Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Part 2 - grandparent lessons anyone?

Growing up I had two grandmothers; Grandma, my mother’s mother, who I have written about before (here and here) and Granny, my father’s mother. Now Granny, despite the name connoting someone warm and cuddly and a lover of children was anything but with my brother and me. We probably saw her once a year or so when we were younger, then as we were in our teens less often. She died when I was a sophomore in college.

During my childhood she did not live near us. We were in England until I was two, and then in Michigan. She lived in Texas and then California.

I know some of the emotional distance had to do with my father. Apparently at some point she told her sister that my father was cold. Her sister came for a visit once and some how that was brought up and my father was pissed and hurt that his mother said that. They didn’t speak for a while, and certainly didn’t visit.

My mother never had good things to say about Granny. They considered her selfish, irresponsible with money, and basically an all around bitch.

My Grandma on the other hand lived very close to us from the time I was five. When I was three she and my grandfather and my parents bought a farm together (160 acres) in south-central Michigan. We lived in the original farmhouse and my grandparents built a house for themselves farther back in the property. Not right next door in city thinking, but definitely so in farm thought. It was a little more than a quarter mile walk back to them.

I have such good memories of times spent with my grandparents. I remember her telling me stories at bedtime about “the lost girls.” I remember oatmeal for breakfast, with brown sugar and raisins. My grandfather called it “glue.” I remember my grandfather taking me to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI. And my grandmother taking my cousin and me to Europe when we were 16. There was time spent cooking with my grandmother and working in the garage workroom with my grandfather. Spending the night with them often. And many, many more memories.

I see my parents being at a bit of a crossroads right now. Are they going to be “grannies” or “grandmas?”

It’s become amazingly clear during this visit that my parents don’t enjoy playing with my kids. They also don’t seem all that interested in making any memories with them.

The other day I asked mom if she would like to get Kiel dressed. Her response? Uh, no, I think I’ll let you do that.

Taking the boys for a walk last night I asked them to come. Their response, a resounding no thanks, we’ll go later. When I commented that I thought they would like to spend time with their grandchildren my mom said “we spend plenty of time with them.”

Go to the zoo with us? NO.
Go to Huckleberry Railroad with us? NO.

Walk down to the beach and playground with us? Noah wants you to see him swing on the rings. NO.

And not once an offer to take them for an hour and give us a break.

When I asked if they would watch them the other evening so we could go out to dinner with my brother and my sister-in-law, my mom’s response was “well, the boys will be tired after a long day, they will just want you, not us.”

Queen of passive aggression is she.

So the question is do I keep trying to make memories for my kids with them? Because not only is it their loss, it’s my children’s loss too.

Visiting my parents is not enjoyable for Rich and me. It’s a long ass drive to start with. Noah never sleeps well if we aren’t at home. Rich ends up sleeping in my brother’s old room with Noah and I sleep in my old room with Kiel. Rich and I don’t ever get to sleep together. Believe me, there is no nookie in my old bed. By the time we go home we are exhausted from lack of sleep and frustrated from trying to keep Noah on his best behavior so my parents don’t give us “the look” or offer us their “parenting wisdom.”

I’m thinking of firing them for a while. Oh, wise internet friends, what do you think?



  1. I wish I had some wisdom to share. I feel lost on this tpoic because it seems like my life. I have the two sets of grandmas and luckily my Nana and papa are still alive. I have awesome memories and I am begining to realize my son might not have these type of memories. I will add you to my prayer list.. if you come up with something please share.

  2. That really sucks. Like I said in my guest post for you, my mother in law drives me nuts, but I do know how much she loves my kids.
    I totally understand your desire for your kids to feel loved by their grandparents, but I would be weary of making them be too close to people who don't necessarily want them around. My mom's parents were exactly this way, but it didn't occur to me until I was older. By the time I was old enough to understand what was going on, my mom had stopped asking. My dad's parents were great, always around.
    If it is really bothering you, and clearly it is, I think you should find a time to talk about it with your folks. Try to be non-confrontational and non-judgmental. Just say, "Listen, I want my kids to know you. They will to a degree on our visits with us, but they need alone time with you, too. Why don't you tell me what a good time for you would be, even if it is just 30 minutes."
    Explain that you don't want your kids to feel rejected.
    Is your husband's parents in the picture?

  3. well i can tell you right now that i would not make the drive again while the kids were little. if they decide they want to do better at the grand parenting thing then they can drive to y'all. i would still try to keep the lines of communication open with them for the kids, but i wouldn't put myself or my family through what I know you all just went through.


  4. I think you answered it in a really round about way yourself. In the choices your parents are making to be "grannies", are THOSE the memories you want your boys to have of their grandparents? If your only memories of her are of a cold, non loving cranky old fart, then what does it benefit your boys to have that memory as well. Your boys deserve to be surrounded by love. You deserve to be able to know that you are exposing your boys to people who WANT to be with them, who WANT to be a part of their lives.

    I've had a really bad day, and I sure hope that didn't come out as bitchy as I think it might have. But I just do NOT get people who have the blessing of children who ache to be loved and don't do it.

    Ok. I'll go drink now.

  5. I totally know what you are feeling. My mom and stepdad are the only set of grandparents (my little guy has 3) that goes out of their way to connect with him (well, really it's just my mom but my stepdad comes along for the ride.)
    I have struggled with feeling so hurt for Miles that his other grandparents aren't interested enough in him to actually take time out of their lives to bond with him. But after all, they are losing out on having all that precious closeness.
    Do you have other grandparent figures for the boys to be close to? Growing up, I had several 'grandmas' from our community who really made an impression on me.
    Sounds like they just don't realize that connecting with one's grandkids starts from the beginning and requires energy.
    I'm sorry that you're in that situation, too. Some people just don't get it, do they? Sorry i don't have any advice to give :(

  6. I wish I had the magic answer for you...Bacon has a Nana and a Granny. Fortunately they both are so glad to watch him on the swings and at the zoo! Unfortunately Granny, my MIL, always has SOMETHING to say about his behavior. I just don't let it get to me anymore. After all she is all kinds of crazy. I think you should maybe try the same with your parents. Like everything they say to you is coming out of the mouth of a mental patient. It will not only be entertaining but maybe a little cathartic too! SCREW THEM FOR BEING ASSHATS!