The Dreaded Grandparent Pop-In & Camp-Out Visit
Some background first: I have a wonderful three month old son. He’s the first grandchild on either side. My husband is an only child (not by choice, he’s Chinese so one child law), so we are his parent’s only hope for grandchildren, so to speak. I should also mention there’s a language barrier between his parents and me. They only speak Mandarin. While they don’t live in the same town, they do live a couple suburbs over. We visit their house every other Sunday for lunch and playtime with the baby. I had naively thought they’d be satisfied with seeing their grandson for a couple of hours every other week, but I was wrong.
My issue is that for the past several weekends, they’ve essentially shown up at our house unannounced (they give us a call that they’re on their way). They bring their slippers and their tea and their laptops and basically hang out for five or six hours. They wait for my son to wake up from his nap, for me to nurse him, and then they want to hold him and play with him until I step in and tell them that it’s time for his next nap. Wash and repeat. They do this even when we visited their house the day before.
Now I know I should be thankful that they love him so much and want to be a part of his life. I want to encourage their relationship. My son will learn Mandarin so that he won’t have the same language barrier with them that I do. I want all that. I’m thankful for all that.
My problem is that I don’t really like this arrangement that they’re getting into. I don’t like having them in my house for several hours every Sunday (I’m one of those people that just can’t really relax while guests are in the house). It drives me crazy because they want to hold him the entire time he’s awake and they’re literally all up in his face, kissing him and trying to force him to smile. (Forget about putting him down for some quieter playtime or tummy time – they immediately scoop him up.) And if I’m holding him, or letting him practice sitting, they do this thing where they put their hands out towards him (international sign for give him to me) non stop until I pass him over. I can usually get my husband to intervene at least once and he’ll tell them that I want to hold him. That lasts until the next awake time. This bums me out because (a) I want to hang out with him too (I work full-time and don’t get to see him a lot during the week), (b) he doesn’t get any time to just be, and (c) he doesn’t get a chance to practice skills like holding his head up or sitting up or stretching out. And last thing, I feel like it’s also becoming expected, that they’re going to come over, so I feel like we can’t schedule anything or go do anything during that time.
So I need perspective. Am I being petty and selfish? Should I just grin and bear it and hope that his newness wears off eventually? I highly doubt they’d continue this tradition they’ve got going on forever (they’d only visited our house once or twice before he was born – they don’t like to drive). I feel bad trying to curtail them because they obviously adore him and just want to play with him. But, you know, I adore him and want to play with him too. And I also want to be able to do my laundry in peace.
Last thing, I’m sure my husband would support me if I decided to put my foot down, that’s not the problem. I haven’t brought it up yet because I don’t want to start issues if I am indeed being ridiculous.
“Hi Mom and Dad, going forward we need you to clear these visits ahead of time, rather than waiting to call until you’re already in the car. We have a lot of busy weekends coming up and won’t always be around! We’ll continue with the every other Sunday lunch tradition but any other visits need to be more formally discussed and scheduled. Thanks!”
You are so not being ridiculous. This is some basic common courtesy level stuff. Of course it is lovely to have loving, involved grandparents, but so are BOUNDARIES! Sure, they are family, but they are also unannounced guests who are intruding on your limited time with your family. Obviously, they don’t have any sinister motives and are probably just clueless at how inconvenient and annoying they’re being, but just because they’re loving and otherwise wonderful people doesn’t mean you have to give them a pass on ignoring completely reasonable boundary etiquette. (And hell yeah, I’d be super annoyed too, as I’m also the type who can’t ever fully relax or get out of hostess mode when there are people in my house, and people overstaying their welcome after I’ve dropped the clues and cues that the visit is over drives me crazzzzzzzy. And I’ve never met a new mom who isn’t irked by super-grabby people who feel entitled to monopolize someone else’s baby. This whole situation is giving me hives.) It is not at ALL unreasonable to ask them to hey, give us a little more heads up going forward; we have other things to do on the weekends than sit at home all day.
(But by all means, spend your weekends sitting at home all day, if that’s what you want. You can still say “no” to a visit from them!)
So bring it up with your husband. Ask him to enforce a (perfectly reasonable!) rule that they absolutely 100% need to call BEFORE they get in the car, and also let them know that these Sunday visits aren’t going to be a given or regular standing “thing” going forward.
That said, since they ARE otherwise lovely people who clearly want more time with their grandson, try to come up with some alternative (and more enjoyable) ways they CAN spend more time with him. Like they can spend time with you on the weekends, but it’ll be on your terms. They can tag along on activities you choose, or have to agree to end the visit at a set time. “Yes, you can visit this Sunday but instead of staying home let’s all go to the farmer’s market. Also we have other friends coming over at X time so you’ll probably want to head home by Y.”
Maybe you and your husband can plan a dinner/movie date in their suburb and let them babysit for a few hours, or they even could take over for his daycare one day or afternoon a week? I know you’re concerned about the developmental impact their constant holding/in-his-face interaction style might have, but that will likely end on its own over the next few months…a baby that wants to move or be put down so he can explore/play can LET HIS WILL BE KNOWN in more forceful terms than a brand-new three-month-old.
What likely WON’T end on its own, however, is the unannounced pop-in visits, unless they are specifically told that’s no longer okay or a regular expected thing. Truly loving, doting grandparents don’t often just lose interest once the grandchild isn’t so “new” — if anything their desire to be a regular, important influence in the child’s life becomes even stronger. Which is great! But still comes with boundaries and a need to respect your parental wishes and decisions. You know, because in the end, it is your kid and not theirs. That doesn’t need to be harsh or adversarial or anything, just a fact that grandparents everywhere need to acknowledge and respect, because otherwise they risk straining the relationship.
Editor: I encourage you to please read the great advice and insight from our readers. Please just scroll a little bit below. As always, they have really furthered the conversation here.
Photo source: Depositphotos/nonmim
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