Spending Equal Time With Your Grandchildren

by Donne Davis on June 4, 2009

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I only have two grandchildren, but at times I find it challenging to give them equal attention. I often wonder how grandmothers with lots of grandchildren spread their time among them.

Juliet had me all to herself for almost four years before her little sister, Amelia, was born.  She’s an incredibly loving sister, but I think sometimes she forgets she has to share me. For the first year of Amelia’s life, I rarely got time alone with her because Juliet was always vying for my attention. I kept wondering: when am I going to get to know Amelia?

Now that Juliet is in kindergarten, I am getting some quality time alone with my little “Pixie,” as I lovingly refer to Amelia. As she acquires more language and we spend more time together, we’re bonding the way I did with her big sister.

But, when the three of us are together, I need to constantly remind myself that I need to give equal attention to the little one. Otherwise, Juliet tends to dominate in games or choose an activity that is too advanced for Amelia.

The other day we were playing on their swing set and Juliet kept wanting my help on the monkey bars. Meanwhile, Amelia sat patiently in her swing waiting for me to come back and push her. It made me realize that I need to be more conscious of Amelia’s needs until she starts asking for them herself. You know what they say about the “squeaky wheel” getting all the attention!

I’ve read a lot of comments from parents who say they feel bad when grandparents show favoritism toward a particular grandchild. I sure don’t want to get caught in that dilemma.

So how do you grandmothers with several grandchildren manage to give equal time to each one?

{ 4 comments }

Julia Lowcher September 7, 2010 at 9:45 am

What a nice grandparent you are to even be worried about this. I am the mother of 2 girls who has never lived close to grandparents. My husband’s parents passed away before I met him. My own mother & stepfather visit every 2-3 years. We see them 1-2 times a year if I make the effort to visit them. She lives near my step sister & her kids in the summer & sees them frequently. The rest of her kids live far away. She makes an effort to see my other sister’s kids 1-3 times a year, even flying one in for 2 months every summer while he is out of school since my sister is a single working parent. It is hurtful that she makes so little effort to see my kids. I am lucky to be a stay at home mom, and i know it is her loss that she doesn’t know her own grandkids. She does send cards & presents at birthdays & Christmas if we are not with her. She has been retired since before my kids were born & is not on a fixed income. She & her husband enjoy a nice life with 2 homes & frequent international travel. My grandparents were so important to me growing up nearby them. It’s a pity that she seems to be so selfish, but there is nothing I can do to change it. I am working on changing the way I react to it.

Donne September 7, 2010 at 6:18 pm

First, let me congratulate you for changing the way you react. That is a very healthy thing to do and will help you accept what you apparently cannot change.
I’m so sorry because it is a loss for all of you. I have such a hard time understanding grandparents who are not involved in their children and grandchildren’s lives. They bring us such joy at a time in our lives when we have the wisdom and patience to really get to know them. And they help us understand ourselves better, too.
The only thing I can suggest is that you find some surrogate grandparents for your girls – neighbors, friends, or people from some other circle of your life.
I wrote a post on a new website on surrogate grandparenting.
Good luck.

Carolyn Weston August 26, 2010 at 8:33 am

I was really taken with your article. I am the parent of two girls, Annie (7) and Charlotte (2). Annie was the first and only grandchild in my husband’s family for about 4 years before the second, and six months later, third grandchildren came along. Annie received so much wonderful one-on-one time from her grandparents – sleep overs and, for her first two years, baby sitting two days a month while I worked. When the second grandchild came along, my niece, she also received this same amount of attention – sleep overs with lots of traditions established from Annie and other babysitting as my sister-in-law needed. With both Annie and my niece, my inlaws have been amazing – so caring, fun, giving and supportive.

When my second child, Charlotte, came along six months after my niece, there just didn’t seem to be any room or time left, and that has only continued to be the case. There have not been any fun sleep overs at Grandma’s house or one-on-one time for Charlotte, so she is missing all of the fun traditions that the other girls are making. The times my in-laws have spent alone with Charlotte has been so limited, that I can count them on one hand in her two years. I know what good people my in-laws are, so I can’t imagine that this is intentional, but they have acknowledged the situation and have not made efforts to make any changes. There seems to be limitless willingness on their part to care for and spend time with my niece and my older daughter, but it does hurt my feelings that Charlotte does not seem to be a priority in their lives in the same way. I worry that as she becomes old enough to understand the stories that her sister and cousin share about their time with my in-laws, she will also understand that she didn’t get that same kind of time.

As a parent, I can completely understand that time with grandchildren can not be completely equal, as you only have so much time to give, but I do think that it is important to try to be in the ball park in order to avoid potentially hurting the feelings of you grandchildren as they get older or your own children who are watching the situation unfold.

Susan Adcox June 6, 2009 at 9:15 am

I have seven grandchildren, and it’s impossible to spend equal time with them. As they have gotten old enough to understand, I have tried to explain that I love them all and want to spend time with them all, but there is no way I can keep everything equal. I definitely spend more time with the ones who live ten minutes away instead of the ones who live one hour away, so that is one factor. Another factor is that my son doesn’t have custody of his daughter, so we don’t get to see her as often. Also, I don’t try to keep up with how much money I spend on each one as that can be a nightmare also. I hope by not becoming a strict accountant in these matters that I can make the point that love is not something to be quantified.

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