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How to resolving a conflict with my family over the care of our toddler?
January 18, 2009 5:33 PM   Subscribe

My parents have been gracious enough to take care of my 19 month old boy in the morning while my wife and I are at work. Turns out, there has been more than a bit of tension brewing and this weekend, it boiled over. There was yelling, accusations tears etc. Help me solve this family dispute please...

My wife and I both work as elementary school teachers. She works half time in the mornings, during which time, my parents, who are retired have graciously volunteered to take care of our 19 month old boy, their only grandson. They love him very much as one might suspect and generally do a great job taking care of him. They talk to in ways we don't and share experiences with him that we have not. He loves them very much and has established great bond.

Unfortunately, the lines between grandparent (spoil your grandchild with cookies, lots of tv etc), care giver and parent have gotten blurred. When we started this arrangement, we were promised without solicitation, that all of our parenting wishes would be respected.

As time has gone by, that really has been changing. One example might be with our son's use of a security blanket, which are doctor encouraged, but my mother openly discouraged my son to use even though we asked her not to repeatedly. Television time has been another issue. Food still another in that we have tried to provide guidelines about what we would like our son to eat, but have now been called "anal" because we told them we didn't want our toddler eating a hungry man breakfast that was full of preservatives, salt and fat. Another issue still has been his sleep schedule which they at times have refused to follow despite our explicit wishes. We are criticized for changing various things about his care too often, to which we respond, he is a toddler and he is changing every week! Of course his care is going to change!

We would very much like for our son to continue to spend this time with his grandparents, but we also want to make it clear that we are the parents and make the decisions regarding his care, while giving them some "grandparent time" with which to spoil him. We tell them how thankful we are for their love, care and time every time we see them, yet they do not "feel appreciated".
We also want them to feel like grandparents and be able to spoil him a bit but are not sure how to draw the line between caregiver and grandparent. One thought we have had is to simply seek daycare elsewhere and take the caregiver piece out of the equation allowing them to be just grandparents.
How do we talk to them about this without hurting their feelings, and make this work out for all of us?

The other piece of this is that my father was just diagnosed with slow growing prostate cancer, so everyone's emotions are a bit fried anyway.

Thanks for your thoughts.
posted by pazoozoo to Human Relations (39 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
One thought we have had is to simply seek daycare elsewhere and take the caregiver piece out of the equation allowing them to be just grandparents.

This is the answer. Really.
posted by k8t at 5:38 PM on January 18, 2009 [10 favorites]


The huge, huge caveat here is that I don't have any children of my own. So feel free to discount everything I'm saying on that basis, ok?

But in reality, kids are stunningly resilient and adaptable creatures. A couple of disgusting processed-food meals every week won't cause a child to develop a third arm overnight. And kids have no trouble with the idea that there are different rules and schedules in different contexts -- so the sleep schedules and security blanket issues are a lot less perplexing to the kid than they are to you.

So my advice is to mellow out. As long as he is being loved, and played with, and nurtured, he is going to be just fine. The kind of parenting you are describing is a very peculiar modern phenomenon, and has a lot of benefits, but also is not the only possible path to childhood happiness.

Sure, put down your foot about the one or maybe two things that are really, genuinely important, and that you would feel proud to describe to your kid in twenty years how you had to step in to protect him. If Grandpa is sharing his unfiltered cigarettes with the kid, that's a good example, right? But the blankie, or nap time details, probably not.

[We] are not sure how to draw the line between caregiver and grandparent

There is no line -- they are grandparents, and that is a wonderful balance for the kid to have in his life. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when I was small, and it was very different than time with my parents. More spoiling in some ways, much stricter in others, different food, different household rules, different everything. And that was great -- if one place was too much, I could go to the other and get away from what wasn't working for me. To have one set of rules and oversight that follows the kid from place to place in his panopticon -- that's not fair to the kid or to the grandparents.
posted by Forktine at 5:50 PM on January 18, 2009 [14 favorites]


Meh, care by someone who loves a kid is really, really hard to come by. I say this as someone who lives under the possibility of Grandma running out and baptizing my kid behind my back.

In the face of cancer, I really don't think it matters all that much if a kid is eating bacon for breakfast. It's pretty much the only time in your life where that doesn't really matter.

