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Grandpa and grandson playing in a parkMy mom and dad live overseas and can rarely visit (not even once a year). Last time my mother saw her grandchild he was 3 months old (he is 16 months now), and my dad has never met him at all. Finally they have arrived to spend some time with us and help out with my son.

Free babysitters, a dream come true, right? OK, reality check - I have known them all my life, but they are total strangers to my son. To him they are no different than a nanny at the moment. Every time I leave them with him and walk out of a room, he gets tense and starts yelling for mommy. I know that given time he will get used to them, but in the meanwhile it has been several days and he doesn’t let them pick him up, change him or carry him.

They have tons of patience, really eager to help and have a genuine interest in promoting his development. They want to do as much for him as possible during the month they will be staying, so every minute spent with the boy they are trying to teach him new words and gestures, trying to make him laugh and like them.

Another good thing is that they understand the situation. No smothering him with kisses, no grabbing him, kicking and screaming, they show a lot of respect to his feelings and his right to come to them - instead of them coming to him. And it works, he starts making funny faces to get their attention, shows off his skills like dancing or throwing a ball “really far”.

A friend of mine told me a completely different story. She took her 15 months old daughter to visit the grandparents overseas and it was a complete disaster. The whole family of “strangers” jumped the poor child, hugging and kissing her, and the girl freaked out. She didn’t let anyone near her for a week, beside her own mother. I was afraid of the same happening here and asked my parents to “behave themselves”; luckily they took my advice and everything went much better between them and my son.

Taking care of Eric is such a learning curve for them. They need to learn his likes and dislikes, his little words, his favorite foods, his routine. They need to learn how to lock and unlock the tray of his high chair, how to buckle him up in the car, how to change him - when they had me, there were no diapers :).

I need to learn a lot of things too - for example to stop assuming they know how to do stuff and show them everything. Things that are obvious to me are not obvious to them. Every time before leaving the house I need to think what they might have to do with Eric and imagine it in all the details, so that I could fill them in. He only drinks water or milk, so don’t offer him juice, he’s not allowed to eat candy or sweets, put sunblock on him when going outside because we have a high UV index, he shouldn’t wear shorts outside because he falls and scratches his knees, the list goes on.

This is a very interesting experience for all of us and maybe for those of you in a similar situation. I will report in a couple of weeks what kind of progress we are making. Meanwhile, can you share your distant grandparents’ stories? How quickly did your kids adjust and how did the grandparents cope with the initial rejection?

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