By Guest Blogger Anna Hargett, author of This Perfect Mess
My children love their grandparents and the grandparents LOVE their grandchildren.
It’s a love that leads to freezers stocked with popsicles, marathon games of Candyland, and a grandpa who has erected a few tents in his living room and installed a swing from the ceiling in the hopes that the grandchildren will mistake his house for a circus, no doubt.
It’s a dangerous love. Once the kids get a taste, they want MORE. In fact, I suspect before our visits the grandparents plot ways to guarantee their grandchildren’s loyalty and affection. Let’s see…we’ll start with ice cream for breakfast and then we’ll play Thomas the Train for 3 hours and then maybe a trip to the moon!
You can imagine their reaction, then, when we try to bring them back to reality after a visit with the grandparents.
They are shocked when we announce it is bedtime after the sun goes down. But we haven’t even roasted marshmallows yet! They stare into the pantry in complete bewilderment. Why don’t we have chocolate bars like Grandma? Even the suggestion of bathing sparks a complete meltdown. But I never had to take a bath at Grandpa’s howwwwse!! He said the hot tub was just as gooood!
In fact, when the grandparent withdrawal hits, it manifests itself as one long, whiny, sobbing, floor-flopping meltdown, or what I like to call “Grandparent Detox.”
How long will it take for the effects of the grandparent narcotic to wear off? It’s simple, really. To calculate, you must add up the amount of time your children spent with their grandparents and then multiply that by 2. So, if your child spent 3 days at Grandma’s house, it will take 6 days for him to properly detox.
Grandparent Detox is hard on children and parents alike. Here are 5 steps to help everyone survive this grueling process.
Grandparent Detox: The 5 Step Survival Method
1. Be understanding
It is important to remember that it takes time to unlearn bad habits.
Be understanding with your children and slowly guide them down from their grandparent high. Perhaps Grandma left the Disney Channel on for the entire 72 hours of their visit. It may be an overwhelming shock to quit Doc McStuffins cold turkey. Instead, allow your children a good 4 hour TV block upon returning home and gradually reduce the time each day. Use that time to get a head start on unpacking, because like the Grandparent Detox rule of thumb, if the trip lasted 4 days, it will take 8 to unpack.
2. Be firm
If there was one word to describe grandparents, ‘firm’ would not be that word.
Sometimes my 2-year-old will climb out of his crib after I put him down for a nap. I calmly, but firmly put him back in and tell him to stay there or else.
On a recent visit I had just put the kids down to nap when Grandma implored me to lie down and rest as well.
After I woke up from a magnificent snooze, I found my 2-year-old in hysterics, convulsing on the floor, practically foaming at the mouth exactly like a…well…exactly like a toddler who has skipped his nap.
“What happened??” I asked Grandma.
“Don’t be mad,” she replied, “after you went to nap, he got up and I couldn’t bear to put him back to bed. So I let him sit in my lap and watch cartoons. And then he had 3 popsicles.”
The closest I’ve ever heard a grandparent come to saying ‘no’ is, “Honey, I would let you have ice cream for breakfast, but your mother said ‘no’.”
After several days of free-for-all living at Grandma’s, your children need you to reinstate the rules and routines you’ve set for them.
3. Use threats
Let’s say that you have very firmly explained to your child that we cannot just hop in the car and rush to the store because he wants Lucky Charms. You don’t care that every time he sees Grandma they head to the store for Lucky Charms, it does not happen every time he sees Mommy. (Your husband begrudgingly adds that he never got Lucky Charms when he went to the store with Grandma and he lived with her for 18 years!)
If your resolute explanation still results in a glorious tantrum, it might be time to employ a new strategy.
Truth be told, it’s not a fair fight. Of course the children prefer the grandparents to mommy. For example:
MOMMY: Takes kids to grocery store, bank and dry cleaners.
GRANDPARENTS: Take kids to amusement park, children’s museum and zoo. In one afternoon.
Threats may be your only weapon against them, as in, “Stop your screaming and get up off the floor or you WILL NEVER SEE GRANDMA AGAIN!!!”
4. Seek help from a higher power
When all else fails, close your eyes, bow your head, and call a grandma.
Beg her to take the kids for a few days.
5. Repeat steps 1-4
Grandparents, if you are not careful, these children may be taking a permanent vacation to your house!
Wait. Is that your master plan??
Oh, you guys are GOOD.