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Taking a Trip to Grandma's House

Should the grandparents be exempt from rules and restrictions when the kids visit?

An older woman held out a pair of converse sneakers to me. Though a little scuffed on one toe, they had only been worn once. C hadn’t liked the way they felt. So they ended up in our garage sale.

“How much are these,” she asked.

“50 cents,” I said.

She dug in her change purse and handed two quarters.

“My grandson can wear these when he comes to my house,” she said, “His mother doesn’t like for him to get dirty.”

I ventured a guess, “Daughter-in-law?”

She smiled slyly, “Yes, how did you know?”

I’ve been someone’s daughter-in-law since 1997 when I married my best friend—and the baby boy of his family. There was a lot of tension for many years between my husband’s mother and I. After all, I imagine it’s hard to “lose” your son to another woman.

She’s been the core of her family, the nurturer and the guiding force for her boys. She’s a fierce mother who only wants the best for her children, and I can relate to her for that. I haven’t always been the easiest daughter-in-law to deal with. I did make the request that the boys not get dirty when they visit her on her farm.

She went out and bought the boys shoes and play clothes for when we visit her house. That way she can take the boys into the garden, the creek, or the woods without worrying about returning them in ruined clothes and upsetting me. For that, I am both grateful and deeply ashamed.

Visiting my grandparents when we were little was so much fun. My Grandma spoiled us rotten. She slipped us dollar bills and stuffed us with cookies and soda. She made the best fried potatoes in a cast-iron skillet and soothed our bee stings with a piece of her aloe plant. Her yard was the best for tree climbing, hide-and-go-seek, and freeze tag.

My grandparents also had a creek.

The creek wasn’t really anything more than a drainage ditch that ran in front of their house. But when it rained, it overflowed and my brother, cousins, and I would splash and slosh to our hearts content. I clearly remember lying on my stomach trying to completely submerge myself.  We emerged from that sewer ditch muddy, soaking wet, and happy as clams. I never remember my mother being angry or upset with her mother-in-law, my grandmother, for letting us get dirty. We were allowed to enjoy our grandparents and just be kids.

Being a grandparent comes with certain privileges. You can stuff the kids with ice cream for breakfast, feed them blackberries straight from the bush, buy them as many noisy toys as you like—you’ve earned the right. I know that I’ve been unreasonable in some of my, ahem, requests for my children’s visits to my in-laws house. I could argue that some are necessary due to E’s ADHD and Asperger’s and C’s allergies, but I can never argue the fact that when they visit with their grandparents, they are happy, well fed, and very well loved.

Patti Baratta May 23, 2011 at 01:26 PM
LOVED that! Great insight, Holly! I think anything goes when it comes to grandparents. My parents are certainly not the same people I grew up with. For example, my daughter is still under the impression that I must have had cake available 24/7 when I was growing up. My mom always has cake when my kids are there and she does not mind if they select that as a meal replacement! But with all of the things that I roll my eyes over, my kids have great "go-to" people when mom and dad (my husband and I) are being "unreasonable." (they are teens and we are always unreasonable, it seems). For that reason alone, I still say that anything goes at grandmas!
Holly Hunt May 23, 2011 at 03:09 PM
I love it, Patti! I remember running to my grandmother when I got in trouble at her house. As long as I was with her, I knew I could get away with anything! It was nice to have her to run to then- and later on. I may not always agree with everything my parents or in-laws do with my kids, but I know they're always in very good, very loving, hands.
Carol Covin May 24, 2011 at 04:47 PM
I don't think anything goes at the grandparents' house. I'm a Grandma. But, I think, especially if the parents are doing a good job of setting the daily rules - good food, pick up your toys, go to bed on time - then, the grandparents can loosen the rules. One Grandma described the attitude perfectly, "What happens at Grandma's house, stays at Grandma's house." There is no reason to cause trouble for the parents by letting their children think these rules are for everyday. I also live near a creek and take the grandchildren there every time they visit. Hope they will have the same lovely memories.
A Forrest May 25, 2011 at 02:30 PM
Does it really matter when it is all done out of love. Perhaps there are certain rules that should be shared, but for the most part just being with grandpa or grandma should be fun. I think nap time is one of those that should be shared because changing that one makes for a 'cranky' baby. As for anything else it should be at the discretion of the grand parents. Remember, they raised you and you have turned out wonderfully.

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