Dear Grandparenting: I am taking my grandchildren to the beach in August for two weeks. My grandsons are 16 and 13. My granddaughter is 14. Their parents will join us when they can escape from work. I have rented a little cottage from an old friend. She is a stickler for keeping her house immaculate. I promised I would return the cottage in the same condition. This worries me a little bit but not nearly as much as their cousins. Their families vacation together nearby.
Those kids are wild. I’m not saying they are juvenile delinquents. Let’s just say they were raised differently. I know the cousins will visit because there’s more to do at our beach town. I wonder if I can pull this off without blowing a fuse. I like my naps and don’t want to worry myself to death. After all, it’s my vacation too! Your advice would be greatly appreciated. Bradley Martin, Boston, MA
Dear Bradley: Before we launch into our advice, a word needs to be said about the undervalued importance of cousins in the lives of grandchildren. We seldom hear much about this family segment, and it’s way too early for your grandchildren to begin to appreciate the role cousins can come to play. We’d call it huge.
Not a sibling, not a friend, cousins are a unique mixture of both, the very fiber of the greater family cloth. Comforting and enriching, cousins help grandchildren understand extended family dynamics, show up for milestone events like weddings, funerals and family rituals, share your grandchildren’s life journey and help your grandchildren remember and reenact the joys and triumphs of childhood and adulthood. Your grandchildren’s relationships with each other may turn sour at future point in time, but cousins occupy a safer space by virtue of keeping their distance.
Like any relationship, the strength of your grandchildren’s bond with their cousins depends on their shared experiences. In our book, a good grandparent should facilitate the cousins comingling. Summertime at the beach is the stuff of great memories that can last a lifetime. To relieve your anxiety, communicate your expectations to your grandchildren before the cousins arrive. Draw up a short, repeat short, list of do’s and don’ts with your grandchildren’s participation — without their buy-in, you are hopelessly outnumbered. Assemble everyone and announce that you won’t micromanage as long as they obey the few house rules. If you act like you mean business, the cousins should stay in line.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Berry from Kingsport, Tennessee, took granddaughter Annie shopping at the Town Center to let her pick out her own birthday gift.
“Don’t rush it,” said Berry. “Find something you really want.”
“That’s why I love you, Grandma,” said Annie. “You make me feel like you have all the time in the world just for me.”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.