Carol Colvin, AKA "Granny-Guru" offers insight on why grandparents sometime break parenting rules and how it can help child development.
|"Ice Cream Is Not a Meal!"
"Ice cream is not a meal! You never raised us this way! What is it? Does some button get pushed when you become a grandmother!?"
- mother of a 9-year-old and a 7-year-old, to her own mom
Yes, some button gets pushed when we become grandmothers. The frustration expressed by the mom above reflects the shift in power and roles once women become grandmothers.
When we were mothers, we were the role models. We didn't serve ice cream as a substitute for a meal because that is not a healthy way to live, and we were responsible for teaching our children what was healthy - for the long term. Now, our roles are different. We have passed the baton to our daughters or daughters-in-law, and, if they are doing a good job, we feel confident in letting up on the reins a bit.
Of course it's easier. And of course it's more fun. We did the hard part. We raised you or your husbands. Now we feel like we deserve a little rest. And the right to break the rules you've set from time to time. Because our influence is temporary. Your influence is permanent. Besides, we promise to abide by your rules, mostly.
When I was about 10, I remember going for a walk with my grandmother. I was eating candy and dropped some on the ground. My mom's rule had always been: If it falls on the ground, leave it there. You don't eat food off the ground. My grandmother picked it up, inspected it, dusted it off and handed it back to me. "It's fine," she pronounced. I thought the world had changed on its axis. I ate the candy, and was never so picky about such things again.
What we are trying to do is teach that sometimes you can break the rules and the world does not stop turning. With time, this lesson turns into the independence to know that just because someone is black, wheelchair-bound, gay, foreign, slow, or homeless does not give others the right to walk over them, whether there are laws to protect them or not. That just because it has always been done this way doesn't mean it has to be done this way. That just because everyone else is saying it cannot be done does not mean we should quit trying to see if it can. That just because no one else has climbed that mountain does not mean it cannot be climbed.
We hope we are teaching independence of thought, and that breaking the rules with judgment can be a pretty good way to live. And you thought it was just a bowl of ice cream.
Granny-Guru's Grains of Wisdom:
Parents set the rules. Grandparents teach that rules are not the same as the law of gravity.
Carol L. Covin is the author of "Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers," which includes advice that moms and grandmoms would like to offer each other, but were reluctant to share for fear of sounding judgmental. Known as "Granny-Guru," Covin has a unique understanding of this shifting dynamic-and you can get more of her perspective on changes in parenting over the years in her blog, www.newgrandmas.com.
Also see: Granny-Guru's Advice on Parenting Through the Generations
When Your Mom is Your Nanny
How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew