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Beacon Senior News

Weekends with the “wrecking crew”

Aug 29, 2019 02:28PM ● By Carrie Lugar Slayback

Whew! As the grandchildren drove away at the end of their weekend visit, I sank into the sofa and fell asleep. A deep, exhausted sleep.

Yes, we’d enjoyed our 3-year-old grandson’s intense focus, shooting baskets into his miniature net, as well as our 5-year-old granddaughter’s emerging ability to swim. We laughed at their attempts to love our old Chihuahua, their heads poked under chairs, beds and tables where she wisely retreated. We marveled over their artwork.

However, “the wrecking crew,” as we call them, left their mark. They tossed the pebbles out of our walkway. They threw pillows off the sofa and scattered toys about the house, used only for a moment and then discarded for a new interest. Sometimes their voices were ear-splitting!

The effects of a weekend grandchild visit span from joy and laughter, downright grumpiness and finally collapse. What else do grandparents receive from their awesome efforts?

A 2016 European study found “a positive impact of grandparental childcare on health,” noting that it was particularly true “among grandparents providing lower intensity levels of grandparental care.” Grandmothers benefited the most with better physical health, showing “significantly higher scores than grandmothers who did not provide childcare.” However, the grandfathers’ benefits were not significant.

“Those children need discipline!” fumed my husband regarding our grandchildren’s casual manner of responding to “NO!”

I find my grandchildren’s warm, squirmy bodies irresistible and love contact with them. But my husband finds them tiring as they crawl on his lap, hear half a story, run off and return with a new book.

They wore me out, but I can’t wait to see them, each time filling my heart with love.

“No visits from now until the holidays,” my husband commanded, preferring our adults-only existence.

Our different reactions demonstrate why females receive a greater benefit than their male counterparts. The rewarding mothering reflex, ensuring the survival of a new generation, lasts a lifetime.

Additionally, with lifetimes stretching into our 80s and 90s, children have grandparents longer than any previous generation. According to a study in the June 2016 “Gerontologist,” our long lives bring “added socialization, support and stress.”

Our young grandkids include us in their group of loving adults but tend to lose interest as they become teens, eventually returning to us in adulthood as resources for wisdom and financial support. This long association is rewarding but fraught with unique challenges.

Grandparents want to help strapped grandchildren but may have their own financial worries. Grandparents may need physical help but resent the loss of independence and role reversal accompanying grandchildren as caregivers. Grandchildren, busy with their own lives, may find the type of aid an elderly person needs to be trying and even embarrassing.

All this seems so far in the future for us as we meet the challenges of active preschoolers.

However, time flies! So as we prepared for our grandchildren’s next visit we also planned to set healthy boundaries for our long- term relationship. Together, my husband and I decided to:

  • Discuss our house rules together so we’re clear.
  • Share our needs with our daughter and son-in-law in a positive, non-judgmental way.
  • When our preschoolers come over, have eye contact with them, set down a few simple rules and be sure to follow up.

    Rules included:

  • When we say “no," stop.
  • Use quiet voices.
  • Work with us to put away what

    you use.

  • We will mimic their parents’

consequence of “time out chair” when kids misbehave. Set timer for two minutes.

Despite all our careful preparation, we know we’ll need to repeat rules and redirect many times. Even though our grandkids will not instantly cooperate with our standards, showing strong, consistent leadership will build a foundation and set the stage for what we hope to be a long association of respect, clear communication and an opportunity to decrease stress and enjoy time with each other.

Postscript: The children arrived for a fall holiday visit. An art project awaited them. We sat down, looked each child in the eye and told them our rules. They seemed to understand the seriousness of the moment, which came so early in their visit. And it worked! “No” meant no, shrill screams were almost eliminated and the holiday mess...well, we all worked together.

As we waved good-bye, my husband said, “This was a lot of fun— come back soon,” and meant it.

Teaching grandkids about kindness

By Kimberly Blaker

Amid our busy lives, it's easy to lose sight of the little things we can do to make the world a gentler, kinder place for others. As a result, our grandkids miss out on golden opportunities to emulate such kindness and its rewards. So why not set a goal with your grandkids and see how many acts of kindness they can rack up in a single day? Here are some ideas to get them started.

  • Visit an elderly neighbor.
  • Offer a compliment.
  • Help a classmate with their homework.
  • Donate to an animal shelter or Toys for Tots collection.
  • Sit next to someone who seems left out.
  • Offer to babysit.
  • Bake cookies for your teacher or boss.
  • Buy a homeless person a meal.
  • Hold the door open for someone (a super easy gesture that's sure to be appreciated by anyone).
  • Offer to take a neighbor's dog for a walk.
  • Do a chore for your brother or sister. (Maybe they'll return the favor someday!)
  • Buy a friend a candy bar.
  • Help a friend with their yard work.