Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Living in the village ... of Grandmas

We've just come back from a trip to Way the Hell Up North to see Gramma and Grampa. I've been reading all the wonderful, thoughtful comments all of you have left on my last post and I'm thinking it all through.

Now I'm wondering about the village of Grammas ...



Err, what was that? Anyhow, the village of Grammas. In the village of Grammas, you never need fear that your toddler is unsupervised. Grammas are always ready with a spitty-finger to clean peanut butter off noses, and ever vigilant to signs of tiredness or hunger. Grammas always tie sunhats and zip jackets. This is all very good.

In fact, this is all very very good. As Munchkin gets older, Gramma is becoming more hands-on, more involved ... and, it strikes me, more smitten and more loving. Confident that Munchkin is no longer dependent solely on me, my own mom lets me: have naps, go out at night, take a shower in peace, and run errands while she plays with Darling Granddaughter. I have to say that our trip up north was wonderful for the relaxed pace of parenting it offered. It was also wonderful to watch my mother bond with my daughter. They form a perfect mutual admiration society, gazing deeply into each others' eyes, broad smile crinkling the gaps between nose and forehead. Each squeals with delight in the face of the love offered by the other. It was wonderful to watch.

But the flipside? Time with Gramma is now a course in Remedial Parenting for yours truly. Here is a catalogue of my most obvious maternal sins, compiled by my mother:

* did not bring the right kind of pyjamas for Munchkin: it's COLD up north
* do not cut Munchkin's bangs to proper length, and risk blinding her with hair
* remiss in the use of developmentally appropriate toys: the ones we have are not challenging enough
* risk scarring Munchkin for life with my enforcement of vegetarianism on her
* do not speak enough french around Munchkin (I am fluent, by contrast, despite my own mother's never having spoken french to me at all)
* wrap her in too many blankets at night
* foster an inappropriate attachment to doudou
* talk too much to Munchkin
* pay too much attention to Munchkin

I am more interested than annoyed by this assessment of my parenting. I was particularly startled to hear that I pay too much attention to Munchkin. Inteweb, if I'm going to be brutally honest with you, I often consider myself somewhat lax in the attention-to-child department. I don't really like to play blocks and have a limited patience for recitations of The Owl and The Pussycat. I cherish naptime and often try to set Munchkin up with a good bunch of toys so that I can hide in the kitchen and tidy ... or read the paper. I play with her, sure, frequently and gladly, even, but if she's concentrating on something and looking really engaged, I tend to sneak away.

Let's say, kindly, that I aim to foster independence and self-reliance in Munchkin. In this, I find I behave, actually, a lot like my mother. I am acutely conscious of, say, my preference for the Saturday Globe and Mail over another round of 'throw the tiny football and squeal like a maniac', and I have to say, I feel really bad about it.

I feel, in my heart of hearts, like I should spend more time with Munchkin. That I should pay her more attention, not less.

Evidently, my mom feels differently. And so, criticizing me as a hover-mommy, she has, paradoxically, freed me from my guilt. If I think I pay not enough attention, and she thinks I pay too much ... well, I must be within the acceptable boundary of care and neglect, don't you think?

Thanks, Mom!


slouching mom said...


This sounds all too familiar.

NotSoSage said...

Oh, geez. I wish I had that kind of criticism from my mom.

Now tell me that I'm looking too good for a mom and that mothers should be fatter and give less thought to their appearance. Pretty please?

bubandpie said...

Sage is funny.

And this - Inteweb, if I'm going to be brutally honest with you, I often consider myself somewhat lax in the attention-to-child department. - is why I love you.

Don't ever go away again - did you see how I started attributing your clever phrases to Beck while you were gone?

Jenifer said...

Amen. I often sneak away and feel horrible guilt. Guilt that I am not teaching Rosebud her ABC's fast enough, guilt that I am not spending quality time with Papoosie Girl while Rosebud naps, guilt that the girls played Match Game themselves this morning while I was prepping dinner - you get the idea.

I am home and still feel the horrible guilt that I am not really with them. I am so busy with other stuff (which is so hard for me to ignore) that an entire day can go by and I will realize I have not played with Rosebud once. How does that happen? Both my girls are very independent and happily play by themselves. Is that a bad thing?

I sure hope not. Now at least during summer they have each other.

My goal is to engage with them once a day in an uninterrupted and unhurried way. This is good according to your, "acceptable boundary of care and neglect" right?

Now I need your Mom to send a little love my way.

nomotherearth said...

I am guilty of not eating dinner with the Boy (as he eats at 5:30pm and I'm never hungry till 8pm). So, if the Boy only likes macaroni and crackers, it's our fault. Apparently, whenever the Boy does see us eat - it must be macaroni and crackers. I know I never eat anything else. ;-)

We also should have move the Boy to a real bed the moment we found out we were pregnant.

Beck said...

I think everyone should attribute other people's clever phrases to me - saves me work.
I like how these two things ACTUALLY CONTRADICT EACH OTHER:
* did not bring the right kind of pyjamas for Munchkin: it's COLD up north
* wrap her in too many blankets at night
I live near my parents and so critisizing me and my half-assed parenting is a full-time job right now that school is out. Good times.

kittenpie said...

