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Parenting around your parents

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As far as I’m concerned, my mother has always been the gold standard of parenting. She has endless patience, inspired creativity, and a perpetual sparkle in her green eyes. Even though we might not agree on things like how much candy is too much for a four-year-old (my answer: any and all candy because he loses his fool mind), I still hold her up as a model of the best of what motherhood can be.

This all makes it really easy to explain that the reason I turn into such a useless sack of personcloth when I’m around her with my kids is because I’m simply observing her fine mothering form. I’m sitting here taking notes and absolutely not just being a total slacker because someone else is there to take care of my kids. Why would anyone even think that?!


Truthfully, being around my parents (especially over the holidays) always makes me feel the following things:

1. I feel lazy as all get-out, because when the grandparents are around, I tend to sit back and take full advantage of the opportunity to relax on the couch instead of play Chutes and Ladders for the three frillionth time;

2. I feel thankful to have had such great parenting role models; and

3. I feel sad that we live almost a thousand miles away and only get to see them a few times a year.

Points 2 and 3 are easy things to talk about, but I haven’t heard a lot of other people share experiences similar to mine on Point 1. Maybe it’s that I’m overly aware of how I parent in front of mine because we see each other so infrequently. Or maybe it’s that I feel like a schlub when they come visit and I eventually realize I haven’t wiped any butts besides my own for days because someone else has taken over that particularly delightful parenting chore.

Tell me: When you parent in front of your parents, how does it go? Do you feel the need to prove yourself—to be supermom, the shining beacon of put-togetherness who has everything under control? Or do you, like me, become the world’s laziest parent because someone else is available to build block castles for three hours straight, meaning you can finally sit back with a book and enjoy what it feels like to be “off the clock” from your 24/7 parenthood gig? When you watch your parents with your kids, do you become the student—asking a million questions and relying on their advice—or do you become the police officer, regulating intake of cookies and television so as not to exceed the AAP’s recommended allowance?

If you’re planning to spend time with your parents (or maybe your spouse’s parents) this holiday season, are you looking forward to it or dreading it? (It’s okay, your secret’s safe with me.)

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  • When we’re at one of the grandparents’ houses (in another state), it feels a lot like being in our house—not much changes. We still do most of the parenting (diaper changes, outing scheduling and executing, etc.), though we occasionally get an assist when it comes to entertaining one while we’re dealing with the other. The grandparents play with the kids, but my youngest is still velcroed to me most of the time. I think the one area we get the most break in is meal prep and clean-up. We do take advantage of the built-in babysitter to go out, but we’re usually so tired from traveling and maintaining our life in someone else’s space that we don’t do that more than once. I don’t feel the need to prove myself; I don’t feel overly judged by any of the grandparents; and there isn’t much of a need to act as police officer because we’re still in charge of everything. Unfortunately, I’m not able to sit back and be lazy in the way I’d like to be. Maybe that will change as the kids get older.

    Lauren E. E.  |  December 13th, 2012 at 11:43 am