Grandparents and Parents

Stories and information from two generations.

I Have a Job Again

Sorry for not posting for a while, I’ve been busy job hunting.

A few weeks ago my school told me they weren’t renewing my contract (about 2 days after starting this blog), so I have been busy trying to find a new job. Today I did a demo class at an English training center in Nanjing and they loved it. I also have another demo class at another school and a possible interview at a very good school coming up this week, so whichever one is best I’ll take.

So now that I’m not stressed out about keeping my family fed I’ll be posting more. Expect a couple of posts every 2 or 3 days now ranging from book and product reviews, recall information, child nutrition and daily life.

Cheers
Dan

Hurray! My Daddy can keep feeding me!

Do Grandparents Make Good Babysitters?

Before I came to China I knew a little bit about the culture, but since moving here, listening to my students and then marrying a wonderful Chinese woman I’ve learned a lot about family life in China. One big aspect of raising children revolves around the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. Many families, especially more traditional ones revolve around the grandparents raising the children as parents work, often in other cities. This isn’t just grandparents acting as babysitters, but actually taking care of the child 24/7.

Grandparents and babysitting

A great aunt, great grandmother, and grandmother look at a beautiful baby girl.

With the birth of my daughter, my Chinese in-laws who in some ways are very traditional wanted to help. A lot.

Fortunately, while they’re very traditional in some ways they aren’t as traditional as some other grandparents. So my Mother-in-law did not quit her job as a doctor to live with us. However my wifes’ father, who works from home, has permanently moved into the guest room.

This has given me firsthand experience with the question, can grandparents make good babysitters.

The answer is ‘maybe’.

Since the financial crisis of 2009 there have been several articles related to using grandparents for childcare. Some have looked at it favourably, such as the Wall Street Journal, others have not.

My father-in-law is usually around to help babysit his granddaughter.

As a Canadian raised a 1000km away from his grandparents, I’m used to the thought that parents raise the child and grandparents help out occasionally on holidays. Having a grandparent live in the home and providing child care for much of the time is definitely a strange experience for me.

At first there were some arguments, and I was biting my tongue a lot out of respect for my wife. But once things got settled and my in-laws and I learned what was expected and what wasn’t, it started to come together.

From reading various forums, talking with other parents online and my own personal experience here are some things that I would recommend when asking grandparents to babysit.

Compromise With Grandparents, Up to a Point

The biggest complaint from parents about using grandparents has to do with rules, schedules and instructions. Parents want one thing, grandparents often want another.

Since our parents did raise us, or our spouses, we should realize that they have a clue on how to take care of a baby. They may not do everything we like, but as long as it won’t screw up the childs schedule too badly, make a hash out of potty training or hurt the child, its ok. While routine is good, too much of it can be bad. If you feel the need to be this specific, maybe you need to reconsider having your parents babysit.

But there are times when you as a parent should put your foot down, especially if the babysitting is only occasional. There are stories on the net of grandparents ignoring medication, giving children potentially harmful toys, not changing dirty diapers and other things. My own in-laws sometimes forget to change Anqi’s diapers in a timely manner, because she doesn’t cry much unless her diaper is very wet. I’ve told them off for it, and after a few times they’ve really improved.

As long as you explain why you want something done, most reasonable grandparents should be willing to meet you halfway. If they completely ignore you, then its time to find a new babysitter. But you also have to show some leeway yourself, as they’re providing a daycare service that is either free, or much less expensive then the alternatives.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

From reading various forums the largest problem between parents and grandparents isn’t that they’re not willing to compromise, but they’re unwilling to talk. Both sides take it as a given that they’re right and it should be obvious to everyone that they’re right.

I have a serious problem with this one, as my in-laws speak Chinese and very limited English, while I speak English and very limited Chinese. But when there are problems or concerns we still communicate as best we can.

