Unlike many of my friends who live far away from their parents, my kids are lucky enough to have both sets of grandparents close by, which means they get spoiled on a monthly basis. Who am I kidding: they get spoiled on a daily basis since my mom not only lives with us, but also serves as our day-to-day babysitter for our 2- and 4-year-old daughters. Though my partner and I don't ask my mom to make the parenting decisions for my daughters, I'd be lying if I said her parenting influence isn't everywhere in our day-to-day life. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center report, approximately 7 million grandparents lived with a grandchild in 2013 with 37 percent serving as their grandchild’s primary caregiver, which means there are plenty of parents out there who understand that having a grandparent as a childcare provider has its pros and cons. But the pros (trusted babysitter, knowing your mom adores your kids) definitely outweigh the cons (asking that they please keep the candy to a minimum!).
Grandparents, as much as we love them, can (and do) drive parents a little crazy sometimes, especially when they don’t follow instructions to not let the kids get away with everything or not to pump them full of sugar while we're off at work — and I don't need a study to confirm the fact that grandparents are prone to let their adorable grandchildren get away with anything. So yeah, I confess I am that mom who provides my mom a list of what the kids can eat for lunch, the amount of time they can watch television for, and how discipline should be handled when I’m at work and she’s watching them. For that reason alone, I’m sure my mom was more than a little excited to hear that she could ignore all my rules and lists for a week and do things her way.
Since my mom watches our kids on the weekdays while my partner and I are at work, we decided to let her take on parenting the girls for a week. We agreed that she would have the freedom to make the parenting decisions for my daughters all day for a five-day workweek. But, we didn't just set the rules at grandma taking over while we were away. We decided she'd get to call the shots for the entire day, which meant instead of checking with us before giving the girls ice cream for dessert, she just made the decision on her own and we went along with it.
I usually lay out outfits for my daughters the night before so that my mom doesn’t have to do it in the morning. We both have different ideas about what looks cute on my 4-year-old daughter. For instance, I love to have her in a mismatched look and usually put her hair in some half-up half-down 'do as a compromise because she likes wearing her hair down like Rapunzel. My mom, on the other hand, loves matchy-matchy looks: same color socks, shirt, and pants. She also wants my older daughter to wear her hair up and out of her eyes, which I completely understand, but there's no way I’m going to argue with my daughter about it so early in the morning.
This week, however, my mom had the freedom to pick my daughter's outfits, and went with a full-on match for everything. She also took the time to hassle with getting her to put her hair up in a ponytail. Although my toddler put up a little bit of a grumpy fight, she didn’t have a full on meltdown or anything the way she would if it had been me trying to get her do it. Grandma: 1, Toddler: 0.
My mom readily steps in as a babysitter for date night every now and then (which is amazing!), so when she offered to watch the girls on Tuesday night so my husband and I could go to dinner, we totally took her up on it. We usually have dinner options for the girls laid out when we're not there, but since it was not our decision this time around we didn’t even mention that spaghetti or baked chicken would be a good choices for dinner. Instead, my mom took them out for Chinese and the kids downed chicken, fried rice, and chow mein. Then she took them for dessert, which they loved, of course. I expected my mom to take them to out since that's a fast food place we avoid since it's pricey and the kids only eat the chow mein, so I wasn't surprised when they came home with leftovers.
On their store run, my mom bought both girls Moana necklaces. Why? Oh, just because she wanted to. I mean, what other reason does a grandmother need to do something nice for her grandchild? I need to realize that it's OK for my mom to give in to those grandma impulses. I mean, the kids were happy and really excited, but it's not like buying them gifts has ruined and spoiled them for life.
I also try to bathe my daughters every night, with the exception of Friday since it’s not a school night, but my mom opted to let them go to bed without a bath. They were hyped up, so I wasn't in the mood to try and get them in the tub since I imagined tons of splashing and a total mess to cleanup. To be honest, I was really glad my mom skipped bath time. Instead, they spent some time coloring before bed. Skipping bath time is not something I plan to do on weeknights because it really helps them relax and it's a routine I would like to stick to, but I was OK with it happening this week.
I’m a stickler for not overdoing it on snacks and sweets during the day, so my mom definitely appreciated not having to consider my rules on snack time. She took them out to an outdoor mall after picking Brynna up from school (her hair was down by the way, because she took out the ponytail my mom put in her hair) and let them snack on a smoothie and a sample from Sees Candies. Lunch was chicken nuggets at home with some fruit and most likely some gummy snacks after — I’m still not clear on how many sweets were had this day.
Letting go of having a say over what my daughters ate throughout the day wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be, and I think it's because I trust my mom to know when to cut off the snacks and junk food. Of course, my girls loved being able to snack and getting all the gummies they wanted and they knew that grandma was going to say yes whenever they asked. Anytime I started to worry that they were eating too many packets of gummies I'd remind myself that there are worse things they could be eating.
Instead of timeout or threatening them with an early bedtime or taking away all their toys, my mom told my daughter that since they were not listening to her that she would not be putting her to sleep that night the way she asks her to do every night. And it freaking worked.
