Competing with the “Other” Grandmother

by Donne Davis on January 27, 2009

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Competition between grandmothers is human nature. One grandmother wrote:

I don’t know if I have the courage or not to bring it up, but one thing that daunts me sometimes is that, as hard as I try, the OTHER Grandma does 1000% more wonderful things for my two grandchildren than I can. And it has dampened my spirit.  For example, I was mailing a package to my granddaughter every 2 weeks that included fun surprises and art I’d drawn for her.  But she let me know that “Grammy” (the other) sends her packages every other day.  And Grammy sews her a spectacular Halloween costume every year, has made a million quilts for her, and her dollies, sends homemade cupcakes, lots of candy and toys, and on and on.  I know it’s not a competition, and I’m so glad that my grandchildren have so much love in their life, but I feel like a slouch sometimes by comparison to “Grammy.” I just wish I could turn Grammy down a notch, so our contributions wouldn’t be so unbalanced. But that would be selfish.

I remember the first time it happened to me. I had just finished a wonderful three-day visit with my granddaughter. As I was getting ready to leave, the “other” grandmother (read another post on this subject) arrived with presents in arms. Instead of my usual sendoff, where Juliet stands in the driveway waving goodbye until I turn the corner, she gave me a quick hug and ran to see what her “other” grandma had brought her. It was a bit of a shock. I had to remind myself that my son-in-law’s parents hold just as important a place in my grandchild’s life as I do—even though I have more “face” time with her.

That experience happened several years ago and I am totally cool with the “other” grandmother now. 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.

But I also realize that the more people who love my grandchildren, the better off they will be. And children are very much in the moment—so whoever they are with is who they love most. Our grandchildren need the love of all their grandparents, but it’s not a competition. Overindulgence isn’t healthy for a child and creates an expectation that feeds the need to continue it. Ideally, the responsibility falls on the parents to set some limits and ask grandparents to hold back on the gift giving. But if that doesn’t happen, we have to be objective about our relationship with our grandchildren. As long as we are secure in our relationship with them, they will sense that and feel comfortable and loved.

And in the long run, isn’t that what really matters?

{ 1 comment }

Nina Lewis February 6, 2009 at 11:54 am

This post has really touched my heart. I have often felt the need to ‘keep up’ with our children’s in-laws. My husband keeps telling me I shouldn’t worry about it. But I do . . . I’m hoping that as our grandchildren grow up they will realize that just because we don’t shower them with as many gifts that we still love them deeply!

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