Sunday, January 06, 2008

Grandparents: Gotta Love 'Em

The girls and I left Daddy at home last week and went to visit two of their many grandparents. A five-hour drive, two (gasp) Happy Meals, and a shockingly expensive pit stop at Target later, we were there. For the first day, Nirvana. These two have a wonderful, comfortable home; they eat great food and drink fantastic wine, and they love love love the girls. Day two, however, brought back the usual stress I feel when visiting them with my 2- and 3.5-year-old. Despite how happy we all are to see each other, it's a good reminder that their world is not designed around having two small, active, messy, exuberant and not always quiet children, the way mine (sortof) is.

The gooey but crazy-fun toy we brought was relegated to a drawer, the food was strictly to be eaten at the table, and magic markers could not be used except in the basement. None of these requests were unreasonable, really. But I did feel, as I often do there, that Grandpa, at least, still doesn't approve of kids being kids. They are all great and groovy, as long as they don't mess up the house or make too much noise.

Now, I'm the first to realize that loud children are a lot more annoying when they're someone else's than when they're your own. I am probably too immune to some of the girls' more obnoxious behaviors. But even to call those behaviors obnoxious seems to dishonor childhood in some ways. Sure they should have rules and boundaries, but they shouldn't be expected to be miniature adults. They should not draw on furniture or walls of course, but they also shouldn't be made to feel like they've lost Grandpa's favor if they step out of line.

To be fair, Grandma does a great job of gently and sweetly reigning them in, drawing boundaries, and then sticking to them. And Grandpa has come a long way since I was a kid, when I remember feeling, often, that just by being a kid who cried, wanted to talk to him during the game, or might make a mess, I was a nuisance rather than a pleasure. So now, my older sister (who has a 4-year-old boy) and I are working little by little to remind Grandpa that those grandkids he so loves are a package deal: you have to take a little yelling and tantrum behavior to get the snuggles and the sweet interactions and the fun.

I feel like it's my responsibility to speak for my kids when they can't speak for themselves, but I also feel like I'm doing Grandpa a favor too. Because every time he can learn to gently work past a tantrum, or let a mess happen without voicing judgment, or comfort the girls when they're scared or mad at each other, he will be allowing one more great, and fleeting, Grandpa Experience into his life.

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