I live across the street from my parents, so they're a big part of my kids’ lives. Not only do they watch our children a few afternoons a week, since my husband and I work full-time, but they pitch in on half-days and vacation breaks that would normally have us scrambling and shelling out big bucks for babysitters. So if you're wondering what only the best grandparents do during the holidays, look no further. Because not only do my parents offer to hang on to our children on the days when my husband and I are working, but they are a big part of the holiday traditions we are building.
For example, while my family has a velcro menorah (because I’m paranoid about lighting candles with kids around), my parents have a much more legit one. They’re also the ones who taught the Chanukah prayer to our kids. And though my husband’s father has since moved to Florida, at least my older child has really special memories of Christmas at her grandparents’ home in Buffalo, New York.
I think the best thing grandparents can do during the holidays is contribute to the magic and wonder of the season; the same magic and wonder that every child deserves to experience. Life gets real, real fast, so joining children in their sparkly visions of sugar plums and latkes is something grandparents can help us exhausted parents with.
So with that in mind, here are some other things I think the best grandparents do during the holidays:
While my parents and my husband’s dad are careful not to spoil our children, they are the ones who are more likely to purchase the significant gifts on my kids’ lists. After all, they want to be the heroes. I guess they’ve earned that right, since they were so successful in raising their own kids.
I recoil every time my children open a birthday or holiday gift that requires batteries and, to my horror, makes sounds. No parent wants more noise in their home. The best grandparents totally understand this.
And why would a grandparent want to bake with their grandchildren? Well, so the parents don't have to.
I clean up crumbs all day, every day, so I’m very thankful that my kids’ grandparents are willing to turn their kitchen into flour-coated thunderdome of tiny bakers who spill more than they get into the bowl.
Between the work holiday parties, the marathon card-addressing sessions, and shopping for last-minute gifts (plus gift wrap, which I can never remember to buy when it’s on sale in January) my most coveted gift is kid-free time so I can get all the aforementioned obligations accomplished.
My parents are the best, because they're always offering to watch the kids. And by always, I literally mean always.
I know better than to try to host a food-centric holiday like Thanksgiving or Passover, when the celebration is all about the meal. But on Christmas Day, expectations are low, right? In my case, they’d better be, because I do not enjoy cooking. Some find it a relaxing outlet for creativity, but I find it anxiety-inducing. So I usually end up serving a bunch of different appetizers from Trader Joe’s frozen food section, and the same five-ingredient bean dip I’ve been cooking since college.
Thankfully, the best grandparents in the world say, “Isn’t this delicious?” and hide whatever aversion they may have to the soggy little turkey pot pies I didn’t leave in the oven long enough.
Having grandparents who love to cook has made me feel like less of a failure as a parent. At least my kids get two decent meals a week, when they eat dinner at their grandparents’ house on Wednesday and Thursday nights before my husband or I pick them up after work. I am so grateful when my dad makes extra latkes to bring over to our place. Tasty, thoroughly cooked food is what I aspire to make.
Since my husband and I have an interfaith household, it makes sense for us to have Christmas at our place, but it’s stressful. I never think the place is clean enough, or that I can maintain a comfortable temperature since my dad is always warm and my husband is always cold.
So I love that my parents host most of the holiday get-togethers. Thanksgiving, Chanukah, and Passover are always at their place, and while I pitch in with the serving and the clean-up, it’s such a relief to not have to be in charge of everything.
Right before holiday break from school, my kids come home with their backpacks stuffed with art projects. There is only so much real estate I’m willing to give to those pictures of someone barfing on roller coasters (at least that’s what I think my 7-year-old drew). What’s worse is that all the holiday-themed projects are covered with glitter.
Thankfully, their grandparents are all too eager to hang up my kids’ “masterpieces” on their fridge, and their front door, and their cabinets, and their mantle.
As my children grow older, their arts and crafts skills improve. But there was a time when they’d hand me a dried lump of clay, smeared with some paint, and expect me to think it was the greatest thing ever. Of course I would feign delight, but grandparents truly are happy to get any present that was made by their dear grandchild’s tiny, not very coordinated hands.
For the most part, the holidays are the one time of the year when you'll find my family dressed well. So it's vital that we hand the camera to someone who can snap some pictures. Now that my parents have had their smartphones for a little while, they are fairly adept at framing a good shot of the four of us, and when at least most of us are looking in the same direction with our eyes open.
This picture will be used for the next year’s holiday card. Hopefully no one chooses a drastic hairstyle change or goes through a giant growth spurt before they get mailed out next year.
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