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I live quite close to my son and his partner. Their children are now eight and ten and have always spent a lot of time with me as their parents both work. I love having them but am worried about the amount of money their other granny spends on them.
I don’t mind the children getting new things but it seems like every week she has sent them some new game or other. She lives down south and so only gets to see them a couple of times a year. I can’t afford to give them things in this way and I worry that they will stop coming to see me if I don’t give them as many gifts as their other granny does. I live on my own and seeing them is a real highlight. We have such fun together.
Relationships can always be viewed from different perspectives, and each person believes their own view is the right one. You believe that you don’t have enough to give to your grandchildren when compared to their other granny, while she lives far away and sees them much less often than you. I wonder, though, if you are both thinking the grandchildren prefer the other. The other granny is maybe anxious of all the times you get to see them, and sends them things so she isn’t forgotten.
You don’t seem to value what you do give the children: time, attention, a secure place to be, familiarity and, most importantly, love.
Children don’t always remember the things – they want someone who is interested in them, cares about how they are feeling and creates memories for them.
House of horrors
Our four grandchildren, aged between six and 12, come to stay three times a year. It’s really the only time we see them as they live overseas. In summer, they come without their parents for about ten days, then their mum and dad arrive. Having the kids on their own is easy: we have a routine and plan all their activities. When their parents arrive, though, it’s mayhem. The kids change overnight from respectful but lively children into little monsters.
Our daughter and her husband seem to think children should do just what they want – no boundaries are being set – yet we know they are not like this in their own home. We don’t want this happening again, so what can we do?
It sounds like a question of who rules in this situation. When on their own with you, the children know your rules of behaviour apply; when their parents arrive they naturally revert to how they are at home. It’s interesting that the children obviously know how to behave and choose not to when their parents are around. Have you have talked about this with your daughter and her husband? Perhaps when they arrive at your house, they too revert to being ‘children’ who want rules as to how they should behave.
The problem for you is that you ceased being full-time parents a while back and make the justifiable assumption that your daughter and her husband should be more responsible. Someone needs to make the first move to talk about how to set boundaries around their visits. Ask if they want you to set the rules of the house. If you don’t say how the situation affects you, they won’t know.
• Anne Chilton is joint head of professional practice at Relationships Scotland
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