I dread Saturday mornings in the spring. It’s not because I don’t absolutely love springtime because, in actuality, it’s my favorite time of year. In fact, it normally has the makings of the perfect day: The warming baseball fields begin to line with spectators as energetic children stomp towards their dugout with bats and gloves spilling out of their fresh, new bags. Parents are dressed in their team’s colors, bragging their beloved child’s number on the backs of their shirts, and my favorite, the grandparents who are always there 30 minutes before game time, cheering the loudest, not taking an eye off home plate for anything.
My heart feels so happy for the children whose grandparents are happily and selflessly involved in every activity of their grandchild’s life. But, my heart equally breaks because my parents, who live five minutes away, make an excuse nearly every game of why they cannot come. It’s not just sporting events. They prefer to Facetime a couple of times a week, but aren’t willing to get in the car and drive the five minutes to interact with my children. In fact, we haven’t been invited over to their house in two months. “Why do you feel like you have to be invited? The door is always open,” they say. But, whenever we invite ourselves, the excuses begin and when we just “show up,” it’s never convenient. They are too tired or too hot or too exhausted to interact.
These are not the parents I grew up with.
We see grandparents doting on their children everywhere we go. A quick trip to Chick-Fil-A? Check. The zoo? Triple check. Dates at Charley’s on Friday night? Yep. Fellow mamas are constantly talking about how they have to fend their parents off from impeding into their lives. Their parents take their kids for the whole weekend and tell them to “spend the weekend enjoying your marriage,” while my parents make jokes in front of me that they are just “free babysitters” even though they never. ever. babysit. They’ve never even had my children overnight. When they do spend a few hours with them alone, all I hear about are the 6,000 sacrifices that they made for me to run that errand (not even a date night!).
This is not about a free babysitter. This is about the lack of desire in their hearts to want to be present for our children.
Our children crave time with their grandparents. They do not crave to show up and each grandparent toss them an iPad; they crave THEM. They crave memories, laughter, stories, a relationship. They ask for them at sporting events, school programs, to come to dinner with us; they ask us to leave when we go over there for cherished one-on-one time (but God forbid we actually leave). Our children love them with all their being, while we have to put effort into our hearts not breaking at their disinterest in reciprocating that bond.
Don’t get me wrong, this is also not about super fun dates to the movies or nerf wars or endearing tea parties that I feel my children “miss out on.” I absolutely do not expect to have a grandparent that does anything complex, or for me, or for show. It’s about wanting to be involved in their grandchildren’s lives.
As the parents, and specifically as the daughter of the uninvolved grandparent, I have two choices: To let the resentment continue to build, or to accept the disappointment and let my heartbreak teach me lessons. In the recent years, I have chosen the latter.
Lower your expectations. We do not like to be compared to other moms. We spend our time trying to fight those stereotypes of what a good mom is, so how is it fair to do that to our parents? While it may break our heart to see our parents so disinterested with our children, nothing good will come from comparing them up against everything they are not. We must lower our expectations to avoid continuing to expect more and getting less.
Be strong for our children. Our children love with blind eyes. An uninvolved grandparent to them may be normal, or it may hurt them as equally as you. The best thing we can do is to encourage them and talk positively about their grandparents and try our best to foster a bond regardless of the circumstances. This can seem
hard impossible when we are full of pent up resentment, but part of teaching unconditional love is showing unconditional love. Our children will learn more lessons about our character through this type of response.
Let others in. When neighbors, friends, church members, or other trusted adults express adoration towards your children, believe it. Because my parents are so disengaged with my children, I simply cannot understand why my neighbors BEG to babysit them or bring them into their homes for special activities. Because I do not see this want from my own parents, I just don’t understand how anyone would want to spend time with them. When we have that opportunity, we need to let these trusted people in and allow love them the way you pray that your parents someday will.
Don’t repeat the mistake. My siblings and I often talk about how we are going to ensure that we don’t inherit this trait, or whatever it is. When we feel the most hurt, we write ourselves a letter and put it in a safe place. In that letter, we bare all: Our hurt, our anger, our disappointment, and our lack of understanding. Before I became a parent, I stuck my foot in my mouth a lot. Who is to say that won’t be the same for when I have grandchildren? I am determined to not become the uninvolved grandparent, and one of the few ways I can actively work towards avoiding it is leaving myself reminders of how my 30-something self feels.
How do you cope when the uninvolved grandparents are your parents?