Can Grandparents Be Too Involved?

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Everyone seems to have stories about their in-laws -- many are really bad, and many are about how amazing the in-laws are. My stories run the gamut, but many of them leaving me lost about how to feel; should I be frustrated by their involvement, or grateful?

Yesterday, my husband's parents asked if they could take our daughter to the parade in their city. Since we had a number of things to get done that day -- all of which would be easier without a toddler in tow -- it seemed like a great situation for all of us. Clara got to enjoy the day, as did her Grandparents, and we were able to get our stuff done.

Why was I conflicted?

Waving Away

My husband's parents are very "hands on" with my daughter. They have, at times, ignored our requests to not give her sweets -- or they have asked "is this ok" as the spoon full of whipping cream is already an inch away from her waiting and open mouth.

They have purchased big-ticket items for her that were financially welcome and excellent, but knowing we wanted input into our big "baby items," they chose to make their own decisions about what to buy for us. This one is tricky, because I know we should be grateful for the gift, but the fact that they slighted the fact that we wanted input was a bit insulting, I thought.

They also have a certain "air" about them that I haven't personally noted, but have had a number of my own family members comment on. "Do they think she's THEIR child?" Or, "They kind of act like they own her, don't they?"

Now, this may simply be a case of different families having different feelings and different ways of seeing things, and this may be the only reason I find some of these things uncomfortable.

Shortly before Christmas, they asked my husband if they could take Clara out to get her picture taken with them for their annual Christmas card. He said whenever was fine, and didn't think about it. When I heard they were planning to do this, I was extremely uncomfortable with the idea, and told my husband to tell them not to do it. He didn't understand me, and I didn't understand him. I should note here, that I was largely raised by my Grandparents, but they were always very careful to draw the line between "parents" and "grandparents" very clearly, and would NEVER have sent out a Christmas card with me on it with them. To me, it gives the possible impression that we are absent parents and they are having to take care of her. Maybe it's just my background, but it makes me uncomfortable. My bio-mom ran off on me when I was a few months old, and I want to be very clear -- to the world -- that I did NOT leave my child. I am right here.

Because of all of these things, my family is a bit resentful of the presence my in-laws have in our lives -- and especially now, our daughters. It is difficult for me, because my family is very "hands-off" and all about respecting boundaries. My Mom takes no initiatives when we are there with Clara, while my in-laws play with and hover around Clara when she's there so we can completely relax. Frankly, I like the break, but I worry about the different relationships that are being formed with the different families. Should I tell my in-laws to back off a bit to make my family more comfortable, or is it none of their business?

Also, our parents both live in the same neighborhood and are likely to attend the same parade. I was concerned that if my Mom were to see my in-laws with my daughter, she would feel somehow left out, despite the fact that it was not our plan and my in-laws had offered to take her.

In a few weeks, my mother-in-law will be taking a week off work and will help us out by babysitting my daughter for that week. Because they live in a neighboring city, I asked what her plan was -- if she would pick up my daughter and take her to their home, etc. She said that she wasn't sure, but that "they thought they would take her overnight for a night or two."

I said "no, I don't think I'm ready for that."

My husband has been ready for that since our daughter was about two-weeks-old, and I have to admit that the concept of an evening completely free and -- more importantly, because my daughter is a wonderful sleeper -- a morning to laze around, sounds exceptionally attractive. My husband is ready to stand behind me whatever my thoughts are, but I struggle with the negativity in my answer.

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