Have you ever noticed that we grandmas seem to have a much easier time loving our grandchildren—or at least demonstrating love to them—than we ever did our own children?
Author Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. suggests four reasons why grandmas act differently with their grandkids:
Some people become bitter with age. But the great majority of us become less uptight, less bent out of shape by everyday frustrations and disappointments. Also, as we grow older, our expectations of others become more modest, as we’ve become more adept at seeing the world as it is—vs. how we’d prefer it be. Our attitude tends to be more tolerant, accepting, and forgiving. As a result, we’re likely to regard the misbehaviors of our grandchildren much less harshly than was the case when we were rearing our own children. So what may have bothered—or even incensed—us about their words and actions when we were young, we may now recognize as more or less age-appropriate.
The Indisputable Drudgeries of Parenting vs. the Gratifying Delights of Grandparenting
It’s not even debatable that parenting is a trying task. Kids can be difficult (sometimes extraordinarily so). They frequently wear out our patience, no matter how hard we try to remain calm in the face of their unconstrained, unruly behaviors. They can be fussy, whiny, demanding, quarrelsome, stubbornly non-cooperative, recklessly impulsive—and at times just plain nasty. There’s probably not a single parent in the world who hasn’t occasionally “lost it” with their kids.
But moving to the next generation, we grandmas typically aren’t called upon to deal with our grandkids at their most challenging worst. Nor are we required to function as disciplinarians, so we can be more lenient. Now that we’ve completed the arduous, worrisome, and super-responsible job of childrearing, we’re in a far better position to simply sit back and enjoy all the things that children say and do that make them so lovable. We can enjoy their refreshing innocence, creative playfulness, endless sense of wonder, and all the charming ways they express themselves. The daily stresses that go with parenting are largely absent in this quite different grandparent-to-child relationship. And so our role is less complicated, less taxing, less laborious.
Grandmas Try Harder (After all, We’re Only Number Two)
In a sense, children have to love their parents. Regardless of how well they’re treated, they’re so dependent on their caretakers that they’re highly motivated to find a way of securely “attaching” to them.
In contrast, a child’s union with their grandparents, not grounded in such enormous dependency, doesn’t feel anywhere as critical to them. So grandparents can’t at all take it for granted. It must be earned. This is why we grandmas will go considerably out of our way to try to get our grandkids to bond with us. And that’s one reason we can be notorious for “spoiling” the offspring of our offspring until we’re told to stop. When we visit, we may bring them extravagant gifts and delicious home-baked cookies. We take them to parks and playgrounds (while we unabashedly shower them with “treats”) and say yes to their every request.
No wonder our adult children may feel obliged to set boundaries on how much they’ll allow us to pamper their kids. They don’t want them to become accustomed to such special treatment that they develop a sense of entitlement (as in, “But grandma told me it was okay to do it,” or “You’re mean! Grandma would have bought it for me.”) Parents may resent us for giving their kids so much more leeway, positive attention, and affection than they can remember receiving when they were young.
The Chance for a Do-Over
As we age, it’s common for us to think about past mistakes we’ve made with our children when they were growing up. In fact, as our children get older, they become more likely to criticize us for how we raised them. They may have felt over-controlled, disrespected, incessantly lectured to, or not given as much soothing and support as they needed.
We grandmas may be anxious to remedy these past failures through being more attentive, loving and caring toward our children’s children. With greater patience, open-heartedness, compassion, and wisdom, we’re in an excellent position to provide our grandkids with what so many years ago may not even have been in us to offer our own children.
Needless to say, our grandkids are the lucky beneficiaries of our expanded empathy, warmth, and understanding. They greatly appreciate all the positive regard we are so happy to bestow upon them. The “transparency” of our concern and devotion in this relationship with our grandchildren may go far beyond what they’re able to experience with their own parents. And their appreciation for all this unconditional love of being valued solely for themselves is hardly missed on us grandparents. We are equally grateful for the validation we may never have received from our own children.
Photo credit: Sergiu Vălenaș