My favorite grandma never spanked me. She also never yelled at me, reprimanded me or 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 and 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 these 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 4 1/2 and 1 1/2 — 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 are 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 even included a spanking.
With the holidays upon us, what other grandmas might do may be tested. Families will gather and children 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.
previously printed at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-carpenter/discipline-children_b_2165334.html