Sunday, October 30, 2005

Call the Guinness Book

I believe a new world record was set today in the brevity of grandparent visit category. The kiddos were in rare form, spurred on by the aftermath of daylight saving and the discovery of the Halloween candy's hiding place. City Grandma and Grandpa arrived at 4:05 and by 4:45 the first noises were made about exiting our humble abode had been made. By 5:15, the only thing reminding us of the visit were the remains of cheese and crackers on the kitchen table and a house that looked remarkably clean for a Sunday afternoon.

I have to think it must be hard for City Grandma and Grandpa. City Grandma never had children of her own and married into the family during the teen rebellion years. City Grandpa, through circumstances including the death of his first wife and the nature of his job, was probably absent more than present when M and his sister were little. Even when you have faced the preschool years head on and survived, it must be shocking to be plunged back into it with no context or gradual warm up. If you have never really experienced it, it must seem like a war zone. Or a psychiatric ward, depending in your mindset.

M and I probably don't do as good a job as we should of making sure his parents spend enough time with the kids. Shlepping them into the city is a huge stress for me between the drive, the traffic, and the many "look but don't touch" objects littering their professionally decorated apartment. Having them out here is equally stressful as I have always felt like I need to prove that I am an adequate wife for their beloved son. I know I am not all they would have liked in a daughter-in-law, (Christian and Republican would have helped) and I know they were strongly opposed to our move to the burbs (and this burb in particular), which was pretty much dictated by me.

I am also afraid that they are somewhat intimidated by my family, which on my Dad's side is large and clannish, and on my mom's is, well, omnipresent and overpowering. Tonight as City Grandma and Grandpa were leaving, instead of asking when he was going to see them again C asked when we were going to see Nana and the Maine house. I felt terrible, and tried to brush it off, but it was clear that City Grandma was hurt. When you ask him who his cousins are, he can only name Baby C (my sister's daughter), who he has seen twice in his life. When prompted he can come up with Cousins L and N (M's sister's kids), but given how frequently he sees them they should be the first names on his lips.

I'm unclear on what my role is here. Although I don't want my children to feel alienated from any one part of their family, I also don't want to force a relationship that isn't desired. While my in-laws clearly feel connected to C and A in some way, they don't seem to have an interest in being hands-on grandparents. I've always been careful not to try to force them to interact with the kids, and have in fact gone out of my way to make sure that when we do visit that they don't feel the need to take on responsibilities that they don't want. But when they don't offer up help are they demonstrating a lack of interest or a fear of overstepping bounds? I'm not sure. And I'm not sure how to determine that without hurting feelings.

As C and A get older, they will undoubtedly find their own way of interacting with each set of grandparents. Until then I'll continue to host my in-laws as frequently as they would like to visit, and encourage C and A to draw them pictures and call them to announce important events or serenade them with a rendition of happy birthday. I know that despite differences in parenting and grandparenting approaches, everyone wants what is best for my kids.