Grandfamilies: There Is No Neutral Ground

Bedtime boysCadence and Ayden,  Gleeful. October, 2015.

Can we talk about turf? I don’t mean the kind you water and mow. I’m talking about territory.

Sometimes I go sideways when I forget to consider whose home field we’re playing on. I’ve figured out that the rules are different within extended families.

In a typical social situation, I imagine control of the turf goes something like this:

  • In a private home, we’re on the occupants’ turf.
  • In a public setting, we’re on the host’s turf.
  • If we’re gathered at a no-host event, we’re on neutral ground.

This isn’t an etiquette review, I promise. This past weekend, we gathered to celebrate Cadence’s ninth birthday. Rich and I hosted the party, which began at a trampoline park, and then moved to the party room of a nearby pizza parlor.

Maybe you can imagine it: Six children, ages two to eleven, squeal as they scramble about the trampoline park. Five grown-ups ignore the cacophony as they trail their youngsters from the bouncy climbing wall to the bouncy dodgeball court to the bouncy mechanical bull. (Another day, we can chat about why children automatically begin to squeal upon arrival at places of amusement.) 

After the children spent an hour squealing and bouncing and scrambling, we rounded up our charges and caravanned to the pizza place. Our guests settled in to the party room while I placed an order for hot wings and soda all around.

Finally, I could enter the relative calm of the party room and hopefully quell the buzzing in my ears. I opened the door to the room, only to discover the television was blaring. 


Ayden, Papa Rich, and Cadence En Route to Cadence’s Third Birthday Party. 2009.


I quickly reviewed the rules of territory: Public place? Check. We’re hosting? Check. This is MY turf. 

I turned to my husband and said can we figure out how to turn the television off?

Rich murmured Kevin just asked them to turn it on. 

Across the room, our son-in-law, Kevin, swayed as he held our youngest grandlittle, rubbing her back and pointing to the television. Casey, the only toddler at the party, was overstimulated and her daddy had asked for cartoons as part of his soothe-the-child first aid.

For a nanosecond I wandered into Our Party, Our Rules Land. Then the little refereree who lives in my head blew his whistle and said, Hey! Your job is to support your kids in their role as parents, remember? 

I added an entry to my turf control list:

When the parents are present, their children are their turf.

Then I tuned out Peppa Pig and tuned in the splendid music of joyful kids.

rabbit conga

Tell your children of it,
    and let your children tell their children,
    and their children to another generation.

Joel 1:3 (ESV; my emphasis)

rabbit conga

On Tuesdays, we’re talking about families and the joys and challenges that arise when we stretch across three (or more?) generations (child, parent, grandparent). The conversation began on January sixth and we’ll continue until we run out of things to say. Everyone is welcome, and I hope to hear from each generation’s perspective.  Being family is by turns effortless, impossible, blessed, challenging, hurtful, joyous . . . . Let’s talk about it.

Please join us.


  1. Yup. Good on that referee!

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