For many of us having grandkids is one of the sweetest parts of our satisfying retirement. To see your children have children is an amazing experience. To be able to participate in their lives is a joy that never ends. Frankly, to be able to say goodbye at the end of the day and leave the messy parts of child-rearing to others is also very nice!
I know many who are regular readers of this blog live far away from their grandchildren and don't see them as often as they'd like. But, that makes the time you do get to spend with them even more important.
Amidst all the happiness there are some dangers in having grandkids. Usually they are being raised by your children, not you. Regardless of how well you feel your children turned out, I can guarantee that they, along with their spouse, will have at least a few different ideas on how they prefer to raise their kids. And, that is where problems can arise.
The Biggest No-No
Few things can sour a good relationship with your grown child, his or her spouse, and grandkids quicker than inserting yourself into how the children are being raised. Saying something meant to correct a behavior you think is wrong rarely is a smart decision. Talking privately with your child with a suggestion that he or she is making a mistake in child-rearing will not go much better. "That's not how we raised you" are six words that never produce a positive outcome.
Of course, if there is some form of child abuse in evidence you must take steps to bring it to a halt. But, usually, the problem is simply one of differences: your child has chosen to raise his or her child without copying your parenting playbook. Accept it. Realize your child is an adult and deserves to be treated as one. Would you tell a friend what to do unless asked?
Another flash point can be the overplaying of the "grandparent" card by your child. That is when you find yourself babysitting or caring for your precious bundles of joy to the point where you begin to see them as burdens. Your lifestyle and freedoms are being held hostage to a constant request to "watch the kids for a little while."
Since grandparents rarely charge for babysitting this is a financial help to your child. It is also a nice testament to your overall parenting skills and comfort in your presence. But, if you find that you are the only babysitter in your kid's address book and it is becoming an unwelcome occurrence, you can consider becoming a little less available whenever your services are requested.
The reverse situation can also produce tension if you aren't sensitive to it: being around the grandkids too often. If you are lucky enough to live close by, be careful of how frequently you use the "I was in the neighborhood so I just thought I'd drop by" excuse. Being a too frequent presence in the grandkids' lives may bother your child, particularly if you are in the habit of bringing little gifts.
For those who do not have grandkids I imagine you wonder what this post has to do with you. You still might have someone call you Grandad or Gran at some point in the future so hang in there. If you are not likely to ever have this experience I think these cautions apply just as well to how you interact with your grown children.
It is simply a matter of communication and the acceptance of the reality that different approaches aren't wrong, just different. You raised your child to think on his or her own and make decisions. That what is happening. Rejoice that your teachings stuck.