Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Joy of Grandparents

I haven't posted for a little while, life seems to have gotten in the way of blogging, and part of my target audience, my parents, are here with us.  My mum and dad, in a miracle of timing, left London last Thursday morning, mere minutes before the Icelandic volcano closed the skies.

When I returned from my business trip boondoggle they were here, laden with chocolate buttons, Meg and Mog books, Charlie and Lola Underwear, and a second set of Beatrix Potter cutlery, which thankfully has solved once and for all the regular morning battle over who gets the Peter Rabbit spoon to eat their cereal.

I was finally spurred to post after I read this article on Motherlode, the NY Times blog. Reading about families who don't have Grandparents around anymore, or those who have had to exclude them from their lives makes me realize how lucky we are. My mum and dad are brilliant Grandparents. The only problem is that we live so far away from them.

Still, they are seasoned travellers, willing to hop on a ten hour flight for two weeks with us, so we are making the most of our time together.

It's hard for Mum and Dad sometimes, because though they feel they know the children well, we have reguar phone conversations,  we email photos and share video, use skype and of course they read this blog, from the children's point of view they are not all that familiar. It is a big contrast to their close relationhip with my sister's children, who my mum takes care of for two days every week.

Now though, over a week into their visit, both kids are thoroughly enjoying being with Grandma and Grandad. Geekygirl has got over her initial reserve and is sharing her opinions at every opportunity. Geekyboy is free with hugs and giggles. Cookies have been baked, movies watched, and many stories read. Each kid got a full day of undivided grandparent time, they stayed home from preschool one at a time, and this worked out wonderfully. Mum was a bit worried that Geekygirl might prove rather challenging. Not that she couldn't handle it, having been a primary school teacher for many years, but she didn't really want to have to start laying down the law in these precious few days. We needn't have worried, geekygirl was an angel. I was quite relieved!

It is funny to get insight from my mum into the differences in parenting styles between my sister and I. I read a lot of books, and treat being a mum as something that I have to learn how to do. My sister, also a primary school teacher, doesn't think so hard about how to be a parent. She just does it. Fantastically.

A classic example of our difference is that I, based upon my research, offer my children choices as often as I can.  Color of cup or plate, style of cutlery, bedtime stories, I seek the children's input as second nature now. So if Grandma just hands them a plate or cup they are taken aback not to have their opinion sought as to the color or style. If she then tries this approach with the other grandkids she is met with bemusement, the kids no doubt thinking "Just give me a plate already!"

It is interesting too, observing the kids through anothers eyes. I notice their brillliance; my parents think both the kids are very advanced for their age (completely unbiased opinions, of course!) and exclaim over their vocabulary and artistic prowess. I also notice their quirks more. Geekygirl, for example, likes to change her clothes frequently. She may wear ten or more combinations of outfit in a given day when we are at home, including pajamas. Her clothes are always all over the floor. When we go away for the weekend to Tahoe I pack as many of her clothes as I can, knowing that she gets upset without a large wardrobe to select from. I've kind of got used to it, and I'm perfectly OK with her treating her clothes like a giant dress up box, but I think my mum and dad find it quite bizzare.

Geekyboy is a peaceable kid, but when he does have a tantrum he just has to be left to get on with it. We had a funny incident this weekend where we tried to distract him by getting his trains out, and he was so mad that he put them all away, hurling them accurately into their container. I've never before witnessed a tantrum storm that resulted in a tidy room!

We have a few more days left together. A few more days of coming home from work to clean, folded laundry and dinner all ready. A few more days where we have more laps than kids, and enough hands to keep everyone happy! We're going to enjoy it.

Geekyboy and his Grandma: