Adults Say the Darndest Things
Sometimes grandkids can say something inappropriate—about your age or jiggly arms, and we’ve all come to expect that. But when other adults start making comments, it often has a hint of “Are you sure you’re doing things right?” “Though often unintentional, certain comments hit below the belt,” says Fran Walfish, Psy.D., author of "The Self-Aware Parent." Here, eight comments that can drive you crazy, and what to do if someone says them to you.
1. “I hope your kids appreciate how much you do for the grandchildren."
Why it stings: Though it may be a throwaway comment, it carries a certain subtext—that you are a doormat, and the family is using you because you’re available and willing. If there’s truth to it (you’ll know because you often feel resentful), maybe it's time to pull back. If it’s untrue, keep on keeping on, and ignore the naysayer.
2. “Your grandson is so wild.”
Why it stings: First, it implies that neither you nor your adult children have done a good job of teaching impulse control. Second, it discounts the fact that some kids are born wired for poor impulse control, something that‘s biological rather than behavioral and which takes great time and patience for both the parents and grandparents. It also insinuates competition -- that the commenter would be able to handle the situation better. Your only duty here is to your grandchild: to praise all good behavior -- and deal with hyper-wildness in a loving consistent way.
3. “Enjoy your grandkids now because they won’t want to be with you when they’re teens.”
Why it stings: This hits at the heart of separation, hard for parents and grandparents. But it doesn’t have to signal a death knell for the relationship. Even if how often you get together changes, it’s an opportunity to forge a new relationship, one based on a maturing grandchild and a grandparent who can be a great source of comfort and life knowledge -- over lattes or shoe shopping or other grown-up activities.
4. “If you want to be in touch with your grandkids, learn how to use Facebook.”
Why it stings: This implies that techno-dinosaurs lose out on relationships, but it’s an argument riddled with holes. Following kids on Facebook is generally a way to see how they present to the world, not how they behave one-on-one. And it's definitely not a substitute for spending more meaningful time together. Yes, being on Facebook ups your coolness factor, but seeing grandkids in person (or on Skype), talking on the phone, even emailing -- that’s an engaged relationship.
5. "Do you ever do anything for yourself or is it always about the grandkids?"
Why it stings: Loosely translated, this comment means, “Get a life, Granny.” But, as many grandmothers will attest, once grandkids are in the picture, priorities for spending time shift. Weed the garden or go to a grandkid’s soccer game? If it’s a no brainer, don’t defend.
6. “We’re taking our grandkids on vacation. Are you?”
Why it stings: Forget keeping up with the Joneses. Now you have to keep up with the Joneses’ grandchildren. Except you don’t. A memorable relationship is built on “together” time, not dollars and cents. Yes, others might take their families on over-the-top vacations, but when it comes right down to it, you can create a wonderful holiday right at home -- guilt-free. For activity ideas to do with grandkids, read Summer Camp Activities in Your Own Backyard. If you do decide to take a vacation, save money with 10 Ways Families Can Vacation for Less.
7. “Do your kids know how much you spoil their kids?”
Why it stings: Let’s face it, the word ”spoiled” is rarely meant as a compliment. It also suggests you’re undermining your kids’ attempts at parenting. But guess what? A grandparent’s job is to relax the rules a little when the parents aren’t around -- you are permitted to spoil. So, unless the grandkids are pitting you against their folks, relax, you’re doing your job.
8. “Are you sure your grandkids want you at every soccer game and school play?”
Why it stings: Okay, the real reason grandparents go to grandkids' events is because of the pleasure they reap. That’s fine, unless your grandchild doesn’t really want you at every event. Maybe he feels he has to talk to you instead of his friends or he’s easily embarrassed. If you pick up any hint of discomfort, back off a little. Remember, it’s about the grandkid, not you.
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