The security blanket is harder--maybe fight for that one, but don't fight for every damn thing and don't stick the kid in daycare because of this disagreement. If you think you have differences w/Grandma and Grandpa, I imagine the differences with day care workers wouldn't be any better and would be harder to navigate without the genuine bond your parents feel with your kid.

In any relationship, the success depends on how well you articulate your needs and boundaries, so you kind of have to stand up and do that here, but I guess I'm trying to say, do that, but don't make a big deal out of every single thing. The things you compromise on are the ones you can leverage later, and you're not going to regret your parents feeding your kid Pop-tarts twenty years from now. You just won't care, you'll just be glad they were there.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:55 PM on January 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


Forktine is right. Unless there's imminent threat to life and limb, mellow out and try not to worry about it. Enjoy them while they're around, and let the kid do the same.
posted by languagehat at 5:58 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Are you paying them? Could you? Maybe even paying a little something, or offering them some service in exchange, would make them feel more appreciated and also more like doing things your way.

I'm really not sure whether this would work or just offend them, but it's one idea.
posted by amtho at 5:59 PM on January 18, 2009


My sister in law has the same issue. Her mother, my mother in law, cares for my niece twice a week, she's the same age as your son. And of course instructions are ignored and she picks up some bad behaviours (like right now, climbing on the dining table) but there's genuine love there and grandparents will be grandparents.

I remember when my mother decided I was not to eat candy. Ever. Then of course my grandparents visited and candy made its appearance.

My sister in law has accepted that there are some things she has to let slide because she can't afford (and doesn't want) her child to go to childcare every day.

Sleep is important, TV is important, the blanket is important, and the rest can probably slide for now. Cancer is hard. Take a deep breath. Everything with your son will be fine.
posted by wingless_angel at 6:03 PM on January 18, 2009


I largely agree with Forktine. I do have a child.

In your shoes I would say 'Look, so the food thing isn't an issue, I'll bring the food,' and then stock my parents' fridge with little tubs of my own homemade what-not, and so long as the food I brought wasn't being ignored, I would not make an issue out of some junk food interludes. I am not big on small tots eating crap, but in some cases their relationship with the person giving them the crap is so much more important and beneficial it really is best to overlook it.

Sleep...schedule? I mean, these are grandparents; they can put a tired toddler down for a nap when a tired toddler needs a nap. I would never expect naptime with Grandma to work exactly like it does with Mum and I'm pretty sure toddlers don't expect that, either.

I wonder if some of the "changing various things about his care too often" stuff going on might really be making babysitting unpleasant for them? I long to be Grandma. I would not want to be in a Grandma situation where all my interactions with the grandchild were spelled out for me.

Bottom line of course is that this is free day care -- not an easy commodity to come by -- and if you don't like it you're welcome to go elsewhere etc. But I think loving grandparents beat pretty much all other day care arrangements, even if Grandpa occasionally serves a Hungry-Man for breakfast. Cool off for a few weeks, then figure out what things you absolutely can't live with, and calmly talk to your parents about those few things.

FWIW, I cook a lot, good stuff from scratch, and since we drop ours with Grandma and Grandpa every now and then I try to bring them good stuff to eat. I do so hoping it will make them feel appreciated for the free babysitting. They seem appreciative of the food appreciation.
posted by kmennie at 6:07 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


"One thought we have had is to simply seek daycare elsewhere and take the caregiver piece out of the equation allowing them to be just grandparents. "

My experience is that in the majority of cases you aren't going to get your parents to change how they take care of your son; especially on stuff they don't consider important like food. To that end you either need to accept it or change the only thing you have control over IE: daycare provider. An acceptable compromise may be for them to take care of him one or two days a week while taking him to another provider for the other days. Justify it with a need for socialization that he isn't getting with no other kids around.
posted by Mitheral at 6:10 PM on January 18, 2009


Also, remember that they raised you, and we didn't use to be so...um, 'anal'. And you turned out OK.
posted by dawson at 6:14 PM on January 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


btw, I didn't mean that as snarky as it sounded.
posted by dawson at 6:15 PM on January 18, 2009


