Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Grandparent Detox: The 5-Step Survival Method

My children have a lot of grandparents, several of whom we have been able to visit with this summer. My children love their grandparents and the grandparents LOVE their grandchildren.

It's a love that leads to freezers stocked with popsicles, marathon games of Candyland, and one grandpa who has erected a few tents in his living room and installed a swing from the ceiling in the hopes that the grandchildren will mistake his house for a circus, no doubt.

Gigi, a great-grandmother, always brings each of the children a surprise whenever she sees them, even though she lives right down the street. One time she stopped by to retrieve a pair of sunglasses and, upon the realization that she forgot to bring any special treats, became so distraught that she insisted they pick something out of her bag of groceries loaded in the trunk (Henry took her Veggie Straws and Jack chose a can of minestrone, just in case you were wondering).

It's a dangerous love. Once the kids get a taste, they want MORE. They are HOOKED. In fact, I suspect before our visits the grandparents plot ways to guarantee their grandchildren's loyalty and affection. Let's see...we'll start with ice cream for breakfast and then we'll play Thomas the Train for 3 hours and then maybe a trip to the moon! 

You can imagine their reaction, then, when we try to bring them back to reality after a visit with the grandparents.

They are shocked when we announce it is bedtime after the sun goes down. But we haven't even roasted marshmallows yet! They stare into the pantry in complete bewilderment. Why don't we have chocolate bars like Grandma? Even the suggestion of bathing sparks a complete meltdown. But I never had to take a bath at Grandpa's howwwwse!! He said the hot tub was just as gooood!

In fact, when the grandparent withdrawal hits, it manifests itself as one long, whiny, sobbing, floor-flopping meltdown, or what I like to call "Grandparent Detox." 

How long will it take for the effects of the grandparent narcotic to wear off? It's simple, really. To calculate, you must add up the amount of time your children spent with their grandparents and then multiply that by 2. So, if your child spent 3 days at Grandma's house, it will take 6 days for him to properly detox.

Grandparent Detox is hard on children and parents alike. Here are 5 steps to help everyone survive this grueling process.

Grandparent Detox: The 5- Step Survival Method

1. Be understanding

It is important to remember that it takes time to unlearn bad habits.

Be understanding with your children and slowly guide them down from their grandparent high with baby steps. Perhaps Grandma left the Disney Channel on for the entire 72 hours of their visit. It may be an overwhelming shock to the system to quit Doc McStuffins cold turkey. Instead, allow your children a good 4 hour TV block upon returning home and gradually reduce the time each day. Use that time to get a head start on unpacking, because like the Grandparent Detox rule of thumb, if the trip lasted 4 days, it will take 8 to unpack.

Grandparents clapping for their brilliant great-granddaughter who has just learned to HONK THE HORN.
After she gets steering down they are going to buy her a pony.
2. Be firm

If there was one word to describe grandparents, 'firm' would not be that word. 

Sometimes my 2-year-old will climb out of his crib after I put him down for a nap. I calmly, but firmly put him back in and tell him to stay there or else.

On our latest visit to one grandma's house, I had just put Henry & Elise down to nap when Grandma implored me to lie down and rest as well. 

After I woke up from a magnificent snooze, I found my 2-year-old in hysterics, convulsing on the floor, practically foaming at the mouth exactly like a...well...exactly like a toddler who has skipped his nap.

"What happened to Henry??" I asked Grandma.

"Well, don't be mad," she replied, "after you went to nap, he came in the kitchen and looked at me with those big eyes and I couldn't bear to put him back to bed, love his heart. So I let him sit in my lap and watch cartoons. And then he had 3 popsicles."

The closest I've ever heard a grandparent come to saying 'no' is, "Honey, I would let you have ice cream for breakfast, but your mother said no."

After several days of free-for-all living at Grandma's, your children need you to reinstate the rules and routines you've set for them. Be firm and stay strong.

3. Use threats

Let's say, hypothetically speaking, that you have very firmly explained to your child that we cannot just hop in the car and rush to the store on a whim because he wants Lucky Charms. You don't care that every time he sees Grammie they head to the store for Lucky Charms, it does not happen every time he sees Mommy. (Your husband begrudgingly adds that he never got Lucky Charms when he went to the store with Grammie and he lived with her for 18 years!) 

If your determined explanation still results in a glorious tantrum, it might be time to employ a new strategy.

