Appreciating What You Have May Include Making Lemonade Out of Lemons Handed To You By the Parents of Your Grandchildren

LemonsDear Abby in the Miami Herald July 26, 2015 had a lament from an involved and active grandma in “DEAR ABBY: Grandma’s pictures don’t make cut in Mom’s memory book”

“Dear Abby: Throughout my three grandchildren lives, I have picked them up from school, and attended school functions, games and activities in which they have participated. I have given them money for camps, clothes for all changes of season, and anything they especially needed or wanted. I baby-sat after school and on weekends while my daughter-in-law, “Kathy,” went to “memory book classes” and scrap-booking lessons. I’m always at her beck and call. I do anything I am asked, even if I must rearrange my own schedule.”

“The oldest grandchild graduated this year, and Kathy had photos out and memory books displayed for everyone to see. I noticed there were no pictures of me with the kids nor any from our side of the family. My son (their father) was barely in any of them, either. There were plenty of photos with Kathy, her mom and her siblings. Although Kathy has a nice camera and has snapped pictures of us, none made it into the memory books. I am truly hurt. When the children look back in years to come, it will be as if we were never in their lives. They will see only one side of their family tree. They have other cousins, aunts and uncles they will not remember. Am I wrong to feel hurt that we were left out of the children’s memory book family? . . . .Grandma on the wrong side”

Here is Dear Abby’s response:

“Dear Grandma: No, I don’t think you’re wrong. And I think you should tell your daughter-in-law how you feel, because there is nothing I can do to rectify it. If Kathy is unwilling or unable to amend her memory books, consider getting a hold of some of the more accurate – and inclusive – “rejects” that should have been included and creating a few photo albums of your own. And please don’t think your grandchildren will forget you because you don’t appear in their mother’s memory books. You have been such an important presence in their lives that such a thing would be impossible.”

This Grandma strongly disagrees with Dear Abby about speaking with the daughter-in-law. The saying, “if you have nothing good to say, say nothing” applies to all adult children who are parents of grandchildren, especially in-law adult children. This Grandma talks often in posts about trying not to offend the gatekeepers to our grandchildren. They are the parents and what they say controls, as it should, when it comes to their children. Our own adult children have a long history with us and our foibles and indiscretions and are more likely to forgive and forget. Not so much with our in-law adult children. This daughter-in-law took a course and lessons, spent hours and hard work creating her masterpiece, and any criticism will not be well taken. The likely outcome is mentioned by Dear Abby–she is more likely than not to be unwilling or unable to amend the memory book and may forever hold a grudge against the mother-in-law.

This Grandma suggests that the grandma who considers herself on the wrong side should just get busy–not duplicate a memory book, but do a photo album for the grandchild’s next big birthday, or as a going to college present, which includes pictures of her choice, including both sides of the family too. It will take a while to put together anyway. The giving should be low key, not part of a family celebration. It is solely for the grandchild, not like the mother’s was really about her and her effort in its creation. We grandmas need no glory, just the joy of doing with and for our grandchildren.

Dear Abby gave a short term answer when this Grandma plans for the long term.

First, it is up to grandma to memorialize the children’s life with the grandparents. The parents have much responsibility. As parents, they are busy and overwhelmed. They are just keeping their heads above water. They are not thinking of us. They do not have time for themselves. Yes, they take many pictures. Digital pictures. Those digital pictures are on a computer, usually never to be seen by the grandchildren.

This Grandma makes a photo album for each grandchild each year for one of their holiday presents. There is a strong sprinkling of this Grandma and Grandpa, almost seeming like we live in the same city as the grandchildren. We include pictures of their school and camp, friends and relatives. A great activity is adding captions together. The grandchildren love their annual photo albums, keep them in their rooms near their beds and look at them often. Why wait seventeen years to record the grand children’s lives. Start now for the holidays six months away. If you do not want to be left out, a grandma must be proactive. This Grandma was never the photographer, and my pictures are not the best, but the grandchildren think their albums are the best.

Second, “Grandma on the Wrong Side” had expectations of appreciation and was disappointed. This Grandma gives lots of advice in previous posts, such as “never say no,” so parents of our grandchildren will continue to ask us to participate in our grand children’s lives. Again, do not forget that the parents are the gatekeepers to our grandchildren. The grandma on the wrong side thinks of a glass half empty rather than a glass half full. She had the joy of participation in the grand children’s lives. Who needs the appreciation.

But, there are ways to get the appreciation too. Just like the employee who fails to point out how well his or her work is, grandma must point out to the parents of the grandchildren how much they do with the grandchildren. When this Grandma is with the grandchildren, many photos are texted to the parents. I do not have to say anything as I only hope to bring a smile to the parents of the grandchildren. They see everything I am doing with the grandchildren. I include them in my time with the grandchildren and share what the grandchildren are doing when they are working. They are so busy parenting, I consider it a duty to point out how wonderful it is to see the grandchildren at times they do not have the responsibility. Any words I give relate to how happy I am to have the time with the grandchildren….and how I hope they enjoyed their break from responsibility. I offer breaks for me to watch the grandchildren….a win-win. I get spoiling time, the parents get alone time to keep their marriages strong. Giving I think is the key. The grandma on the other side was there when needed as respite. I doubt she dispensed the advice that positive respite is needed for the parents of the grandchildren. Offer a manicure and time to get one to the daughter-in-law. That will be remembered by the parent of the grandchild.

I guess what I mean is make memories with the parent of the grandchildren, as well as the grandchildren. Plan a multi generational family vacation. See ideas in previous posts. And, be sure to plan alone time for the parents of the grandchildren on vacation, and at all times.

The goal is a relationship with the grandchildren and memories made with the grandchildren. These warm our hearts forever and keep us in our grand children’s hearts forever. Dear Abby’s last line said it all. When a grandma proactively plans, participates, memorializes and records the participation

“….please don’t think your grandchildren will forget you because you don’t appear in their mother’s memory books. You have been such an important presence in their lives that such a thing would be impossible.”

Look at the posts in the archives for ideas. It is never too late to start doing what you want to do and to appreciate what you do have with

 

Joy,

 

Mema

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