I'm going to disagree with many of the people here -- he is your son, and should be raised as you see fit. If your parents aren't willing to do that, then yes, you need to go for the daycare option. They think they know best (and they may, or again they may not), and no amount of explaining from you is going to get them to see you as a parent; they see you as *their child*. Some grandparents might be fine with following their kids' rules and regs for raising the grandchildren; yours aren't. Don't try to force the issue. Put the kid in daycare.
posted by tzikeh at 6:28 PM on January 18, 2009


Forktine has it exactly right. There is no substitute for having your child lovingly cared for by family. I doubt that even the best day care center would come close to the affection and attention he gets from your parents. I wish like crazy that my family lived near us and could have a hand in raising and influencing our son. But they don't.

If your parents were doing things that endangered your child, of course you'd end the arrangement. But I think that you need to cut your parents some slack here. Tell them what you want each day (here are his meals, this is his naptime, here are his snacks and his blankie) and then step away. Go to work knowing that he is safe, loved, and happy. And that your parents are happy too, and that you're incredibly blessed and lucky to have this arrangement. And maybe in 25 - 30 years, you'll be fortunate enough to have your own grandchild, and you can spoil him rotten. Or not.

Deep breaths, everyone. Look at the big picture and pick out what's really important here.
posted by Kangaroo at 6:35 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have three children and experienced something similar because my parenting style is much different than my mother's (and sounds a lot like yours).

If you think this will escalate into something that will permanently affect the family dynamic, then I'd say put your child in daycare and let the grandparents just be grandparents. However...

Be aware that your every wish still may not be followed in daycare either, or you may end up frustrated by some of their policies (they serve Kool-Aid instead of the carrot juice you supply, or that, despite what you're told, the staff puts videos on all day to keep the kids "occupied"). Also, since you place a high emphasis on your child's day-to-day health, remember that many daycares are little germ incubators.

In the end, I'd rather know that my child is with someone who loves them, then with someone that I'm paying to care.

I'm sorry your family isn't respecting your wishes and I wish they understood what a burden that places on parents who are already stressed about a thousand other things. In partial defense of them, let me suggest that parenting your way (which sounds very similar to my way) is hard work. Instead of plunking junior in front of the tv with a Lunchable, there's cooking and entertaining to figure out. Think how tired you are as parents, then realize yours are older and out of practice.

Trust me, when your child is 15 the extra few hours of tv your son got when he was too young to even remember won't matter a bit.
posted by _Mona_ at 6:53 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I agree that it's really great to have people who love your kid caring for him, but at the same time, your child's caretakers need to respect your choices as your kid's parent. I don't know that your choice is to give in or put your son in daycare, but the suggestions that you "mellow out" and let your parents ignore your parenting choices aren't quite completely what you seem to need. Maybe you do need to mellow out, on small stuff, as a compromise, but when you think something is important and your child's caretaker brushes it off as "anal"? That's a problem. Maybe a good long conversation between the four of you could straighten this out, but the change shouldn't be one-sided.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:00 PM on January 18, 2009


I have a 22-month-old son and would find many of these issues upsetting as well. Toddlers are hugely affected by even small changes in schedule. It's not being anal: it's giving the child what he needs to feel comfortable, a daily routine. Sleep particularly--everyone I know with a child this age is incredibly wedded to a sleep schedule, because if you stray too far everyone pays, especially the poor kid who is thrown off and doesn't have the ability to understand why (resulting in lots of tantrums, poor sleep, etc.). It seems cruel to give such a young child a hard time about a security blanket that your doctor is on board with (and which, presumably, makes him feel secure). And a Hungry Man dinner for breakfast? In my world, never. That stuff is no good for adults, let alone a small child. I also feel pretty strongly about TV.

This doesn't mean your parents are bad people; I agree with other posters that they grew up in another time when care differed. But I doubt that you can ever negotiate the kind of care from them that you would like to see. It is too hard to get past the parent-child dynamic that they're clearly reverting to. I think most grandparents, understandably, have this issue to some degree; some manage to get past it, and others don't. Your parents aren't, and since they don't sound like they want to, I wouldn't expect that to change.

The main thing to do is find a daycare, stat. It will cost you, but it will be worth every penny for all the stress it will spare you from. And I would make it a fait accompli: we've found a daycare for him, he will start on x day.

