The same day we become parents, our parents become grandparents. Beyond their bloodline bond, grandparents perform a task and adapt in ways that vary from one person to another.
Paradoxically and although grandparents were living with the rest of the family at the beginning of the last century, grandchildren had very little time to get to know them – about 10 years according to Health Canada.
It can be explained by the fact that our life expectancy was much lower 100 years ago. The roles of grandparents changed as our life expectancy increase, and today, some people spend almost half of their lives as grandparents and will see their grandchildren not only as children and adolescents, but also as young adults and parents.
– Health Canada
The clash of ideas
That new reality brings several changes in everyone’s lives… Indeed, if many parents appreciate having and grandma or a grandpa to support them in this adventure, others feel totally overwhelmed and don’t know how to react to such an intrusion of their parents in their intimacy. “My mom loves our son but sometimes, enough is enough! She always wants to rock Jacob, give him a bath and give him a bottle even if she knows that Nathalie breastfeeds!” Didier perfectly realized that the relationship between his wife and his mom was becoming more explosive every time they were in the same room so once day, he decided to leave them alone and went out with his son. “I finally told my mother-in-law to mind her own business! Of course at the time she got angry and she even sulked for a few weeks. But she finally understood and now she is more careful when she talks to me.” Nathalie admits that she was really afraid of her mother-in-law’s reaction but because she was even more afraid of her repeated intrusions, she preferred to talk to her.
— Health Canada
At the heart of disputes
The care that must be brought to the baby, from nursing to diapers, sleep and discipline are very sensitive subjects. “To me, sentences that begin with Back in the days are unbearable!” says Nathalie, the young mother of two children. “Of course, mothers and grandmothers have tips to share and I want to hear them but not if they impose them. When my stepmom tells me that her children were clean on their twelfth month, she makes me feel incompetent because Julian is not clean after 32 months.”
So, before you no longer dare to ask for help out of fear of fighting with granny, here are a few tips:
- Inquire from other members of the family to know what kind of grandparents to expect. Forewarned is forearmed!
- Draw a list of your expectations: do you want the grandparents to develop a strong bonding relationship with your children? Would you like them to babysit now and again? Do you want help with your child’s education or do you only want help in the kitchen and around the house. By determining your needs, it will be easier to share them… and have them respected with a little luck.
- During pregnancy, take time to tell future grandparents what you expect of them. If you feel uncomfortable, use the example of a fictitious friend to address the issue and get your message across. "My friend can no longer bear with her mother because she always tells her what to do... "
- If grandma does not want to hear about your emotions, write a letter. Not only will you choose the most diplomatic words, but she will never interrupt you!
- Tell them about the good memories you keep from your grandparents or what you would have liked to live with them. Your stories could inspire the new grandparents.
- If, despite your efforts at conciliation, granny proves too invasive, space or shorten phone calls and visits. Maybe time will succeed where you have failed!
If, on the contrary, the grandparents are not present enough for our children, it is possible to make it happen by inviting them more often, by asking them to babysit for a few hours, etc. You can also ask them to write down stories of their childhood in a notebook, to draw the family tree, share tips that they would like to share for the adults that they will become… Specialized notebooks, similar to pregnancy books, are available in libraries and contain questions and answers and photographs spaces. You can also add your personal touch and tells stories that are specific to your family.
A special day to celebrate!
Children gain a lot from their contact with their grandparents; therefore, it is important to nurture strong and healthy relationships, even if it means that you will have to make compromises. Don’t forget that one day, you could also be a grandfather or a grandmother someday! So, next Sunday, September 7th 2014, celebrate Grandparents Day because even if we didn’t all have grandchildren, we all had grandparents!
It is the law
The law says that parents cannot, without serious motives, stop grandparents from bonding with their grandchildren. If the parents are refusing to let you see your grandchildren, you can present a request to the Superior Court of your province to gain access.
You can ask the court to grant you the same access as before the conflict but you have to keep in mind that grandparents are not given the same access as divorced parents, for example.
When parents divorce, the implication of grandparents tend to increase on the mother’s side and decrease on the father’s side.
— Health Canada