My GRANDPARENTS, on the other hand...especially my grandmother...well, they're another story altogether.
Granted, they're in their 80's and they've seen their fair share of kids, grandkids and great-grandkids go through every stage of life from prenatal to grandparenthood. They've seen just about everything from bad grades to tantrums and from school bullies to mouthy adolescents. They have a lot of advice to offer. And it's usually advice I'm glad to hear. Words of wisdom like "Choose your battles carefully." and "Let him make his own bed sometimes. And then let him lie in it a while!" I've found that it's gotten easier to listen to the older generation as my children have grown older. (Even when the older generation is butting in and no one asked what they thought in the first place.) Because parenting a grown man and three teenagers? (Or, I guess I should say a 20 year old, a 17 year old and two almost thirteen year olds.) Well, it's actually not quite as simple as it was when I had four babies under the age of eight who depended on me completely and sort of thought I knew what I was doing! (Somewhere along the way the children figured out that their daddy and I don't always have all the answers!)
But occasionally...occasionally there are the little jabs and digs that burn my butt. Every now and then, I'm on the phone chatting with my grandma when one of the twins whacks the other in the head with a golf club. On purpose! And when I chastise the offender, what do I hear coming from the other end of the telephone line?
"Why are you yelling? Will you quit fussing at that boy?! Don't you dare ground him!"
"Yeah, but Grandma he just knocked his brother's front teeth out!"
"Well it was an accident. That's a sweet child! Don't you make him feel any worse!"
Or...Darling Daughter asks permission to drive herself and a friend to the beach for the day, (two hours away, mind you) spend the night with a family we've never met, go shark fishing and scuba diving and then hitchhike back home.
Naturally, I say "Forget about it!"
"Do you ever let that child do anything fun? You have to show that you trust her, you know! She's a good girl and she would never do anything she isn't supposed to. You let her go out and have fun with her little friends! After all...I can remember well what YOU were up to at her age and you can just be thankful she's asking your permission first!"
Sure thing, Grandma. How about I tell the FBI to question YOU first when they want to know who let her jump in the truck with an ex-con? For the most part, I just bite my tongue. Or calmly explain why I'm doing things my way and not hers.
I'm just grateful that I had my babies first among all of my cousins. Because the nagging and criticizing has gotten progressively worse over the last two decades and with each successive great-grandchild.
My poor cousin? She never gets a rest. She's constantly in Grandma's doghouse. Because she's such an awful mother. She and her husband do such horrible things as:
Make their little girls brush their teeth every day!
Have them make their own beds every morning.
Tell them to pick up their own messes.
Potty train their daughters before age three!
Teach them to dress themselves.
Let them comb their own hair!
Force them to load the dishwasher.
Make them put away their clean laundry.
Deny them candy every time they go through the Wal-Mart check out!!
Make them earn their allowance!!
Oh, the injustice of it all! My mean old cousin disciplines her little daughters. They have to behave themselves! At home and in PUBLIC! They have to say "Yes, ma'am" and "No thank you" and "Please." They aren't supposed to climb on things or jump on the furniture! They wipe up their messes when they use the sink. They leave the bathroom just like they found it! They put things in the trash can!
How can anyone be so cruel to three small girls! It borders on child abuse. I'm just sayin'.
At least it does according to Grandma.
As far as she's concerned, those tiny blond children should be coddled and spoiled and catered to. They should call all the shots. They should get ice cream for dinner and candy for breakfast. Their mama should be up at the crack of dawn to hand wash and starch and press their frilly pink dresses and roll their hair in pin curls. She should make their lunches and pack their bags and walk them to their classrooms to warn the teachers to treat them as the fragile porcelain dolls they are. They should NOT, under any circumstances, be playing ball with boys at recess. They shouldn't be eating from a lunchroom try like commoners. They shouldn't be wrinkled at any time. And they should NEVER be corrected for throwing fits in the floor. The only reason they throw fits in the first place is because they know their mom is incompetent.
My cousin is a good mom. A really good one. She loves her girls with all her heart and it shows. They girls are adorable and well-behaved for their ages. They're pretty self-sufficient, too. Their mom hand sews their costumes for Halloween. She helps with homework. She encourages them to do their best. She teaches them that every member of a family should contribute to the running of the household. Even the three year old.
And that's what irks me about Grandma butting in. If my cousin really DID let the girls run rampant while she ironed their underpants, Grandma would have plenty to say about that! So why all the criticism? Why not a compliment or two for doing a good job? Why is she always picking on one cousin and not the rest of them?
I'm pretty sure it's because the rest would quickly get fed up with it and tell her what to do with her opinions.