Relaxing the Rules When Grandma Visits

Grandma and grandson in hammock

At our November GaGa Sisterhood meeting we engaged in a lively discussion about creativity. Members of the group shared some examples of transformative experiences they’ve had with their grandchildren. One grandma said that being with her grandchild energized her so completely that she became oblivious to everything else.  But she wondered out loud if this gets us in trouble with our children.

Another grandma said that not everyone is charmed by people who are always “on.” Sometimes we need to make space by “turning off” and not imposing our energy on everyone around us.

Her comment triggered a vivid and somewhat embarrassing memory for me when my energy was not welcomed by a young mom. It was Halloween and my grandma friend and I went over to her daughter’s home to see her grandchildren in their Halloween costumes. Her five-year old grandson was decked out in an elaborate pirate costume, complete with eye patch and a sword strapped to his belt. Being the kid that I am, I grabbed my invisible sword and challenged him to a duel.

“Aargh, Matey,” I said, and the two of us began to lunge and parry around the front hall. He was laughing and having almost as much fun as I was when his mom came around the corner and said: “Let’s not get him all ramped up before we go out to trick-or-treat!” I quickly apologized and retreated to the couch.

That lesson is still with me today, but I have to confess that occasionally I get reprimanded by my daughter for ramping up my granddaughters when I’m visiting. Since my six-year old granddaughter started first grade, I’ve had to be much more conscious about not distracting her as she gets ready for bed at night or school in the morning. Once I read her a story at breakfast and she became so engaged that she stopped eating.

Another time, I let her and her two-year old sister play with the “unapproved” plastic dolls that I bought several years ago. I’d forgotten the preference for wooden toys and cloth dolls. To my daughter’s credit, she has been letting the girls play with those contraband dolls as a special treat whenever I’m there. But then they go back in the closet until I return.

During my last visit, my daughter and I had a breakthrough. I was able to bring up the issue of possibly relaxing the rules a tiny bit when I’m visiting. I understand that when I disrupt the routines, it’s hard to get back to them after I leave. But part of being a grandma is providing special treats, lots of attention, and extra playtime. By talking about the issue together, we reached a compromise that satisfied both of us. Now I’m more conscious of helping my granddaughter stay on track as she gets ready for school. I only reward her with a story after all of her morning routines are completed.

I love the way my two granddaughters are turning out so, of course, I respect their parents’ rules. I want to create harmony when I’m there (and after I leave), not disruption. It’s another good reminder to keep the lines of communication open and recognize that, as grandmothers, we’re always learning and growing in our role.


  1. says

    I must admit that my grandchildren sometimes drain me rather than energize me. Your grandchildren are lucky to have a grandmother who will engage in imaginary sword duels!

    One of my friends who visits her grandchildren for a week or so at a time tells me that she just stays out of the way in the mornings until the kids get off to school. Her daughter and son-in-law have their morning routine down pat, and she doesn’t want to disturb it. She then has her time with the kids in the afternoons and evenings. I guess each family must work out their own compromises.