Obviously you are just perfection...

I often feel like I shirk my duties too, but really, I need some time, too.

Mimi said...

Beck: you caught that, eh? Yup, too many blankets, but not enough pyjamas. And my mom actually HID one of the blankets I brought with me, and then put socks on Munchkin at bed time. Socks?

Bubandpie: if you can confuse me and Beck I feel like I come out ahead here.

Jenifer: there's a Catherine Bush novel that has a section that just haunts me. The mother keeps getting her home office barged in on by her two kids. She snaps and hollers at them, "I had the two of you close together so you would play together and leave me alone" or something to that effect. My mom used to say much the same thing when my sister and I would fight. But my sister and I were quite well on our own, together. And so must your girls be.

Sage: I'll compliment you like crazy on the weekend. :-)

Nomo: let's eat together, ok? Pynchon is on the 5:30 dinner sched with Munchkin, and it's all I can do to choke down a cocktail that early!

Christine said...

Grandma rock except when criticizing the mamas. My mom thinks my poor son needs a haircut. Badly.

I think i will buckle.


Hey--don't feel bad about not being around! take care of you and yours and visit us when you can.

cinnamon gurl said...

I feel the same way in the attention to child department... So I'm just going to pretend that I'm within the acceptable range just like you.

Karen said...

I am just the same as you, but have almost ceased feeling bad as I'm pretty sure this is how my mom raised me - I don't think she ever pretended with me about anything other than the basic pretending to drink a cup of tea I made; we did many things together: cooking, crafts - and went many places, but she clearly firmly believed that "playing" was for kids -and so it was and so it is now for my boys. Somehow, we're fine and they'll be fine. My mom was not blogging while we were playing; I think she was on the phone with her friends or drinking coffee in the kitchen alone or with a neighbor - not really much difference.
I am almost surprised to realize here now for the first time that my mother has never in 8 years openly criticized my parenting. She has only ever given advice when I have specifically asked (Which I make easy by asking pretty often) and never tells me that I am doing something wrong, only what I might try. Either I am perfect or she has a lot more self-control in this area than she has in just about every other area of life. I'm feeling very impressed with her just now. Thanks!

crazymumma said...

aaaahhhh. yes I know it well. The grandparent mindf**k. In laws no less.

They just like to sqeak and bother and pass on the pain obviously. (Tell her that rock star bangs are in right now so....)

how was shadfly season? ick. shudder. small throw up in back of throat.

I am going up next week to get my dose of gramma village.

Em said...

LOL! :)

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

My (childless) sister asked me once if my parents' grandparenting style bugged me, and I said not on your life! Anyone who will take my children so I can nap is an ANGEL, period : )

Bon said...

i started this comment yesterday, then got interrupted by dratted work.

what i wanted to say was...clearly you are doing a perfect job. and yeh, the honesty of wondering really whether you're not a little lax? thank you for that. i needed to know that somebody else was peeking into that mirror.

as for your mother...i shake my head. grandmas are wondrous things, but it would be nicer perhaps if they came with fewer, erm, opinions. especially the contradictory ones, and the ones that sound precisely opposite to what i happen to remember from my own childhood...! grandma amnesia. apparently it's a common affliction.

Mimi said...

crazymumma -- the shadfly lake exodus was FULL ON when I was there, and my parents live right on the lake. But as long as you leave the lights off ... anyhow, it was wayyyyyyy worse last year.

jennifer ponderosa -- i'm kinda with you, which is why i'm complaining about my mom on the internet instead of getting all huffy with her in person. **she offers free child care**

Denguy said...

"throw the tiny football..."
OVER AND OVER AGAIN. When will it end?

Sometimes I try holding the paper up in front of my face and pretend I'm not there.

Bloor West Mama said...

Welcome back mimi. I too have been MIA, its been one of those weeks when you feel like hidding.

I have to say that I too worry that I don't spend enough quality time with the little one. To be honest, I get bored really quickly, I tend to lie down on the floor near her toys and let her play around me or on top of me. If I am lucky she lets me close my eyes and just relax. Terrible but true.

Oh, The Joys said...

Grammas are mostly good. But sometimes they have too much sympathy for little ones in time out and they undermine your authority. Ahem.

Her Bad Mother said...

Hover-Mommy, ha!

I myself am lax in the attention department. Evidence being that Ms. WonderBaby has taken to pointing at my laptop and sagely identifying it as 'Mommy.'

Mad Hatter said...

Miss M insists on my spending every single moment--not just the free ones--with her. She's an attention whore. I sometimes wonder if she notices the dead-soul look in my eyes as they flit over to my book lying neglected on the coffee table.

blooming desertpea said...

I was exactly like you - I loved her to bits but wasn't too keen to play with the animals on the floor giving them voices, lol - now, she's 14 - wow, time flies! But hey, seriously, you're doing the right thing by sneaking away when she's busy. I can assure you that the turn out is great =))