My Children Have the World’s Okayest Grandparents

Growing up, I never got to experience what it was like to have grandparents. I remember watching the joy on a classmate’s face when their grandparents came to school to have lunch with them with a Happy Meal in hand. In second grade, a boy in my class brought in a horseshoe crab for show-and-tell that he found on the beach with his grandpa. I daydreamed about what it would be like to have grandparents to do these things with. As a child, I yearned for these moments, but I knew that I would never get to know either set of my grandparents since they passed away when I was a baby. Days like these made it especially sad for me, and I would cry silently in my room.

Hopeful Expectations 

As I got older, I saw how ideal grandparents were portrayed on television–lovable, white-haired people that loved to spend time with their grandkids and baked cookies in the kitchen. In my teenage years my friends would talk about going on vacations with their grandparents or they would simply spend the weekend hanging with their grandmas. I was so envious! When I became a mom, I had high hopes for my children. I may not have had grandparents growing up but I knew that my children would have two sets of grandparents to love on {if only that were the case}.

When my firstborn came into the world, she was the only grandbaby on both sides of the family. It quickly became a competition on who she should love more. My daughter learned way before she even entered school how to walk on eggshells around her grandparents when it came to how much she should discuss about one set of grandparents to the other. Why wasn’t loving both sets equally good enough for them? To this day my in-laws are certain that my daughter loves my parents more {insert eyeroll}.

The Disappointment

Birthday celebrations are ALL IMPORTANT milestones in a kid’s life. The are not like any other day for a child…it’s THEIR special day and grandparents should be there to share in their joy. It’s not like their birthdate changes year to year. Grandparents, it’s one day out of the year, so please schedule your vacations or other plans before or after that day. Missing a few birthdays is understandable, but missing a whole crapload of them isn’t. My kids’ grandparents give the crappiest excuses too {I want to use other words for crap but I can’t}. Then they show up the next day with an extravagant gift, which doesn’t make up for it. They are just buying their forgiveness at this point. If they can show up the next day, why not make an effort to show up on their actual birthday? {just saying}.

Both sets of grandparents live in town; however, in the 14 years of being grandparents, they’ve only made it to ONE Grandparents Day at school {even after they retired they still missed it}. After asking for many years and reminding them, we just stopped asking, and I would show up to Grandparents Day for my own children. It seems like they couldn’t be bothered with it, even though it was important to my kids. 

Grandparents Who Don’t Keep Their Word

My in-laws have a very hard time following through with the plans that they make with my kids. Grandparents, if you tell my kids that you are coming to take them out for fun at a certain time, don’t show up almost 2 hours late or call later and say you can’t make it. My kids are super sweet and totally understanding; however, when this type of behavior is constant, spending time with you is not so exciting anymore. Why get their hopes up in anticipation only to be disappointed? Keeping your word is everything to a child.

When my children’s grandparents do make it to visit the grandkids, I wished they made a better effort to talk to them. Ask them about their day, school, friends, interests, ANYTHING for pete’s sake. Shopping on your cellphone or taking naps can be done on your own time in the comfort of your own house. {I’m not making this up people. This is for real.}

The Unwillingness to Help

For the longest time {about 7 years} my husband and I never once went away for the night. We both understood that our kids were small and it was a lot for any person to look after them. Now that they are old enough, in the past 365 days we took two overnight trips that were no more than 2 nights each {one for our anniversary and one for my birthday}. We feel so guilty every time we ask them to help watch the kids.  They bombard us with a million questions as to why we are going, how long will we be gone for, how soon will we get back, can one of us just go and the other stay back, etc. By the time we do leave, we feel like we can’t fully have fun anymore and coming home is looming over our heads. It’s not like we ever ask them to babysit!

We rarely get date nights and when we do we hire a babysitter. When there is a true emergency at work we do ask them to help, and I wished they were more happy about helping. I have friends whose parents pack up and move to be closer to their grandkids and can’t bear to be away from them.  I envy all of my friends that have doting grandparents to love on their children.

I saw an article recently that said that grandparents who babysit their grandchildren live longer. {insert snort}. We try so many times to have our children build that kind of connection with their grandparents, but they are usually out of the country or too busy. I actually worked up enough nerve to point out that they were missing out on their grandkids’ lives. The response to that was, “We’re getting old and if we don’t travel and see the world we may never get to.” Okay, understandable, but you can pick the days that you travel and not miss their birthdays right? My kids are not going to stay small forever and these are the moments that you won’t get back. I don’t want them to one day realize that they missed out on so much…the things that matter the most.

Being a grandparent is getting a second chance to make all the bad parenting mistakes right. I often hear them talk about what they wished they would’ve done as parents, and I see them making the same mistakes as grandparents. I should’ve saw this coming when my husband’s mom said that she was too young to be a grandma when we told her that we were pregnant {er, is being in your fifties too young?} I see them awkwardly trying to make a connection with my kids who are teens now, and it feels a little too late.

A Promise to My Future Grandchildren

My husband and I have accepted the fact that our parents are just the world’s okayest grandparents and we have to learn to live with that fact. I didn’t have a great childhood, so when I became a mom I knew that I wanted to be the BEST mother I could ever be for my kids. The kind that loves them unconditionally and is supportive in every way.

So to my dear kids, I promise to be the BEST grandma I could ever be for your future children. I will dote on them, show up for surprise lunches at school, never miss Grandparent’s Day, bake all kinds of delicious treats with them, take them on vacations to find all kinds of memorable treasures, never miss a single birthday or celebration in their lives, and be joyous to spend time with them. Because I love you and you deserve the best of me.     



