NORMAN — Q: Our daughter and son-in-law have consented to be the guardians of our first grandchild, due in a few months. In preparation for this momentous event, we want to understand what our boundaries are.
They will be living fairly close and we anticipate seeing them fairly often. When should we give advice and when should we not give advice? If we see them handling something wrongly, should we mention it to them? If they disagree with something we do, should we change our ways? Thanks for helping us out with this.
A: Your first sentence summed up exactly how my wife and I saw the role of our children in our grandchildren’s lives. The young ones were our grandchildren first, their children second. In effect, they acted “in loco grandparentis.” But in all seriousness, you obviously have a good sense of humor, which you will sometimes need, let me assure you.
As you are well aware, parenting is to great degree a trial-and-error process, and some parents make more errors along the way, and some children make for more parental error.
It is difficult, therefore, for those of us who’ve gone through the struggle and emerged relatively unscathed to keep our mouths shut when we see young parents making mistakes we learned not to make (after making them). We so much want to help them not have to travel along that hard road. The problem is, they have to travel the same road to learn the same lessons.
The further problem is that the world of parenting has turned 180 degrees since you and I were young, first-time parents. For example, today’s parents believe paying children lots of attention is a right and proper thing. I need not remind you that there was a day when children were supposed to pay far more attention to their parents than their parents paid them.