Setting Grand-Sitting Rules

Not today, dear. I have a headache.

Jane of Edmonton is over the moon about her new grand-daughter and is happy to help with caring for the baby to give her daughter and husband a break. But she’s perplexed when the ‘breaks’ are several unexpected hours long. ” They drop the baby off while they do a quick grocery shopping and four hours later, they haven’t returned,” she says. “Then I learn they have gone home and had a two-hour nap!”

Besides the fact that she feels she’s being taken advantage of, Jane also knows she doesn’t have the stamina she had taking care of her own children. And that adds stress to her situation. ” I don’t want to admit I can’t babysit for long periods of time,” she admits. “Still, I would like time limits so I know I can plan my own day.”

Cynthia of Fredericton lives next door to three of her seven grandchildren and they often arrive on her doorstep before breakfast on weekend mornings, because their parents aren’t up. ” My son wants his kids to have the same ‘great relationship’ with me that he remembers he had as a child,” she says, wryly. “I’m flattered, of course and start out with gusto each morning, but as prepared as I am, I’m exhausted by noon.”

Okay, we have to admit that while we want to help out our kids who have busy, stressful lives, we need to set boundaries for babysitting. Grand-zoomers who are disabled with age-related conditions such as arthritis, can find chasing and carrying around a wriggling, 30-pound toddler somewhat challenging.

How can we be helpful, valued grand-zoomers without relinquishing the pleasures of our lifestyle and without physical stress?

Experienced grand-zoomers have this advice:

Acknowledge your limitations. Caroline of Kelowna has poor night vision. She feels a sense of relief after working out a system with her daughter that means babysitting has to be during daylight hours. Grandparenting requires stamina, but there’s no reason to be a martyr.

Make it clear that certain times are off-limits
. For Jane and her husband, the cocktail hour at the end of the day and a quiet dinner are an important time for them to reconnect. Cynthia has a nap every afternoon. It’s okay to ask our children to respect that down-time. We’ve earned the right to have a life of our own.

Make grand-sitting work for both parties.
“Gear yourself to the interests of the age group,” advises Cynthia. ” Your time with a grandchild can be enjoyable for both of you if the child is doing something she enjoys.” Reading a story and doing crafts may be suitable for a four-year-old, but a 10-year-old is more likely to prefer a walk to the community pool or rink or even the video store. My grandsons loved building forts and collecting bugs at the cottage when they were little. Now that they’re 10 and 12, mini golf and go-kart racing are activities that endear me to them.

And I can sit on a bench and watch!