When my husband and I were planning our wedding, our videographer asked us for pictures of us as kids for an opening montage he was planning. As my future mother in law and I combed through photo albums, it seemed every picture of my husband made her sigh even louder. As she reminisced, she told me that someday, I, too, would understand what it was like to watch your first born get married.
“Just you wait,” she said. “Your time is coming. And when it does, I’ll be there to catch your tears. And I’ll be the safe place to land when your kids become teens.”
At the time, I laughed, thinking there would never be a time when I’d be so frustrated by a teenager that I’d consider shipping them off to their grandparents’ house.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Over the years, as we’ve raised our kids, their grandparents were there to help us with the heavy lifting of wrangling toddlers and navigating babysitting nightmares. And, while they offered advice from time to time, they were respectful enough to step back and let us figure things out on our own.
But, now that we have teens, all bets are off.
We need all hands on deck and grandparents have been my secret weapon for surviving the teen years.
1). Grandparents remind you how far you’ve come as a parent.
A few months ago, as we were trying to plan an outing with my in-laws, I described the litany of activities, school obligations and job responsibilities we were juggling and my mother in law said, “God, remember when you could barely get a shower and changing a diaper felt like a victory?” And it hit me how far I’ve come as a parent, a concept I don’t often let myself realize.
2). Grandparents help you see that some behavior is actually genetic.
When my son was small, he was obsessed with disassembling small appliances and the inner workings of electronics. I’d often find him with a screw driver and a blender, taking it apart like it was a perfectly natural activity on a winter afternoon. When he had our DVR completely disassembled one morning, I vented to my mother in law in frustration. She smiled and said, “Sorry about that, Hon. He got that from his father.” And then proceeded to tell me about the time my husband disassembled part of the engine in the family car when he was 12.
3). Grandparents remind you that your kid was cute once.
There is nothing like the love of a grandparent to save a teen when the going gets tough. In those moments when one of my teens is acting up at a family function or when my in-laws are visiting, my teens (and my sanity) have been saved more than once by my mother-in-law reminding me about some of the epic toddler tantrums that are amusing now. And grandparents know when to tell your teens not to push their luck because they know exactly what your breaking point is, too.
4) Grandparents remind you to remember “The Lasts.”
As my teens are growing and becoming more independent, it feels like every day, I have to let go more and more. And, with each new milestone, whether it’s a driver’s permit or a first date, it feels like we are always focused on the next big teen event. Grandparents remind you that life really does go too fast and to savor those moments when you are in the car for hours, chauffeuring kids all over creation. “Soon, that passenger seat will be empty and your car will feel too quiet,” my mother-in-law opined to me recently.
5). Grandparents help you see your teen with different eyes.
It’s natural to want to protect your kids or shield them from life’s disappointments. And, it’s easy to want to pave the way for them and to forget that your kids can handle more than you think. Recently, my father- in-law announced he needed to run an errand that was almost an hour away and he offered to let my newly permitted son to do the driving. At first, I was hesitant but he put his hand up and said, “He’s got this, Mom. Let him fly a little.” He was right.
6). Grandparents are able to understand your teen in a way you can’t. And that’s a good thing.
I’ve always strived for open communication with my teens but, some days, we can’t find common ground. Fortunately, they have a strong relationship with their grandparents and both kids can talk to them about what frustrates them about us as parents and what’s really on their minds. Grandparents have the benefit of hindsight and the chance to parent a second time around is such a gift to teens. Their wisdom and life experience is a lifeline in our family.
7). Grandparents remind you that the best is yet to come.
When I see my kids greet their grandparents with obvious excitement and mutual love, my heart fills with anticipation. Raising teens has been my favorite part of the parenting experience and I am looking forward to their adult years, mostly because I’ve seen the joy of being a grandparent firsthand.
And, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to the day when, in the future, one of my adult children is driving their significant other crazy, I can smile smugly and say, “No backsies!!” like my mother-in-law does to me.