by Carolynn J. Scully

My grandlady Emma comes to my house looking for treats. She tells her dad, “I’m hungry,” but what she really wants is a sugary delight. I do keep goodies available or  buy something if I know the grands are coming. I have often been told that as a grandma, I have the right to spoil my grandkids. But at what expense?

The privilege of grandparenting is not to indulge the child, but to enjoy the freedoms sometimes missed when parenting.

When I was a parent, someone told me that spoiling a child was doing something for them that they can (and should) do for themselves. A newborn is unable to supply any needs. A baby breathes and his body functions work without our intervention, but they need so much more. As children grow and develop, they work to learn skills that they can do on their own. Doing those learned skills for them teaches them to depend only on others. That kind of spoiling is the rotten fruit we give our grandchildren—and their parents, whose lives may be more difficult because of sugary treats we’ve given or bad habits we’ve encouraged.

But I want to say: I still have the right to spoil!

And here I’m talking about a better, much more positive side of spoiling. I can spoil by being their biggest cheerleader while they learn new skills. I watch for the successes, not mistakes. All people need to be loved, heard, and appreciated for their unusual quirks. Grandparents can be an abundant source of love, listening and cheering for their grands. That kind of spoiling is the chocolate sauce with sprinkles on the plain vanilla ice cream.

Emma does get sweets from me sometimes, but they come with her “please” and “thank you,” and often she’ll need to help clean up a small mess of crumbs or crayons and paper afterward. She always gets a “Great job” or a listening ear as she tells her stories. She is one of my grands and she is grand!

Grandparents, let us unite in changing the world by our right to spoil … and let’s do it right!

Carolynn J. Scully is an award-winning poet and writes other works while caring for grandchildren, Abigail and Lincoln, after school. She has worked in women’s ministries for many years and enjoys speaking to women’s groups. She has been married to her husband, Patrick, for 47 years and lives in Forest City, Florida. Her most recent book is First Moments: Pregnancy Prayers and Ponderings.