I’m from a cold region, I’m hairy, big and have anti-freeze for blood, so the cold doesn’t affect me. When Anqi was first born I knew she had to stay warm, but didn’t know how warm she should be so I tended to be on the cool side. My in-laws didn’t agree, because Nanjing winters are not very cold but are very damp, and Chinese houses tend to be drafty with no central heating. So they kept bundling her up. By gestures, basic yes and no’s, and by putting on and taking off blankets we managed to get our points across. Anqi would be bundled up, but the blankets or clothes would be kept a little loose, at least in winter.

When asking grandparents for help with babysitting, make sure that everyone is on the same page, or at least the same chapter. And listen to them as well, they may have a good reason for doing what they’re doing.

Show Some Gratitude

Most, not all, but most grandparents are happy to help take care of grandchildren. And many children like it when Grandma and Grandpa come over. However it is still taking time from their lives, and if they’re fairly old, sick or busy it can wear them out. Make sure to let them know how much you appreciate them.

A simple heartfelt thank you is often enough if the babysitting is an occasional thing. If they babysit more frequently and especially if its a regular thing more is required. Consider helping them with chores around the house, buying them groceries for the week, taking them out for a nice dinner, giving them a really nice gift, or paying them money. Even if your mom or dad don’t ask for anything, doing this will help make them feel appreciated. It may also make them more willing to listen to your instructions on dealing with the children.

Use, Don’t Abuse Your Parents

My wife and I went on a day trip Monday (a national holiday in China), leaving Anqi with her mother and father for the day. It was a great trip for us, and we both came back recharged and ready for action. But before we left we made sure that her parents were completely free that day.

Last Friday my wife and I had wanted to go on a trip, but her father wanted to go and meet some of his friends that day. We didn’t beg him to look after Anqi, instead we stayed home and told him to have a relaxing day with his friends.

Your parents have lives of their own, they may be willing to change their plans but forcing them to do it frequently is definitely not a nice thing to do. If its an emergency its understandable and you must do what you have to do, even if it interferes with other people. But remember, if you were constantly having your plans altered with little or no warning, how would you feel?

Now, if there is a planned routine that you have both agreed on, that’s different. If the grandparents look after their grandchild a few days every week, keep doing it. Just remember to ask what their plans are and if they need a break once in a while to recuperate. It will let them know you care.

Come June, my main teaching job will be over, allowing me to spend most of the week at home. Once that happens, I’ll let my father-in-law know that he can do anything he wants, and only call on him occasionally for help. Of course if he wants to help I’m not going to stop him, he and Anqi get along quite well, but I’ll make sure he knows there is an option for him.

Letting grandparents provide childcare can be great, as it lets them interact with the grandchildren, lets parents have a day off, and is cheaper than hiring a babysitter or daycare. Just make sure to compromise, keep the lines of communication open, let them know their helps appreciated and don’t abuse the help. If this is done by everyone, not just parents but grandparents as well, then it will lead to a healthy relationship. If its too one sided, than no one will be very happy and could lead to broken hearts and family feuds.

Playing and Bonding With a Baby

In my last post I talked about how Anqi loved playing with a helium balloon.

She played with the balloon for over a week.

Well I was starting to get jealous of all the attention the balloon was getting. I’d be reading to her, dancing with her or tickling her feet and if the balloon was in the room her eyes would inevitably be drawn to it.

Since I’ve spent the last week looking for a new job as my old one is coming to an end soon, I haven’t been able to spend that much time with her. Having her so focused on the balloon was rather discouraging.

It’s not a nice feeling knowing I was getting upstaged by a balloon.

However all of that changed yesterday. I came home from work and I was tired. Instead of taking a well deserved rest Anqi needed some attention, and I hadn’t seen her all day. So I put Anqi on the bed, put the balloon on her foot and laid down beside her to relax.

At this point the balloon had barely enough helium left to float, so when Anqi kicked her feet, it went in some really weird patterns. She loved it.

I joined in occasionally by pulling the string really hard, making it come down to brush against her face. That made her giggle in delight. This was very encouraging as she only started giggling in the last day or two and I’d never heard her do it.

