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Being the “Other” Grandma Is No Fun

I’ve heard many grandmas say they sometimes feel a need to compete with the “other” grandma for the best presents or the coolest vacation or the best storyteller (read another post on competing with the other grandma). I’ve never felt the need to do that because I see my granddaughters so often and feel secure in their love. I always make a point of asking about the fun things they do when they visit their paternal grandparents. I remind myself that my son-in-law’s parents hold just as important a place in my granddaughters’ lives as I do—even though I have more “face” time with them.

Being the “Special” Grandma

Ever since I became a grandma seven years ago, I’ve considered myself to be the “special” grandma—the one my two granddaughters feel closest to. Being the maternal grandma and living closer to my two granddaughters, I see them more often and have a close bond that I’ve nurtured with twice-monthly overnights and lots of phone calls in between. I’m the one who gives them my undivided attention, gets down on the floor with them, plays hide and seek until they drop, reads as many books as they want, and hardly ever says “no” to any of their requests.

But having that honored status can cause some awkward moments. When my husband, my mother and I come to visit, sometimes the girls  run past their grandpa and great-grandma straight into my arms and ignore the other two who are left standing there waiting for their hugs. Five years ago, when my older granddaughter celebrated her second birthday, the other grandparents were also at the party. My granddaughter only wanted to sit on my lap as she opened all her presents. Being relatively new in this situation, I didn’t know what to do. I felt embarrassed at being singled out for all the affection and knew that if the situation were reversed, I would feel disappointed I wasn’t getting any attention.

After the party, we had a little family discussion to talk about what happened. My mother and daughter came up with a solution we’ve put into place since then. Whenever there’s a celebration and one of the girls opens a present, she goes and sits next to the person who gave her the gift. That way the person can have the pleasure of watching her open it and feel some of the excitement right beside her.

Being the “Other” Grandma

Recently, I had a taste of what it feels like to be the grandma with the lower status. But it didn’t come from the “other” grandma. It was during a visit with one of my daughter’s friends. My three-year old granddaughter had taken a liking to this new friend who’s also a mom. I could see why—she was a lot like me in the way she gave the little one all her attention and carried her around on her back. When we all went out to dinner together, my granddaughter said: “Rachel’s my best friend and I’m going to sit next to her at dinner!”

I must confess I felt some rivalry for this woman who’d taken over my status as the “favored one!” At the restaurant my granddaughter, who always sits on my lap at meals, sat beside her new “best friend” and completely ignored me. I was crushed. It was a new experience for me and one that gave me more empathy for the family members who often get short shrift when I’m around. I had to suck it up and recognize that children live in the moment and whomever they’re with in that moment they love the most.

Lessons Learned

What I learned from this experience is to make sure I don’t hog all the attention when my granddaughters fall all over me and teach them to share their love with the other family members who are present.

7 thoughts on “Being the “Other” Grandma Is No Fun”

  1. I especially like the way that, not only were you sensitive to the other grandparents’ feelings, but you worked out a way with your daughter and Mom to help your granddaughter be more sensitive, too!

  2. This is interesting. With my daughter’s children I hold the elite status but I have a daughter in law whose mother who probably tips the scale as the favored one. I think it’s kind of the natural order of things since mothers and daughters seem to hang out together during the day while daddy is at work … whether it be shopping, over a cup of cocoa, or working on some home making project together. The children feel that bond of friendship and trust too. I am fortunate to know all of my grandchildren’s other grandma’s and so when one of my grandchildren whispers something in my ear like “you are my favorite”, I give them a squeeze and tell them some of the reasons why I love their other grandma and say, “Aren’t you lucky to have us both?” One of the other grandma’s is very sick and they are unable to see her very often because she is unable to travel to see them. I make sure to explain to them how much she loves them even though she can’t see them and I encourage them to write her notes and draw pictures for her so she will know they are thinking about her too. Still, when all is said and done, I adore my grandchildren and it is hard not to enjoy the status.

    1. What a wonderful “other” grandma role model you are, Edna. We could all take a lesson from you on how to get along with ALL members of the family. I’m truly inspired and touched by your compassion. I think your grandchildren are very blessed to have such a loving and generous grandma. How easy it would be to bask in the glory of being the “favorite” and not share the “wealth.”

  3. Isn’t it interesting that grandparents share so many experiences. In my experience, the other “Grandparent” is the one that is the hardest to add to the family dynamic. I always remind myself that what I feel for my grandchild is their connection too. And I really do try to remind myself that, while I am their grandparent, I am not the center of their universe and they should not be the center of mine. It is not good for the child and it is not good for me.

    I define myself in a lot of ways and “Grandma” is only one of them. My grandchildren are very proud of me because I travel, write (Retire in Style Blog) and watch them on Facebook!

    Have a wonderful day.

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  4. Excellent post! I had a small taste of being the less-favored one when my sixth granddaughter came along. She was very attached to her parents and didn’t really want anything to do with me. That was very hard, but as she grew up, we were able to establish a relationship.

  5. Wise words! Thank you for sharing your lessons learned. I like to think that *I* am the “special” grandma because even though I’m a long-distance grandma, I do see my grandson more often than his paternal grandma. Time will tell, as of right now, it’s hard to know whom a two-and-a-half-year-old favors, especially when we’re never all around him at the same time.

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