At a recent girls’ night out, a friend mentioned that she had a date night with her husband because her parents took the kids to a hotel water park for a night. All of us girls chimed in about what a fabulous idea that was both for the grandparents and grandkids to have some time together, and for the husband and wife to have a little resulting alone time.
Whether the grandmothers to our children are nearby or hundreds of miles away, we need this kind of thing from them!
I got to thinking about how I could let our mothers – and all grandparents, really – know that our kids’ relationships with them are one of the most important things in our lives. I hope this letter can help foster deeper understandings within extended families, and lasting connections between children and their grandparents.
There are a lot of stereotypes about grandmothers breaking all the rules, giving grandkids everything they want, and being flat-out bossy and overbearing. (How dare they?!)
And though those Marie Barone types are amped-up caricatures of pretend grandmothers, the tensions that exist between parents and grandparents can be painfully real.
Some grandmothers do feel pressure to be the most fun, give the most extravagant gifts, or throw the fanciest parties.
Really, what we need from you (and what your grandchildren need from you), is simple! Here are a few little things that can make a big difference in the multi-generational dynamic.
Let’s start with the hardest one.
We need you to honor our limits.
This is a big one, isn’t it? A tricky one. Parents and grandparents often don’t see eye to eye on things like eating habits, bedtime, screen time, gift giving – the list goes on.
I solemnly swear that we parents aren’t trying to ruin your fun! We do want our children to have a special treat from you, or a little splurge when you visit.
What we don’t want is for our limits to be ignored. We set those limits because we want so badly to raise healthy, happy children. We know things were a lot different when you were raising us. Quite honestly, many of us would kill for those simpler times! But for our generation of moms, there is information coming at us from hundreds of different avenues. We are sifting through this murky swamp of guidelines and differing opinions, and using our momma hearts and instincts to nurture our children just like you did a few decades ago. It would help us so much if you would reinforce what we’re doing here by honoring at least the spirit of the routines and values we’ve chosen to shape our kiddos.
We need the gift of your time.
Many of you enjoy giving gifts. Watching your grandkids open a special present you chose for them brings joy to your heart! We admire and appreciate your generosity, and ask for you to consider offering, in that same generous spirit, the gift of your time.
We know you are busy too, so we don’t always want to ask you to babysit when we need to get away. But we would be just tickled if you would offer to take the kids to the park or the pool, or even just to the backyard, so that we could have a few minutes alone in the laundry room or the garden or the clearance department at Target. We don’t need a long, scheduled block of time. Just call us up on a whim and ask if you can drop in. If you’re out of town, come for a visit and tell us to get lost! You get some uninterrupted bonding time with your grandkids, and we get a little recharge. Win, win!
We need you to support our relationships.
And speaking of sending us away, if it’s possible for you to hang out with your grandkids while we go out for dinner (or breakfast – we’re not so picky) with our hubbies, we would be forever grateful. Connectedness in relationships is tricky in this demanding world, and it’s even trickier with little people engaging us all the time. (We know you remember these days!)
Would you help us to carve out a little time with our sweeties? Could you remind us that putting on a pretty dress or a climbing harness and getting out of the house will help us to remember who we are way deep down, and who we were when we first fell in love?
Help us to remember those days. And help us to remember what good men we have, what loving husbands and fathers they are, by reminding us with your supportive words. Of course there will be times we need to blow off steam, and we’re glad you’re there to listen, but we’re also counting on you to help us reset our perspectives. We’re counting on you to continue loving our partners the way you love us.
We need you to encourage us as mothers.
Remember what it’s like to be aboard the Good Ship Motherhood? Remember feeling like you’re knocking it out of the park one minute, and not having the faintest clue what you’re doing the next?
Why don’t we remember you telling us what a TRIP this motherhood thing is!?
Did you revise your plans every day? Did you second-guess? Did you struggle? Please, oh please, tell us you did. Tell us that you, too, hid in the bathroom with a handful of M&Ms. Tell us they’ll get over us donating the toys they refused to put away.
And if you see us doing something well, could you tell us that too? If we look totally defeated because our kids won’t eat carrots, remind us that they eat broccoli. Broccoli! That’s gotta be worth something.
We must be okay.
Tell us, please, that we are okay.
And last, grandmas…
We need you to connect with our children.
It doesn’t matter what you connect over — it could be fishing or flying a kite. It could be baking, or having a cup of peppermint tea. It could be coloring, or reading a book that you bring when you come for a visit. You get to choose the thing. (Finally, something we moms are staying out of, right?)
We know these young-years go by fast. You remind us of that often. And we know that you are getting older. But we’re here now, and we want our kids to know you now – to glimpse some unique part of you.
We want them to see that spark in your eye when you share a sweet tomato from the garden you planted together, or to remember the way you howled, “Let the wild rumpus start!” at your favorite part of the book. We want them to remember how your hands felt when they guided theirs over the piano keys, or helped them perfect a slip knot.
We want them to be connected with you. We want them to remember you. We want them to love you the way we love you.
We really love you.
Thank you, grandmas, for listening.
Thank you, dearest mommas.