After about 10 minutes of playing like that I stopped and just watched her. But than something interesting happened. Anqi jerked the balloon a few times and then stop to look at me. She just watched me, ignoring the balloon completely.

So I gave her a kiss on the forehead.

She jerked the balloon a few more times and stopped, looking at me again. I kissed her again.

She repeated this pattern for about 2 minutes. I then realized that while the balloon was an extremely fun toy for her, she really wanted me to be there and play with her.

So to all the other daddy’s out there who want to bond with their baby, even if a new toy seems to be upstaging you, don’t get discouraged. Play with your baby on the floor, bed or wherever and join in the fun. They may not be able to say they want you there, but if you give them the chance they’ll let you know. Even if they’re only three months old.

P.S. I will try to get into a regular posting schedule, but I recently found out that come July I’ll be leaving my school. So I’ve been busy trying to find a new job. However I will post at least once a week.

Stay at Home Parents and Babies

Working as an English teacher in China lets me spend a lot of time at home with my daughter, Anqi, which is really nice for helping me bond with her. Unfortunately, as a part time writer I’m often busy trying to write an article while my daughter is awake and wants to play, and my wife is not available.

In an attempt to balance being a father and writer I’ve tried to come up with different things to keep Anqi happy and distracted while I work. At three months old this can be difficult as she doesn’t pick anything up and will drop baby toys after a few seconds or minutes. Fortunately I have found a  solution.

Balloons.

WEntertaining baby

A colourful balloon, loosely tied to a baby's foot will keep her entertained for hours.

My wife and I bought Anqi two colourful balloons earlier this week and when she’s awake we simply put one of them around her ankle. She will give a powerful kick to watch it move and smile as it bounces. Since the balloon moves in different ways and will move if there is a light breeze its fascinating  for the baby to watch.

This improvised baby toy will keep Anqi playing by herself for several hours, working out her legs and even her arms as she tries to get the balloon moving in different ways. My wife and I can then get some work done, in the same room, in peace and quiet. Once we’re done working we can sit down beside her and give the balloon a big tug, which invariably brings a smile to Anqi’s face.

Helium balloons are best as there is almost no chance it will become a choking hazard, as it floats in the air the baby can’t reach it. A regular air filled balloon could fall on the baby’s face and she could possibly swallow the string, or pop the balloon. But it is still important to be in the same room when a balloon is being played with, as things could go wrong.

Once Anqi starts grabbing things and moving around more, we’ll have to be more careful with the balloon as she could wrap the string around her neck or pop it by grabbing it. But for now its an awesome baby toy for her and a time saver for us.

Free Children Stories

There is a new page available at the top of the screen featuring children stories.
These stories were written by Grandma for her grandkids and they’re pretty good. So feel free to read them and let her know what you think.

There will be one story put up every week for the foreseeable future, so make sure to check back every Friday or Saturday.

Cheers

Dan and Grandma

It’s Not Easy Being a Father

As the first official blog entry I would like to talk about how my daughter at 3 months old is really a mischievous little girl.

Smiling baby girl

This happy baby is actually a notorious practical joker.

The other night I was reading in bed while my wife slept,  Anqi (Chinese for Angel) was sleeping in her crib beside us. She is usually a very good sleeper and only wakes up for emergencies or little night scares, so when she wakes up its almost always a surprise.

She had been sleeping silently since about 9pm, she wasn’t even snoring she was so peaceful.

All of a sudden she let out a squeal as if in pain. I jumped out of bed, dropping my book and looked down to see what was wrong.

There was Anqi looking at me with a big smile on her face and her eyes lit up. She even managed a gurgle of delight when she saw my face.

I looked down at her and said, “Anqi are you tricking me?”

Her toothless grin grew larger.

My wife who had woken up asked what was wrong. When I explained to her that our sweet and innocent little girl had played a nasty prank on her concerned father, do you think I got any sympathy?

No. She started laughing along with Anqi.

It’s not easy being a father sometimes.