The generation game

Mutually enriching, the relationship between your baby and her loving grandparents is well worth nurturing.

Your parents and your partner’s parents may have been anticipating their grandchild for a long time, and doubtless when they finally met him it was love at first sight. This is likely to be one of the closest and most important relationships in your little one’s life, and is equally special to his grandparents. You will probably find that the arrival of a grandchild gives your parents and in-laws a new lease on life, while your child will be enriched and reassured by their close bond.

Many modern grandparents do not match the traditional stereotype of the the doddering gray-haired couple. People are living longer, continuing their careers, traveling more—and today’s grandparents are busier, healthier, and ever younger at heart. However, while it might have been assumed that this generation would be too busy with their own lives to have much time for their grandchildren, this is proving not to be the case; in fact, 40 percent of grandparents live within an hour’s drive of their families and provide regular child care while mothers work. Even if you aren’t relying on your parents for child care, they can be an invaluable source of support and experienced babysitters—with the added advantage that they deeply love their charge and cherish the time spent together.

You’ve probably seen a whole new side to your parents since your child was born. You may have found yourself slack-jawed as they produce yet another bag of jelly beans, when you clearly remember that when you were a child you were only allowed candy on Saturdays. They are exercising their privilege of adoring your child without the pressure of actually having to parent him, and the best part of this is that they often have more time and patience for him than you. The downside of their tendency to indulge him is that it could create tension between you.

A Welsh proverb tells us that perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild.

Problems arise when your little one starts to think that your rules don’t apply, or has new expectations based on what his grandparents allow. You might be trying to get him to go to sleep, only to be told that Grandpa always reads him seven bedtime stories first. If this kind of thing consistently causes difficulties, you should be completely honest with your parents or in-laws and discuss your routines so that they can support you.

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