The Grandparent Syndrome

KB and her grandparents

KB and her grandparents

Maybe some of you, who are grandparents, can explain to me what happens to your brains when a grandchild is born? The only way you resemble the person you were before the grandchild is by physical appearance. You no longer act or even sound the same as you did, when you were parenting your own children.

Trust me when I say, it’s even WORSE, when you are an only child (like me) and your parents have only two grandchildren (my daughter–2 1/2–and stepson 12 1/2), and they are never going to get any more–unless there’s a miracle. And to make matters worse, my parents had to wait to raise a grandchild from the baby stage until I was 39! Something has happened to my parents’ brains–especially my mother.

A perfect example of what I’m talking about occurred just last night at dinner. My parents graciously agreed to watch KB and LB while I had to take our dog back to the vet after having some “soft tissue” removed because one of his incisions just didn’t look right. I was really worried about this, and so my mom said, “Just bring the kids over here.” So, I did. As soon as we got in the door, KB (the two year old) looked for the pink icing cookies that Grandma seems to always have. (Did I mention it was 4:30 pm–dinner in an hour?) She went right into the pantry and got the cookies out, and Grandma said, “You and LB can each have ONE cookie before dinner and another one after. But you could also have some chips and juice now.”

WHAT? Where was that rule when I was growing up?

Then believe it or not, KB didn’t eat dinner–but a couple pieces of apple–and cried when I told her she couldn’t get another pink cookie because she didn’t eat. I know, you are shocked!

My daughter and I have had the following conversation a few times:

KB: Are you going to work?
ME: After dinner, why?
KB: Grandpa and mum (that’s what she calls them) are coming over?
ME: Yes.
KB: They give me chips and soda.

by FlyNutAA

by FlyNutAA

And my stepson can hardly wait for them to come over and me to get out the door because they let him play video games the entire time I’m gone!

I know I am not alone. When talking to my OB-GYN about this subject, he said to me, “My kids can’t pack their bags fast enough when they hear they are going to grandma’s house.” One of my good friends told me that on vacation with her parents and young children, her dad said she could sleep in, and he would get up with her 5 and 3 year old. When she woke up, she discovered that her children had told their grandpa all they wanted for breakfast was M and Ms, and so that’s what he gave them.

And then to make matters even worse for us parents in the sandwich generation, moms everywhere, like me, start to say things like our moms used to say to us and quickly become the bad guy. For example, last night, I said: “Mom, they shouldn’t have a cookie before dinner!” And my mom said: “They shouldn’t?”



  • LOL – I totally agree. My mom always tells me being a grandma is so much more fun than being a mom. She gives the kids everything they want – soda – chips – cookies – candy – then laughs when I pick them up wired and tired from all the playing and sugar…UGH – what are we going to do with our parents! It’s funny how the tables turn.

    • Brandi: I guess they are paying us back a little for the torture we put them through? :) LOL

  • Grandkids are the BEST! I am able to give all the love, and it’s not wrapped within the worries and responsibilities of a parent. If at all possible, I recommend that everyone have the grandkids FIRST…it’s such fun!

    That said, my spoiling of the grandkids does not occur with the same intensity when I watch the kids at THEIR house. If I’m there, then we (mostly) follow the rules of the house. When the grandkids visit us here at home, then I pull out the stops and spoil ’em as best I can.

    And an extra cookie now and then won’t hurt the kids…if you had a grandma with a cookie jar, you know this deep in your bones.

    • Oh yes, I had a grandparent with a cookie jar–she even inspired one of my books and my daughter’s middle name comes from her. So, in other words, perhaps I should just chill out? :) LOL

  • This is so incredibly true. My mom said that her dad became a completely different person after my brother and I were born. And if it makes you feel any better my brother and I constantly ate popsicles with my grandparents on the front porch at 9am when we went to visit and I turned out OK 😉 Great post though, Margo.

    • You did turn out great, Little Lady! :) Now, popsicles might be better than cookies, though. . .

  • Boy, have I got some stories to tell you about a certain grandma NOT spoiling her grandkids. I think it is because her mom died young; in other words, my mom didn’t get to see us be spoiled by her mom. When my kids are at my mom’s, she doesn’t allow them to eat ANYTHING between lunch and dinner. Not even a healthy snack! I did enjoy this post though, Margo, I was literally laughing out loud!

    • WOW! Not even a healthy snack, Julie? Even I let them have a healthy snack. . .right after I get done making them clean the toilets and pick up dog poop from the back yard. HA! :)

  • Hilarious. My own mom was the best kid briber I ever met after I had my daughter. She would literally carry chocolate covered raisins in her purse when my daughter was a toddler to get her to do stuff. I was a third wheel when we went anywhere together. And she’d go anywhere with her Mimi without a backward glance. My son was a little less eager to follow wherever my parents led at first. But he has since jumped right on the bandwagon. I think uncles can sometimes fall into this pattern of spoiling the child too. I don’t want to know what my brother has probably let my kids eat when he has watched them. :) Great post.

    • Okay, Ann, you brought up a good point about uncles. Because I’m an aunt, and I even fall a bit into this mindset with them. Oh my gosh, what am I going to be like when I am a grandma? I’m going to start worrying about this now.

  • Grandparenthood? Not there yet, but this life stage is all around us. My husband and I are seeing the impact of the precious new arrivals on our friends and relatives. I think it must be life affirming. Certainly brings a lot of joy!
    Guess it will be clear when we get there! :) Great post, Margo!

    • It does bring a lot of joy. Some of my favorite days are actually when we all go out– the four of us and my parents.

  • Not at all the case with my Mom. She either follows my rules or her own similar rules with my kids. My kids get yummy things to eat but only after a good meal. Maybe that helps to explain why my kids are better eaters than a lot of other kids I know. Certainly not perfect but pretty good. I think my family prefers to spoil my kids by spending time with them rather than by feeding them sweets and treats.

    • Steve. . .or so you think. . .HA!

      Just kidding, good for your mom. Maybe it’s because she’s had a lot of practice with 5 kids and several grandchildren, too? My mom needs more practice, maybe, but like I said–it will be a miracle if she gets more practice. :) I would say my parents do both–spoil with sweets and time. My parents see my children almost every day and we do all sorts of things together–zoo, botanical gardens, park, Museum of Transportation, etc.

      I have to give KB credit–she did eat her fruit last night–that was the only thing. And the girl eats cucumbers and carrots like they are going out of style. But she does love her sweets. LB–he’s a bit pickier, but give him some meat and potatoes, and oh boy! :) (He’ll eat a green bean too. :)

  • Just another perspective. My dad passed away before my daughter was born. My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s immediately after he passed away. My husbands parents live 12 hours away and are not in good health. I would love to have a grandparent to spoil our little girl. I have THE best memories of my own grandparents. I feel sorry O is missing out. So I say, “Let them eat cookies!”. :)

    • YES! You are right! I’m sorry for O too. But I know that Mommy, Daddy and aunts/uncles do a wonderful job. :)

      Okay, this has been a wonderful discussion.

      I will think about it.

      “Let them eat cookies. . .” Hmmm. . ..

  • All rules go out the window at Nani’s house. X knows how to work the system, too. LOL :)

    • Oh, I think KB already knows how to work the system, and she’s younger than X. :) It doesn’t take them long to figure that out. :)

  • […] she was almost 10 months old, we lived with my parents. (The same parents who were the subject of the Grandparent Syndrome.) My husband had been transferred to St. Louis, which was awesome; but we hadn’t sold our […]

So, what do you think?