Our Grandchildren Will Grow Up Just Fine Even Though We Are Not Raising Them, Even In Today’s Society When the Parents May Or May Not Be Married

GrandchildrenA brand-new grandpa came up to me to show me the pictures of his new granddaughter. He was beaming just like all new grandparents. He said that his son was not married to the mother of the baby and that he wishes the mother was a better mother. I told him our job as grandparents is to keep our pocketbooks open in our mouth shut, especially if you want a relationship with this baby. After all, the mother, especially in an unwed situation, is the gatekeeper and you want to honor and respect the gatekeeper. I forgot to mention that his circumstance was not unusual in our day and age when nearly 42% of all children are born out of wedlock. I forgot to tell him about the posts that say “never say no,” and more detailed advice and will share them with him next time I see him. See Never Say No Number 1:

It is a different world today where only 48% of people are married in the United States. This Grandma would have given a little different advice had the son been married to the mother of the baby. I would have added to also be available to help at any time. . . . and your pocketbook open and your mouth shut. The reason for that is that this Grandma has found that there is a difference when the parents are married and unmarried. When the parents of the grandchildren are married, our child has a legal bond with the parent who is not a child of the grandparents, can speak more openly with their spouse, and encourage the involvement of the grandparents in the child’s life. Many times, and more common in unwed circumstances, the unwed parents of the grandchild cannot communicate at all and have no relationship and cannot encourage the involvement. Involvement by grandparents in an unwed circumstance may mean the grandparents’ relationship with and access to the grandchild is when the parent who is the child of the grandparent has the grandchild.

But, there are ways to build a relationship with both gatekeepers. When the parents of the grandchildren do not live together, keeping one pocketbook open means keeping one’s pocketbook open in both households and if the grandparent buys a toy for one household, the grandparent buy the same toy for both as well if the parents do not live together. Offer help when you can do so without offense. Never say no when asked for help. We must respect both gatekeepers.

The second issue raised by the grandfather concerned evaluating the parenting skill of the parent of a grandchild. Of course, as grandparents we have the advantage of 20/20 hindsight. Of course, as grandparents, we think we can do a better job of raising our grandchildren than the parents of the grandchildren. But who would want to? We want to have all the joy of grandparenting and none of the responsibility of parenting.

We grandparents must remember that we survived our parents. Our children survived us. Our grandchildren will survive their parents.

I was a child of Holocaust survivors who were recently out of concentration camps. I always felt that I was different. My parents treated me as if I were fragile and could break. They wanted nothing to happen to me and were fearful and smothering on one hand but taught me appreciation of what I had that they had not had, the blessing, opportunities and love of America, on the other hand. I felt responsibility beyond my years, that I was raising my parents. I treated my parents as if they were fragile and could break. I wanted to cause them no more pain than the pain that they had suffered in their lifetime. Their early life included chaos, trauma, horrific experiences, and starvation. Although unintentional by my parents, through their nightmares and daymares, I learned that at too young an age and never forget it. That paremting caused me to be an overachiever, to be self-reliant, grateful and resilient. I never thought about the positive qualities that were instilled in me by my childhood, until I reached mature adulthood.

We each endure and develop by virtue of the parenting that we received in our childhood. I once read somewhere that 80% of families in the United States are dysfunctional. We each survive in our own way.

When I had children, I wanted to learn how to do everything “right.” In the 1970s, we were the era of the parents who had Dr. Spock and all of the other psychologists’ theories of raising children in a healthy manner that probably today no one follows. My children complained and hated the fact that I could not give them a straight answer, that I and look up the issues before I would confront a parenting problem. I felt that my parents’ ability to nurture had been damaged by their wartime experiences and I wanted to know how to nurture properly, although I did not know what properly was.

Then my adult children had children. Of course, I wanted to micromanage their raising a perfect grandchild. I had to repeat to myself that I did the best that I could in raising them, therefore they were now confident and competent to raise their children. I had to repeat to myself that I had to honor and respect the gatekeepers and keep my mouth shut. I had to remind myself that my grandchildren too, would survive the raising by their parents.

So, as I told the new grandpa, his granddaughter and all of our grandchildren will grow up just fine. They may not have the benefit of decades of parenting knowledge and having made parenting mistakes that we now know we don’t want the parents of our precious grandchildren to repeat. But that’s life. The parents of our grandchildren will make their own parenting mistakes.

Of course, this Grandma can’t leave you without some ideas you can use with the parents of your grandchildren. A psychologist friend of mine, a wonderful, confident, and competent grandma herself, who was a wonderful and competent mother, once told me that a way to teach a life lesson is to talk about a similar incident either with your parents when you were growing up or with you and your children when they were growing up. Just tell the story about how we dealt with the issue or circumstance and how you wish you had known X,Y and Z. The idea, according to my grandma friend, is that they may then relate this story to their circumstance. Here, though, the trick is to do it surreptitiously so that they don’t think you are commenting on their parenting skills. Of course, another way is to compliment the positive parenting you see. The best way is to compliment the positive attributes you see in your grandchildren, and possibly relate them to the parent they resemble. We can always say wonderful things about our grandchildren, and while our grandma friends may get tired of hearing this, the parents of the grandchildren will not.

So, remember there is a difference in what you can say and how you can say it to the parents of your grandchildren, if they are married or unmarried, if they are your child or not in the parenting relationship. Never say anything about parenting to the parent of your grandchild who is not your child. Be careful how you say anything about parenting to the parent of your grandchild who is your child. In all circumstances, we must remember to honor and respect the gate keepers if we want access to our grandchildren, and we do, so we can spoil them to death.

Remember, the next time you think you could do a better job of parenting your grandchildren say to yourself: I survived my parents raising me. My children survived me. My grandchildren will survive being raised by their parents. Please read the post on resilience to see what we grandmas can do to enhance the grandchildren’s lives.

After all we’re at the point in time where we just want grandma

Joy,

Mema

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