Hosting wee holiday guests? 7 safety steps for grandparents

Hosting wee holiday guests? 7 safety steps for grandparents

Family gatherings at Grandma’s house are the stuff seasonal songs are made of. Grandparents delight in hosting extended family for festive events, no doubt. But for grandmothers and others who typically see far less toddler traffic the rest of the year, the increase in visitors can be a bit unsettling… and potentially unsafe.

If you’re one of the fortunate ones hosting a houseful of young’uns for festive fun, consider making the following alterations while putting out seasonal decorations to ensure holiday gatherings at Grandma’s are as merry and bright—and safe—as can be.

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From Huff/Post50: Who puts baby in a corner? Not this grandma

This post, sans the photos, was originally published on Huff/Post50, my first post as an official Huffington Post blogger.

Different grandmas, different styles

My favorite grandma never spanked me. She also never yelled at me, reprimanded me, restricted me.

My not-so-favorite grandma? Well, she never spanked me, either. She did, though, once make me drink grape juice I didn’t want. I immediately vomited up the purple stuff; Grandma immediately yelled at me for doing so. From that moment on, my “Favorite Grandma” title went to my other grandma—and my “Least Favorite Juice” designation went to grape.

When it came to being disciplined by my grandmothers, things could have been far worse. Back in the day—yes, that day—it was common for grandparents, heck, even neighbors and strangers, not to spare the rod when they deemed necessary, even when it came to children not their own.

I got lucky. Not in that I was a child above reproach and reprimand, but that my grandmothers pretty much left such things to my parents. Except when it came to drinking one’s juice.

Now that I’m a grandma, I consider those grandparenting styles, the disciplinary actions of my grandmothers, as well as the way the grandparents to my own children—my parents, my in-laws—conducted themselves with their grandkids.

The (step) patriarch of my husband’s family regularly swatted upside the heads those grandkids who committed minor infractions. I often wondered as a new member of my husband’s family if his step-dad’s popping kids for this and that was how he became known as “Pop” to the family.

My own mother, grandma to my three daughters, didn’t pop grandkids upside the head, but she often spanked on the rears the children of my younger sisters, regularly made them sit in the corner for misbehaving.

My sister-in-law and my sisters were okay with Pop and Grandma coming down hard on their kids. Both grandparents played a prominent role in helping the single moms raise the kiddos, so that may be why they were given more authority. It worked for their families. To each his own.

I, though, wasn’t okay with such disciplining of my own.

Not that my children were perfect by any means, or that they didn’t deserve to be disciplined upon breaking bad. But if the discipline necessary went beyond a stern look or word, perhaps a slight swat upon a diapered bottom for safety’s sake, we had an unspoken “hands off” policy. Nobody puts my babies in a corner—except for their dad and me.

Yet my husband and I didn’t put our kids in the corner. Nor did we pop them on the head now and then. We did, though, hand out some fairly strict disciplinary action when our daughters needed it. We sent them to their rooms, and we took away privileges. On occasion, we even spanked them.

When it comes to my grandsons, though—ages four-and-a-half and one-and-a-half— spanking, shaming, popping upside one’s head just isn’t my style. I know some grandmas do it, but I won’t. I simply cannot imagine inflicting the slightest bit of pain upon my grandsons.

That doesn’t mean I’ve not inflicted emotional pain, though. Unintentionally, I assure you, just as my not-so-favorite grandma did with the grape juice.

Case in point: As a long-distance grandma, I pack a pretty hefty lot of luggage when I visit my grandsons. In that luggage is always what we call my “Grandma Bag,” filled with crafts, books, and fun to fill the time with the boys. The rule is that my grandsons must wait until I share treasures from my bag, not go into it themselves.

Also in my luggage—as surely applies to many a grandparent—is medication. Pills and more that should never, ever be touched by little ones and one of the reasons my grandsons are not allowed in “Gramma’s room” unless I’m with them.

Most can likely guess what happened: I entered my room one morning to find my oldest grandson sitting on the floor, happily going through the goodies in my Grandma Bag, the bag that had been in my suitcase, right beside those other things he was to never, ever, touch. He peered up at me with a grin over all the fun Gramma had in store—then immediately realized the mistake he’d made. He burst into tears, I calmly reminded him that he’s to never, ever touch Gramma’s things without first asking.

After lots of tears from him and lots of lecturing from me, my grandson apologized for the bad choice he’d made. I, of course, forgave him. The question is, did he forgive me? I know firsthand that grudges toward grandmas can run deep, and I didn’t want my grandson to forever hold against me the Grandma Bag incident.

Regardless of whether my grandson forever revokes from me the “Favorite Grandma” designation or not, I hope he will eventually realize my response could have been far different, could have included a spanking.

With the holidays upon us, what other grandmas might do may be tested. Families will gather, kids will act up. Some grandparents will spank or send kids into corners, some parents will bristle. Or not. To each his own.

I just know that when it comes to my own, nobody puts my grandbabies in a corner—except, maybe, their own mom and dad.

Today's question:

What is your experience with grandparents disciplining your children or you disciplining your own grandchildren?

Grandparenting as a second chance: 15 things I'd do this time around

Broncos girls.JPG

Some grandmas and grandpas consider being a grandparent their second chance at parenting, their opportunity to do things right, do things forgotten.

Not me. I don't see my time as Gramma being a do-over for my time as Mom. I've already had the headache, hassle, heartache of being a parent. I'm happy now to enjoy my time with my grandchildren without feeling the need to make good on all the things I neglected, all the ways I screwed up with my children. For one thing, there's no way to make up for what was—with those kids or with the kids of those kids.

If it were, though, if being a grandparent really did provide an opportunity for do-overs, here are a few things I'd do better the second time around:

Mac and Ritz.JPG

• Go on more family bike rides.

