Everyone knows that a baby can turn the lives of its parents upside down.
But the lives of everyone related to the baby are transformed, too. Relationships between in-laws, which up to this point may have been cordial if a bit formal, can morph into a competition worthy of a prize fight, except the gloves come off when it comes to handling a new grandchild.
And it’s the maternal and paternal grandmothers who most often lock horns.
If you’re the parent, you may find yourself an unwilling referee in a contest to see who gets more baby face time.
And if you’re the grandmother, you’ll soon find out that babies reveal your true grandmother personality, for better or worse.
Are you the type to stand back and let someone else take the lead, and perhaps pout while watching the other grandmother hold the baby till her arms ache?
Or do you assert yourself à la Charlton Heston and grab the baby declaring “you can have this baby when you can pry it out of my cold, dead hands”?
If you’re a new parent it’s enough to make you wish you’d had the equivalent of an elopement, having the baby privately and announcing it later. Except, unlike during those honeymoon days, when you have a baby you sincerely welcome input and suggestions from family and friends.
You can hope the grandparents will maturely assess the situation, realize everyone wants to hold the baby, and graciously take turns, bearing in mind that what new parents really need is help with laundry, shopping, and cleaning.
Yeah, right. Chances are at least one grandmother or close family relative is a baby hogger, and baby hoggers are notoriously tough to deal with.
They smile, coo at the baby and act like the other grandmother doesn’t exist, even if she’s standing nearby with her arms extended and a hopeful look on her face. Baby hoggers are shameless about taking every opportunity to scoop the baby out of someone else’s arms and hang onto it for dear life until the infant makes a big enough fuss about something that mom or dad need to intervene. Then the other grandmother gets even more ignored.
Now, there are ways to deal with this type of grandmother. The meeker grandmother can be counseled to take a cue from just about any cat and get what she wants by gently nudging the other grandmother’s shoulder till she releases the baby.
If that doesn’t work, take it up a notch, the way a cat would, and throw in a few arm bites.
If possible, enlist the baby’s help in getting grandparents to share. A well-timed spit-up or diaper blow-out does wonders in getting the other grandmother to relinquish her prize.
Some people argue that the maternal grandmother has the edge in these contests. And that may be true – after all, the mother of the baby’s mother has a special relationship with her offspring.
But that doesn’t mean the paternal grandmother must wave the white flag of surrender. She has the right to bond with her grandchild , too. And she raised a boy, meaning she’s probably one tough mother and won’t be shy about sticking up for herself.
Still, you’d think nobody would want a confrontation. You’d think grandmothers would remember their own initial experiences as new parents and cut their kids some slack by backing off.
But babies are a powerful drug, especially for their grandmothers. A besotted grandmother will convince herself that she’s not hogging the baby, just taking her turn. What does that other grandmother know about babies, anyway?
As the parent related to both parties, you’re caught in the middle of this tussle – and you’ll get the silent accusations or outright complaints from the empty-handed grandmother.
At times like this, it’s helpful to remember the biblical story of Solomon. When grandparents start considering splitting the baby in half (metaphorically) so both of them can get an equal share, maybe it’s time to remind them that they may not have your baby’s best interests at heart.
Hopefully, all this fuss and infatuation over the new baby will last longer than its infancy. Unfortunately, sometimes grandparent-ly ardor fades when the baby’s new-car allure wears off. Babies are cute; the Terrible Twos and Fractious Fours are something else.
But children need to feel special and loved all through their lives, from their first stabs at independence in toddlerhood all the way through their teen years and beyond.
In the meantime, we grandmothers need to try, at least, to be gracious about sharing our grandchild with those “other” grandparents, especially during holidays and special occasions. Parents, remind us when we go too far or get overly sensitive on this issue.
We’ve got to remember that we’re playing for the same side. And Team Baby needs all the support it can get.
Images from Pixabay & Wikimedia