The stereotype of loving grandparents showing off pictures of their grandkids and boasting about the little tykes might lead you to believe that grand parenting is the pinnacle of “Happy Land,” with no drawbacks. Just love them, spoil them and send them home to their parents, who are the responsible parties for dealing with any serious issues.
Indeed, humorous quotes like, “If I had known grandchildren were so much fun, I would have had them first,” gave credence to the theory that grand parenting is all fun and games, with no strings attached.
While becoming grandparents is a fully satisfying life experience in many ways, there are also some pitfalls inherent in the extension of the family to a third generation.
The pitfalls of being grandparents
* Long distance love
Many grandparents spend long intervals missing the grandchildren they are devoted to, and long for daily interaction that is not possible. Even if your adult children live nearby when they have begin having babies, there are no guarantees that the close proximity will continue indefinitely. Job transfers and other life situations could require your children and grandchildren to live at a distance, limiting your access.
* Built in babysitters
You may be called upon to become babysitters for your grandchildren, when both parents work. While you may be totally on board with the idea that no one could take better care or them, your entire life could be turned upside down. You may feel that you have paid your dues to parenting by doing a good job with your own children and now are being asked to travel that path a second time. You might not have the energy, or inclination to set your own dreams and goals aside, but reluctantly acquiesce to the needs of those you love. Open communication about expectations on both sides might effectively sidestep this pitfall.
* Setting precedence
One of the familiar pitfalls of being grandparents is making the mistake of overindulging the first few grandchildren and then not being able to keep up the pace as additional grandchildren are added to the family. This could cause resentment from your own children.
The solution is to bear in mind that whatever you do for grandchild #1 is setting a precedent. Forego the college fund, or purchase of nursery furniture, and spend time creating memories instead. When grandchild #16 comes along, you will still be able to afford trips to the zoo or Saturday visits to the ice cream parlor.
* Overstepping boundaries
A common complaint of parents is that the children become spoiled and out of control after spending time with grandparents. Giving in to every whim of grandchildren is a pitfall of misguided love. Allowing them to overindulge in junk food, stay up until all hours and other unhealthy behaviors will only create discord in the family.
Behaving as if grandchildren are your own children is another pitfall. Getting their ears pierced, new haircuts or anything else that falls under the realm of parental duty is overstepping your role.
The joys involved in being grandparents can be immeasurable, but abandoning prudence in your enthusiasm can be detrimental to a smooth relationship with the parents of your beloved grandchildren.
Being mindful that the primary role of grandparents is to dispense lavish doses of unconditional love to your grandchildren, and emotional support to your own children in the process, is the best way to ensure you will not inadvertently fall into a grandparent trap.
“Grandparents are similar to pieces of string – handy to have around, and easily wrapped around the fingers of their grandchildren.” (author unknown)