I’ve heard many grandmas say they sometimes feel a need to compete with the “other” grandma for the best presents or the coolest vacation or the best storyteller (read another post on this subject). I’ve never felt the need to do that because I see my granddaughters so often and feel secure in their love. I always make a point of asking about the fun things they do when they visit their paternal grandparents. I remind myself that my son-in-law’s parents hold just as important a place in my granddaughters’ lives as I do—even though I have more “face” time with them.
Being the “Special” Grandma
Ever since I became a grandma seven years ago, I’ve considered myself to be the “special” grandma—the one my two granddaughters feel closest to. Being the maternal grandma and living closer to my two granddaughters, I see them more often and have a close bond that I’ve nurtured with twice-monthly overnights and lots of phone calls in between. I’m the one who gives them my undivided attention, gets down on the floor with them, plays hide and seek until they drop, reads as many books as they want, and hardly ever says “no” to any of their requests.
But having that honored status can cause some awkward moments. When my husband, my mother and I come to visit, sometimes the girls run past their grandpa and great-grandma straight into my arms and ignore the other two who are left standing there waiting for their hugs. Five years ago, when my older granddaughter celebrated her second birthday, the other grandparents were also at the party. My granddaughter only wanted to sit on my lap as she opened all her presents. Being relatively new in this situation, I didn’t know what to do. I felt embarrassed at being singled out for all the affection and knew that if the situation were reversed, I would feel disappointed I wasn’t getting any attention.
After the party, we had a little family discussion to talk about what happened. My mother and daughter came up with a solution we’ve put into place since then. Whenever there’s a celebration and one of the girls opens a present, she goes and sits next to the person who gave her the gift. That way the person can have the pleasure of watching her open it and feel some of the excitement right beside her.
Being the “Other” Grandma
Recently, I had a taste of what it feels like to be the grandma with the lower status. But it didn’t come from the “other” grandma. It was during a visit with one of my daughter’s friends. My three-year old granddaughter had taken a liking to this new friend who’s also a mom. I could see why—she was a lot like me in the way she gave the little one all her attention and carried her around on her back. When we all went out to dinner together, my granddaughter said: “Rachel’s my best friend and I’m going to sit next to her at dinner!”
I must confess I felt some rivalry for this woman who’d taken over my status as the “favored one!” At the restaurant my granddaughter, who always sits on my lap at meals, sat beside her new “best friend” and completely ignored me. I was crushed. It was a new experience for me and one that gave me more empathy for the family members who often get short shrift when I’m around. I had to suck it up and recognize that children live in the moment and whomever they’re with in that moment they love the most.
What I learned from this experience is to make sure I don’t hog all the attention when my granddaughters fall all over me and teach them to share their love with the other family members who are present.