With the holidays approaching, let’s have an open thread: how close are your kids with their grandparents? How do you feel about their relationship and general level of involvement in your lives? Do you feel like your parents are different with your kids than they were with you and your siblings? (Are the grandparents helpful as babysitters? How do the holidays usually look with the grandparents?)
How Close My Kids Are With Their Grandparents
For my $.02, I’m really thankful for how close my kids are with all four of their grandparents — it’s so different from the relationship I had with my grandparents (my parents’ parents), where one set was largely absent because they lived far away, and the other set was constantly in our lives but just not terribly interested in any of us kids.
As a kid, I always assumed it was just the way it was, this arms’ length relationship with the grandparents. (We called them Grandma and Grandpa, but to distinguish which set of grandparents we were talking about we used last name — Grandma Griffin, for example.) As I got older I recognized it was a bit more of their personalities, as well as their generation — they were definitely raised in the “children should be seen and not heard” era.
My parents and my in-laws couldn’t be more different — they’re engaged and interested in the kids, and both kids are absolutely thrilled when we see them. My eldest calls one of his grandmothers frequently to just chat, and for a long time had a nightly Fortnite date with one of his grandfathers. All four of them are much more in my kids’ lives than I ever had or wanted my grandparents in my life. I don’t think it’s because we chose to call them by first name (Grandpa Allan, Grandma Ann) when we needed to distinguish one set of grandparents’ from another, but I don’t think it hurt.
How about you, readers – how close are your kids with their grandparents? How do you feel about their relationship and general level of involvement in your lives? Do you feel like your parents are different with your kids than they were with you and your siblings? (Are the grandparents helpful as babysitters? How do the holidays usually look with the grandparents?)
More Reading on Grandparents and Kids…
Some of the discussions we’ve had on this over the years:
- Do You Take Shared Vacations with Your Kids’ Grandparents?
- What Do Your Kids Call Their Grandparents?
- Grandma the Babysitter: Grandparents as Caregivers
- Working Moms’ Tips on Using Grandparents as Caregivers
- How to Deal With Your In-Laws at Thanksgiving
- Working Moms with Grandparent as Babysitter (from our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series, which, by the way, is still open — if you’d like to share a week in your life, please submit!)
Stock photo via Stencil.
I’m proud that my toddler is close to all of his grandparents. They live a couple hours away but we still see each set once a month. My grandparents lived in India so I only saw them a handful of times.
My kids are very close to my mom, who watches them one day/week, lives nearby, is a widow, etc. They are also close with my in laws/step-in laws. There are different types of relationships, and it has changed as the kids have grown. For example, my FIL was pretty disengaged at the baby stage, but interacts more now with the 4yo. MIL is a baby-whisperer who loved the baby stage. I’m glad they live close by, even if it feels overwhelming to have a lot of family gatherings/obligations sometimes.
How funny – your ILs are exactly like my parents. My mom is a baby-whisperer who will snuggle babies all day (alas, all four of her grandkids are well out of the baby stage!). I don’t think my dad has ever changed a diaper in his life, but he is amazing with preschool and elementary school kids, which is the age my kids and their cousins are now. They live halfway round the world; I’m excited to visit in December.
I have a three year old son, and I can’t tell if my dad really likes spending time with him. He seems awkward and uncomfortable interacting with him. He cares, and he enjoys hearing about my son on the phone or through emailed pictures/videos, but I guess he’s just not used to interacting with preschoolers. We live in different states and visit about 3 times per year. I hope it improves as my son gets a little older.
My mom likes to say (a bit arrogantly, but also not inaccurately) that I had an idyllic childhood except for the absence of local grandparents, so it was really important to her to move to be near our family once we were settled and had a kid. She and my dad are my almost 5 year old daughter’s favorite people in the whole world. DD is currently begging my husband and me to take a vacation without her so she can spend a whole week at her grandparents’ place. (And this kid loves to travel, she just loves her grandparents more!). She also really adores my MIL and my husband’s sister, who is her only biological aunt. We see my MIL and SIL probably two or three times a year each, which I think is pretty decent considering they’re all a plane flight or very long drive away. My FIL is an unpleasant person who’s never shown a ton of interest in my kiddo, but given his personality with adults I’m not sure that him ignoring my kid is the worst thing in the world. So I would say my kid is close with 3 out of 4 grandparents, although obviously closer to my parents than MIL just because of physical proximity.
