Relationships with in-laws can be a major source of stress for many families. Add a new baby in the mix, and things can go from tense to flat out explosive. So, in the interest of diffusing some situations before they blow up like a nuclear warhead, I offer the following tips to new grandparents:
1. Don’t expect a ringside seat. Many women feel that birth is a private moment, and not a spectator sport. Respect this.
2. Remember: It’s not YOUR baby. Your baby is the father or mother of the baby. This is your grand-baby. Wonderful, absolutely, but since you weren’t in the bed, or swinging from the chandelier, or wherever baby was made, please don’t use the term, ‘my baby’. Not to mention the odd looks you’re guaranteed to get when making introductions: “This is my son, his wife, and that (pointing at her abdomen) is MY baby!” Folks end up in the news for stuff like that.
3. Grandchildren are not do-overs. Your own parenting experience may not have been all that you wanted it to be. You may have come to realize that you would have done somethings differently, given the chance. You cannot make up for any mistakes (perceived or real) that you made with your children via your grandchild. So, don’t surprise anyone at a birthday party with the announcement of a new pony, or trip to Disney.
4. Don’t offer advice. If new parents want opinions, they’ll ask for them. Unsolicited advice can be taken as passive aggressive insults, so don’t even go there. This goes ten thousand times for criticism. Nobody, especially a new mom, needs to hear how the house should be neater, she’s not losing the baby weight fast enough, how much better you/your daughter/next door neighbour’s cousin was at anything than she is. Yes, you raised your baby/babies. But they weren’t this baby.
5. Baby is not a muppet. Don’t ‘talk’ through the baby. “Mommy, I’d looooove to spend next weekend at Grandma’s!” Don’t do it. It’s annoying, it’s passive aggressive, and you look like an idiot. Unless you’re a professional ventriloquist. Then it could be hilarious. Especially if you do impressions.
6. Don’t set up your own nursery. Unless you’ve been ASKED to babysit full time, (don’t assume!) baby won’t need furniture at your house. And nothing says Hand That Rocks The Cradle crazy like a Grandma that has a full nursery outfitted, without being asked.
7. Accept the name. I understand that there are some names that are, well, very creative. Feel free to wince all you like…where nobody else can see you. You’ll think Sherbethoneydew Kadidlefancypants is beautiful anyways.
8. Call ahead. As irresistible as new babies can be, do NOT drop in. Call, (and I don’t mean from the driveway!) and make plans. A couple of days ahead is a good time to shoot for. Babies don’t go stale, I promise.
9. Don’t score keep. Grandparenting isn’t a competitive sport. Who gets the biggest presents, the most gifts, pictures, calls, outfits…none of that guarantees the quality of the relationship, and comparing never makes anyone happier.
10. If in doubt, ask. So much has changed, with different safety standards, food allergies, even sleep positioning that asking is always a good idea.Really, what it boils down to is, respect the parents decisions and boundaries. You can’t go wrong if you’re recognizing your adult child and his spouse as a united team.
© 2014 Melissa Charles, as first published on Scary Mommy