My son is married to a beautiful girl named Alice and together they have two gorgeous children: Tom and Gracie. Alice is a lovely girl and a wonderful wife to Matthew; she loves him and supports him and for the most part is everything I could have hoped for my only son.
When he first introduced me to her I knew he’d found ‘the one’. He was smitten from the beginning and she felt the same way about him. As I got to know Alice, I learnt that she was a smart driven young lady with a great sense of humour and a rare gift for seeing the best in everyone.
No one is perfect of course and Alice, like the rest of us, has her ‘faults’. I have seen her stubbornness and sometimes childish behaviour first hand. She has thrown mini-tantrums at family events and left to sulk in the car outside and once refused to speak to Matthew for two days because he missed their dinner plans because he had to work late.
Normally I wouldn’t think too much about that type of behaviour – not my circus not my monkeys – but now I see her passing those same traits onto my grandchildren.
I raised Matthew to eat a balanced and healthy diet. He would stay at the table until he finished his vegetables and knew to eat whatever meal he was served without complaint – sulking or refusing would get him nowhere.
Alice, on the other hand, is a terribly fussy eater. Despite maintaining a slim figure, she eats copious amounts of junk food, will only buy white bread, and refuses to eat most vegetables.
She is also prone to bouts of worrying… about everything. A tiny cough warrants a visit to the doctor and a dose of antibiotics; a little pressure at work will cause constant stress; and a change in her carefully organised schedule will completely throw her off course.
Now, she has started passing these habits and traits on to Tom and Gracie and to be completely honest: it drives me crazy.
She regularly serves the kids spaghetti with just butter and cheese, or chicken nuggets with chips and tomato sauce. If vegetables are included in the meal, Tom and Gracie will refuse to eat them – and they’ll get away with it.
I’ve seen Matthew try to force them to stay at the table until they’re done but it just ends in a tantrum. Matthew has also tried to get Alice to teach the kids to finish their vegetables and be more adventurous with what they eat, but to no effect.
She doesn’t see a problem with giving them cordial and lollies as an after-school snack or feeding them sugary cereal in the morning for breakfast. Now, when I take care of them after school, it’s an uphill battle to get them to eat anything besides the treats they are used to.
She is also, for want of a better phrase, a ‘helicopter parent’. She is constantly worrying about Tom and Gracie and jumping in to rescue them from every situation. If Gracie drops her pencil, Alice practically dives on top of it to pick it up for her. If Tom falls over playing in the back yard and scrapes his knee she is there in an instant cradling him in her arms.
As they get older, I see both children relying on their mother for simple things that most other children do themselves. If they lose something – Alice finds it, if they don’t want to share their toys with other kids – Alice finds new toys for their friends instead of teaching them to share.
As a grandmother, I find it difficult to sit by and watch as Tom and Gracie are raised in the exact opposite way I way raised Matthew. I completely understand that Alice and Matthew should be able to raise their children however they want to, but I find myself gritting my teeth and resenting Alice for all of these issues.
I have broached the subject with Matthew once before, but while he is much more relaxed and less indulgent than Alice, he is happy for her to continue to raise the kids the way she does.
I’m at a point now where I’m seriously considering saying something to Alice. I want to sit down with her and tell her that she doesn’t have to fret and hover over the children the way she does. I want to make her understand how important it is for the kids to eat a healthy diet and receive the proper nutrition they need.
I’m just not quite sure if it’s the right thing to do… as much as I want to step in, I’m not sure if it’s really my place. As their grandmother, a part of me feels like I have a right to intervene.
The other part of me knows how badly it could backfire. I don’t want to cause a rift between our family and I don’t want to make Matthew uncomfortable. If anyone out there has been through this before or has any advice to offer, I’d love to hear it before I do something I might regret forever…