by Jay Payleitner
Adapted from his book, Hooray for Grandparents!
Say “yes” to your adult children as much as possible.
“Yes, we would love to watch Judah and Gideon so you can go to a movie.”
“Yes, you can store your collection of Raggedy Ann dolls in your old bedroom.”
“Yes, we can delay our family holiday gathering a week so you can spend the actual holiday with your in-laws.”
“Yes, I can drive your family to the airport.”
“Yes, I can sew Jackson a Batman cape for Halloween.”
“Yes, I’ll build a dollhouse for Emerson.”
It’s fun to say yes. And it’s often not a big deal or a big sacrifice.
For the most part, saying yes to a request from your kids or grandkids strengthens your connection and builds trust and confidence. You’re glad to do it, especially if it’s in your area of giftedness. Any yes you give is much appreciated.
There’s another unspoken benefit of saying yes. Being a grandparent who typically says yes makes it a little easier, when necessary, to say no. Saying no is not nearly as fun. But it’s equally as important, perhaps even more so.
One of my first memories of my own fatherhood was visiting my parents with our firstborn, Alec, when he was just a few weeks old. Rita and I had been trying to figure out whether she would be able to be the best mom in the world while also juggling some kind of income-producing career. Sitting in my parents’ kitchen, I broached the topic of their availability as regular babysitters.
My dad, who clearly loved Alec more than anything in the world, took a moment to consider the magnitude of the request. Finally, he said,
“We will be there for anything you need. Anytime, anyplace. But please, let’s not intentionally create a situation in which our grandson is a burden to us.”
In the moment, my dad’s reply felt a bit harsh. But we soon realized it was brilliant. There was a lot of love and thought in that statement. There was also a promise and a challenge. Allow me to explain.
At the time, neither of my parents was yet retired. Dropping off an infant under their care several times per week would have been impossible. Their season of life just didn’t allow for that kind of responsibility. That being said, I also knew—without a doubt—that if tragedy struck and my parents had to step up and raise little Alec, they would have made his welfare their top life priority.
In addition, my father’s words were a challenge we needed to hear and led to a critical decision for Rita and me in our role as new parents. Simply stated, our children were our responsibility. For sure, we were in our early twenties. We had much to learn. We would struggle balancing budgets and schedules. But raising a family was not something you could do halfway or sidestep. You had to be all in.
Do your children—the parents of your grandchildren—know that?
Do they know and accept their primary role as caretaker and provider? I hope they do. Unfortunately, that expectation is not something you can blurt out in the middle of a dinner conversation. Shrieking, “I already raised my kids, now it’s your turn,” at young parents is not a good option. That conversation would not end well.
Instead of that painful verbal exchange, let’s go back to the premise of this article. Whenever possible, say yes. Say it often. Step up heroically and be a generous, involved, and bighearted grandma and grandpa. Once you establish that magnanimous attitude, then you will feel free and empowered to say, “I’m so sorry. That’s not something we can help with.”
Let me quickly add that every season of life and all grandparents are different. When our grandbabies came along, Rita was in the exact right position to say yes to holding those babies for a few hours a few times per week. Our sons and daughters-in-law have been very grateful.
Let me also add, our grown children have made requests to which we’ve said no as well. Consider this blogpost permission for you to do the same.
How have you balanced saying “yes” and “no” to your children and grandchildren? Share some of your wisdom on our Facebook page here.
Jay Payleitner is a best-selling author of Hooray for Grandparents! and more than a dozen other books on marriage, family, and doing life right including 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad, 52 Ways to Connect as a Couple, and What If God Wrote Your Bucket List? He and his wife, Rita, live near Chicago, where they’ve raised five great kids (and now have eight grandkids) and have loved on ten foster babies. For information on booking Jay to speak at your next event, visit jaypayleitner.com.