'Tis the season for gifts, baked goods, Santa mall visits, and . . . in-laws and family visiting. Eek! Whether you're best buddies with your mom or your mom-in-law or at your wits' end with one or both of them, staying under your roof with another "Head Woman in Charge" can be a challenge because both you and Grandma (or Nonna, or Nana, or whatever your family calls her) are used to being the rule-maker. So what happens when Grandma stays over at your house? Are you the boss or is Grandma?
Siding With Mom (Mostly)
In my opinion, it's Mom's house, so Mom should dictate the rules. Why? Here goes:
- Mom is the ruler of her home, and since the children are her children and it's also their home, the kids are used to abiding by Mom's wishes at home. Kids will look to their mother for guidance and structure, so if Mom decides, "I'm letting Grandma take over now," the kids may be confused about why she's doing this and may interpret this as Mom being inconsistent with discipline, weak, and a pushover.
- Kids will behave a certain way in the comforts of their own homes, and moms know this. We have provided rules and guidance as to home behavior expectation. If you give the keys to Grandma, so to speak, the kids may be confused and act out or behave worse in confusion.
- If Grandma respects Mom's rules, the kids will doubly respect Mom. This is a win-win.
Mom has worked hard to maintain the structure and dynamics of her home. As much as Grandma is an elder and should be respected, this is Mom's home and her rules maintain the land, so to speak.
Let's face it: grandmothers spoil, and one day when we are grandmothers, we probably will too. I am not suggesting that simply because Grandma is staying over that now the kids should go wild and be doted on hand and foot, but I am suggesting that you give moments to Grandma when she can indulge your kids and be a grandma. How do you accomplish that? Well, try:
- Telling Grandma before she arrives which set rules really matter to you — you know, the ones your kids need in order to be sane and happy over the holidays. Then . . .
- Pick one or two rules you don't mind budging on, like extra dessert or extra movie time at night. Pick whichever rules you feel the most comfortable breaking for however long Grandma will be staying. In fact . . .
- If Grandma isn't staying for more than a day or two, try to relax somewhat. It's probably one of the few times she will get this quality time with her grandkids during the year.
- Make Grandma feel special: grandmothers are special, and they're also used to being the head of the household. Go out of your way to show her (even if she's difficult) how important she is to you and your kids. This will make up for being usurped as the family ruler.
If you've got a grandma who loves to wear the pants in the family, put her in charge of a few household tasks involving the kids. This way Grandma will feel special and get to use her authoritative ways enough that she won't be locking horns with you too often.
Grandma will most likely have a few ideas about what to do with the kids that differ from yours. This can be incredibly annoying when she states them in front of the kids right after you've "called the shots." You can ask her not to do this, but chances are she won't listen. What is a mom to do besides drink until she forgets what is happening? Um, no. How about:
- Pick your battles wisely. Some fights are not worth having, and some are. If Grandma is trying to give a potentially nut-laden cookie to your nut-allergic child because she thinks you're too crazy over allergies, pick your battles! If Grandma wants to buy junior another toy, remind yourself she'll be home soon and let it slide.
- If Grandma is really rude, state calmly that while you know Grandma did a great job raising her children, these are the rules of your home and what the kids abide by.
- If Grandma is not your mom but your partner's, let your partner deal with her if she gets rude or rowdy.
Remember, moms: these visits are short and brief. If Grandma is unhelpful or rude, keep counting down the time and step away to take deep breaths when you need them. This too shall pass! (Until next year . . . )