LYNNETTE HINTZE: Grandparenting can quickly become an obsession

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I think I might be addicted to my granddaughter.

This occurred to me the other night over a glass of wine with friends, during which I confessed I had encouraged my daughter (all right, I begged her) to text me more photos and video clips of my 15-month old granddaughter, Marlena. I needed something to sustain me during these dreary January days, I told her. And of course she obliged, sending me more pictures of cute poses to admire and coo over.

Truth is, I used the drab weather as an excuse. Even if it were 75 degrees and sunny I would want an endless stream of photographs documenting Marlena’s every move.

Maybe there’s such a thing as helicopter grandparents, I mused as I sipped my merlot. One of my friends thought I may have coined a new phrase, but a quick online search shows that helicopter grandparenting is already a thing. There are all kinds of articles about this affliction — “The Rise of the Helicopter Grandparent,” “Helicopter Grandparenting — Parenting and Boundaries,” “You Know You’re Being a Helicopter Grandparent When …” You get the idea here.

As I studied the traits of these purported meddlesome grandparents, I decided I don’t fit the textbook definition of a helicopter grandparent. These overbearing grandparents are apt to offer a constant stream of criticism about parenting styles. They monitor what their grandchildren are wearing, eating, how much they’re learning and whether their grandchildren are meeting all of the expected development milestones. They offer “helpful” solutions for picky eaters. They are experts on child development.

I haven’t crossed into that territory. I simply want to spend time with my granddaughter to get kisses and snuggles and play with her. Her mother (my daughter) is an early childhood major, so I have great confidence that her and her husband’s parenting styles are superior to most.

Social media is probably partly to blame for this on-demand connection we want with our grandchildren. Many baby boomers are on Facebook solely to keep up with what their children and grandchildren are doing. Smartphones allow us to have cameras at our disposal 24/7 to capture every cheesy grin. And I couldn’t survive without FaceTime.

Just think of all the moments we missed in our own children’s lives when we had to track down a camera, get the film processed and have prints made before we could share our children’s milestones with their grandparents.

Every generation of grandparents loves their grandchildren. Love is love no matter how you measure it. In this day and age, though, it’s tempting to be pulled into excess. It’s easy to go over the top, to indulge them. We just want what’s best for our grandchildren, though it’s hard to practice moderation when your granddaughter is kissing the computer screen during a FaceTime session and calling you “gerrrmmma” for the very first time.

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by email at lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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