I am not sure how to explain it to them. It's touchy, no doubt, and the method will depend a lot on their personalities. But I might try to explain that you feel like you were mixing "business" with "family" and it wasn't working out well, placing the major emphasis on your (genuine) concern that they really enjoy their time with your son, and that you want to keep everyone on good terms with no resentment or festering disagreements. You could also mention wanting to take a little weight off your parents now that they have your father's health to think about; some people in a similar situation might be insulted, while others might be secretly hoping you'd give them a break. (Mitheral's "socialization" excuse is also a good one, and, frankly, that's truly the main reason I put my son in daycare a few months ago.)

One caveat: Daycares vary a lot. I'm assuming, and it may be a big assumption, that you can find a good one. If all you can find is a mediocre home care with TV, iffy snacks, and a poor child/adult ratio, maybe it's not a huge advantage. Ours (we got lucky) is very structured, almost like a preschool, so the "rules" are to our liking.
posted by Herkimer at 7:13 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


By parent-child dynamic, I mean that they are still treating you as their child and, in addition, they are taking your place as parents to your son.
posted by Herkimer at 7:15 PM on January 18, 2009


Sorry to hear about your father, I'm sure this is further complicating the emotional component to this situation.
Why don't you try putting your son in daycare or a mother's day out program for 2-3 days a week (even 1/2 days). He'll still benefit from the quality time with the grandparents as well as having a bit of the routine that you prefer. Your son will adjust and benefit from socialization with other kiddos and it will give your parents time to themselves and for any upcoming doctor's appointments.
Personally, I think it's okay for grandparents to spoil their grandkids a bit, it's when they spoil them rotten that you need to intervene. A bit of daycare might make things better for everyone.
posted by MuckWeh at 7:17 PM on January 18, 2009


My mother takes care of my 7-year-old son after school, before I come home from work, and it works great for us. Two things:

1) I pay her.
2) I decide what's really, REALLY important to me, and let the rest be up to her.

Before you pay someone else, you might try offering a salary to your parents. It might be weird now that you're into the pattern already (I just asked her at the outset: "I want a full-time job, do you want to take care of my son & I'll pay you?") And then, if they agree, just write down the things that are the MOST important to you. And see if they can respect those things. Then, relax about everything else and let your parents develop their own relationship with your child.

It might not work for you (everybody's different)... but it's something to try before the daycare option. Good luck.
posted by eleyna at 7:28 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't have children. But I'd say leave the child in the care of his grandparents who love him. Focus on resolving 1 or 2 conflict items, and let the others go. To spend time with loving family is priceless.

As for TV... some of my fondest memories are of watching TV with my grandparents in the 1960s. We watched all those all violent western TV shows, chatting during commercials, while my grandfather smoked pack after pack of Marlboros. If I was hungry I got cookies and root beer.

Unhealthy TV, second-hand smoke, refined sugar, and getting to know and love my grandparents over many long hours. I wouldn't trade a minute of it.
posted by valannc at 7:46 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Seek childcare elsewhere, let the grandparents babysit on date nights. It's not worth the conflict.
posted by Ostara at 7:56 PM on January 18, 2009


Nip this shit in the bud and hire a real care giver instead of the grandparents. Realize that when you do that the kid will be upset and angry with you probably. Console yourself by knowing that this situation would only get worse as the grandparents ignore your wishes, setting up a constant tug of war with you as the child learns to play sides. It's one thing to have differences of opinion, it's another to be called anal and ignored by your parents over how you raise your child. You wouldn't take that from caregiver, do not take it from. Of course still let them be grandparents, but the active daycare? No, you should end that as quick as possible.

