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Please Don't Grab The Baby

Please Don’t Grab The Baby

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I have another grandparent-y kind of question for you. Both my parents mothers are still alive, and relatively young (for being great-grandmas.) I’m now 26, with a fiance and a 6-month-old son. I’ll start by saying I grew up in a big family, so I’m a pretty confident mom and experienced infant-caretaker.

Advice Smackdown ArchivesSince my extended family is huge and close-knit, our family gatherings are frequent and noisy. My son is little and cute, so he gets passed from person to person for snuggles. He’s generally cool with it, but after awhile he burns out and needs a mama-break. Sometimes he gets overwhelmed or startled and starts with the pouty lip and crocodile tears. That face kills me. And I am a confident mom, but a new one, so I don’t have any tolerance yet for sad baby face. I try to take him ASAP for some quiet alone time in another room. But.

Both of my grandmothers (one is worse than the other) have started doing this thing that really actually scares me a bit.

My son will start crying. Grandma will bomb over to where he is and snatch him up. Even if I’m already holding him.

If they’re closer to the baby than I am, they’ll grab him from whoever he is with. If I’m holding him, they will try to physically remove him from my hands, cooing, “Ohhh let me see him! Let Grandma do iiiiit!” They’re grabby and persistent and loud. It freaks him out more, and as it escalates it seems like they get flustered and keep trying harder, so I’m trying to comfort and hold on to a squirming, crying infant AND having to wrestle him away from my own grandmother, who is ignoring my reassurance that NO REALLY I GOT THIS. What the HELL?

My grandmothers and I have never had the kind of relationship where I have ever had to lay anything on the line with them. Even just saying “No, I’m taking care of this,” feels strong because I’ve never ever needed to counter them. Now, it seems, they’ve lost their damn minds. I don’t know if they’re trying to be helpful, recapture a moment as a “mommy-who-is-needed” or if they really think I can’t handle it. Or that they can mother my son better than I can…? Anyway, I’m kind of pissed just thinking about it. I don’t know how to talk to them about this because all I can think is, “Stop snatching my baby!” And I think that bluntness might hurt some feelings. But…How would you handle this? Is this a common grandma/great-grandma thing that happens when the fourth generation comes along?

Thank you,

Ugh. I have never personally encountered anyone who tried to physically yank my child from my arms, while I physically resisted said yanking, but I’m picturing it right now and even in my imagination all kinds of panicked motherly instincts are kicking in because DO NOT SNATCH MY BABY AWAY FROM ME AM MAMA BEAR AND I WILL RIP OUT YOUR THROAT.

So. Ahem. Props for not growling that at your grabby but well-meaning grandmas.

My MIL is also incredibly well-meaning but also fairly…take-over-y? I guess is how to put it? She likes to be the First Responder to any and all baby cries, without ever stopping to consider that maybe it’s something Jason or I would prefer to handle. (Like, say, a semi-asleep cry that WE know doesn’t need an immediate swooping in and picking up, or just a cry that means I WANT MAMA AND NO ONE ELSE WILL DO.) If I’m already there and doing whatever it is I think needs done but the crying hasn’t instantly ceased, she’ll start with the “I can rock him! Does he need water? I can rock him! Is it his diaper? Etc. Etc.”

And I admit that I feel BAD that I actually find this kind of annoying and intrusive, because I KNOW she just desperately wants to help and be as hands-on as a grandma as possible, but…I don’t know. There are just times when — like you said — things really, REALLY need to be left up to us, the Mamas, to make decisions about what our babies need. Even if you completely disagree with how I’m handling the situation. Even if I’m still pacing the guest room with a crying baby 20 minutes later. If I need or want your help, I will ask for it.

So…you are completely within your rights, I believe, to firmly and politely tell your grandmothers that no, they cannot have your son right now, he’s a little upset, let me just go somewhere quiet and calm him down and I’ll have him back to you in a jiffy. Blame separation anxiety, announce that sorry, this is a Mama Job, stand up and WALK AWAY. RETREAT. You can always use fewer words in the moment and then try to explain nicely later: “Hey, here’s your happy boy again! Sorry about that…when I see That Face, trust me, I KNOW, there’s nothing and nobody but Mama that will make it better — he just gets more and more upset around all these people.” Sigh. Babies! Whattayagonnado.

You can even try to enlist their “help” as a strategy for when they tend to snatch him up before you can: “Next time you see That Face, if you could just bring him to me right away I would REALLY appreciate it. The sooner I can give him just a few minutes of Mama Time the easier it is to get him calmed down, instead of other people trying to do it.” They don’t need to know that technically, they ARE the “other people” you’re referring to, but instead are your allies in a crowd full of relatives who just aren’t as tuned in to your sweet baby’s moods and needs.

If that doesn’t work, well, you’re probably going to have to step up the level of directness with them. A sharp and direct NO THANKS, I’VE GOT THIS is really not out of line, though I’d suggest you keep your face and tone as calm and pleasant as possible — any indication of the stress and anxiety they’re causing you (BY PHYSICALLY TRYING TO REMOVE YOUR CHILD FROM YOUR RESISTING ARMS, OH MY GOD) will likely reflect badly *on you* and make them assume that oh, you’re upset and emotional and THAT’S why your baby is upset blah dee blah bloo blah. If THAT doesn’t work, and you see them making a beeline for you, I’d get up and leave the room preemptively. Maybe figure out ahead of time what rooms lock. (You know, for “nursing” or whatever.)

At some point — fairly soon, actually — your son will be too mobile and too VOCAL for them to get away with this sort of thing. He’ll be able to make his needs and preferences more specifically known, and probably won’t be spending all these get-togethers being passed from arm to arm. He’ll be off exploring on his own and you’ll definitely appreciate having Great-Grandmas around to keep an eye on him and intervene as needed.

You’ll also appreciate the fact that when they DO intervene, your son might take one look at them and and ask for MAMA instead. (Cackles evil-y.)

If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected]

Published May 11, 2011. Last updated October 29, 2017.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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