Skip to content

Bridging the Generation Gap. Part 1

by Daniel on June 24th, 2011

When my sleep consultant told me I had to get my 18-month-old son to drink water from a cup or he would never sleep through the night, my mother wasn’t happy. “I think it’s needlessly harsh,” she said. “He loves that bottle. I see children older than 2 drinking from a bottle all the time.”

I said we were going to do it anyway. My mother was silent. But when my son put up a tearful fight in her presence, she protested again.

“It’s cruel,” she said. “I can’t stand it.” And when, a few weeks later, he was ill and would not drink, sure enough, the first thing she lobbied for was to go back to the bottle. Unsure of myself this time around, I capitulated. My mother took the bottle to him. And even though it turned out that he didn’t want it anymore, she considered it a victory for grandmotherly compassion.

“Look,” my mom said some time afterward, “I’m the grandmother. You put him in my hands, and I’m not going to listen to any ‘expert.’ I’m going to give him a bottle and anything else he wants. When he’s with you, you’ll do it your way.”

Grandmother love. As frustrated as I sometimes am with such debates, I still consider myself a winner in these situations. As a single parent, I want and need my mother to be very involved. Even her disagreements about how I am doing things make me feel secure about her support. After all, how can you lose if your mother loves your son that much?

Grandparent Love
But this is not how the books tell grandparents to behave. Grandparents are advised to play by the parent’s rules. They are reminded that they are not the ones in charge. When they forget, they approach the line that can make grandparenting so touchy at times.

“I know that nobody loves my beautiful boy the way I and my husband do– except my parents,” my friend Paula confided to me. “I welcome my mother’s advice. I need it. But I also rail against being put into the child’s position again. And I want to reserve the right to reject what she says.”

Some call grandparent love the purest love there is. It is a love that is just there — unconditional and instinctive, a deep well for the newest arrival to the family to imbibe. But dealing with the parents of that precious child is not quite as instinctive. It all goes back to the dynamics between parent and child. All the old issues of control vs. autonomy, your way vs. my way and your values vs. my values are dredged up.

They arise as you venture out for a walk together or when you hover over an ailing child. Should he wear a hat or shouldn’t he? Is she watching too much television? What’s the harm in a cookie? And the one everyone knows: Isn’t he ready to be toilet trained yet? Every parenting book I’ve read on this subject notes that grandparents will insist — as does my mother — that their grandchild is ready earlier than you think. And all the books say: “Ignore grandparents on this topic.”

“My best advice to new grandparents is not to be intrusive or too pushy,” said Evelyn Siegel, a grandmother of 12 in Fort Worth, Texas, who is on excellent terms with her four sons and daughters-in-law. “Some of the things I see parents allow their children to do these days make me shudder,” she said. “But I’m never critical in any way. Times are different.”

Respect is critical. Grandparents need to recognize the difference between helpful advice and annoying intrusions. And parents need to understand that intense love and unshakeable support often come with unsolicited opinions. Every family, of course, has its own parameters. What one finds comforting or amusing, another sees as a problem.

Bridging the Generation Gap
“Being a grandparent is, first and foremost, a relationship or a series of relationships with your grandchildren, children, spouse and in-laws,” said Dr. Ruth Westheimer in her book “Grandparenthood.” “It has a lot in common with your other relationships. In grandparenting, as in any relationship, the keys to success are communication, honesty, supportiveness, generosity of spirit, openness and patience.”

Successfully negotiating the relationships with the grown-ups is key to being a good grandparent — one who can nurture a child in a unique way that supports and enhances the role of the parents. Arthur Kornhaber, a psychiatrist, author and grandfather who started the Foundation for Grandparenting 30 years ago to raise consciousness about the importance of grandparents for all the generations said: “Sit down and make some rules about the important things, like nutrition and safety. But try not to make a fuss about the little things. If the child [is] happy, a little diversity in the ways he’s brought up is fine.”

Purchasing a call cards will be a good manner to be in contact with your kids, employees, family, friends and loved ones.

From → Relationships

Comments are closed.