Yes, nip this now or you will be fighting this battle over other, more important issues. Do you really want to be going back and forth with the kid over how "grandma/granddad let me do X, why don't you?"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:59 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Soooo....
- Your parents have him everyday, for half a day, an amount that doesn't result in just "being spoiled by Grandma" but in setting formative expectations about what he is and is not able to do, and the authority his parents have in setting limits for him,
- Your reasonable requests about basic aspects of your toddler's development like food, sleep, and security are being disregarded systemically, despite a promise otherwise,
- And you are now enduring character slurs because of your parenting choices

If this were just for one or two days a week, I'd say let it go. If it were "one or two bad meals a week" or "too many cookies," I'd say let it go. If it were a six year old bonding with Gramps over westerns I'd say let it go. But it's not. I think having another child care solution waiting in the wings means you can have a serious conversation with them about what you want and what you're willing to do to get it. You could either have the hard conversation with them about honoring their promise and that if they can't respect (most) of your wishes as parents, that you are considering alternate childcare. Or you can have a softer conversation, especially in the face of what may be escalating health concerns and commitments on your father's part. "We love how much you love Toddler Pazoozo. We appreciate how generous you are with yourselves. We think that it makes sense to let you be grandparents to him, in a way that truly shows up as grandparents and not as child care providers. We think this is best for him, for you, and for us. Our hope is that this will also give you more time to deal with Dad's health issues and make the time we spend together the best it can be."

I think you will have to search long and hard to find a childcare facility that gives your child Hungry Man meals, has no clear policy on naps, discourages transitional objects, and sits your child in front of a tv. If the daycare my son goes to did any of the things I bulleted above, we'd find another provider.

I agree with forktine that there is more than one route to childhood happiness, but we're not talking panopticon here, we're talking reassuring consistency for a child at a time when they most need it, as well as clarity about your role in his life.
posted by cocoagirl at 8:04 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh, missed this part, so I'll continue chiming in as a parent:

A couple of disgusting processed-food meals every week won't cause a child to develop a third arm overnight.

No, but it does set up habits, especially at this young age. It's teaching the kids that eating this crap is ok and that's not good. Do you really want your kid thinking, as they grow up, that eating that crap is perfectly normal?

There is no line -- they are grandparents, and that is a wonderful balance for the kid to have in his life.

Vehemently disagree. YOU are the parent, not them, and you set the rules and there is more certainly a line. The problem you're having is that they don't there's a line and that they know better than you. Do not except that behavior from anyone, especially a relative, as they'll take full advantage of that. It's one thing if they talked to you and asked if "X was ok," but they're not. They're blatantly ignoring your wishes as parents, because they believe you'd never actually go against them. I would suggest you need to change that line of thought.

This advice may sound harsh, but I do think their behavior demands it. Be all means let them be grandparents and spoil'em at times and bend the rules a bit, but the blatant disagreed and criticisms of your parenting skills? Unacceptable.

I'm sorry about your dad's cancer, but that doesn't give them the right to ignore your desires as parents. Hiring a caregiver would enable them to be the loving grandparents they are, while avoiding the tension of actively taking care of him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:24 PM on January 18, 2009


I don't quite understand how the odd dodgy meal and interrupted sleep schedule could be improved by putting him in the care of strangers who cannot give your baby the same one-on-one attention that he currently receives. While he'll certainly pick up both fun germs and interesting habits from the other kids, I don't know that this is a benefit - you seem like you want to protect your son as much as possible. Daycare isn't the way to do that. Your parents (for all their faults - and really, how many could there be - they raised you, didn't they?) can give him the love and attention that he expects and needs.

This whole modern uber-parenting thing seems really uptight to me. Personally, I'd put my foot down about the food (and make sure that I provided an alternative) and would let the rest slide. Forktine, valannc and many others are totally right.
posted by ninazer0 at 8:24 PM on January 18, 2009


Many others have already said what I wanted to say (cocoagirl, Brandon Blatcher and Herkimer), so I won't repeat it all. However, I will point out that you can absolutely find daycare that respects your wishes on parenting style, does not use TV, does not serve junk food and does not take away a child's security item. I know because I have my son (same age as yours) in one, and he loves it, loves his caretakers and his peers, his home-cooked meals and so on. I also feel absolutely confident that his main caretaker loves him in a very grandmotherly way, and I wouldn't want him anywhere else while I work. Yes, that includes with any of the grandparents, who are wonderful but not suitable as full-time caregivers in comparison.
posted by Joh at 8:36 PM on January 18, 2009


Father of three here. Mine are in middle school and high school. There is NO DOUBT that decisions we made when they were toddlers are affecting them today. One of those choices was sleep and a schedule. Food is the other. Quite frankly, the third child in 3 years we were much less stringent about things and his eating habits are not so much good. The oldest eats balanced meals and the middle eats whatever is put in front of him in large quantities. All three of them sleep well and know their limitations we feel because of the schedule we kept and the importance we put on sleep. We had no outside help. In fact we asked that our parents not be caregivers, but rather be grandparents. I cannot tell you how happy we were when the three of reported back to us after we went away and our parents watched them that they had milkshakes for breakfast and pancakes for dinner. THAT is what grandparents are for.

