My mother-in-law was in town recently for a visit. She stayed for a week, and in that time, I think she only spent a couple of hours with my husband and me. The rest of the time she was playing with our son, Jonah. He's three and he loves his Grammy. We are so grateful for the time she spends with him, but it is hard not to notice that after she leaves we go through a bit of Grammy Withdrawal. This phenomenon is pretty well documented across the web, but I think too much is made of the misbehavior that comes with recovering from a grandparent visit. I think when we bemoan the struggle to adjust to "normal" life we forget that our kids are dealing with complex emotions that they are not always equipped to express. They may be sad, a little mad, confused or frustrated, and we need to remember to support them as they work through those feelings. But mostly, I think they just don't understand yet why a good thing has to end. And for Jonah, having Grammy around is a GREAT thing!
When she visits, Grammy gives almost all of her attention to Jonah. He in turn, becomes a little dictator, and she's having fun playing with him, so she goes with it. He wants to play cars? They play cars. Have a picnic? Sure! Stay up late talking? Absolutely. All good stuff. Not always reasonable for mom to continue on the other side, which small children don't understand. So when I have to say no to staying up late because we've got an early morning, he throws a fit to delay bed time. When I can't stop to play cars because I'm in the middle of doing the dishes, he hangs on my legs and generally makes a nuisance of himself. As a mom, I like to give into those impulsive fun things too, and sometimes I do, but mostly I'm trying to gently teach him that he is not the actual center of the universe and mom has to prioritize her time to meet all of our responsibilities and needs. So play time does have to wait until our work is done. There are plenty of days that I'd rather be on the floor playing than working, but in the end, that creates more stress for me as I struggle later to catch up with deferred work, and it robs him of the opportunity to develop some independence as he entertains himself in appropriate ways, like doing his own chores! So, I for one, am glad that he gets to experience being utterly doted on by Grammy. She doesn't have the responsibility of shaping the character of my child, although I know she models good character for him. She can shower him with attention and fun and adventure, and what a wonderful experience that is for both of them.
One day he'll be grown, and I will be able to be more of a friend to him, but for now, while he's learning how to be a person, and I'm the one teaching him, I'm so grateful he has a friend and ally who loves him as much as I do and can spoil without ruin. And if working through an adjustment to normal life after the visit is the cost, I'm happy to pay it.