Mommy has one opinion, but granny has another. It's a war of the parenting styles.
“What’s ferberising?” my 23-year-old daughter asked me loudly, over the shrieks of her 6-month-old.
“Crying it out,” I shouted back.
It was 3 in the morning, and we’d all been awake since what felt like the dawn of time.
“The baby or me?” my daughter asked, and we both laughed a hollow laugh.
I had my children in the early 1990s, when Doctor Richard Ferber’s method of teaching infants how to fall asleep on their own was relatively new.
I followed it to the letter for both my kids, and as a result, by the time they were about 6 months old, they were going to sleep each evening without any problems, and sleeping through the night.
“Jeez, Mom, I could never do that to my baby,” said my daughter.
“Well, I did it to you and your brother, and you both turned out okay,” I pointed out.
My daughter raised her eyebrows in a cryptic way and said, “In this century, Mom, we do ‘co-sleeping’.”
“We used to call that ‘having your baby in bed with you’, and we were advised not to do it in case we rolled over and suffocated the baby by mistake,” I said.
This debate about how to properly parent children is often simply a case of “old school” vs “new school”.
“[My mother] is traditional and I am not,” says Thuli Nanzile.
Thuli says her mom insists that things are done a certain way, but Thuli – quite rightly – doesn’t see why that should automatically just be so.
“[My mother] thinks breastfeeding is gross and I love it,” says Sharon Matsepe, summing up yet another touchpoint for many granny/mommy disagreements.
But Ruth Kyle’s experience is 180 degrees opposite: “I gave up breastfeeding at six weeks because I wasn’t coping and I was worried that my baby wasn’t getting enough nourishment, and my mother just couldn’t hide her disapproval.”
Methods of discipline often give rise to disagreement – and, as with breastfeeding, this can go either way.
“[My mother] is a firm believer in a good smack,” says Tiffany van der Linde, and adds, “It tends to cause a little angst when [the kids are] naughty as I will not allow her to give them one.”
Jeanne Beeslaar’s gripe, on the other hand, is that her mother mollycoddles her daughter. “At the age of 5, my daughter had everything done for her – [she] couldn’t even bath alone. I believe a child needs a certain amount of independence.”
While my daughter and I engage, um, robustly on many aspects of parenting – some have been the use of a dummy, the right time for bedtime, and a whole range of issues around food and eating – we haven’t let our disagreements affect our relationship, and I’m still a very involved granny.
Sadly, this isn’t true for everyone. Bronwen Bell, for instance, says that she and her mom disagree on “just about everything”, and for this reason are “no longer on the best of terms”.
What it comes down to, for hands-on grannies like myself, is that the little child we so adore is not our own; this time around, we’re not the ones in charge.
So, even with the best will in the world, while we as grandmothers can perhaps give an opinion about parenting, I feel that we have no right to impose our own ideas about child-rearing on our grown-up daughters.
How do you manage the generational differences in parenting styles? Share your thoughts and experiences by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish your story.