Be Seen, Not Heard

As a grandparent, is your tongue constantly sore from being bitten? If we want to remain on peaceful terms with our children and be allowed to interact with our grandchildren, the price is a bitten tongue. Not speaking your mind is the golden rule for keeping the status of a welcomed grandparent.

For our generation, remaining silent is not easy. As the Zoomers who spent our early years speaking our mind, smashing glass ceilings, lobbying for change and encouraging open, honest dialogue with our own children, we are stymied by the role of silence we must practice. Rebelling against our parents’ generation, the ‘silent generation,’ we talked about our feelings and shared an intimacy, even friendship with our children as they were growing up.  We expected this openness to continue as our children grew to adulthood and started their own families. Didn’t happen. They, as parents now, have espoused the silent aura of the generation who raised us—and that silence is expected of us. It’s our responsibility if we want to be a visitor in our grandchildren’s lives.

So if we want to be part of our children’s lives and our grandchildren’s lives, we must mind our own business and refrain from giving advice, opinions on child rearing and any suggestions whatsoever, unless of course the child’s safety is at stake. Our children, as parents, rely on friends, the Internet and child-rearing books to raise our grandchildren. They do not want our advice or opinion. It’s the natural progression of life that one generation rejects what the previous generation espoused, of course.  All children wish for something different when they look back at their childhoods, so it’s natural that they want to provide what they believe is a better environment and upbringing for their own offspring.

And, while our children don’t want our opinion, they do want our approval of their parenting skills. They want us to say, “You’re doing it all right.” When we speak up to give advice, no matter how gentle, they hear it as “You’re doing it all wrong.” Their vulnerability as parents is huge and any challenge to their competence can be devastating.

The silence we must endure is difficult for our generation because we were so busy juggling career and family and smashing that glass ceiling when we were young parents that we had very little time to enjoy our own children. With grandchildren, we have, finally, the opportunity and the time to be playful and enjoy their antics.  So our intense, sometime obsessive joy at our new role as grandparents can often be crushed by the new rules of silence imposed upon us.

Sabrina of Moose Jaw says “I was so looking forward to my first grandchild, because it was a chance to do everything all over again. I was a single mom raising my two kids and there was never time to play and enjoy them as children.” But Sabrina’s son and daughter-in-law had other ideas about Sabrina’s role in their first child’s life. “I certainly get to babysit and play with my granddaughter,” she says. “But my suggestions about the smallest daily routines are not welcome. I’ve learned that my second opportunity to be a parent is not going to happen the way I expected. My time is definitely over.”

Charmaine of Kitchener agrees but has a different perspective. “I am definitely expected to mind my own business in the rearing of my grandchildren,” she says. “But I still get to enjoy them and without the responsibility. Plus, I get to appreciate my daughter as a parent in a new light and watch her take on the role of parent with competence and resilience. I have to say, it makes me proud of my own parenting skills.”

There are other advantages to our silence. We can go home or send the grandkids home when we get tired. Now that silence is precious!