An Open Letter to Grandparents: That Was Then, This is Now

by: Laura Richards
Every generation has ideas of what’s right and best when it comes to parenting, but that doesn’t mean subsequent generations will follow suit. This can cause friction sometimes but with a healthy dose of humor. Parents weigh in on the top nine things that scratch the needle on the record between the generations.

Dear Grandparents,

First and foremost, we love you. That is a given, and our kids are blessed to have you in their lives. We are doing our best as parents and appreciate everything that you do, yet there are some sticking points that are hard to discuss because, well, you’re our parents and we still feel about 5-years-old when we’re around you. So here goes…

Car Seats Save Lives

When we were kids, we rarely used seatbelts and many of us sped down the highway doing somersaults in the back of a van or station wagon while mom sat holding baby brother in her lap in the front passenger seat. And yes, we all lived. We also ate powdered drink mix out of a can with a spoon and walked on train tracks. Because our goal as parents is to stay out of jail and keep our kids alive, car seats are a must. It’s true that our littlest may seem very lonely facing backwards in her car seat but being lonely is life-saving. And yes, it’s lame and seems crazy that our middle schooler is still, “in that damn booster seat” and may, “get a complex” as a result, but the safety guidelines are based on height and weight not age. So, we’ll take the fall along with eye rolling from our short, lightweight preteen as they climb into their booster.

More: The "Grand" in Grandparents

Nix the Clean Plate Club

We were members of the “Clean Plate Club” but are revoking memberships for ourselves and our kids. I mean is it necessary for kids to eat every morsel of those scalloped potatoes which I know, we did as kids, true. Our goal is to get some good, minimally processed, healthy food into our children so it’s quality over quantity and forcing a child to eat because others are starving in China or other places doesn’t fly. Healthy eating and weight are key, so the “Clean Plate Club” is officially passé.

boy refusing to eat grandma's soup

Hugs and Kisses Are Kids’ Choice

As much as we understand that Grandpa Joe, who often forgets his dentures and is always a bit sloshed, just wants a hug from our littlest at our yearly family gathering, think of it from her perspective. Grandpa Joe scares me, and I’m an adult, so to ask my child to wrap her tiny arms around a veritable stranger terrifies her. To help her and our other kids feel comfortable making boundaries about their bodies, we’re just saying no. It’s not disrespectful, it’s allowing kids to have a say. They will kindly greet Grandpa Joe, but it’s up to them about how close they get. I personally will be across the room, but I digress…

Privacy Please!

We know that you guys need and or want to know what’s coming up in our lives but going through papers on our counter, medicine cabinets, or our own personal calendars and taking notes asking why so and so is seeing a urologist makes us squirm with all sorts of uncomfortableness. We get it, you spent at least two decades running every detail our lives, but we are adults with our own children and promise that we’ll share what we need to share. You can trust us because you raised us!

Dirt Isn’t Always “Clean”

Dirt is all well and good but rinsing one’s hands under a cold garden hose does not suffice as having clean hands. I know that our yard is full of random fecal matter from the wild bunnies who roam through like it’s their personal Teletubbies episode, to birds dropping their gifts to whatever remaining poop our dog has left in a random place. Please note that we require hand washing with soap and warm water INSIDE of the house.

little girl playing in dirt

Water May Be Prisonesque

We understand that juice is technically made of fruit, but it’s also loaded with sugar. Having a BJ’s sized stockpile of juice boxes for our kids is a kind gesture but it’s causing cavities, weight issues, and more. We know, we know, water is, “sooo boring!” but that’s where it’s at for many of us. And yes, it can seem prison-like but keeping the kiddos hydrated is our goal, so we’ll take prisonesque water over juice.

More: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

The Family Bed Doesn’t Mean Cult

Every family is different but for some, the family bed or co-sleeping is the way it rolls. I spent one night doing this when my twins were infants and I was awake all night long. They were in their own room the next night and have remained there for the past almost 17 years so co-sleeping is not my thing but it’s many people’s thing. It’s not a cult, they aren’t damaging the kids, they won’t start making their own kefir or start wearing socks with sandals, it just is. What goes on behind closed doors is, well, behind closed doors.

Breastfeeding Can Go Past Year One

Many parents relay being inundated with questions from well-meaning grandparents about why mom is, “still breastfeeding” because the child is almost a toddler and has teeth. Yes, it’s recommended to nurse until age one, but many moms and parents choose to go far beyond that. Look the other way, pretend you don’t know them, leave the room, close your eyes, but please don’t make this a point of contention.

Not All TV Is OK

Many parents relay being raised on TV and some grew up eating in front of the TV but today parents are trying to limit TV and screen time. My parents have the TV on most of the day as they are news junkies and have passed this news junky trait to me. I get it but when the horror of school shootings and all sorts of scary is blaring in front of our highly sensitive, neurotic, alarmist 6-year-old, that’s not OK and it will not, “toughen him up.” One minute of viewing a locked down school story with kids fleeing in tears means a night of hysteria and no sleep in our house.

At the end of the day, grandparents and grandchildren will always have a very special bond. For a fun day together, here are 12 Activities for Grandparents and Grandchildren.