Grandparenting Etiquette (Part 1)
March 23, 2008
To provide a little perspective about my thoughts on the etiquette and strategy of grandparenting, I will start with our experiences with our mothers.
When my we were a young married couple with a baby living in Los Angeles, both grandmothers were eager to babysit for us and take care of our little daughter. Grandpas were not much in the picture. My father was dead; my wife’s parents had long ago divorced.
We were uncomfortable with their grandmothering.
My wife’s mother
For one thing, my wife’s mother did not like the name we had given our child. She never said anything directly about it, but she came up with her own nickname and always used it instead of the name we had given our daughter. We felt naming our child was our prerogative, not grandma’s province. We felt grandma using a different name then the name we had chosen was a subtle passive-aggressive way of denigrating our choices and skills as parents.
Also, at times, we would come back from a night out and realize that the babysitting maternal grandma had been drinking. She was not drunk, but her speech was a little slurred. We were not especially pleased and felt reluctant to have grandma babysit.
My mother had all sorts of suggestions about how to raise and feed our child. My wife did not regard me as a sterling example of a successfully raised child. My wife did not know my father very well, as he had died before we really started going together, so the only visible person to blame for my deficiencies was my mother.
Also, after years of psychological abuse from my father, my mother had developed her own subtle, martyrly style of passive aggression. My wife is a fairly straightforward person; when she wants to be aggressive she doesn’t believe in diluting it with much passive. My mother irritated her immensely and my wife did not want the paternal grandma her influencing our child very much.
We move away
When I graduated from college and decided (unwisely, to be sure) to go to graduate school, I enrolled in the University of Washington. Our decision to move a thousand miles from Los Angeles was not based solely on a desire to put space between our child and her grandmothers, but it clearly played a significant role in our decision.
Mama and Mommy live close enough that we can visit them and they can visit us with a couple hours driving and a 25-minute ferry ride. (RG probably doesn’t care for the drive, but she considers the ferry ride a big treat.) Four other grandparents have to fly across the country to visit RG. The remaining grandma has to travel from Oregon.
We are grateful for their choices in geography. We don’t want to give then reason to reconsider.