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Being a Good Grandparent Means Respecting Boundaries

By HERWriter
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A Good Grandparent Respects Boundaries Monkey Business/Fotolia

Being a grandmother to your children's children is a great gift. Being a good grandmother who respects boundaries is also a great gift for the parents of your grandchildren.

I saw a cartoon once depicting a little girl running toward her grandmother. Both were smiling with arms open wide. The caption read, "What would I do without you?"

I mentioned this cartoon to my mother who was in that era enjoying my young children. I wondered, "Who is saying that? I think it's the little girl."

My mother laughed. "I was thinking it must be the grandmother."

This set of relationships involving parent, child and grandparent can be a wonderful symbiotic arrangement. But things don't always work out that way.

I am speaking as a grandparent here, who values being allowed to be part of the lives of her children and grandchildren. I have been a long-distance grandmother for a decade now -- and a whole OTHER set of principles apply to the long-distance thing.

Only recently I was presented with a belated Christmas present by my daughter and son-in-law who live nearby. So I am a beginner in some respects but one who is eager to learn.

I try to stay aware of boundaries, and I try not to cross them.

We need to be careful. We don't want to blow something that is potentially so marvelous.

It may be tempting to rush in and take charge, especially when you are new to the game and your child is new to being a parent. That new grandbaby is so delicious and we're just trying to help!

But watch your step. There is not just a fine line between being helpful and being intrusive — it is in fact a very obvious line that will be quite blatant to everyone around you.

Don't cross it. If you've already crossed it, backtrack like crazy. And apologize.

Perhaps you don't agree with how the young mother is feeding your grandchild. Is she breastfeeding and you aren't comfortable with it? Is she NOT breastfeeding and going with formula and you don't like that?

Doesn't matter. As long as your grandchild is being fed, it is none of your business.

Do you want your grandbaby to wear certain types of clothes? Do you have an opinion about cloth or disposable diapers?

I mean this in the nicest way possible — keep it to yourself.

Maybe you think Mom and Dad are too careful about candy and sugary treats. And maybe you think, what can it hurt to sneak a few goodies to your grandchild? They'll love ya for it!

But Mom and Dad won't. And you're going to make them really uncomfortable. Do they have to straighten out their parents?


Is the new mom overwhelmed with trying to keep the house clean and getting meals on the table now that she has a tiny marauder demanding all her time and energy? Tempted to disapprove or lecture?

Don't even.

Making dinner once in awhile, folding laundry, doing a sink full of dishes, and taking Baby for a walk while Mama gets a few minutes of alone time in the bathroom would be the constructive way to go.

Let's say you want to be helpful. You drop by unannounced to ... Nope, let's back up on that one. You DON'T drop by unannounced. The little mother's time is constantly in demand by her darling infant. She really needs for the rest of us to respect her time.

So we call ahead, we find out what is good for her. After a diet 24/7 of a little munchkin who couldn't care less whether something is convenient, Mom needs to be able to call some of the shots. Help her do this.

You adore this grandchild and can't get enough. I totally understand. But be aware that some babies are reluctant to go to people other than Mama. And taking the baby uninvited, and then forcing mom to make you give the crying child back is not endearing.

Is the baby on some kind of schedule, whether feeding, sleeping or otherwise? Is it different from what you did which worked so well with your brood?

That's really OK. No, it really is.

If you're against schedules but your daughter is sure they are a good thing, it is up to her and her partner.

If you love schedules and are sure this darling child will grow up to be slovenly and undisciplined and lacking in self-control ... keep those worries to yourself.

Parents have been raising babies all kinds of ways forever, and every method has had its successes and its failures.

I was fortunate. My mother was a terrific grandmother to my children.

Some of what I have learned came from watching her in action. And some of it came from having been that young mother who was appreciating the difference a loving grandmother could make in my kids' lives, and in mine.

Visit Jody's website at http://www.ncubator.ca

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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