I have been “Gigi” for 10 years. I now have six grandchildren with number seven due in August. You would think I had the grandparenting thing down, but, to this day, I still question whether I am doing or saying the right thing at any given moment. This is more about my handling of a situation than comments from my daughters, but after hearing from other grandparents, it gives me pause.
As the mother of three girls, I have a very close relationship with my daughters. I appreciate that they ask for my advice knowing that I will not judge them if they ignore it by choosing a different path. That statement is true, but sometimes I still question what was wrong with my counsel. When asked, the response of doing or saying something in a different way made better sense given the situation. My advice doesn’t always take into account other mitigating factors that make it less helpful, but it does make a resolution clearer to them. Sometimes advice is just a way of seeing things from all angles.
Years ago, there was a sitcom called “Everybody Loves Raymond.” The couple (Deborah and Raymond) and their three children lived across the street from Raymond’s parents. His mother (Marie) was always criticizing Deborah in a not-so-subtle way under the guise of being helpful. Marie thought she knew best about everything and her way was the only way. She would shake her head, roll her eyes, and sigh. Even if her advice had been good, I doubt it would’ve been taken because of the know-it-all way it was presented.
The other day I went over to one of my daughter’s homes to watch my grandchildren. It had been a busy week and start to the weekend for her family. I noticed laundry that needed folding and dishes that needed to go in the dishwasher. The children’s playroom was upside down. I managed to get the clothes folded and the dishes going, but they were home before I could get in the playroom. I told my daughter I was going to come back on Monday and work on that room. Did I overstep? In my mind, I know how busy she is and just wanted to take some of the load off, but maybe she saw it as my being critical of her cleaning skills. Was I being Marie? Would I do this if she were my daughter-in-law instead of my daughter?
I talked to her later to let her know that there was no judgment. I knew first-hand how easy it was to focus on more important tasks at hand and get to the children’s playroom when time allowed. I did, however, point out that the children were old enough to put their toys and books away when they finished with them. It was time for them to help and be responsible for cleaning up the mess they made. Again, helpful motherly advice or criticism?
This leads me to grandchildren. When, if the parents are present, is it ever proper to correct the child’s behavior? Do you say something to them about helping to keep their room straight, or to settle down, or to not interrupt? Is that overstepping the bounds? My grandchildren are respectful, happy, well-adjusted little people, but they are children. Their parents are doing an excellent job raising them. I intervene, not meaning to offend or make their parents feel like they’re not doing their jobs but, hopefully, as reiterating what their parents have taught them.
It can be a fine line – like many things, it is all in the presentation.