  1. This hits home. I often feel jealous of my friends doting grandparents! Both sets of g-parents live very far away.
    But once someone told me something interesting… {she’s an aunt, not a grandparent} She said that her brother and SIL were very overprotective when her nephew ms were very little that they never gave her much opportunity to interact with the children. Then when they got “old enough” that they started asking about babysitting, she felt too disconnected to the kids.

  2. As a grandma who quit her job and gave up her life to raise a grandchild, I can tell you that life is much harder when you’re old than you can imagine. You know your time in this world is limited and you have already devoted your life to raising your own children. Perhaps your parents feel that you are capable of taking care of your children and can afford a babysitter. The first part of your life is all about you. The second is all about taking care of your family. The final third is all about you again don’t expect your parents to give up what precious time they have left to fulfill your ideals and desires. Perhaps you should be taking care of them instead.

    • In the article she said they rarely go out and then they hire a sitter. This isn’t about asking grandparents to watch her kids, it’s about being involved in their actual lives as loving family members. Birthdays, performances, every day moments.

  3. I’m a young mom with kids and find this article a bit sad. You are allowed to have your feelings but to blast your children’s grandparents just isn’t fair. They are old, they are frail, they raised their kids and should enjoy what time they have left doing what they choose to do and should not be made to feel bad about it. Don’t judge grandparents just like we shouldn’t judge parents. I’m sorry your children’s grandparents are not very involved, I get it, but be grateful for what you do have.

  4. Well you are nicer than us. In our house we call them “delinquent grandparents”. They always have a lake meeting or something more important than hanging out with our kids.

  5. I really appreciate your honesty and openness. Because we’re told to keep things like this to ourselves to save the face of the very people who are harming us or worse, our children, this kind of thing doesn’t get talked about and it needs to be. I did not have a great childhood and while my mom has definitely decided to be an amazing grandma to my nieces (who she lives near) and my daughter however she can (does not live near), my dad has completely dropped the ball and disappointed us yet again. The opportunities are there and ripe for the taking, all kids want is love. Even my stepdad has stepped up in a huge way and the girls love their Papa. I don’t believe in giving people a pass based on age or relation and I’m glad I’m not the only one.

  6. Well, I’m in my 50’s raising young children (4,7) and I gotta say – yes, being in your 50s would feel young to be a grandparent. I know it used to be the norm, and there are lots of grandparents that age. Still. Mentally, feels young-ish. In reading this, I can understand some of the disappointment, but overall my take is the author sounds like a selfish spoiled individual who IS YOUNG HERSELF. One thing I’ve learned is the truth of the old adage – you can’t judge when you haven’t walked in their shoes. The comments of others is Truth. They’ve done their time. They have their own needs, desires, wants, and limited time and energy to accomplish what THEY want from life. You bitching because it’s not what YOU want just makes you….petty.

  7. This author seems to need to step back and be thankful for whatever interaction her children get with both sets of grandparents! How lucky is she to have TWO sets of “okayish” grandparents in the same town! My children’s grandparents all live very far away, so it is a huge expense to visit, and what would I give if they can only show up the day after a birthday!

  8. I totally understand where you are coming from. I honestly thought that my parents (super good and involved parents as I was growing up!) would be super involved grandparents, but they aren’t. They use the excuse that we live too far away all the time. It probably wouldn’t bother me so much if they did not see my sister and her kids ALL THE TIME, and my brother and his kids quite often. Yes, I do live the farthest away, but if my parents would actually look at the time and mileage and money they spend on the other grandchildren, they would see that a once every couple months visit would still not be the same amount that they spend on/with the other grandkids. If I want to see my parents/my children see their grandparents, I have to go to them. They never come to us. 🙁 So they just don’t “do” the special events in my children’s lives, and it makes me really, really sad (and a tiny bit angry).

    Then, there are my in-laws. We only live about 1/2 hour from them, and my MIL does cover for us a lot. I shouldn’t complain about them. The problem with the in-laws is I always feel like there are conditions with them. I have to put up with my MIL’s petty comments about the cleanliness of my house, or my children’s misbehavior, etc. just so that my kids have a relationship with her. I have to put up with her snooping through my things, etc. She also seems to feel like she needs to buy their love. She goes to the dollar store and brings them 20 pieces of junk, and gets upset if they are not falling down with gratitude over the junk. She also tells me when she is going to watch my children (even if I don’t need her and I try to tell her that I don’t need help on that particular date), but if I ask her to watch them because I truly need some help, she always has something else going on. She used to be willing, but now she either turns me down (and I don’t ask very often), or she does come to help, but sits on her device and goes on Facebook, or she sits in our basement and watches TV. The kids are running around outside, or playing upstairs in our house, and she is sitting by herself in the basement. And my FIL is just TOO busy, so he never comes with her either.

    As I type this, I know some people would be grateful for what I do get, and the fact that my kids do have 2 sets of grandparents in their lives, but compared to the dreams I had about grandparents, the reality is so much less. I too, like the author, dreamed of having involved grandparents when I was growing up. My one set lived 2000 miles away and I saw them once a year for a week, and my other set lived about 4 hours away, and just were not involved. I think they loved me, they just were not the type to show it, to come to games and concerts, and plays, and graduations, etc. I dreamed that my kids would have grandparents who would not miss the plays… their basketball games…. their music concerts…. their awards ceremonies… and, unfortunately that’s not what they got. It may seem like whiny, but it is my reality, and it just wasn’t the reality that I had wanted for my children…

  9. My kids have one living grandparent. ONE! I get being frustrated with the lack of commitment. But here’s the thing, as the parent, you can protect your kids from that. I know it seems like you’re missing out, because other grandparents may do more, but seriously, you’re the mom, take control of this ship. If you want your children to have someone who dotes on them, be that person. Create your own extended family with your close friends & trade weekends. It is a privilege to have grandparents who are attentive, active, and adoring – not a right.


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