When parents and grandparents collide
When people say becoming a parent changes you, it can be hard to grasp exactly how it changes you unless you have experienced it firsthand. What I has surprised me is how it changes all your relationships.
Most people expect it to put a strain on their marriage or partnership, and luckily, in my case, it only served to make my marriage the strongest it’s ever been. You can also sort of anticipate your friendships to change — some get stronger, while others fade away. What totally blindsided me was the change parenthood made in my relationship with my parents.
As a new parent, I’m shocked by the millions of different decisions you have to make, and as is often said, “the baby does not come with an instruction manual.” Decisions are not the easiest task for a Libra like me. Do you know how many books are out there that try to fill the instruction manual spot? Don’t even get me started on all the information you can find on the internet, and those parenting discussion boards are out of control! The problem is they all say different things. So, most people turn to family and friends to find out what they did with their own children.
Friends usually have different advice, which can be helpful, and family can tell you what they did, but that was often 30 years ago. And so, we hit our hitch. If you have relied on your parents to help you make every big decision in life, and have generally followed their advice, as I’ve done, then you’re sort of screwed when it comes to making parenting decisions. You trust their opinion more than anyone else; after all they are amazing parents, but some of their advice completely goes against everything you read in the hundreds of books you’ve bought.
Your parents raised you, and you came out fairly normal, but there’s been a lot of research done in the past 30 years. So, what they thought was OK back then, is now not OK. You’re faced with a dilemma: Do you trust the books and go against your parents’ advice, or do you take their advice and assume the books are just hyper-vigilant for all the idiots out there?
As a pediatric nurse, I’d say that the parent needs to discuss it with the pediatrician, as well as follow their child’s cues. Well, what if you’re still building trust with the pediatrician, and haven’t really agreed with other advice he’s given you? Your child’s cues can be helpful, but when they are three months old, you don’t get much from them. Since I’m a nurse, I side with evidence-based research-driven facts to help make decisions, while also staying flexible to my son’s needs. It all comes down to whether or not this will harm my child, taking into account short-term vs. long-term risks/benefits.
The main problem is when your parents disagree with your decisions, or think the decision is overprotective or restrictive to the child. The glory of being a grandparent is that you know the child will be OK, despite what books have to say about every little detail. They’re relaxed and can see the child’s wellbeing in the grand scheme of childhood.
Parents (especially first-time parents) don’t have that wise point of view and feel focused on every little detail in an attempt to prevent messing up the child for life. Thus, it can be very upsetting for the parents to see the grandparents so relaxed and nonchalant about a decision that the new parent spent all night researching.
We need to face reality — even if we don’t like to talk about it. The fact is that no matter how the parents feel about an issue, the grandparents will approach it the way they think is best. One particular issue is feeding; what to feed, when and how — it can all be debated. Most every parent I’ve spoken with describes a food inspired confrontation with a grandparent or two. Rice cereal in a bottle at one month, a taste of ketchup at three months, popcorn at six months, daily visits to McDonalds, sweets of every kind — most new parent I know has a story like this.
They all have a theme: It was done behind the parents’ backs. We only know about it because they got caught or foolishly told the parents in an effort to help them relax. The confrontations can get ugly, and strain what was once an unshakable relationship. The issue is trust and control, not really the extra cookie.
I’m forever grateful that my son has loving grandparents to help raise him, but I’m struggling with finding a way to maintain my childrearing orders while he’s under the grandparent’s wing — without offending them.
My advice to new parents is to become a united front and set ground rules for the things that are most important to you. Enforce your wishes and, if necessary, provide the grandparents information to back your decisions. Definitely when safety is involved (such as the choking hazard of eating popcorn at six months of age), you remain steadfast in their need to comply.
My advice to new grandparents is to find a way to keep your little treats hidden from the parents, because as my dear friend said, “those little treats my grandparents gave me are some of my favorite memories from childhood.” So, can I really be mad if what my parents are doing is what I treasured most as a kid?
New mom lesson # 46,382: Depends
While packing up my son’s gear in preparation for the short drive back home from my parents’ house I thought to myself, “I probably should go to the bathroom before we hit the road.”
As with everything when you have a small child, I got easily distracted from that train of thought and jumped in the car before my son started crying again. When we got home I remembered that the dogs had been locked out all day while the cleaning ladies (or my magical fairies as I like to call them) were busy making my life much easier.
I left my crying son on the floor in the other room (because babies can’t fall off the floor) while I ran to let the dogs back in. Unfortunately the magical fairies left three big bags of trash in front of the door. So I devised a genius plan of locking the dogs inside the house while I go through the garage to the trash bin outside. I figured I could do this in less than 2 minutes and be back to my son’s side before his cries reached brain melting status.
At that exact moment, like a shock wave, I realize I have to pee, like, really bad. As a nurse I have perfected my urination holding skills to Guinness World Record standards. You can’t really say “time out, I have to pee” when you are doing chest compressions.
Unfortunately pregnancy has made my bladder holding muscles a little out of shape, but I know I’m good for the two minutes I need to carry out my plan.
It all goes so smoothly: the dogs get in the house, past the trash, and I open the garage door and run to the trash bin in less than 30 seconds. I’m going to beat the two minute time frame I allotted myself, score! Then the garage door, with some Emily Rose-like demon possessed in it, decides that every time I try to close it, it will only rise back up once it hits the cement floor.
At that same moment, my bladder starts to scream, and I’m doing my best “pee-pee” dance while I try to trick the garage door into closing with a double button push at the exact moment it hits the floor. I can also hear my son crying from inside and across the house, so the anxiety and pressure of the moment was building.
Did somebody say pressure? Yes, it’s true; I lost complete control of my bladder standing in the garage while the door is stuck in the half-way position. The sensation of that warm, wet, hamster cage smelling fluid running down my legs brings me right back to my embarrassing fourth grade incident, but at least this time it wasn’t in front of my entire PE class. I eventually got the garage door closed all the way, the dogs set up, my son calmed, and even got in a quick three-minute shower, but I learned a very important mom lesson that day: Don’t neglect Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs”: Always use the restroom when you have the chance.