a parent, so, as a grandparent, you can get down on the floor, and play with and hug and kiss and hug and kiss those grandchildren.  Whatever must be done to have our grandchildren in our lives and us in our grandchildren’s lives is what we must do today.   Tomorrow is too late.  Grandpa needs Grandma to remind him every day with



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