Take control of the situation or you (not your parents) will be addressing the collateral damage for the rest of your life. When you pay someone to do something you can require them to do it your way or the highway. If they don't find someone who will. There are plenty of day care centers or nannies or sitters who will follow direction. Have your parents watch him once a week if you feel that it will help family unity.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:53 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Having worked a LOT of daycare, I have to say that daycare will put your kid on a schedule and feed them the basic chicken strips that every kid gets, but affection is often absent, he'll pick up all kinds of crazy new habits and colds from the other kids, and your child will have to compete for attention from the overworked teachers. Just saying that both options have their downsides, you need to pick which ones you are willing to live with.
posted by Foam Pants at 9:52 PM on January 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


This isn't about grandparents being good or bad, or about the importance of bonding with grandparents. I'm living proof, for better or worse, of the positive impact grandparents can have in a child's life.

Kids are atmosphere sponges. If the atmosphere is tense between you and your parents, it will be confusing and stressful for your kid. That's because she loves you all, and will pick up that she's a point of contention. Body language and tone alone will give the game away.

Only you know what's best for your kid. That's it in a nutshell. As Foam Pants and others have pointed out, there are pros and cons to each choice. Either way, you're talking about part time child care. It has an impact, but that impact isn't going to be as large as the impact you and your partner have with the child. You win either way, just from the sheer number of hours you spend with your child vs. the carers.

Food? As long as it isn't something really age inappropriate or harmful, you're OK. I have a friend whose mother in law was giving her nine-month old daughter a glass of Pepsi, because the baby seemed to like it, it was caffeine free, and the look on her face made such cute pictures. The kid is OK. And yes, food's been a constant battle in that particular family. As time went on and the kids got older, it became less of an issue because the kids themselves were choosing what to eat. Sometimes, it was chicken nuggets and sometimes it was broccoli, cottage cheese and cantaloupe. The kids have been exposed to both lifestyles, and they pick and choose.

In this situation, I'd be less concerned about the food and more concerned about the sleep schedule and their reaction to the security blanket. That's something you've discussed with a doctor, and your parents aren't listening to either of you. As your kid gets older, the security blanket battle will go away, to be replaced by... what? Toilet training? Language? Reading? Thumb sucking? Hitting? "Gender appropriate" toys? "Big boys don't cry?" "Girls don't play with toy trucks?" You need to get the balance back. You are the parents. They are parenting consultants and co-nurturers. The behavioural stuff is going to have more of an impact than occasional exposure to e-numbers.

Not all child care is dire. Child care collectives/co-ops, for example. I'm not sure when kids start preschool (nursery) where you are, but your kid might be at an age where socialising them around more of a classroomish environment might be a good idea. You'll know if a child care environment is good for your kids when you visit. Good ones usually have waiting lists. Get yourself on a list or two and put your parents on probation. You've just had a big bustup, and they're going to be annoyed. When they've calmed down, try to talk to them about how it was for them, as parents, after they first had you. How were things with their own parents/in-laws? If they're honest, they'll tell you that there were occasional small conflicts. Quite possibly some large ones. Maybe thinking back on that time will help them understand why you're asking them to back off a bit.
posted by Grrlscout at 12:56 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


One thing to keep in mind is that any change is going to be difficult for your son. Transitions are hard at this age, and he's probably very attached to his grandparents. There is no easy solution to this, and he might adapt right away... or he might take months to get used to it.

That said, you might want to seek change *now* to avoid being forced to do it later if your father's health deteriorates. This is how I would frame it with your folks - say that you know how much they love your son, but they need to focus on his health. Schedule as much time as possible for them to spend with him as grandparents, but find another caregiver (daycare/nanny) for the majority of the day.

