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It’s no secret that there are a lot of LDS grandparents. What I’m learning is that every one of them has an opinion. I am still being drowned in letters about whether grandparents should be expected to be grandparents to the exclusion of everything else, and whether taking care of grandchildren should come before temple work, senior missions, or even travel and leisure.
Please, please don’t send in any more comments. No matter what your views, they are well represented in the letters that are currently in the queue. Read here for what Meridian readers have to say today on the subject:
Currently, I am the grandfather of three very young handsome princes. Some of my favorite words to ring out in our home are, “Papa! Papa! PaaaapaaaaAAA! Where are you?”
That being said, there are hundreds of different family situations, innumerable individual motivations of parents and grandparents, and varying options to each situation. Moreover, lives change from season to season and year to year. Nothing is permanent in the (grand)parenting arena. So, in short, there are no “one size-fits-all” answers to the expressed quandaries of grandparenting and babysitting.
In a flood of thought, it looks like twelve considerations possibly worth noting have come to my mind. I am not suggesting that I have it all figured out (I don’t), but here are some thoughts:
- What are the parents’ and grandparents’ real and subliminal/unspoken motivations? In creating a plan, can everyone be honest and open (without guile) about matters? If not, there are bigger matters that need resolving first — particularly if parents state they will withhold grandchildren visits if grandparents do not “babysit at will or on demand” of parents.
- What are parents willing to do “in trade” for grandparent services? Is that worth considering? Parenting manuals suggest such logic (trading) with your own children while they are still youngsters in your homes — so might there be a case for such love and logic here in these “more mature” situations?
- Would parent and grandparent motivations sit well with the Savior if He were in the room reading thoughts and listening to conversations?
- Can there be a WIN-WIN-WIN situation (for grandparents, parents, children) created?
- Yes, primary care/nurturing of children firmly rests with parents, but how much were we (grandparents) dependent and needing assistance from others when we were parents? When we are completely honest and see history correctly, we may be surprised how often others — including our parents — “were there for us.”
- Grandparents still are parents and, if life is lived well, they will remain parents for eternity. Is there, then, ever a time now when grandparents can/dare/should abandon God-given parenting roles?
- Both parents and grandparents can be “selfish,” stubborn, proud, and/or “entitled.”
- Grandparents often can and have opportunities to influence grandchildren in ways that sometimes parents can/dare not. Assessing roles and situations regularly may be wise and fruitful for all concerned and create (otherwise missed) blessings for all parties.
- My wife, a grandmother, works 20 hours/week from home and spends at least 25 hours weekly as Relief Society president in a needy ward. In her opportunity to babysit grandchildren, she has told our children, the parents, when she is available to babysit or to care for our grandchildren. Moreover, if something comes up that conflicts with her tending the grandchildren, she gives the parents as much forewarning as possible to have them make alternative plans for tending the grandchildren. The parents can and do make other plans. With busy lives, schedules are expected and required of all, noting need for flexibility.
- Ultimately grandparents do have the option of opting out of babysitting, if they wish, but never out of grandparenting. Example speaks louder than words. My own parents chose to be largely absent from our and our children’s lives largely due to early meddling of their own parents in decades gone by (yes, “absence” is an extreme response). My wife’s parents, on the other hand, were in the thick of our children’s lives. One does not have to think hard to know which set of grandparents had the tight bonds, love and affection of the grandchildren and fullness of joy.
- When financial constraints hit, the first line of defense is the family and not the Church or community resources. Family support can vary in size from, say, (a) an-hour-a-week babysitting of grandchildren to, literally, (b) a wholesale moving in of the parents and grandchildren with the grandparents to avoid homelessness on the part of the parents and grandchildren. My wife, three children and I did the latter. In the end, to carry our fair share of the added load, we eagerly sought daily ways to contribute back to grandparent generosity. We appropriately were permitted to take over most of the household and yard duties, for example. We ended up starting a new career in a new country, buying the grandparents’ home at fair market value, and then, within a year, reversing roles by freely taking care of grandparents in their former home for their twelve, remaining sunset years. This win-win-win scenario was a God-directed blessing for everyone. All of us would do it over again — joyously.
- Finally, evaluate motives. Sincerely commune with Heavenly Father. Attend the temple. Draw Heavenly Father into all considerations. Decide. Pray some more. Act. Evaluate. Adjust. Seek win-win-win (or no deal).
You made some great points, Murray. Any grandparent (or child of a grandparent) will find something to think about in your list. Thanks for sending it!
I will probably be in the minority but I love taking care of my grandkids. I was divorced when my only child was very young and had to work. Now that I'm retired I have the opportunity to spend quality time with my grandkids and enjoy what I missed as a working mother. I also live in a mother-in-law attachment to my son's home and am considered an important part of the family.
No one ever assumes I
will be available to watch the kids. I do have one evening a week when I am always available as both my son and his wife have callings that require them to be gone that night. That is a fun night for us. We have pizza or some other kind of "sometimes" food, watch a DVD or play games, and read lots of stories. It's my special time with the kids.
My grandkids come to "visit" me after they get home from school to tell me about their day. They run errands with me. We have special activities we do together. I never feel like I'm put upon to watch them or have to spend time with them — I want to.
Each year I send my son and his wife off for a long weekend for their anniversary. The kids and I have fun that weekend too by going to special places or activities. If my son and his wife want to go out they always ask if it's convenient for me to watch the kids. If not, they get a babysitter. About once a month or so they get a sitter and take me out to dinner. After working hard for many years I now have time on my hands to be more involved at church and have a more active social life. The biggest part of my life is my family and that's the way I like it!