My MIL (husband’s stepmother; his mother passed away) encourages my FIL to have a more active relationship with his grandchildren, which I really appreciate. He is an old-school Don Draper type who was pretty hands-off with his own kids and wouldn’t think to engage much with them on his own, but always has a great time once grandma gets the ball rolling. She orchestrates get-togethers and trips, including one-on-one grandpa and grandchild time, and makes sure that she and grandpa both show up at kid events. She also has her own special independent relationship with each of her step-grandkids. She texts my daughter and sends her postcards and takes an interest in her hobbies, and even learned to use Discord to keep in touch with one of the older grandsons.
Both my parents and my husband’s are divorced so we have grandparents in 4 different states, none of which is the one we live in. We see my mom most frequently — every month or two for a long weekend — because she’s both closest distance-wise (still a 5-6 hour drive) and has the greatest ability and inclination to travel. I’ve mentioned before that my mom takes each kid for an only-child week at Camp Grandma in the summer. We see the other grandparents 2-3 times a year.
My kids love all their grandparents, are comfortable around them, and excited to see them, but grandparents are not involved with my kids’ daily lives. DH and I talk to our parents on the phone pretty regularly, and the kids will say hi and chat for a minute if they’re around. Sometimes one of them will steal the phone and have an extended conversation. Otherwise, grandparents send cards for holidays, small gifts for birthdays and Christmas, and we occasionally invite one or more to come along on family vacations.
My daughters are very close to my parents, who live across the country but visit VERY frequently (they have their own apartment in NYC). We also spend a couple weeks at their home in the summer, and at some point in the winter/spring (either Christmas or spring break). My younger daughter might like my mom more than she likes me. ;)
The girls are not as close to my husband’s parents, who live in another country. His dad has pretty advanced Parkinson’s so understandably cannot do as much, and my husband is not close to his mom. We also visit them at least twice per year (and sometimes my husband will go one more time with each girl separately), but the relationships are not the same as with my parents. To be fair, I am also much closer to my parents than my husband is to his parents, so I guess that is just they way it works out.
Wow that’s a lot of visiting family! Do you have really generous vacation leave? Or do you work remotely from the grandparents’ homes, and if so what do you do about childcare? I have generous for America leave and all our family is in the US bit it’s still challenging to visit each family unit more than once a year without burning all our leave on trips to see family.
Well first off, I only work part time, so it is quite a bit easier (70% in big law). And I always work remotely when we visit my family on the west coast. Maybe take a day or two off, but the time change actually makes it easier, because I work early and then have a lot of the afternoon off. My parents are thrilled to hang with the kids when we are there. My husband usually joins for 1 out of the 2 weeks when we visit them, and he may or may not work depending on what he has going on. I never really work when we visit his family in Europe. And he sometimes does, again depending on what he has going on.
My kids are older now (oldest is 16) and my parents moved to be closer to us about 5-6 years ago. My parents have always had good relations with my girls. All three love them and love spending time with them. As they have gotten older, and the fact they are so close, the older two will take some time with friends rather than go by grandparents for the weekend. Youngest still spends every weekend we aren’t busy by them. We joke that she’s going to her weekend/summer house.
ILs, however, have never had real relationships with the girls. I think MIL likes the idea of being a grandma, but not the things being a grandma entails. FIL would rather sit and watch TV and chainsmoke. The latter fact is why we don’t go over much during the cold months, but have invited them out to our house. As the girls have gotten older, they have forged their own small relationships with them, but nothing as substantial as with my parents. Hubby is okay with this; I thought he’d be upset. But his reasoning is his parents aren’t “good” grandparents so why should we force our girls to have a relationship with them.
Jennifer M. Bell says
The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is, in my opinion, the best relationship ever. Those who do not have grandparents can feel their absence. I get upset whenever I see someone with their grandparents and wonder if I have grandparents as well. But there is another issue that some parents want to keep their children away from their grandparents for unknown reasons. I believe they are unaware of the true value of having grandparents for their children, and they believe that mixing their children with their grandparents will teach them backdated activities. What the hell is this?