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The Abdication of Parenting: When Parent Doesn’t Receive Grandparent

How do grandparents want to be received?

It’s likely that children will turn their parents into grandparents one day. Likely that their children’s grandparents will be eager to do their part to help their grandchildren get off to a good start. Eager to form a bond with their grandchildren that brings the love, role modeling, and support into their lives that only grandparents can bring: gentle loving kindness with patience, humor, and wisdom that only experience can bring.

How will the new grandparents want to be received by their grandchildren’s parents? With warmth and respect for their place in their children’s extended families. With awareness of the promise of grandparenting as well as its limitations. With patience and good humor while the grandparents adjust to family dynamics – personalities, psychologies, philosophies, relationships, conflicting motivations, and irrationalities that give each family its unique character. That make it either an incubator of creativity, an island of stability for children, a nuthouse, or a horror show.

The attention that children need

But, above all, the new grandparents will want to be received with sensitivity to their children’s response to grandparenting, so that the attention their children may want, the relationship that provides them with the love, role modeling and support they may welcome and need from their grandparents, can develop in peace. In an atmosphere of gentle loving kindness, uncomplicated by adult rivalry and friction. By distractions that interfere with learning and growth nurtured by innocence, trust, and playfulness.

How will the new grandparents want to be received? As three-dimensional human beings possessed of character and values, free will and judgment, that can be trusted to fit in without compromising their own integrity or the integrity of their grandchildren’s family. To respect and support parental roles and responsibilities while keeping them separate from their own. To enrich their grandchildren’s lives with all their gifts – unique perspectives, talents, independent judgment, and experience as well as time and attention – without imposition or expectation. To be heard when conditions obligate them to speak up, by responsible parents obligated to listen.

The opportunity to be there for family

How will the new grandparents want to be received? As sympathetic partners in shared purpose: the raising and nurturing of precious new lives. As friends who can be trusted to be and do whatever the situation calls for: to be there when the coast is clear or to respect distance when it isn’t. To move forward in harmony when minds and hearts are one or to pause to reflect when they aren’t. To promote understanding with honesty and integrity that works for the benefit of the grandchildren. And to stop transgressions that put grandchildren at risk.

Parents who receive the new grandparents as they want to be practice a wisdom and a gentle loving kindness of their own. They’re seeing the connection between the reception they give grandparents today and the reception their children and their spouses will give them another day. A contribution to their wellbeing that could make the difference between lives blessed with possibilities or drained of meaning. The possibility of experiencing the intimacy, playfulness, vulnerability, and trust that is the love of a grandchild. The opportunity to be there for precious human beings – for family. Parents who receive grandparents as they want to be are being kind to themselves as well as to others.

The parents who need correction

Parents who don’t do so aren’t seeing the connection. They fall victim to a lapse of thinking, of understanding. To the short-sightedness of immaturity characteristic of children who can only take in circumstances in the moment. Who lack a wider vision that takes in concerns and consequences beyond their immediate environment. Whose definition of what matters is limited to the here and now.

Parents jealous of authority that can’t tolerate the benign presence of a grandparent reveal a more profound incapacity: intolerance of other perspectives, critical feedback that doing their job depends on. Infantile self-absorption, a sure sign of arrested development. Obsessive fear of criticism invites criticism. Parents whose immaturity and irresponsibility deny grandparenting need educating, training, and discipline. They don’t need tact and diplomacy, superficial pleasantries that mask the reality that lies behind appearances. They need correction, the same as children who haven’t learned how to behave.

Because that’s what they are: grownup children who misbehave. The more recalcitrant they are, the more resistant to correction they are, the more they require it. With no-nonsense honesty, because the more they insist on protecting their “authority” the less protection they’re affording their children. Role modeling self-absorbed immaturity isn’t “parenting.” It’s the abdication of parenting.

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