Another way to frame it is to say that you want him to interact with more kids; in that case sending him to daycare isn't about your parents at all, but about your desire for your son to have more of a "social life." Perhaps sending him to a half-day program and having your parents pick him up would be a decent compromise to relieve some of the stresses and firmly establish a new routine.

Anyhow, best of luck!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:56 AM on January 19, 2009


Wow, there are a lot of divergent viewpoints here.

Only you, OP, know what kind of parent you want to be. For myself, I wanted to go back to work part time when I had baby Llama. They wouldn't let me, and it turned out to be great. I went back to work and was instantly 100% happier, so I guess it's good they wouldn't let me, because I it turns out I would have hated not working, and being home all day.

One of the sad realities that I had to confront, when they wouldn't let me go part-time, is that I would not be raising my kid, all on my own, in my perfect Llama bubble of hippie-dippie perfection. The reality of how the hours of the day are split up makes that absolutely an impossible piece of bullshit for me to feed myself. Grandma and Grandpa Llama (fortunately not the suspected secret baptizers) are with baby Llama at least as many hours a week as I am. Maybe more. I trust them completely. I think they did an awesome job with Mr. Llama. I know they love Baby Llama and have a pretty much non-stop train of baby waggling fun. But I don't have any illusions that life at their house during the day is the same as life w/us. It's probably way more fun, for one thing. I think they go to the mall and buy a new outfit like every day.

But it's just not the world it once was, where mom was home all day and mom and dad dictated the sum total of child-rearing edicts. I came to terms with that--and it's not like, la la la I came to terms with it -- I cried over it, realizing that it wasn't going to be me me me. But once I let go of that need for total control, I came to appreciate how great it is that people are playing with baby Llama all day long, holding her up and helping her to stand, trying out new foods, taking her new places and meeting people. I think that's just great, and I'm so incredibly grateful for it -- you can't imagine.

The loss of control, and the sadness I feel sometimes at not being CEO of Raising Baby Llama Inc., is more than mitigated by my belief that this life is actually good for her, and that some of what I've dealt with in coming to terms with that is more about my ego and my sense of control than what is actually best for baby Llama.

As in all things internet: ymmv.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:01 AM on January 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


A suggestion if you want to put your son in daycare. You could soften the blow by explaining that you want to offer the chance for your child to socialize. Even being exposed to all those nasty bugs can be good to build a child's immune system. That way your parents, who are already feeling unappreciated won't take it so personally.
posted by Gor-ella at 7:47 AM on January 19, 2009


It's teaching the kids that eating this crap is ok and that's not good. Do you really want your kid thinking, as they grow up, that eating that crap is perfectly normal?

Nonsense. Many of us grew up eating crap (me included) and wound up not eating crap. Some people keep on eating crap: so what? Is the point of life to eat perfectly? The great Evil Temptation of parenting is to try to control your child's life totally, to try to make sure they grow up in a way that matches all your desires and preconceptions, whether it's a hippie-dippie granola lifestyle or a career in music/sports/journalism or straight A's in school or whatever. Parents who give in to that temptation wind up either being very disappointed or ruining their kids' lives (or, of course, both). Your kids are little people in the process of discovering who they are, and that's going to turn out to be somebody you didn't expect. Try to enjoy the ride.

And there's no day care center in the world that will give your child the focused attention and love that grandparents will. When our grandsons (one 4 1/2, one 18 months) are here, they are played with, listened to, read to, and made to feel like valued human beings. I have no idea how my own grandparents fed me when I was at their place, but I vividly remember how thoroughly I enjoyed being with them and I still miss them. Try to look beyond your (perfectly natural) parental obsessions with order and see the larger picture.
posted by languagehat at 8:23 AM on January 19, 2009


Good grandparents can be excellent examples to young children of how things can sometimes be different than what your parents say they should be.

I have great memories of things like: sipping a "forbidden" root beer with grandpa; having a "bad for you" frozen pizza with grandma; staying up "late" and watching Lawrence Welk (Oh no, he'll be cranky in the morning!): guess what, I wasn't! These memories and experiences are literally priceless to me.