Bedtime was interesting on day three because our routine is typically pretty straightforward: bath, teeth brushing, book or kindle, and bedtime in their own rooms. But after bedtime, my mom allowed the girls to spend time in her room reading books and drawing. They were up well past their bedtimes just because my mom enjoyed having the girls in her room with her. The surprising part was how easy it was to get them to bed when the time came. No crying or fighting, but that's mainly because they were exhausted. It was nice to not have to deal with any pushback from my girls during bedtime, but I believe we need to stick to a bedtime to avoid overtired kids the next day.
My mom usually makes a big grocery store run for us once a week since our kids devour applesauce and popcorn like no one's business. When she does run errands, I’ve asked her to please, please, please not buy my kids toys because then they expect something every time we visit those stores. Well, that logic went out the window this week, clearly. On their store run, my mom bought both girls Moana necklaces. Why? Oh, just because she wanted to. I mean, what other reason does a grandmother need to do something nice for her grandchild? I need to realize that it's OK for my mom to give in to those grandma impulses. I mean, the kids were happy and really excited, but it's not like buying them gifts has ruined and spoiled them for life. I need to let my mom do what she wants, even if that means spoiling her grandkids every now and then.
Knowing it was my mom's decision and not mine helped me realize how much not having a say in things made me feel upset.
Everything on day four was pretty routine overall, with the exception of how discipline was handled. (Oh, and they also got ice cream for dessert. Surprise!). I knew the kids were riled up because it was a rainy day, which meant they spent the majority of the day inside and that usually leads to cabin fever.
After dinner, they ran around the house chasing each other and it was really hard not to tell them to stop it. My mom asked them to "quiet down" and "settle down" and tried to redirect them to the playroom, but they weren't having it. Instead of timeout or threatening them with an early bedtime or taking away all their toys, my mom told my daughter that since they were not listening to her that she would not be putting her to sleep that night the way she asks her to do every night. And it freaking worked. No raising her voice or empty threats. It was pretty awesome. Watching this interaction made me realize just how much my daughter looks forward to having my mom put her to bed. I mean, she literally stopped running around the house the moment she asked.
Friday was the last day of the experiment since my mom was leaving that afternoon to head to her sister’s house for the weekend. She was still picking out my older daughter’s outfits and putting her hair in a ponytail despite knowing it would just end up down by the time she picked her up from school. But to be honest, I don't think she seemed to mind.
For lunch, she asked them what they wanted to eat and totally went with their choice: burritos! Of course, they ended lunch with some Girl Scout cookies, and for dinner, she agreed with the girls that pizza followed by a movie and popcorn was the way to go. If I had a say in what the plans would have been for the rest of this evening I would not have opted for pizza since they ate out for lunch, but knowing it was my mom's decision and not mine helped me realize how much not having a say in things made me feel upset. I realized I wanted to be able to provide input. However, I realized it's important to let my mom weigh in when it comes to the girls a little bit more, especially since she spends so much time with them throughout the day.
t's important for me and my husband show my mom that we trust her with our girls, and I believe we can do that by letting her make more decisions during the day while we're at work and they're in her care.
Before she left, she told us that the girls had asked for a sleepover in our room since tomorrow was Saturday, and she told them yes. My husband and I were kind of hesitant to go through with it, but it was a decision my mom had already made, so we did it. They girls laid on their sleeping bags in our room and our 4 year old actually slept through the night. Our 2 year old ended up in our bed and in all honestly, I didn't mind. I loved the opportunity to snuggle with my girl and I plan to implement a sleepover rule on non-school/work nights every now and then.
Did Grandma Know Best?
We are so lucky that we rarely have to defend our parenting decisions with my mom, which is why I think this experiment went as smoothly as it did. It wasn't as if her parenting decisions were completely opposite of ours. However, my mom did admit that she enjoyed being able to do things her way, especially when it came to food choices. She felt like some of the pressure was gone to make sure the kids were eating healthy during the day since she got to pick all the snack choices. Discipline was not something she enjoyed being in charge of though, since the girls don’t run to their timeout spots as quickly as they would if my husband or I were there. To be honest, that’s the main reason why she didn’t discipline them as much these past five days.
It's important for me and my husband show my mom that we trust her with our girls, and I believe we can do that by letting her make more decisions during the day while we're at work and they're in her care.
Overall, she appreciated having more of a say in some areas of the parenting decisions, such as food, snacks, and setting limits on bedtime, but she was glad to be done with making decision in regards to discipline.
For me, this experiment helped me realize I need to back off a bit when it comes to setting rules for my mom during the week. That doesn't mean I'm OK with her taking them out to eat every day or letting them snack all day, but it wouldn't hurt anything if she had the freedom to pick and choose two days a week to take them out to eat or what they should have for dessert. I learned that it's important for me and my husband show my mom that we trust her with our girls, and I believe we can do that by letting her make more decisions during the day while we're at work and they're in her care.
I owe my mom so many thank yous, and I don’t even know where to start. She helps us out in so many ways, from built-in babysitting, to helping around the house, to taking the kids when we just need a break. If anything, what I learned from this experiment is that it’s OK to back off on some of the rules every now and then because a day or two of doing things my mom’s way will not derail everything we're trying to teach our kids.