It is a worldwide thing. A phenomenon. An epidemic. It exists through all parts of the world and is discussed amongst parents all over the world at bbq’s, dinner parties and restaurants. The switch that flicks when our very own parents move from the parent into grandparent phase. It has been discussed at several of these locations throughout my circle of friends and we all nod in agreeance and talk about how we were all brought up the same way. McDonald’s was an occasional treat, sweets and lollies weren’t kept in the cupboards and were only from a party, toys were only really bought at birthdays and Christmas and it didn’t mean the whole bloody shop and toys were recycled to the Smith Family or the Salvation Army and not everything single item was to be kept. Not every outing meant the purchase of something or a treat.
I am not sure whether when the announcement of granddaughter or grandson is made that something warm and fuzzy happens to cause a chemical imbalance in the grandparent’s brain where the once fairly strict parent is filled with guilt and worry that they did the wrong thing and perhaps should have spoilt us rotten as kids. The switch flicks and from that moment they must undo all their past wrong doings, even though they know you turned out perfectly okay not expecting toys and money to grow on trees and still have all your teeth intact. It seems that once this chemical imbalance occurs their job to make sure that the future grandchild is never, ever without.
Now before I go on, I am an extremely grateful mother for both sets of grandparents in my life and my children’s’ life. I am blessed that they are attentive grandparents that help look after my kids when we are at work and love and care for them wholeheartedly. For that, I am very thankful and fully believe in the role of grandparents in my children’s lives. But the spoil switch, I am afraid was flicked at the birth announcement and seems to have stayed flicked. I think it has even rusted or had Blu-tack shoved in it or something because I don’t think there is any way to switch it back.
I appreciate if you have grandparents that visit once a year, the spoiling would be out of control but that is almost accepted. There is the need to spoil when they live so far away. They don’t get to do it regularly, I get it. In my circle of friends, most of us have parents that look after our kids at least once a week or more and this means that the spoiling is a regular occurrence. There is always something new or flashy or yummy that just simply arrives when the grandparents do.
I have many friends who were brought up in regular households with both parents working, busting to make ends meet and toys and treats and the likes were not regular occurrences. As children, we have grown up with these codes and tried to ingrain them into our own children. We can’t have everything we want, treats are there to be special and not all the time. And don’t you remember the old “money doesn’t grow on trees you know”?
If I sound ungrateful well so be it but I do find it really hard when days that a grandparent is coming over for a visit or to mind the children and that particular morning the children have been real right ratbags (or little shits as I commonly refer to them). You’ve spent the morning threatening to remove play stations, iPads, special toys and then it hits critical mass and the items are removed for the given period of time. One hour later and in walks grandparents and the old “I just got the kids a little something”. It really does my head in. Disciplining the kids becomes hard and I don’t mind being the bad guy. I am the bad guy and always will be. That’s my job. But it makes me feel like I am suddenly the wicked witch of the west.
I feel that if toys and treats and bits and pieces are handed out all the time it makes birthdays and Christmas less special. Gifts are meant to be special and thoughtful and I have seen my kids on many occasions open one present and just chuck it aside waiting for the next one. They don’t care what’s inside, they just want numbers. Multitudes of presents flowing through the door.
Another occasion I find it tough is with the food treats. Just this week I was in Darling Harbour with my son playing in the water park with a few hundred other children. 6 sets of grandparents all came with McDonald’s for all the kids. I thought about it and I know McDonald’s is easy but what happened to the good old peanut butter sandwiches that were carried in the old freezer bag that was soggy and mushed up? Followed up with “you get what you get and you don’t get upset?” None of that was happening.
We as a family eat very well during the week. The kids know that if during the week they eat all their vegetables for dinner each night that on the weekend on some weekends they can have pizza or we sometimes go out for dinner and they order fish and chips. The weekend is always a bit more relaxed. You know the drill. They get a few bits and pieces here and there. So when we as parents give treats on the weekends and then on top of that the kids get treats during the week from the grandparents it adds up to a whole shit load of treats. You hear me? It is just constant junk and sugar. In this day and age, there is so many preservatives and sugars etc in just ordinary everyday food that we just don’t need anymore. I’m not about to move to the middle of nowhere and start subsistence farming but at least we can try to make an effort. The kids don’t need treats all the time. I don’t mind occasionally, it is the every week business.
These kids have it sorted too. The grandparents are so wrapped. Wrapped around their chubby little cute fingers knowing that if they bat their eyelids and smile sweetly, tell grandma she is the favourite and they love her more, she will succumb and buy the toy car or the ice cream. They just know. And the grandparents get a faint memory of the time they didn’t buy us the ice cream and when we were kids and threw ourselves onto the floor and they just kept walking. They picture it and the fear washes over their face that they must have traumatised us for life. The damage was done because of that ice cream and so they reach into the freezer and so ‘alright dear, just on this occasion’. And I am so sure there is also an ‘it can be our little secret’ added in there for good measure.
Now I will stand to make note that weekends that the kids stay at the grandparents’ house is different. I appreciate that grandmas house is a special haven of delicacies and treats. I can accept that. We know when the kids come home they will be exhausted and had enough McDonalds and bakery treats and new toys and the likes for at least 6 months. I accept that and know that it is a special time and they will always remember grandmas’ house for that. Maybe you think that is ridiculous but I always remember it was a treat to go to my grandmas’ house. She had a tv in her bedroom and when I woke up in the morning she had one of those nifty stable tables and she would bring me in toast and a cup of fresh orange juice and I was allowed to watch cartoons in bed. That was just heaven for me and something that only happened at grandmas’ house. Who the hell else was going to make you breakfast in bed?
So if the switch could just be flicked at grandmas house it would be okay. To be fair to the grandparents, I actually think they can’t control it. Like I said, I really do think a chemical is released into their brain that washes away any memory of how they raised us or the constant bitching they did of their parents about the same thing.
And I know what you are all thinking. Just watch when the announcement is made with my own kids. The chemicals will hit and I will turn out the same way. I probably will, I hope not but maybe I’ll get the guilts about several times I have left them on the floor of aisle 6 or told them they are more than welcome to pack a bag and find another nicer family that will treat them better and give them ice cream every night for dinner.
It’s in writing now too, and it’s on the internet. They’ll find it and wave it in my face when they find me at McDonald’s buying happy meals for their kids.
And I know my mum is reading this, I am sure the phone is about to ring. Love ya mum.
Do your parents or partners parents do this? How do you try and control the amount of things that come home or are given every time you see them?