• Complete a doll house for the girls. Boys, too, if they wanted one.

• Be more adamant about flossing.

• Allow them to order dessert now and then when dining out. Or an appetizer, instead of saying the budget's too tight for either.

• Teach them to sew, regardless of their gender.

• Not allow them to quit musical instruction, be it band, choir, guitar lessons.

• Not allow them to quit sports mid-season, either.

• On the other hand, I'd be more adamant about them quitting bad relationships sooner.

• Take them camping as teens, even if they didn't want to go. Once they got out in the boonies, they'd surely appreciate the s'mores, stories, and sky of endless stars regardless of their protests from home.

• Go on more picnics. And Sunday drives, with no particular destination, agenda, goal.

• Buy them each a camera at a younger age. (A far easier consideration now that the cost of developing photos is no longer a factor.)

• Allow more slumber parties. Though not co-ed, as seems currently in fashion.

• Sing more.

• Hug more.

• Remember more.

Today's question:

What would you do differently if given parenting do-overs?

Small talk with my grandson

Bubby, at nearly four years old, has reached the age where we can easily converse about this and that. I understand all he says; he understands most of what I say. When he doesn't understand, he's quick to request clarification with a blunt, "What do you MEAN, Gramma?"

I've never been good at small talk, but when it's with Bubby, I'm easily engaged and entertained as long for as he's willing to keep up the chatter. I love to hear his thoughts, his interesting view on the world around him and the people near and dear to him. It usually ends up being not such small talk after all.

Here's a sampling of the delightful mind nuggets my grandson shared during our time together last week:

Out of nowhere and completely unrelated to anything that came before, Bubby asked, "Have you ever holded a fish? Wouldn't that be so cute? Maybe if they're sad, you could do that. I've always wanted to do that but Mommy never lets me."

"Gramma, do you wanna play the hip-hop scotch game?" (Meaning hopscotch, I assure you, not a rowsing drinking game of sorts.)

One evening as we settled onto the couch for storytime before bed, I had Baby Mac on my lap, Bubby at my side. Bubby, who was to hold the book and be the designated page turner, kept staring at his brother instead of getting on with his job. "Why do you keep looking at him?" I asked. Bubby's response: "<Baby Mac's> head is getting so cute, don't you think?"

"I love your muddy buddies, Gramma! maybe one time you can save a little bit of these for a dessert because mommy never ever has these kind of candy."

Bubby and I had been talking about horses and I told him about the day PawDad, Aunt B (Brianna), and I rode horses at my sister's ranch. "Gramma, horses don't like RANCH!" he said. "Ranch is for carrots. It's white. It's not for horses!"

Bubby: "You look so pretty in that dress, Gramma."
Gramma: "Why thank you, Bubby. That's so sweet."
Bubby (seeming a little sad and confused that the conversation ended there): "Every time I tell my mommy she looks pretty, she gives me a hug."
Needless to say, Bubby got his hug.

Today's fill-in-the-blank:

A memorable comment I recently heard from a child was _____________________.

Long-distance grandma = long-distance mom

Baby Mac is sick. Again. Seems like my youngest grandson has continuously battled bugs of this sort and that ever since he was just a few months old.

This time Baby Mac has an especially nasty bug, of the croup and bronchiolitis sort. Megan called me Tuesday on the drive home from the pediatrician, where Baby Mac and his Mommy had to endure the trauma of Mac's first-ever nebulizer treatment. It was horrific—for both—with Mac screaming from beginning to end.

My poor babies. I imagine it was no fun at all for either. I can only imagine such treachery because as a mother, I never had to do such a thing, never had to administer a breathing treatment for a sick child. In all honesty, my kids were—thankfully!—relatively healthy. Now that Megan's a mom, she realizes that. It's something we've discussed often, as both my grandsons seem to be sick a lot, and Megan thinks there's some magical answer to keeping kids healthy, one she's not yet been privy to.

"Am I just a bad mom?" she pleaded for an answer Tuesday. "What am I supposed to be doing that I'm not?"

Usually when Megan asks that question, my first response—selfish as it may be—is, "You need to move out of that <cuss> desert and back home to the mountains."

Not this time, though. Because Megan was on the verge of tears. Because she was scared. And because she was sitting in the car in the garage having just reached home from the doctor's office and had a sick nine-month-old zonked out in his carseat, exhausted from the traumatic treatment, as well as Bubby sitting quietly beside him, and they all needed to get into the house.

"You're doing everything you're supposed to, Megan," I told her. "You got the baby to the doctor and he's being taken care of. That's what you were supposed to do. There's just a lot of crud going around right now and Mac just keeps getting it, for whatever reason. It's nothing you are doing or not doing."

Jim, who was home for lunch and part of our call, confirmed to Megan that a mom he works with has young kids who are sick far more often than was the norm when our kids were little. It's just the way it is nowadays, he said, for reasons we don't know.

"It'll be okay," I told her. "Just get the kids inside and call me later."

It's exactly such times that the distance from my grandbabies, from my daughter, are the hardest. I couldn't just hop in the car and head over to her place to help her out, to hug my sick grandson or, more importantly, to hug my stressed-out daughter.

The most I could do was text her a few hours later, when I figured things had calmed down a bit: 

Despite the crappy day and a croupy kid, at least my daughter still had her sense of humor. Jamaican or not, Megan is indeed a good mon—just because it sounds so cool.

And perpetually sick kids or not, she is indeed a good mom, too. Just one who needs a hug from her own mom—yet lives too far away to get exactly that.

Today's question:

What are your thoughts on kids being sick more often than they were back in the day—that day being when you were a kid or when your kids were kids?