Such a loaded
For some, they are best described as “free unlimited babysitting”.
For others… just “it’s complicated”.
I thought that since the holidays are right around the corner and a trip to Grandparent Land may be on your agenda, this would be the perfect time to expose the different Grandparent Gangs, and offer some suggestions on the best ways to approach each one.
Before I do, though, let me confess: I’m not going to tell you what type of grandparent personalities my hubby and I are working with.
I’m not that stupid.
They read my posts.
I’m writing with the female pronouns, but the classifications can be applied to Grandma or Grandpa in varying degrees.
“The Spoilers” Grandparent Gang
The “gang signs” of Spoilers are simple to spot:
- Spends more on your baby than you do
- Hoovers over him like a Mother Hen at all times.
- Has at least three “Grandma” labeled items in her kitchen, at her desk, or in her closet.
This type of grandparent is a blessing and curse at the same time. On the one hand, you need (and rely on) her help. On the other, it’s exhausting to have to fight to be the parent.
This type of grandparent requires a lot of affirmation. Here’s your formula to regain the “parent” title:
- Affirm - Start by sharing how much you appreciate her help and how much your baby loves her.
- Petition – Ask what you’d like her not to do (or do) and why it’s best for the baby we all love.
- Affirm – Share something she did that was especially helpful and ask her to hold the baby or play for a little while together. (This reinforces that you have made a request, but still want her to be a part of your baby’s life – which is her major fear.)
If you’ve done this a few times and she’s still resisting your right to be the parent, be “busy” with the baby for a few days. Then pay a visit and try it again, affirming, petitioning, affirming.
She probably have every personalized Grandma mug and T-shirt on the planet, so you’ll want something she will cherish, but most likely doesn’t already have. Something like these photo iPad cases, or an impressive piece wooden artwork.
“The Gotcha” Grandparent Gang
The Gotcha Grandparent will talk as if being a grandparent is the most important thing to her in the whole world…
Until you need something. Then she’s too busy. (HA! The joke’s on you!)
Since she talks like The Spoiler, it’s easy to start picturing her like Mrs. Claus: waiting with her ample bosom, frilly apron, and round spectacles to gush all over your baby and let you have a few hours rest.
Then reality hits like a ton of bricks and you start wondering when all those promises are going to start being fulfilled.
The best way to handle this type of grandparent is to lower your expectations to the ground. (If you don’t, bitterness will seep in and ruin everything.)
Make a decision not to ask for things but to wait for offers instead. Then, if she does offer to help (Hooray!) have a backup plan just in case she doesn’t follow through.
The Joker grandparent really does love your baby. She’s just not the “Mrs. Claus” baking-cookies-with-the-kids type. That’s okay.
For her, it’s the emotional connection she feels with her grandkids that she values. So look for gifts that will remind her of that special connection: figurines like this rocking mother, or a piece of beautiful jewelry she can wear.
“The Stranger” Grandparent Gang
Even though she would LOVE to be the Spoiler, or even the Gotcha, she’s too far away to be involved in the daily tasks of grandparenting.
So, for all intents and purposes, she’s left with the most depressing gang of grandparents: The Stranger.
Handling this gang only requires one thing (but a LOT of it): intentionality.
You’ve got to call, text, email…anything to help your baby and The Stranger connect as much as possible.
The best gifts for The Stranger Grandparent will be those that allow her to step into your baby’s life as much as possible.
Give her a copy of my eBook, The Milestone Marker, and let her follow along as you celebrate all the tiny milestones he is mastering! Or take all your digital videos and compile them into a single customized DVD or Blu-Ray so she can watch it anytime.
The Importance of Grandparents
No matter what grandparent personality types you’re dealing with, make the effort to keep them involved in your growing infant’s life.
Grandparents provide children with perspective and legacy.
They give your child a sense of “I’m a part of something bigger than me”. That inclusiveness is a strong protection during the teenage years.
So when she’s hormonally-confused at 15, trying to figure out where she belongs, she’ll remember that she fits into this legacy. Her generational family.
Not on Speaking Terms?
Not every grandparent relationship is roses. Some are downright thorny.
If you’re relationship with your parents (or your spouses) is floating off into the abyss, find an older authority figure (other than you) that would be willing to step in and play the Grandparent roll.
This way, when she’s convinced you know nothing (which will happen in about fifteen years), she will have someone other than her fellow anguishing teens to turn to for advice and help.
And how do you keep your relationship humming smoothly along?