For some time now, I’ve had this uncomfortable suspicion that my children’s grandparents make better parents than we do.

I do understand that, in a way, this it the right of the good grandparent to be doting, loving, obnoxiously attentive, before sending the kids right back to The World of Parents Who Say No.

We cut the kids off at two books before bed, the grandparents can make it through a dozen, plus songs. We are the ones who say “no cookies before dinner” not even realizing that the kid is asking in the first place because Grandpa already gave her three.

It’s a cliché, of course. Which is comforting. Because that’s how I know I’m not alone.

But then there’s my parents (all four of them) who put even stellar grandparents to shame.

I can hardly be bothered to find a clean baby spoon most days, all while my stepmother has made room in her small Manhattan apartment for an entire array of kids dishes, cutlery, sippie cups, and bibs to match any outfit or occasion. She even has kids placemats. Placemats! Do we have placemats? No.

Grandpa, or my dad, is willing to prepare a James Beard-quality dinner each time we visit, and at the same time, preparing an equally gourmet alternative just to suit Thalia’s limited culinary view. We’re talking homemade ketchup.

My stepfather has somehow, seemingly out of nowhere, developed saint-like patience, which he once demonstrated in a Guiness Book-qualifying swing pushing session so extensive, Thalia puked immediately afterwards.

And my mother – God, my mother. I don’t know if it’s an entire lifetime spent as a progressive early childhood educator, but she’s always a chapter ahead of me, telling me that Thalia is drawing straight lines/identifying chipmunk sounds/eating red snapper before I even realize she’s capable of it.

Am I insecure about this? No.


Not at all.



Mostly I repress it all pretty well–especially on the days Thalia wakes up first thing and asks for one grandparent or another. Heck, in the end my kids benefit, I get a break, and we all win. But I admit a lump in my throat when this weekend, my own grandmother suggested that Thalia loved her grandma so much, she was more like a second mother.

“Yes,” I agreed reflexively before realizing exactly what I was saying. “Um…no. Wait. Not a second mother. Like a grandmother. A terrific grandmother.”

Not only do the grandparents do no wrong, what they do is extra-right. They can read more Sandra Boynton books to the kids, prepare more nutritious meals, endure more zoo and museum and germy bookstore visits. They actually talk to the kids the whole time on car trips–Look at the helicopter. Here comes a tunnel. Hey, how many different birds can you see?–and not just pop in a CD. They can get Thalia to eat ham, teach her about fat peas, show her the world through magnifying glasses and binoculars, clean up after her, get her to sleep on time, and still get Sage fed and the laundry done, all without relying on Dora.

Hell, my mom can carry the baby longer in the Bjorn than I can.

She’s 64.

But this weekend, at last I caught one teeny little chink in the armor. One almost imperceptible bit of deception that made me sigh with relief that indeed, the grandparents are human and not some kind of super-robot nurturing machines that always put the needs and desires of their littlest genetic recipients ahead of their own.

From the den in my mother’s house, I heard her describing a scene to Thalia that could have come from any of the many children’s books occupying progressively more real estate on her selves: See that man? What is he wearing? Is he wearing a coat? Is that wind? What sound does the wind make?

As I peeked into the room, I noticed Thalia slowly backing away from them, shaking her head in uncharacteristic protest.

My mother continued: But what a big coat he’s wearing! And do you see the scarf? What color is that scarf? Does it look cold here? Do you see that bird?

Thalia responded, “A different show, Grandma.”

And that’s when I realized.

It was not a book at all my parents were showing Thalia. They were not enlightening her about the change of seasons or teaching the science of snowfall or expounding on temperate zones or the effects of December wind on the animal kingdom.

They were trying to trick her into letting them watch The Weather Channel.

Weather’s okay and all, but I’d rather watch Little Bear.

35 thoughts on “Grrrrrrrr…andparents”

  1. I hate to admit it, but I get a tiny thrill when my mom finally snaps at Diva Girl after an endless day of whining that has had me contemplating eating my own young as my mom sails serenely through. That moment, when my mom’s patient grandmother veneer cracks and the mother that I remember rears her disciplinarian head? I treasure that in the way that only someone who has been repeatedly upstaged by the perfect Grandma can.

