David and Rachel, dear friends of ours, have this to say about being grandparents to toddlers and preschoolers: “It can be exhausting when all they have is one gear” (“one gear” as in overdrive); “There is a lot of tongue-biting” (in deference to the parenting beliefs of their daughter and son-in-law); “The joy is limitless” (unlike parenting where responsibility for children’s healthy growth and behavior seems 100 percent related to parental efficacy); “It’s like we’re in cahoots with them [grandchildren] to not take life too seriously” (which parents have no choice but to do just that); “They always laugh at my jokes;” “No hugs in the world mean as much to me as theirs’.”
David and Rachel seem to love being grandparents while working to “know their place,” and yet do not see themselves as slaves to or clones of their children’s role as parents. Generational expectations are quite different between baby boomers and millennials. Millennials are concerned about parenting “right” (therefore, anxious about getting it “wrong”), and boomers are keen on children who can share, show respect, and wait their turn when in groups of peers. While there’s a lot of overlap, little has changed in the parent-grandparent-child triangle to threaten the truth of the age-old saying about why grandparents and grandchildren can be so close—they have a common “enemy.”
Here are five things that grandparents should keep in mind about today’s parent-child relationship.