temporary parents

As the oldest child (and only girl) in my house, I was in constant competition with my younger brothers. Every time I managed to win some new privilege from my parents, I just made the path to that privilege easier for them, and I tasted that disappointment keenly.

What was the good of winning something new, if I couldn’t lord it over them for at least a year or two?

I grew up less than 20 miles from where my paternal grandparents lived. I remember vividly going to spend the night at their house during the weekends, starting when I was around 8 or 9. I can’t remember if my brothers got to go or not–they certainly didn’t stay there on weekends that I was there. My grandmother let me stay up later than my parents did–a lifelong insomniac, she was always glad for some company at 11:00 p.m.

We played countless rounds of Scrabble and she kicked the pants off me at gin rummy. I don’t think I won a game against her until I was at least 13. When I had my hardest times with my parents, I always had her. I ended up living with my grandparents for a summer when I was in high school, when I couldn’t stand to live with either of my parents, and I lived with my grandmother for about half a year after I got out of college (my grandfather had died by that point).

There are many, many reasons that I miss my grandmother, not the least of which is that she died before either of my children were born.

I really wish that my kids had the opportunity that I did, when I was young, to hang out with their grandparents. Unfortunately, the only set of grandparents that live near enough for that are the ones that we’re totally alienated from–my dad and his wife. The closest one is my MIL, but she’s a good 2 hours away by car.

I also really wish that we had some temporary parents that we could send the Bee off to for a day or so. She’s at the point where she really needs some more independence—and some more one-on-one attention—than either of us is able to give her. The closer we get to Election Day, the more landisdad is on the single-parent track, which is stressful for everyone involved. It would help to be able to ship her off to someone who has the time to play 16 consecutive games of Egyptian Ratscrew with her. She’d really benefit from having a parental figure who is less about authority, and more about just being interested in her, and paying attention to her, without her brother in the room.

How do you find people that you trust to spend time with your kids, if you don’t have family close?


September 28, 2008. thoughtful parenting.


  1. ilinap replied:

    Wow, this is our quandary too. My MIL is 80 and in Wisconsin (We’re in NC.). My dad is in Philly and doesn’t pay attention to the kids anyway except for a pat on the head and buying presents. My mom lives in Germany half the year and DC half the year. She does not drive, and there are some other issues in her house (like too much drinking by my stepdad) that prevent us from letting our kids stay there alone. My kids love our 60 year old nanny like she’s family, but she has her own family and grandkids. I grew up not knowing anyone in my family because they were all in India. I hate that my children are also growing up not having a relationship with their family too.

  2. elise replied:

    I am in the same quandry with family living quite far away and even when we do see them they aren’t award winning grandparents. I don’t think the kids have suffered but I think I have. I can specifically remember when Thomas and ERin were very young (only a year and a half apart) and they got this terrible stomach virus and they were puking and pooping like crazy. Just when I got one cleaned up the other needed to be done. Poop literally shooting out of diapers. Besides the stress of dealing with things physically, emotionally I was a wreck because I was worried that one or both could end up in the hospital. I can remember crying and wanting a real mom who would be there for me. Helping me just when I didn’t think I could take it anymore. I needed to hear some soothing words and I just never got them. I of course survived and now it all seems like ancient history. The kids are older and things are generally smooth and I’ve learned to do it on my own. I no longer pine for what I don’t have but it was really rough back then.

  3. Susan replied:

    One of the things I’m really missing now that we’ve moved is the network I had set up for Curious Girl–she had some sort-of-grandparents (a woman I used to be a Girl Scout leader with, a colleague) who really had a very special relationship with her. And then we had some very close friends with whom we did a lot of family holidays and whatnot, other people who also had far-away family. CG’s not old enough yet to have a lot of independent time with those other families, but I really valued the relationships she was forming. LIke you, I want her to have ties to other trusted adults, for those times when for whatever reason, communication with me and Politica isn’t what she wants. I don’t know how to go about forming new ties here (but am hopeful that somehow they will emerge).

  4. shestartedit replied:

    My girls’ closest grandparents are also 2 hours away, but this is thousands of miles closer than I was to any of my grandparents. Is it possible for you to meet them halfway for a sleepover? Or miss a day of school to spend time with them? Or what about days when school is closed but you have to work?

  5. jen replied:

    We’ve had pretty good luck with this at church and with our neighbors. The neighbors thing started with small stuff, like shoveling for the older lady who lives next door. Then she went on a cruise with her girlfriends and the kids fed her cat. Then she started picking things up for the kids at garage sales. Now we’re to the point where we all hang out quite a bit, although not for long periods of time unsupervised the way you describe, landismom.

    At church it started with committee meetings or events that I dragged the kids along to. Soon we’re all sitting together at coffee hour. Before long the kids are sitting with other people at church while I sit with the choir, for example. It’s good for everyone involved.

  6. Jody replied:

    I don’t know. The person who gave me that escape from family dynamics, and that individual attention, and that support, was a church member whose kids I babysat. I’m as heartbroken to hear that they’re selling their house now as I was when my dad sold ours.

    You know, a two-hour drive would strike any of our grandparental folks as easy-peasy. They would make that drive for a weekend visit with a grandchild in a millisecond.

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