Let’s first agree on something; regardless of the age or distance of our grandchildren, we all love and care for them. However, as a grandparent, being the primary care giver for one or several grandchildren, the stakes shift significantly. You feel the responsibility to play a bigger role in the lives of the live-in grandchildren. This may lead you to be stricter with them. What you may not realize is that, kids notice the slightest and in numerous cases, most innocent instances of favoritism.
Be it being given the last slice of the pizza or getting the first pickle from the jar, kids interpret this as the level of attention they derive from the care giver. This can create a sort of competition between the live-in grands with the other grandchildren who seem to have an easier time with you.
I realized this phenomenon sometimes back when we planned for three of my grandchildren to meet. These were two sisters who lived two thousand miles away and my live in granddaughter. We were very happy for the trip as it had been quite some time since we saw them. It was also a chance for the three first cousins to meet up, learn about each other and enjoy a good family time in general. However, it quickly became apparent that the live in grand was competing for our attention against the other two grandchildren.
My live in granddaughter soon realized that these girls were more than other grandchildren; they were her first cousins, playmates, partners in crime, family confidants and potentially best friends. However, I did find an anomaly in the way I treated the three grandkids. With the live-in granddaughter, I was more of a parent whereas being a grandparent to the other two.
What do I mean? I found myself parenting the live-in grandchild with significantly more behaviors corrections than with the other two. To the two, I was just a sweet grandmother like all grandparents are expected to be to their grandchildren.
On realizing this pattern, my husband and I worked to normalize the situation and to treat the two sets of grandchildren in the same way despite the difference in roles. I must say, it was not easy. I felt very conflicted during the whole time trying to play the role of primary care giver to the live-in grandchild while still being a grandmother to all.
They were all very cute and playful together. We went for all kinds of fun activities – park visits, swimming, shopping. Occasionally, I would catch myself trying to be stricter with the live-in grandchild. Whenever they wanted fries, burgers, ice-cream or any other treats, I was like “Sure, you can have anything you want”. However, and even though I did not actually do it, I felt like pulling the live-in grand aside and being like “Here, you don’t really need all those calories anyway”.
This was obviously very odd and conflicting for me especially because the girls wanted to emulate each other while still having fun as equals. To put this into context, I was trying to be a grandmother to three and a parent to one – at the same time. So, what did I learn?
You have to compromise. This may mean allowing all kids to get what they want together or denying privileges to all grandchildren equally. You need to be cautious about your actions. Kids will notice the most innocent acts of favoritism which may be interpreted as reduced attention.