Watching my mom with my kids, I can’t believe how lucky they are. As a grandmother, there's no denying she is now the mom I wish I had. My parents watch our kids several hours a week after school, so it’s very easy for me to identify the differences in how my mom is with my kids versus how she was with me. I’m not saying she was a subpar mom, either. In fact, it was quite the opposite. She was a rock star parent and I’d like to think my brother and I are pretty awesome people because of it. It’s just that, when you’re in the throes of parenting, it’s all about getting it right and not so much about having fun (or at least it was for her, and for me, as a Type A mom). I never got the impression from my mom that raising children was a party for her. And as a mom, I totally get that.
Now that it’s a generation later, my mom has perspective on parenting. She has given me great tips (and some unsolicited parenting advice), and has definitely mellowed as a person in general. Maybe, since she’s older, she’s more focused on enjoying the moments with her grandchildren than worrying about raising them right. After all, that’s not her job.
When I observe how my mom interacts with my kids, I can’t help but be jealous. She doesn’t spoil my children, gifting them frequently and letting them off the hook when they are less polite than they should be, but she is definitely more patient with them, and has more undivided attention to give them, especially since she retired a year ago.
I’ve noticed a few ways my child’s grandmother is the mom I wish I had, and, since I am trying to be a good kid, I don’t even make her feel guilty about it.
She Buys My Child Cool Clothes
When I was a kid, we went clothes shopping exactly twice a year: right before school started and right after New Year’s, to catch all the markdowns in preparation for new inventory. Needless to say, my threads were not the coolest, as the shopping excursions were strictly utilitarian. I remember begging my mom for designer jeans, but she was not having it. I had to spend my hard-earned babysitting money on first pair of Guess jeans, which I wore to death.
Now, if my mom is out and about, she usually picks something up for the kids. “Oh I saw this sweater with the Eiffel tower,” she’ll tell me, knowing how much my daughter is obsessed with Paris. And sure enough, my kid went wild over it. Meanwhile, my child will frown while she’s folding her laundry and ask me why all the clothes I buy her say Old Navy on the tags.
She Attends Dance Recitals
When I took dance classes, my mother was one of the aerobics teachers at the studio, and was enlisted to work backstage during the recitals. She was terrific at this job, having had years of theater experience, so it was a no-brainer that the artistic director would ask my mom to work behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly. But this meant that my mother never watched me dance from the vantage point of the audience. She caught my numbers, from her spot in the wings, which meant she mostly saw the back of me tapping away.
Though I’m glad that now, as my daughter is studying dance at the same studio I went to as a child, that my mom is out in the audience to watch, I can’t help but feel a twinge of envy that I didn’t get that same attention a generation ago.
She Keeps Treats Handy
My parents literally hid junk food from my brother and me when we were growing up. Nobody wanted to come play at our house because the only snack I could offer was granola. No wonder I developed a complicated relationship with food.
Now, my dad bakes cookies weekly, and my mom always seems to have something on-hand that is chocolate-covered or crunchy or is labeled with the word “Hostess.” No fair.
She Is More Lenient With Bedtime
We don’t have our kids sleep over at their grandparents’ apartment often, but I know when they do, they are watching way too many episodes of Big Bang Theory and asking for way too many books to be read past their prescribed bedtime. My mom always falls for the “just five more minutes” plea from my kids, but when I tried that same stalling tactic as a child I was met with “the look” and I marched myself off to bed, defeated. But getting a good night’s sleep.
She Manages Not To Yell
I hate it when I do it, but I sometimes (OK, a lot of times) yell at my kids. It’s usually when they’re bickering with each other, or mouthing off at me, but I realize that is no excuse, as I am the adult in the situation and should do a better job keeping my anger in check. Now I know what it was like for my mom when she was forced to raise her voice at us. I can empathize, now that I’m a mother.
Apparently the cycle of life dictates that you get all your yelling out as a mom, so that by the time you’re a grandmother you only speak in dulcet tones to your child’s children, liberally sprinkling terms of affection on every verbal exchange. Ugh.
She Takes Interest In My Child’s Interests
With my mom working two jobs, and my dad working a lot of nights, there was rarely an opportunity for my mom to explore outside the rigid construct of her scheduled day. There were two kids to take care of, and feed, and a house to keep in order, and papers to grade, and maybe, if she was lucky, a few minutes to herself before she passed out to watch the evening news. So there wasn’t a lot time for her probe her children’s minds with open-ended conversations to find out more about them.
Now that she’s retired, though, and taking care of her grandchildren a few hours a week is considered a privilege and not an obligation, she definitely is more interested in hearing about their days, and appears to be able to listen to them indefinitely babble about school and bus antics and what they want for their birthdays.
It’s a good thing, too, because now I’m the working mom with limited time.
She Has More Time
With all the work-life responsibilities my parents had when I was a kid, it seemed they never really had “time” for us. Even in the summer, when, as a teacher, my mom wasn’t working, my brother and I still went to day camp because it was a better balance for her and for us. I don’t recall playing with my mother that much as a kid. I recall playing some board games and horsing around with her in the water on vacations, but not much else.
Now, whatever my children ask my mom to play, she is delighted to do so. Arts and crafts, blocks, baking… the possibilities seem endless with this addition of time that seems exclusive to grandparents.
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