Eight Things You Should Never Say to Your Grandchildren’s Parents
“My life is blessed; I have held my children’s children.”- Jeremy Taylor
I feel like I should start this out with a disclaimer. My grandchild has fabulous parents who are doing a great job raising my first grandchild. I’ve known my son-in-law since he was a kid, and we have a good relationship, but there are boundaries in every relationship. Robert Frost’s phrase “good fences make good neighbors” can be taken literally and figuratively. What are the “fences” you should respect with the parents of your grandchildren? Here are my eight suggestions for what not to say to your grandchildren’s parents.
1. Let me tell you how to do it better.
Don’t offer unsolicited advice, just don’t! This is a big one, and I think it’s one you should keep in mind in all relationships. Just like you bite your tongue when your best friend marries a jerk, continue biting it when you think you know how to get the grandchild to eat, sleep, or potty train a better way. This one is worth repeating: Unless your grandchild is in danger, do not offer unsolicited advice.
2. Back in my day…
It’s oh so tempting to jump in with stories of “back in our day” about how much rougher we had it without power sliding doors on our minivan or nursery monitors with video. I’m afraid I’ve crossed the line on this one a few times, and then wished I could take back my sad tales of single mom days in the dark ages of the ’90s.
3. When are you having another baby?
They’ll let you know before the due date, and until they do tell you, don’t ask. There may be personal reasons they don’t want to discuss it, and unless they’re asking you to be the surrogate, it’s not your place to ask!
4. My son/daughter is so wonderful, so perfect, etc.
Many people continue to put their own adult children on a pedestal and believe no partner is good enough for their child. Every marriage is going to have some conflict; stay out of your children’s marriage issues. Believe it or not, your child has flaws, but you may not be able to see them through your hazy mom goggles.
5. You need a little help with housekeeping.
Ok, most people wouldn’t phrase it like that, but don’t even give subtle hints that you think the house could be cleaner. I remember what it was like to have a couple of toddlers in the house, like a burglar had broken in and rummaged through our stuff unsuccessfully looking for valuables. I was doing my best to get through the days, and my priority was not cleaning. Unless you are offering to pay for a housekeeper (and even then, tread lightly), just shove the diapers, books, toys and half-eaten pop tarts aside before you sit on their couch. And keep a lint roller in your car.
6. I know you don’t mind us dropping by unannounced since we’re family.
Unless you’ve had a very honest conversation and you are 100% sure all inhabitants of the home are ok with this, don’t drop by unannounced. At least give the courtesy of a text. And by the way, we expect the same because as you know, according to Rob Lowe, empty nesters are notorious for wandering around the house naked. (I apologize for any emotional scarring that might have occurred from reading that last sentence.)
7. All that kids need is a good butt whipping.
There are so many things wrong with this statement, I don’t even know where to begin, and I’m shocked each time I hear it. Yes, our generation was spanked, but that doesn’t mean it was right. When we know better, we do better, and all evidence points to a better way. Anyway, it’s not your child, and nobody asked you.
8. I don’t like that name, and I refuse to call my grandchild by it.
Seems a little extreme, right? I promise I’m not making this up, I’ve heard numerous grandparents make this statement. I admit, when my daughter told me she was naming my grandson Callister, I was lukewarm. I’d never heard it before, and it seemed strange to me, but I came from a generation where every boy in my class was named Steve, David, Tom, or Mike. I’m glad I kept my mouth shut and my mind open because now I love the name. Even if I didn’t, he’s not my child, and whatever they decide, even if it’s Apple or Blanket, is their business, not mine.
Being a grandparent is a wonderful role, but it’s good for us to remember our position in the family. We are the grandparents, not the parents. It’s their baby, not ours. We had our chances; we made our own mistakes and celebrated our own victories while raising our kids. Now it’s the next generation’s turn. Respecting the boundaries will help maintain a good relationship and guarantee access to our grandchildren, and that’s what we all want – time with our grandbabies!
“To become a grandparent is to enjoy one of the few pleasures in life for which the consequences have already been paid.”
― Robert Brault