Truth be told, it's really not a fair fight. Of course the children prefer the grandparents to mommy. Case in point:

GRANDPA: Takes children to stable to give hugs to horses.
MOMMY: Takes children to doctor to look at fish tank before getting shots.
See. There's that pony I was talking about.

GRANDMA: Showers children with gifts whenever she sees them.
MOMMY: Threatens to take away said gifts if children misbehave while she is showering.

MOMMY: Takes kids to grocery store, bank and dry cleaners.
GRANDPARENTS: Take kids to amusement park, children's museum and zoo. In one afternoon.
And also manage to squeeze in a quick trip to the salon.

OF COURSE the children will fight you with every fiber in their being in hopes of escaping back to The Place Where All Their Dreams Come True.

Threats may be your only weapon against them, as in, "Stop your screaming and get up off the floor or you WILL NEVER SEE GRANDMA AGAIN!!!"

4. Seek help from a higher power

Sometimes, the only way to succeed is to admit defeat.

When all else fails, close your eyes, bow your head, and call a grandma.

Beg her to take the kids for a few days.

5. Repeat steps 1-4

It's a vicious cycle, really.

Grandparents, if you don't stop spoiling them, these children may be taking a permanent vacation to your house!

Wait. Is that what you've been plotting??

You sneaky rascals.

This post has been syndicated at ScaryMommy.com


  1. good Lordy, I love you! truth. truth. truth.
    although- I would contest that seeing the fish at the dr. office IS totally a trip to the aquarium in my book! ;)

  2. I laughed and then just shared this with my MIL who we now refer to as Nana Two Desserts after she graciously stayed with our girls for a week while we went on vacation. Now, the girls get upset and just say, "I want Nana. " Met too girls, me too!

    1. Ahaha, Nana Two Desserts, I love it! Maybe they should start calling my mom Nini Three Movies.

  3. TOO FUNNY. I can relate to it all! My kids came home from my parents house last weekend saying "Grandma says we can watch the Disney channel in bed for as long as we want as long as we stay in our room!!"

  4. I'm "that" grandma. And I love it!!!! Spoiling them, loving them, sending them home.........That's the "grand" part!!! Just remember mom and dad. Someday you will be grandparents too. Hang in there. You will Love It!!!!
    God Bless all.

  5. Thanks for this! I'm one of those "spoil 'em and send 'em back" grandmas and you've just given me some great new ideas, haha!

  6. wow, it must be nice having grandparents that give a crap about your kids. not all of us have grandparents for our kids who care enough to try and spoil them. maybe you should stop complaining about all the extra candy and tv and just be greatful that someone else loves your kids enough to want to spoil them.

  7. Geez, Anonymous. Chill out. I can see that this blogger clearly knew you were going to read this and wrote it just to spite you. :p Look, nobody's life is the same. I'm sorry you can't relate. It is nice having grandparents who care, but it also sucks royally having to deal with the fallout. This was a little slice of life based on this one family's experiences. Should I get all upset and annoyed because my own parents are more strict with their grandchildren, don't keep a steady supply of popsicles in their freezer, and don't own a pony? Take the world around you with a little more understanding and a little less negativity.

  8. Abby Hartmann KukesJuly 31, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    Hey Anna! I found your blog through Kavitha on facebook. It's hilarious, and I love it! I just got through reading the milk debacle in Target. I could see everything about that exchange. :) It prompted me to post and say, I hope you're doing well! It's nice to read this when I'm nursing my almost 8 month old that won't sit still.

    1. Thanks, Abby. It's good to hear from you! I saw Kavitha a few weeks ago and she told me you had a little boy! So glad you're doing well (and glad I could keep you entertained during your nursing session ;)

  9. You are making us GRANDPARENTS look bad! You as a parent had your time with your grandparents and yes you all did grow up fine. So let us enjoy our grandchildren, so that remember the good fun times they shared with us. There are always two sides to a story. I am a number 1 Grandma and Grammy. If I was your mother I would turn you over and spank your but. for knocking GRANDPARENTS!

  10. Oh this is too hilarious. We just got back from three week with the grandparents. I have a feeling my nightmare might never end!

  11. I love reading your posts, especially because in the next several years I will be on the other side of this - ha! a Grandparent! I have to tell you my favorite story was waking up and going to the kitchen and doing a double take. My middle child was eating chocolate cake for breakfast, along with sticky buns, donuts, quite the spread! He looked at me and said "Grandmom lets us do anything....as long as we don't kill anybody!". That was pretty accurate, and still is, even though they are all in their 20's now!