Can Grandparents Be Too Involved?

a year ago

Everyone seems to have stories about their parents or in-laws -- many are really bad, and many are about how amazing they are. My stories run the gamut, I think,  in the range of normal relationships, but many of them leave me lost about how to feel; should I be frustrated by their involvement, or grateful?

Yesterday, my husband's parents asked if they could take our daughter to the parade in their city. Since we had a number of things to get done that day -- all of which would be easier without a toddler in tow -- it seemed like a great situation for all of us. Clara got to enjoy the day, as did her Grandparents, and we were able to get our stuff done.

Why was I conflicted?


Waving Away


My husband's parents are very "hands on" with my daughter. They have, at times, ignored our requests to not give her sweets -- or they have asked "is this ok" as the spoon full of whipping cream is already an inch away from her waiting and open mouth.

They have purchased big-ticket items for her that were financially welcome and excellent, but knowing we wanted input into our big "baby items," they chose to make their own decisions about what to buy for us. This one is tricky, because I know we should be grateful for the gift, but the fact that they slighted the fact that we wanted input was a bit insulting, I thought.

They also have a certain "air" about them that I haven't personally noted, but have had a number of my own family members comment on. "Do they think she's THEIR child?" Or, "They kind of act like they own her, don't they?"

Now, this may simply be a case of different families having different feelings and different ways of seeing things, and this may be the only reason I find some of these things uncomfortable.

Shortly before Christmas, they asked my husband if they could take Clara out to get her picture taken with them for their annual Christmas card. He said whenever was fine, and didn't think about it. When I heard they were planning to do this, I was extremely uncomfortable with the idea, and told my husband to tell them not to do it. He didn't understand me, and I didn't understand him. I should note here, that I was largely raised by my Grandparents, but they were always very careful to draw the line between "parents" and "grandparents" very clearly, and would NEVER have sent out a Christmas card with me on it with them. To me, it gives the possible impression that we are absent parents and that our child is in her Grandparents' custody. Maybe it's just my background, but it makes me uncomfortable. My bio-mom ran off on me when I was a few months old, and I want to be very clear -- to the world -- that I did NOT leave my child. I am right here.

Because of all of these things, my family is a bit resentful of the presence my in-laws have in our lives -- and especially now, our daughters. It is difficult for me, because my family is very "hands-off" and all about respecting boundaries. My Mom takes no initiatives when we are there with Clara, while my in-laws play with and hover around Clara when she's there so we can completely relax. This is a good thing, and frankly, I like the break, but I worry about the different relationships that are being formed with the different families. Should I tell my in-laws to back off a bit to make my family more comfortable, or is it none of my family's business?

Also, going back to the parade, our parents both live in the same neighborhood and are likely to attend the same parade. I was concerned that if my Mom were to see my in-laws with my daughter, she would feel somehow left out, despite the fact that it was not our plan and my in-laws had offered to take her.

In a few weeks, my mother-in-law will be taking a week off work and will help us out by babysitting my daughter for that week. Because they live in a neighboring city, I asked what her plan was -- if she would pick up my daughter and take her to their home, etc. She said that she wasn't sure, but that "they thought they would take her overnight for a night or two."

I said "no, I don't think I'm ready for that."

My husband has been ready for that since our daughter was about two-weeks-old, and I have to admit that the concept of an evening completely free and -- more importantly, because my daughter is a wonderful sleeper -- a morning to laze around, sounds exceptionally attractive. My husband is ready to stand behind me whatever my thoughts are, but I struggle with the negativity in my answer.

It bothered me that her statement was "we thought we would..." and not "Would it be ok with you if..." I would always much prefer a straight question as opposed to a beat-around-the-bush statement that suggests we don't have an option in the matter. My husband and I are both annoyed by this way of communicating. However, despite the fact that this is how she "asked," is it unfair of me to say no -- and am I saying no simply because I am annoyed?

Am I really not ready to let my 18-month-old be away from me for a night, or am I reacting to my personal feelings about my in-laws, or about the family politics that might come up because of it. I'm quite certain that my in-laws are taking for granted that my daughter will come stay with them when we go to the hospital to have another baby, and this has never been expressly asked or stated. And it kind of annoys me that they assume this.

I'm looking for input here, from unbiased people. I love that my daughter adores her Grandparents, and I do enjoy how "hands-on" they are, but are they overdoing it a bit? And if they are, is the fact that they are overdoing it simply because my family is so different? How do I deal with all of this?


Photo Credit: medigirol.

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