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Allow grandparents to be involved, but set boundaries

Let grandparents be involved, but set limits you can handle

Q: Since the moment my mother and mother-in-law found out I was pregnant (my son is now 18 months old) they have driven us insane with their desire to be way more involved than we are comfortable with.

I am a private person and do not desire daily assistance with my child, don't really want them at every single trip to the zoo or park, etc. My husband and I were never extremely close to them prior to the baby, and I hate that now they feel they have a right to be in the middle of all our activities.

So how do I know if my boundaries are too restrictive or if they are just too pushy? I don't want to be a horrible person who withholds grandchildren.

New York

A: That's an important — and promising — thing not to want to be. However, it's not enough to keep you from becoming a grandchild-withholder. Your attitude says you're already halfway there.

They don't have a "right to be in the middle of all our activities." They have a desire, a powerful one, and parents who choose to resent that desire, instead of acknowledging and respecting it, are being deeply unfair.

It's not just unfair to the grandparents, either. It's also unfair to grandchildren — unfair to your son. From an older generation of caregivers, children stand to gain love, insight, continuity and perspective beyond measure, except in the rarest cases where those grandparents are known abusers.

Yes, of course, it can be annoying to have eager spectators to your childrearing. Maybe you're an introvert, and the mothers drain you. Maybe it rubs you the wrong way that they're suddenly interested in you now. All valid — and none justification for keeping Gramma at arm's length. Doing so makes your needs paramount over others', where selflessness would serve everyone better here.

As a toddler's parent, you no doubt already feel as if your needs come last. Granted. However, by being generous with access to your son, you stand to benefit as much if not more than anyone.

In the exhausting business of raising a well-rounded child, there's no ally like other people who love your boy as their own. They're the ones who will care for him best when you want or need to be away; who will bring fresh energy when you've got none left in the tank; who will broaden the safe and nurturing boundaries of home beyond the four walls of your address. Maybe you're not a "village" believer, but think like an 18-month-old; don't you think he'd like a bigger, richer, more varied world to explore?

Obviously no one benefits if you sacrifice your sanity at the altar of maternal love, which is why it's so fortunate that isn't necessary.

Setting limits — or just a schedule — needn't compromise you or the objective. Arrange a standing weeknight date where Mother 1 or Mother 2 comes to help out; make it your date night, bath night, stare-at-a-wall night. Factor a grandparent into an outing every other weekend, once a month; invite one along every third trip to the zoo; whatever makes sense.

Clear roles and a clear message of inclusion will encourage them both to push less, and to resist less in the event you have to push back.

Allow grandparents to be involved, but set boundaries 01/13/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 12:54pm]
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