When Grandparents Collide
By Vanessa Beddoe-Sandstrom
When you’re sharing a house with two sets of grandparents, a heap of grandchildren and numerous pets and partners, the stress can be overwhelming, especially if the grandparents take it on themselves to discipline your kids while you’re trying to your best to keep everyone calm and happy.
All of a sudden, kids who are excited and having fun while being cautioned by parents in the usual fashion, suddenly start getting yelled at by at least three adults every time they step out of line. It’s particularly hard when one set of grandparents hasn’t spent much time in the company of children and expect behaviour to be bordering on perfect (the old ‘seen and not heard’ mentality).
These same grandparents want their grandchildren to give them lots of cuddles and love, when they haven’t done any more to earn it than watch the kids from the safety of the couch. Unless they get down on the kids level and spend time playing and simply having fun with them, kids will continue being standoffish and grandparents are likely to feel much maligned, and so the circle of frustration begins.
At least it does in our house.
I have been trying to bribe the kids to be more loving to their grandparents, who are visiting us from much colder climes for the first time. And their grandparents are wonderful people, but are (completely understandably), out of practise with the art of winning over kids. Thank goodness they have limited English, as Master just-turned-three keeps saying: “Go away!” whenever his grandmother goes in for a cuddle. It’s just embarrassing. I’ve tried explaining, cajoling, bribing, using the special cross voice usually only brought out for emergencies and frequent visits to the time out chair.
I guess you can’t force kids to behave in a certain way with people they don’t know. And the more I try to push, the more they push back. I do need to be more assertive and explain to my in-laws that they need to spend more time on the kids’ level, and stop trying to take it on themselves to sort out their behavioural issues. But it’s hard finding the time when there’s a language barrier and our little house is filled to the rafters with people ranging in age from 67 years down to 10 months and speaking two languages.
And then there’s the other set of grandparents. The kids absolutely love them, and that’s because they see them all the time. These grandparents get down on the floor with them, let them get away with murder, and know that a perfectly timed ice-cream can make all the difference. So of course they get all the cuddles and are the ones that are woken up by a load of bouncy kids first thing in the morning (whether they want this is another matter entirely).
So now I’m feeling so sorry for my in-laws, because I can tell they’re a bit hurt, and that is being shown in the way they tell the kids off (in front of me, when I’m telling them off too!). I don’t have a problem with people disciplining my children when I’m not there to do it – it takes a village and all that, but when my kids are already in the process of copping it from me, they don’t need it again in another language. It really does just make things worse.
So there we go. Day 18 of a five-week pressure cooker. And Christmas is just around the corner!
Have you got any tips or hints for coping with a houseful of grandparents? Would love to hear them in the comments section below if you do.
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