Remember, you are all on the same team
The last time I was visiting my son and his family, my granddaughter called me Grandma more than once. She usually corrected herself, but I didn’t make a big deal out of it either way. We both know I’m DeeDee. Grandma is her other grandmother.
She loves Grandma. She loves me. And if her three-year-old mind confuses two people who love her dearly, she’s human. (There is fascinating research on the way we confuse the names of family members, and dogs, but not cats!)
My grandchildren have, somewhat quaintly, just four grandparents. They are, against the odds, the products of two adults whose parents are still married to each other. Many of our friends have grandchildren with multiple sets of grandparents. One of our best friends, Stu, is one of four grandfathers to his grandchildren: Stu, Stu’s son-in-law’s father, and Stu’s step-daughter’s father and his husband. That’s a lot of names for Grandpa for those kids to keep straight! There are also, rather mundanely, two grandmothers.
I suspect many of you have Other Grandparents in your life. If you are lucky, as I am, they are lovely people with whom you feel fortunate to share grandchildren. But even then, it’s inevitable that you will sometimes feel jealous or left out. It’s human nature.
So how do you deal with it if you find yourself wondering if the other grandparents are going to be the favorites because they can afford more lavish gifts, live closer, or are able to be more active in your grandchildren’s lives? What if you are dealing with jealousy, inferiority, or competitiveness—on your side or on the part of the other grandparents? This can be especially difficult if the other grandparents include ex-spouses.
There is only one real way to success: focus on your own relationship with your grandchild, and let the other grandparents focus on theirs. Be the best grandparent you can be, whatever your circumstances, and you will be a loved and important part of your grandchild’s team.
As part of that team, here are some things to remember:
It isn’t one or the other. A child’s capacity to love is endless. They are fully capable of loving every grandparent who treats them and those they love with kindness and respect. If you are one of those people, you will be loved. This doesn’t mean they won’t have a favorite, but that is more dependent on the child’s needs at any stage than on how hard a grandparent is trying. Just as most children go through stages where they prefer one parent, they may favor one grandparent over another for a time. That will change as they grow and have different needs.
Children’s love can’t be bought. While a child may be dazzled by the grandmother who supplies an endless supply of fancy gifts, generosity is not one of the factors that predicts a close grandparent-grandchild relationship. These factors are physical proximity, frequency of contact (including virtual), grandparents’ roles in the family, the expectation of a close relationship, emotional bonding and sharing values. These take no money, and most can be achieved even from a distance.
There is no such thing as too much love. If your grandchildren are lucky enough to have multiple grandparents who want to be a part of their lives, be happy for them. We should all be so fortunate.
As you co-grandparent in the years ahead, no matter what your relationship is with the other grandparents, practice the rules we are trying to teach our grandchildren: Share nicely. Play fair. Don’t be mean.
They’ll love you for it.