When a parent becomes a grandparent, a series of chemical reactions take place in the human brain. This release of hormones (endorphins, oxytocin, etc) is known to contribute to what is generally referred to as “The Grandparent Effect” - grandparents doing whatever the hell they want with no regard to consequences all in the name of love.
Obviously, I’m joking, and I fully appreciate the amazing love Grandparents give. But the hormone cocktail would help explain some of the bizarre grandparent behavior I’ve both experienced first-hand and heard about from friends that seems to peak at the holidays. In fact, it’s one of the biggest complaints I hear new parents talking about: “Why do my child’s grandparents think they can do whatever they want with my kid just because it’s Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanza? They should know better!” Or, to quote a friend, “Why are there candy cane flakes in my 8-month-old’s neck rolls?? She doesn’t even have teeth!”
If the grandparents are coming to town this holiday season, you may want to post this list up on your soon-to-be goodie-stuffed fridge. Or better yet, print it out and send it to them anonymously BEFORE all hell breaks loose at the “most wonderful time of the year.” Here’s what I’m telling my kids’ grandparents this winter:
Rule #1: Presents are acceptable ON holidays.
In my family, we celebrate Christmas. That means Christmas Day is the only acceptable day for gift-giving. Not the entire week leading up to Christmas, nor the whole week after. Between Christmas parties, guests stopping by, classmates and friends who enjoy giving our children presents, my kids have already received a buttload of crap long before Christmas morning. So if you are spending Christmas with us, please reserve your presents FOR THE ACTUAL HOLIDAY. It’s a DAY. A holiDAY. Not a holiWEEK. Definitely not a holiMONTH. With the exception of say, a pair of Christmas jammies on Christmas Eve, have a cup of cocoa and relax on the gift-giving. I know it’s hard to wait, but if the kids can do it so can you.
Rule #2: Huge purchases need pre-approval.
I know you like to do everything over-the-top. You like to give the BEST gifts and totally blow ours out of the water every year. It’s cool. We don’t mind coming in second, or third, or fourth (our kids have a lot of grandparents). But if you’re buying them a dollhouse or a princess palace, please ask us to make sure there is somewhere to put it beside under the dining room table. Also, iPads, iPhones and anything else that gives you pause before purchasing requires a phone call and a gift receipt.
Rule #3: Ask for suggestions about what the kids actually want.
Kids are fickle creatures. Don’t try and guess what they want this year. Just ask them! They will be happy to tell you. I promise they’ve been working on their lists since last January and it’s freaking huge. Don’t just blindly tear things off the walls at Toys R Us. Find out what they actually want, make sure it’s somewhat age-appropriate, non-violent and that we didn’t already get it, and go to town.
Rule #4: When taking the kids holiday shopping, carseats come in handy.
I know in your day kids were allowed to ride in the front seat. Hell, a baby probably sat on your lap while you drove, Britney Spears style. But not only will you likely get arrested for doing this circa now, you will also be seriously endangering your grandchild! There are way more cars on the road than when you had children, not to mention way more distracted drivers. No matter how short of a drive you have, babies and kids get put into car seats and buckled correctly every. single. time.
Rule #5: Sweets come AFTER meals.
You seemed to know this when I was growing up. Yet somehow it has now evaded you as a grandparent. Peanut butter cookies after lunch and and peanut butter cookies FOR lunch are not the same thing. Please don’t give my four year old cookies and tell me you fed her lunch. You did not.
Rule #6: Babies don’t eat pizza.
Thanks for watching the kids while we wrap presents! But babies don’t eat pizza. I’ll say it again, babies don’t eat pizza. Once more? Babies don’t eat pizza. And when they do, they have diarrhea for days. But since you’re visiting for the whole week, thanks for helping with the huge blow-out diapers… Merry Christmas, Granny! Hope ya like poop.
Rule #7: You have a phone, please use it.
When you are watching my children and you have a question, please use your phone to call and ask. Don’t pretend you don’t know how to use it! I saw you texting, one-handed while you snuck Kid #2 M&M’s under the table and thought I wasn’t looking. I know I don’t answer my phone all that much on the reg (because I’m drowning in children). But when you have my kid, I promise, I will pick up. Don’t feed the baby a 48 oz bottle and tell me “I didn’t know! He looked hungry.” If the baby drinks his body weight, he WILL vomit all over your rug every damn time and you kind of deserve it. By the way, if you hadn’t crumpled up the note I left, or rolled your eyes through my “jibber-jabber,” you would be fairly familiar with some of these boring details.
Rule #8: Don’t comment on how gross my house is.
We know the house is messy. We are taking care of kids 24/7, making pies, wrapping gifts, and trying not to die in the mall parking lot. I know you had four kids and your house was never this dirty, especially when you had company. You’ve told me literally fifteen thousand times. If you choose to sweep our kitchen, I’d definitely appreciate it more without you telling me what a lazy slob I am.
Rule #9: R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Find out what it means to me.
In all seriousness, we love having you for the holidays. But it works better when there is mutual respect between us. So instead of complaining that you aren’t allowed to do absolutely whatever you want with my child just because it’s the holiday season, how about this: show me basic respect in regard to how I’m raising my children even if you don’t agree on all fronts. Develop good communication with me about them so that we can support each other in our efforts. When it comes to being a caretaker of my child, be my ally. I could use more of them.
Now put down the candy canes and we’ll see you soon. And if you follow all these rules, your will definitely… probably… maybe get invited back next year.