Recently, I received an email from a new GaGa Sisterhood member who joined because she wondered if she was nuts!
“Everything is different now. I’m not an authority on anything. It’s as if I never raised two children to adulthood and kept them from certain death and dismemberment! Now I know nothing!”
This grandma’s complaint is one of the most common challenges I hear from grandmas, especially new ones. She has a 2-year old grandson and has been able to participate in his life since he was born. It’s been the most rewarding thing she’s ever done. She’s earned several advanced degrees and enjoyed a long professional career. Yet she feels inadequate, powerless, and shoved aside because her daughter wants things done a certain way.
When the grandma had her first child, she had “Dr. Spock in paperback with pages crimped and splattered with who knows what.” She also had her mother living nearby and went to her for everything. Although her mother was “never a very confident woman or mother, she managed to get her to adulthood, all limbs intact.” She was her “expert” and she asked her for advice. They “muddled through together” because her mother loved her and her baby.
But times have changed and our children don’t ask us for advice on parenting. Why? Because they have the Internet, and “as everyone knows, the Internet knows all!”
The grandma says her daughter’s awareness is “science-based,” while the grandma’s is “seat of the pants.” They have clashed a few times because the daughter wants things done a certain way, based on all the “new science” available about parenting and sleep patterns and screen time and sugar.
The grandma accepts that it’s her daughter’s child, so she does what her daughter wants, but she admits to sometimes chaffing a bit at all the rules and the timing. Her grandson’s not a good sleeper and her daughter spent hours training him to get the sleep she thinks he needs (according to the Internet.) They’ve installed black-out shades, sound machines, a temperature-controlled room, and enforced rigid nap times. To the grandma, these extremes feel too rigid, especially when her daughter complains that he only got nine hours of sleep when he needed twelve.
Because this grandma is truly wise, she came to the conclusion herself that “I need to meet my daughter where she is. I will join her in this Internet-enhanced parenting thing. I’ll try to connect with some other grandmas. I’ll go online and read what she reads; it will be a way we can connect and stop being at odds. Just because I think some of it is overdone and silly, and honestly, I may still think that, I owe her the effort. It won’t cost me anything, and who knows, I may learn something.”
I congratulated this grandma for taking the high road. As she wisely concludes, it won’t cost her anything and she definitely will learn many things. And more importantly, she’ll gain the respect and trust from her daughter by showing her support.
My advice to grandmas who wonder why our children don’t ask for our advice: Be as patient as possible. Be curious in a non-judgmental way and ask if you can read some of their books or follow some of their links so you can speak their language. It will work wonders and maybe, just maybe, one day when you’re least expecting it, your grown child may ask you, “How did you do it when you were raising me?”