Granny as Nanny

Don't Forget the Fun

Most grandparents who don't babysit will tell you how thrilled they are to play with, be silly with, and yes, spoil their grandchildren in ways they could not when raising their own kids. But when Granny's in charge, roles can become muddied. Schmidt has noticed that her father can struggle with being the heavy. "My dad makes the mistake of asking the kids their opinion when there is no choice, such as when to nap or what to eat for lunch. I need to remind him that he is the adult."

Babysitting can alter a relationship, Dr. Newman cautions. "When the grandparents become authority figures, it can be hard for them to remain regular grandparents." Happily, most elders find ways to still have a good time with their little charges. Neil Staedler, 69, Schmidt's father and sitter, balances the responsibilities of caring for his grandsons with fun stuff: "We go to the park. We horse around. I have to keep their schedules straight and make sure they eat, but I'm still their granddad."

There's no arguing this: Grandma and Grandpa, unlike other babysitters (no matter how fantastic), are by their very nature invested in your children. "Grandparents are the glue of families," Dr. New-man says. "They're the keepers of generations of history and traditions. Having them around your kids can only be a plus."

Originally published in the August 2011 issue of American Baby magazine.

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