  2. Grandparents are crafty that way. I caught my mom teaching Kira how to pick Keno numbers for her when she was four. Although come to think of it, I think she won five dollars.

  3. LOL, a-HA, you’ve got their number now!Your girls are SOOOOO LUCKY!!!! Seriously, so lucky. I wish my kids had an involved grandfather—the grandmothers are great; but my dad is gone, the other is far away and distant. I’ve seen my oldest ‘adopt’ other kids’ grandfathers and it breaks my heart. And, homemade ketchup?!? How’d you get surrounded by so many foodies! (and, that photo is gorgeous!)

  4. Awesome wind-up to that punch line. I almost peed all over myself. — Luckily, or unluckily, I don’t have that problem. My mom can’t get my son to nap in his own bed or nap at all, really. And she always forgets to change his wet diapers. I’m still grateful for the break, though, and I don’t care how much she messes up our routines.

  5. Yeah believe me…take it for everything you can get out of it. None of my children’s grandparents are involved in thier lives on a day to day basis, and I am green with envy. Trust me when I tell you it’s worth it. Plus when the girls are horrid teens you can send them to grandparents and pay them back.

  6. My hubbys parents sound very similar to yours except there are just 2 of them. Although when they are with Anna you would think there were about 6 or 8. Where they come up with the energy I don’t have a clue. I agree sometimes it does cause a pang when you aren’t good enough and she wants one of them ~ only cause she knows she will have her way. But yes we are totally blessed to have them to help and to love. I see so many children that wouldn’t have anyone to love them if it weren’t for their grandparents at our church. So our kids are lucky to have us too 😉

  7. It all sounds so familiar…you’ve written a spot-on description of our daughter’s grandparents. They have more stuff for her at their house than we do at ours; they somehow get her to eat vegetables; they read too many bedtime books; they even love the incessant chatter in the car that drives me nuts. In fact, they even have the same weakness for TWC. We recently sent our daughter away…er, I mean, let her visit her grandparents for 5 days. When she came home she was still going through her morning routine of petitioning to watch Dora. Normally when that doesn’t work she asks to watch something entirely different, like Diego. ;o) But this time she surprised us with, “I watch the weather?” She followed with some suggestive head nodding while asking, “You like weather, mama? I like weather.”Great, our kid is so addicted to the tube that she doesn’t even care what’s on.

  8. That is hilarious!!! and motherhood uncensored taking orders ha ha. I really enjoy your blog. Thanks!Jackie Lee 🙂

  9. My parents have said that it’s a lot easier to take care of little ones when you have the perspective of years and you’re only doing it recreationally. You’d be a terrific grandparent, too, every bit as good as your parents are. It’s just that being a parent and being a grandparent are two different jobs. 🙂

  10. I hear you, I do.In my case I’m just glad someone doesn’t lose patience with them as quickly as I do because they don’t have it day in and day out. LOL 🙂Things are much easier as a hobby, which is what Grandkids are. All the pressure, obligation, responsibility and newness of parenting is totally off the grandparents. I tried to live and parent like a grandparent once. It lasted about two hours.Julie< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Using My Words<>

  11. Having MET your mother at BlogHer I can see what you mean, but as someone closer to becoming a grandparent than I am to my years raising small children, I offer this: We live in a neighborhood of younger people and often fill in in emergencies or come to dinner when it’s pizza or just hang around together. It’s a joy. Small children are so amazing; you know that – you write wonderfully about those moments we all cherish. For grandparents (or surrogates like us) the moments we have with little ones are enriched by what we’ve learned both to do and NOT to do. We’ve been through it. And loved it. And miss it. So when a grandchild (or surrogate) enters our lives it’s easy to be patient and fun. We’re homesick and these are our chances to “go home” just for a little while.What I learned watching my own mother is that the wonderful way we see them behaving with our kids reveals a great deal about how they probably were with us. That’s the extra bonus – and when you describe such wonderful (even the Weather Channel) grandparental behavior it explains to me just who helped you become the great person and mom we all know and love….

  12. First, maybe you need a grandmother more like what my kids have. My mother is a little too loud, gets into arguments with a 5 yr old and 22 month old, and then falls asleep on the sofa. But hey, we get a night out and the house hasn’t burnt down, yet. Keep your fingers crossed.Second, how good do you think they would be if they had them ALL. THE. TIME. Sure they can take them for overnight visits and afternoon jaunts to the zoo, but that happy would soon leave after a 2 hour screaming fest and a daughter who thinks teasing her brother is the ultimate past time. I am great my friend’s baby, because I know that eventually she will go home and be their sole responsiblity.

