Ask a grandparent why they love having grandkids so much, and I guarantee you that 9 out of 10 of them will give some version of the following answer:
“Oh, it’s so wonderful! You get to love on them, and play with them, and then kiss them goodbye and send them home.”
As much as this might annoy us parents, AKA the ones they get sent home to, we have to admit they’re right. Grandparents (and other loving family members and friends) can enjoy the luxury of loving on our kids and having nothing more required of them. We, on the other hand, have a job to do.
All kids need (and deserve) to be loved, and held, and played with. It is one of our most basic needs, and we all know what terrible things can happen when those needs aren’t met. However, the truth is, loving them isn’t enough. In addition to all of those hugs and kisses, there are a lot of other things that our kids need (and deserve) from us.
We need to discipline them.
Definitely not all fun and games, right? But we all know that kids need discipline. They need structure in their lives, they need to know what’s right and wrong, and they need to know what consequences will be coming their way when they choose the latter. This isn’t easy, and it is not really a “perk” of the job, but it is oh-so-important. My only advice in this area is give yourself grace. Different discipline techniques work with different kids, different ages, and different family lifestyles. If something isn’t working, try something else. Find what works for you and your children.
We need to teach them.
I’m not talking about reading and math here, folks. (Although we do plenty of that kind of teaching, too…who would have thought there would be this much homework in Kindergarten??) I’m talking about teaching your kids about life. I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I have sat in bed and talked about all of the uber-important life skills that are not taught in school (parenting, budgeting, how to do your taxes, clear communication skills, to name a few…). In the end, if they aren’t learning it at school, then they have to learn it from us. Teach your kids about how the world works. Teach them to respect people, above all else. Teach them how to be a good worker, no matter what the job. Teach them that life is not always fair (I’m looking at YOU, Mr. Participation Trophy…). Teach them all the things that you lay in bed at night and think “wow, I wish someone had taught me that!” or “wow, I’m so glad someone taught me that!”.
We need to protect them.
You don’t need a blog post to tell you that this world is a scary place. In fact, I have to literally tell myself “don’t think about the bad things that could happen” when I drop my boys off at school in the mornings. The sad truth is, we can’t protect our kids from everything. But we can do our best. In addition to protecting them physically (teaching them stranger-danger, keeping them close in public, and having a serious talk about sleepovers or lack of sleepovers), we also need to be mindful of protecting their hearts. These little humans are so fragile emotionally (don’t we know!), and as frustrating as that can be sometimes, we also need to look at things from their little eyes. Did you ask them how their day was? And when they just rolled their eyes and answered “fine”, did you take the time to ask more questions? Did you remind them that they don’t have to be just like their friends, that they can be their own amazing selves? Take those rare, calm moments (in the bath or in bed at night, or maybe around the breakfast table) to ask them the hard questions. Is anyone bullying you? Do you feel safe at school/daycare/friends’ house? When you ask those things, and remind them that they are beautiful and wonderful just the way they are, you are protecting their self-worth, their sense of who they are and where they belong in this world. This is no small job, my friends.
We need to love them.
While loving them isn’t enough, it is definitely worth talking about some more. Let’s be intentional about loving on our kids. Get down on their level, look them in the eyes, and tell them something specific that you love about them. Something that sets them apart from their brother or sister, or anyone else in the whole world. Eat dinner together as a family, at a table, without a TV or smart phones. It doesn’t have to be every night, it doesn’t have to be homemade food, and it doesn’t have to be peaceful (if you have a peaceful dinner table, please tell me your secret!); it will matter. And along the way, take some time to remind them that all of those other things that we do to them (sending them to time-outs, or making them stay home from a sleepover, or having them get a job at 14) are all coming from a place of tons and tons of love. After all, just loving them isn’t enough, but it is by far the most important.
So, the next time you hear those grandparents say “I get to love on them and then send them home”, just smile and know that home is exactly where they want to be.