By Bette Simons
Did you have a wonderful Thanksgiving feast that your family’s grandmother prepared? Do you often include the grandparents in events? Are they in the family album where everyone looks as happy and endearing as a Norman Rockwell painting? If the answer is yes, you can’t imagine you might be guilty of grandparent abuse, but what do you think the elders say about these seemingly happy scenes that you help to happen? Most grandparents love to brag about their grown children and their wonderful little grandchildren, but underneath the social chatter you find some pain.
“I worked all day in the kitchen, but when I came out to join the others, I wasn’t included in any conversations.”
“We baby-sat all weekend long, even though my arthritis made me ache, and they didn’t even say thank you.”
“When they talk to friends and I’m present, I get the message, ‘grandmas should be seen and not heard.’”
Why are these comments so common? Is it that grandparents like to tell all the things they know in order to be helpful?
Maybe grandparents need to have a constant reminder of their place. Grown children haven’t wanted advice since they got clobbered by a bully in elementary school. When they are raising their own families, they sure don’t want advice from people who read Doctor Spock instead of getting child rearing help on the internet. .
These important family members, much as they may be loved, may unconsciously want to justify what they did when they were parents. New approaches to child rearing threaten them with the thought that “maybe we could have done it better.”
Grandparents made their mistakes and it’s not fair to look for a second chance in the next generation. But even grandparents who are supportive, effuse and delighted with what happens in their grandchildren’s home, often get the same cold shoulder. They may even have lots of good information the parents could use.
Can it be that they are spoiling the grandkids every chance they get and it seems to undermines the parents? A mother who makes her peace with the different quality of life at grandma’s house might say, “Sure I’ll let you choose what you want for breakfast…when I’m a grandmother.”
Parents often seem tough and grandparents seem softies. No wonder the grown children want to keep them around but out of their hair. Kids are supposed to like their parents best! “ I can’t say anything to my daughter (or daughter-in-law) says many a grandparent.” Not being included or given the chance to use what know-how one has collected over the years is a pain grandparents in polite families endure. It can feel like emotional abuse.
What the daughters and daughters-in-law endure is that they have so many demands and stresses with their own children, spouses and work, that the thought of catering to one more person who is needy or temperamental is awful. Grandparents are better off seen but not heard! Then too, grandparents who feel left out although they are invited in, should understand that it’s better for a grown child to be loyal to a spouse than a parent. There is always trouble if a wife suspects her authority is undermined by the woman who was the first one to kiss her husband. A husband doesn’t need two women controlling the household. Grandparents often find some solace saying “Some day they’ll find out what it’s like!” or “They’ll appreciate me when I’m gone.” But older people have an opportunity to gain wisdom from the painful things that happen to them.
Hurts are soothed when a grandchild gives grandpa a hug or wants to come and visit. Sometimes grandchildren and grandparents seem to have a common enemy-the parents. But you shouldn’t be abused either. It’s your turn to do the best you know how to do.