“Stick to your guns when it comes to grandparents. You are the boss of your kids. Don’t let your mom or his mom ever do what you don’t want them to do.”
Another little piece of advice I got from a stranger at Wal-Mart. She had a few kids. Maybe four. Perfect everything. Hair, nails, clothes, diaper bag, shopping cart cover. And she decided I needed schooling on multi-generational affairs in the diaper aisle.
“Okay.” And then all 203 pounds of me waddled away. I wasn’t in the mood. This was one area I had under control. I knew our moms would respect everything we said to do. Our kids would have the same rules at every house. No one would overstep bounds and it would be fantastic.
And, of course, it wasn’t. Because we’re all human and we all have free wills and opinions and presuppositions. I butted heads with both my mom and mom-in-law. And I had fantastic relationships with both of them…but I felt like I was losing something in these strange interactions.
Then, “I bought Graham some Gerber. I know you make all his food, but I thought he might like this, too.”
They both did this. And they both said these words. It was like an eerie grandma connection.
As a sleep-deprived, hormonal, first-time mom, I took it as an attack. Like my food wasn’t good enough. I was too frightened to ask Dave’s mom about the food, so I went to my mom. “Why did you buy Gerber? Do you think my food isn’t good enough?” “Sweetie, I just thought you’d want a break from making it over here or always packing your little cooler.”
That sounded perfectly rational. And even though Graham didn’t really like all the stuff they bought, he did like some of it. And I did enjoy the break from steaming/mashing/cooling everything. And Graham didn’t die.
So I quickly made the choice to let some things go. My need to control. My desire to please everyone, by appearing to have everything together all.the.time. These weird standards in my head…labels I’d put on myself. ‘The mom who makes all her baby food.’ I started to peel those labels off myself. Because life is hard.
And it’s harder when you try to micro-manage everything your kids eat at a different house. Or how many minutes they play on an iPad. Or how many junk toys they drag home from a thrift store.
I trust my mom. I trust my mom-in-law. In 25 years, it won’t matter how many times Graham ate ice cream more than once in one day. What does matter is his relationships. And mine, too.
I didn’t want to be that woman at Wal-Mart, trying to control everything and everyone. I would rather be the woman who can send my kid off with some extra clothes and trust that he will return to me. And his grandmas can have fun being grandmas, knowing I’m not texting them every 30 minutes with a reminder about some rule.
The other day, I overheard a pregnant woman saying, “My kid will never __________, because I won’t let her grandparents spoil her.” I laughed. First-time mom with first-time mom expectations. I want to be a fly on the wall when she realizes that’s a pretty miserable way to live. I hope she learns it quickly. I hope she’s not standing in Wal-Mart with several children, delivering the Ten Commandments of Parenting.
I understand there are certain rules. We always use carseats. We always thank God for our food. There are always things that must happen everywhere. Elizabeth’s allergies don’t change when we change location. You know I’m not talking about those life-and-death-and-hospital-and-ethical issues.
But if my mom wants to hold Bess on her lap to feed her, instead of putting her in a highchair? Wonderful! The world doesn’t end if Bess isn’t feeding herself. And if my mom-in-law wants to rock Adelaide to sleep during naptime, instead of putting her down awake and following routine. Amazing! Adelaide’s schedule isn’t forever ruined by a rocking chair session.
I understand that some grandparents are not fit to be grandparents. Graham will never see my dad again. Ever. And I don’t have a relationship with one of my grandparents. And that person can’t be around my kids. I’m not talking about toxic people who shouldn’t be in our children’s lives.
I’m talking about normal grandparents, who already did the hard work of raising their kids, and just want some fun. They obviously did a decent job. They raised you and your spouse.
I used to tell people how to parent. I think we’ve all been there. I hate to even think about the things I told other moms to do. Now, I just take care of my own tribe and send hugs to everyone else who is serving theirs. But if you do find yourself stressed every time you’re around healthy, normal grandparents, try just letting go. See what happens.
You might be surprised to find out that everyone’s relationships improve when we all just step back for a minute and show some grace. One day, I may be a grandma. And I hope my grown kids and their spouses give me some discernment to be silly, waste money, and make memories. I think I’m teaching them now that it’s more fun to not always stick to your guns.
And I learned that Caramel Popcorn Cap’n Crunch is a real thing. Graham’s grandma sent it home. And he was so proud to pour it, and the milk, into a container he got out of the clean dishwasher.
“Mama, I learned how to make mine own ceweal at Gwandma’s house! Take mine pitcher!”
In 25 years, I’ll be so happy I didn’t have a “Please don’t buy cereal fashioned after State Fair treats” rule.