A mom of twins shares her thoughts on how grandma can better support mom and dad in raising twins, especially if grandma is a full-time caregiver.
Disclaimer: I love my parents, and my in-laws. I honestly don’t know where we would be if we didn’t have them nearby and available to provide full-time childcare to our twins from the day my husband and I went back to work. What follows is not meant to sound ungrateful, but to act as helpful guidance to future grandparents as one half of a full-time working parent duo with twins relying on generous help from family.
Grandparents: this article is for you! If you are in the unique situation of being able (and willing) to step in as caretakers for your twin grandbabies, you are amongst a small and mighty population that should have statues erected in their honor.
Sorry, that might be a bit extra, but the gratitude that your children feel for your help is beyond measure, truly. However, there are some things that you should know that your adoring children might be thinking but don’t want to say out loud.
While we parents have the warm and fuzzy feelings of knowing that our twins are in the best hands and that they will grow up with so many beautiful memories of their grandparents helping raise them, we do have (just a few) considerations that we hope you keep in mind as you lend a hand.
None of this is meant to criticize. I only offer kind and constructive advice to help you help your children to raise the best humans they can and support them as they navigate this crazy twin parent world we are all in.
Keep the out-of-the-norm treats to a controlled minimum.
Grandparents love to spoil their grandkids: known fact. You send them to grandma’s for the day, they come home with an insane sugar rush because “what happens at grandma’s, stays at grandma’s”. Not so when you, the grandparents, are their daily caregivers.
A parent’s job is to keep our kids alive and healthy, so a treat every now and then is fine, but when that treat happens every day it turns into a routine that we don’t want to sustain. Remember, just because you get to leave after dinner doesn’t mean the boys magically fall asleep at bedtime after getting a “special treat because Grammie loves you”.
Also, when they stick their nose up at both the mac and cheese and then the chicken nuggets they specifically requested, they do not get to say they are hungry an hour later and get sweets.
Thank you for helping us get their healthy eating routine down pat!
Please don’t start habits that we can’t live up to.
When parents work full-time, the only real extended time we have with our twins is on the weekend. While we want to create memories, we also have all the stuff to do.
I know it’s not possible to spoil babies with cuddles, but at the toddler age when you know they are perfectly capable of self-soothing and falling asleep on their own, please don’t tell them you’ll stay in their room while they fall asleep, and stay there until they wake up.
If this was a once a month treat with grandma, fine. But please don’t turn the special sleep crutch into a full-time gig.
Thank you for going along with the habits that we develop that promote efficiency and love.
Help them grow and be self-sufficient.
At age 4 (even younger!), kids are more than capable of picking up the wreckage they left in their wake during their play session. If they are at grandma’s house for the afternoon and she wants to spend hours picking up their messes – fine. In our house, however, with great play comes great responsibility.
The kids want to take out all 140 toy cars and make them race? That’s fine, as long as they clean up afterward. Please, grandparents, do not spend your day cleaning up their toys. They can, and will, do it themselves if you insist. Make it a game if you have to. They do it for us and they will do it for you too.
Thank you for teaching them responsibility and consequences.
It’s ok to let them cry.
This is the toughest because it’s hard for us parents too! As grandparents, your job is to make sure these little cherubs consistently have a smile on their face. When that smile turns upside down, we know you want to do anything to get it back. This includes bending to their every whim, no matter how ridiculous.
Grandparents, listen to me. If they drop their toy and only want grandpa to pick it up, even though grandma is standing right there, it’s OK for grandma to pick it up and let them cry it out for a bit.
I pick my battles; many times it’s obviously easier to give them what they want. But they can’t expect that the world will always revolve around them and sometimes there’s a disappointment or two.
Of course, I want to give my children the world, but let’s be real — you can’t always get what you want, but I promise you’ll get what you need.
Thank you for helping them learn realistic expectations and how to handle their emotions in a healthy way.
They won’t be little forever, but they need to grow.
Parents and grandparents know that time is fleeting, and our kids won’t need us the way they did when they were babies for much longer. However, as they grow, there are essential skills that they need to develop to grow into productive little humans. These include feeding themselves, putting on their shoes and coats, climbing in and out of their own chair….and so on.
Grandparents would do anything to keep them little forever, but we can’t stifle their development just because we want to pretend they still need us for everything.
Please grandparents, if they are doing a puzzle and struggle for more than 3 seconds to find a piece, let them work it out on their own. When they can’t stab that piece of pasta, let them work it out. With every loss of a baby moment comes even more amazing ones as they reach important milestones!
Thank you for giving them the tools they need to succeed on their own.
Know that we are grateful.
Handling twins is physically and emotionally exhausting, especially for grandparents who, let’s face it, are getting older. Please know that we are so unbelievably grateful for all that you do, and, beyond the frustrated eye-rolls when you knowingly break some of our “rules”, we owe you everything.
So to all the grandparents out there who are there supporting and helping their kids and grandkids as often as they can: you are our heroes!
Mallory Kerley is a first-time mom to four-year-old identical twin boys. No, twins do not run in her family, yes she’s sure they are identical, yes her hands are full. She lives on Long Island with her husband, works full-time as a marketing & communications professional for a national non-profit organization and still has no idea what she’s doing with this whole parenting thing. She fancies herself a photographer in her spare time and just decided to do it as a side hustle (but of course doesn’t have any great photographs of herself). You can see her photos on Facebook at Twin Fox Photos.