In two-parent households, usually one parent takes the lead regarding raising the children. The same is often true for grandparents as they relate to their grandchildren. One grandparent takes charge of what to do and how to do it.
I’ve learned first-hand that it can be a great idea for the lead grandparent to allow their spouse to do things their way and see how it goes – even when the lead grandparent is certain it will be a disaster.
When our granddaughter Angelina was born, she spent her first 130 days in the hospital, and when she was released she was tethered to wires and tubes and required precise medicines and timed therapies. Because my brain is geared to such detail, I took charge of Angelina when she was in our care – several days/nights every week.
Angelina is now four years old, and she is totally untethered and without medicines, and for four years JC (my wife) has been insisting that I “allow” her to do more than hold and cuddle and love Angelina. She has been insisting that she can watch and care for Angelina and deal with her autism peculiarities without me being present. (Even though I was certain this would not turn out well.) Boy was I ever wrong!!! JC now does lots of things for and with Angelina – and does them far better than I could ever do them. Following are seven examples.
HOUSEHOLD CHORES – I walked into the kitchen one day to find Angelina helping JC put away the clean contents of the dishwasher, including putting the knives, forks, and spoons into the correct slots. (I don’t have the patience for this, but JC loves it and Angelina benefits greatly.)
BACKYARD CHORES – After a couple of hours in my home office, I discovered that JC and Angelina were in the backyard where Angelina had proudly picked up the fallen sticks from a days-earlier storm. JC had of course shown her how and had showered her with praise. (Again, not something I could have done.)
CLEANING UP YOUR MESS – Whenever I care for Angelina, the living room winds up being scattered with toys and crayons and all sorts of other stuff. But whenever JC cares for Angelina, the living room winds up being picked up. JC insists, and Angelina complies, that Angelina pick up her things after playing with them.
A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING – “Where does this go?” is something that JC often says to Angelina. Now Angelina puts her shoes in the shoe rack, her crayons in the crayon jar, her blocks in the block box, etc. (Again, I don’t have the patience.)
PERSONAL HYGENE – When JC takes care of Angelina, she washes her hands at all the right times: before and after meals, after she uses the bathroom, and whenever they get dirty. (Angelina’s hands are lucky to get washed even once when I care for her.)
PLAYING TOGETHER ALONE – The other day I walked in to find JC and Angelina sitting on the couch - JC reading her own book and Angelina reading HER book. (Angelina can’t yet read, but she makes up little stories and she turns the pages.) I’ve never ever been able to accomplish “playing together alone” with Angelina.
MIND AND BODY – JC does yoga and when she suggested that she get Angelina to do yoga with her I knew it would never happen. Wrong! Now Angelina loves doing the various yoga exercises with JC. No television, no toys, nothing but making her mind and body healthier.
The lesson I’ve learned is that both grandparents can often contribute in equally valuable but very different ways to their grandchildren’s care. AND that the dominant grandparent should let the other grandparent take a turn!