  13. What a GREAT piece of writing and wonderful honesty into the world of family. You are lucky and your kids are lucky for all the richness in life. I am laughing out loud. Thanks Liz,Bonnie

  14. The Weather Channel? Damn, that’s as bad as my mom trying to trick B into watch EWTN (THE global Catholic network). What is it with old folks and the weather?

  15. Speaking as someone whose mother just left a few hours ago…when can yours get here? She yelled at her grandchildren, criticized our parenting, and complained that my husband and I went to bed too early (yeah, no chance she would actually babysit so we could get out for 7 uninterrupted minutes). I finally said “You had your chance to raise your kids, now it’s my turn.” I think she just doesn’t really like little kids! Now my MIL on the other hand…too over-the-top, completely babies them, and likes to rearrange the cupboard. And she did encourage my son to call her “mama” at one point. But she does make these cookies that cause my son to have ginormous poops – and she babysits! – so it’s all good!

  16. Hmmmm, my kid’s grandparents haven’t seen them in 4 years. The other set falls asleep all of the time and they’re only in their 55’s.I think I’m jealous.

  17. what a great post…thanks and grandparents are GREAT, I hope that one day I am a much better gramma than I ever will be as a mother. 🙂

  18. I lost my Mother in my early 20’s to breast cancer and one of the reasons we waited to have kids was because of the hurt it caused me everytime i thought of my child missing out on knowing this wonderful woman. Time heals and in a matter of days/weeks our girl will arrive. I will tell her all about her gran and play videos of her singing and do what i can to make her understand. This is the main reason i have begun my diary (and online blog) because i want my child and her children to know me a little.

  19. What’s with people over 50 wanting to watch the Weather Channel all the time?!< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Jennifer, Le Binky Bitch<>

  20. The grandparents sound wonderful! My mom is here right now, and I swear that every time she visits, my kids’ vocabulary increases ten-fold. She just talks and talks and talks to them.I’m in that sort of in-between world of not-young-mommy but old-enough-to-be-a young-grandmother and I have my own 16 month old.When I was in the hospital after having the baby, he was crying and I picked him up and started cooing to him while he was screaming bloody murder. A nurse came in and said to me, “You don’t sound like a new mom with a new baby. You sound like a grandmother.” I took it as a compliment, even though I probably should have slugged her.

  21. It is easier to be a grandmother than a mother. With my grands, I have all the joy and love and none of the responsibility. I can play and laugh and enjoy. I loved being a mom, still do…but being a gramma is the best!

  22. Your parents sound likr mine. My mom said that it’s easy to do things well because they don’t see the kids all day every day like we do.

  23. Oh – I sooooo hear you!We call my dad Pepe. And for the boys birthday last year we went to the firehall for a tour. The fireman asked who you call for help and my son shouted out, “Pepe – he can do anything!”IS it wrong to have Pepe’s phone number on speed dial above 911?!?!?!!Thanks for sharing – what a great post!

  24. You and your children are so blessed. BUT you are right they are human, and maybe once you’ve lived without children for a decade or so, you find the patience you describe also knowing that the little angel is going home soon, and the weather channel can be turned on shortly!My kids grandma tries to be super grannie but it generally falls short. My mom is gone, and I can’t even imagine what type of grandmother she would have been…. I can only put her on the pedestal and say she would have been the best.

  25. THANK YOU FOR THIS POST!! I now know why I have been on the internet all morning – it was to simply find this post and feel such comfort that I am not the only one who suffers with “fantastical grandparent” syndrome and every so often resents it just so much!! And, thanks to everyone who reminded me just how lucky we are to have involved grandparents – you are right … but there are days!!!

  26. Love your blog!!! I think we must be the same types of parents. I hate perfect parents!! lololI even write about < HREF="" REL="nofollow">parenting advice<>, but I don’t have kid placemats. lolVery fun read. thank you.

  27. If it makes you feel any better, my parents don’t do half that stuff, yet the kids still beg to sleep over there. I suspect it’s the snack cabinet. Great post.

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