Grandparents as parents: it's a role we all know well if we have grandkids, and one with which we are comfortable to varying degrees. Are we handling situations the way our children would want us to? Do we care? When our kids leave their children with us, we're in charge. Or are we?
If your goal is like mine — to carbon-copy his mom and dad's parenting style as closely as I can — mimicry doesn't always come easily.
When my grandson Zeke went to his 12-month check-up, his pediatrician asked if he understands and responds to the command, "no." My daughter laughed. "He hadn't heard it until my mom arrived a few days ago, but he absolutely knows what it means," she said.
Hearing this story, I instantly felt guilty. I'd said "no" when he reached for something forbidden, like my computer's power cord. I don't think the word itself impressed him very much, but the unfamiliar means-business tone coming from his doting Nana surely did. He immediately drew his hand away.
But maybe my daughter and her husband were following a different path: diverting rather than admonishing him. Suddenly I remembered a horrifying statistic I read some three decades ago about how many times a toddler hears this word in the first few years of life and how it can limit his creativity and pluck.
I'm sure my daughter and her husband will reach the "no" threshold one of these days — but perhaps it's a command better initiated with a willful two-year-old than a curious year-old baby.
The whole matter of "no" is a small thing — too minor to even bring up and clarify with my daughter and son-in-law. Still, it illustrates the complexities of working out the grandparents as parents relationship.
In our case, I'm delighting in seeing the different ways Zeke is being brought up and how he's thriving. When his parents taught him to go to sleep happily on his own, his other grandmother said to me, "Do we feel like suckers or what?"
Hearing Zeke sing himself to sleep on his own, never have I so enjoyed feeling like a chump.