Etc etc. Much smarter people above have laid this all out in detail, but my 2 cents is, unless they grandparents are actually BAD (you know, not changing diapers, being ignorant and abusive), then the experience for your kid of having other adults (i.e. not you) take care of them for a while is only going to be positive.

The tension here is being created solely by you and your unwillingness to let go of a couple of over-protective tendencies towards your new kid. Your kid will DEFINITELY pick up on that. Why create it? Is that preferable to some loving child-rearing practices that aren't quite exactly what you would prefer at all times?

As said above, the grandparents raised you, and you turned out ok, right?
posted by Aquaman at 9:52 AM on January 19, 2009


Nonsense. Many of us grew up eating crap (me included) and wound up not eating crap. Some people keep on eating crap: so what? Is the point of life to eat perfectly?

Nonsense to your nonsense I say! Of course the point isn't to eat perfectly, but to have overall good habits, which the parents are trying to instill and the grandparents are pointedly ignoring.

The great Evil Temptation of parenting is to try to control your child's life totally,

There is zero indication that is going on here. The parents are fully aware and approving of the role of grandparents in spoiling kids ("Unfortunately, the lines between grandparent (spoil your grandchild with cookies, lots of tv etc), care giver and parent have gotten blurred.)")

Not wanting your kid to be fed crap for breakfast at an impressionable age is not an unreasonable request.

And there's no day care center in the world that will give your child the focused attention and love that grandparents will.

Depends on the grandparents and again the poster stresses that they are good grandparents and that he and his wife are grateful that their child is having this experience with them. The problem is that roles are blurring and they're being ignored as parents.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:11 AM on January 19, 2009


I am about 100.000 hours late, just wanted to add my personal experience as a "kid raised largely by (two sets of) grandparents" - I loved it, and turned out ok. My mum later told me stories of how she'd instruct her mum to feed me healthily and not too much because my father's parents fed me too much, but none of this stuff struck me back then.

I lived in three places, with three sets of rules, and that was fine. In fact I dare say it was beneficial as it has made me more adaptable. Sure I played these people out against each other at times, but come on, it was great!

That said, I went into daycare at age 3 and loved that too.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 10:44 AM on January 19, 2009


Just wanted to add that I think it's very different to talk about grandparents "breaking the rules" here and there, on family visits, vs. when they have roles as daily caregivers. Many of the happy grandparent memories mentioned here (as an argument on the side of "loosen up already") seem to be the former rather than the latter. Maintaining structure and consistency in a child's daily life is very different from exerting iron-fisted total control 24-7. Also, the age is significant. My impression--since my kiddo is not yet two years--is that children are more able to understand and incorporate caregiving complexities as they grow older. But 19 months is very young. Disruption to rules and routine is very hard to absorb at this age, since they're just learning to reason things out.

I don't mind my son not being the center of attention all the time at daycare, since that's not how life works in general. But he has his needs taken care of in a healthy way (he's not neglected), and most importantly, he feels secure in the consistency of the day. I don't think attention or even love necessarily = security.
posted by Herkimer at 11:21 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing about the daycare option: do you really think you're going to find a daycare center that's affordable, with a good kid/caregiver ratio, with policies you agree with (he might not be allowed to have his blanket) so easily? Good daycare seems to be hard to come by, and might be more of a struggle than picking your battles with your parents over parenting technique.
posted by slow graffiti at 1:51 PM on January 19, 2009


As a mother to three, I say pick your three main issues, go to the mat for them, and let the rest slide.
posted by agentwills at 10:39 AM on January 20, 2009


If your parents, who are acting as your child's primary caregivers during the week, refuse to respect your parenting decisions and even have the audacity to insult you for those decisions, I think it's clear that you need to find better care for your child. Your parents are making it clear to you that they know best and that they will never respect your parenting decisions if they disagree with them and think they can get away with it. So stop letting them get away with it.

Saying they feel unappreciated sounds like pure manipulation to me; I'm sorry that your father has cancer but cancer is not an excuse to act like a selfish, guilt-tripping ass. Find a daycare or nanny or even nanny share for your child that will give you the services you require, and let your little one have visits with his grandparents on the weekends or something. You don't have to let your parents trample your boundaries just because they're your parents.
posted by balls at 10:45 AM on January 20, 2009


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