Grandfamilies: Roll With It

rollingAyden and Cadence: Cousins on a Roll. May 2009.

Today is a great day to shorten our list of things that make us fretful. Halloween is behind us, which means New Year’s is about three weeks away–or at least it feels that way. And I won’t even speak of the monumental decisions being made in our country today. We all have enough on our plates, right?

I want to share a list with you. It’s a list of things you needn’t brood over any more. It’s for grandparents, stepfamily folk, and anybody else with relatives. Cross these things off your worry list:

  • How you measure up: It matters not at all if your former spouse and his new wife take the grandchildren to Disneyland every time they see them. It doesn’t matter if your daughter-in-law’s parents buy your grandchildren 47-speed bicycles or 8-foot-wide plasma 4k LED HD televisions. It doesn’t matter. In fact, you probably don’t need to overthink the time you spend with your grandchildren. If you’re present with them and engaged, you’re doing it right.
  • How the children measure up: Your pre-reading kindergartner Freddy doesn’t need to know that Cousin Anna was reading fluently by the end of preschool. Anna doesn’t need to hear your stories about her big sister’s prowess on the lacrosse field. Instead, point out their strengths and watch them blossom.
  • Your adult children’s relationships with other extended family members: Your son’s mother-in-law made a snarky comment to him? He’s a big boy now. You don’t need to leap into the fray. In general, if you are not one of the two people in a given relationship, let it go.
  • Whether you are getting your “share” of time: No regulations require parents to arrange equal time among grandparents. If you want to visit/Skype/chat more with your grandchildren, then pursue those arrangements. 
  • How your adult children allocate their resources: Your son’s car payments, vacation costs, and restaurant habit are none of your business (unless said son expects you to underwrite his expenses). Ditto your stepdaughter’s fondness for video games or I Love Lucy reruns. It’s okay. It really, truly is. 

True story: The day I helped my daughter move into her college housing, her roommates’ parents were also on the scene. Once all the stuff was unloaded, we trooped off to Target en masse to buy a few necessities like shower curtains and hot pads. We topped the day off with dinner at an Italian restaurant–a big, jolly, happy group. After we had parted, I climbed into my car and cried all the way through that two-hour drive. 

Sixteen years later, I see that my distress on that night grew from my recognition that while I would always be her mother, I was no longer her supervisor. 

I still catch myself wanting to take charge of some aspect of our adult children’s lives. It’s so tempting to jump in with unsolicited easy fixes to problems we’ve faced–an underachieving middle-schooler or a defiant fourth-grader or a teen who refuses to cooperate with his stepmother. But you know what? That’s robbery. If your kids ask for your advice, wisdom, cheerleading, or a shoulder to cry on, then give what you have to give. But don’t deny them the gift of discovering solutions and resolving conflicts within their own four walls. Like grown-ups.

Sometimes I find myself mulling over relationships elsewhere in our big crazily-stacked extended, blended family–the bond between two other bricks in the wall, and then I grow severe and scold myself. My job is to encourage and support. I’m not here to be the vine that sprawls all over the wall willy-nilly, tendrils poking into every tiny chink in the mortar. I must be like the rebar–strong yet invisible, and content to hold up my own section of the wall. 

Meanwhile, I pray.

You? How do you respond when there’s discord or hurt that doesn’t belong to you but touches your most beloveds?

rabbit conga

17 If the Lord had not been my help,
    my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
18 When I thought, “My foot slips,”
    your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
19 When the cares of my heart are many,
    your consolations cheer my soul.

Psalm 94:17-19 (ESV)

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). Everyone is welcome, and I hope to hear each generation’s perspective.  Being family is by turns effortless, impossible, blessed, challenging, hurtful, joyous . . . . Let’s talk about it.
Please join us.

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