empty nest, family, grandchildren, parenting, retirement

The Sandwich Generation

You know that generation of people who are stuck in between their children and their parents – where they’re kind of on the hook (so to speak) for both sides?  You might be in that generation if you’re exhausted.

This is where I currently find myself – smack dab right in the middle.

For Labor Day weekend we went to visit the littles which is always, always, always THE BEST.  I love to visit them.  In one weekend we went to the zoo TWICE.  We actually have a pass for a zoo 6 hours away.

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The littles’ parents are fairly financial independent but are still “students”.  He’s a medical resident and she’s a stay-at-home mom to three perfect littles.  So we “treat” them once in a while.  We bought steaks for dinner – which was a treat.  We’ve helped them with small projects around their house.  We do what we can.

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I painted all of the cupboard doors for another one of my children with the help of these two.

We have four other children who are in varying stages of needing “help”.  Some are students and others are independent.  Still, as long as they’re with mom and dad, there is a sense that mom and dad are “buying”.

I treat them to new clothes or other items on occasion as I see needs or respond to “hints”.  I mean when the kid shows up with holes in his shoes and says he can’t afford new shoes, what’s a mom to do (insert eye roll here).  If you’re wondering if dad is less of a sucker, he is definitely not.  He’s worse than me.

Then there’s the other side of the sandwich.  Our parents.  As we were driving back from our trip to see the littles, we got a phone call from my dad:

Me: “hey dad”

Dad (who lives 18 hours away): “where are you guys?”

Me: “we’re about 3 hours from home – driving back from seeing the littles”

Dad:  “Oh.  Well I’m at your house.”

Me:  (nothing. shocked silence)

I knew he was coming to visit.  He visits regularly.  But I specifically said that this week was NOT a good week because I would be busy getting #5 ready for college and, if you recall, we are living temporarily in a 2 bedroom 1 bath tiny condo.  Did I mention dad also has a dog?

GAH!

I did what every good daughter would do and told him that he would need to get a hotel.  Of course he didn’t like the cheaper one I picked out, booked, and paid for from 3 hours away, while driving.  He find a “better” one for twice the price!

We put him up in the hotel for FOUR days until I could get my crap together at home.  Then he transitioned to a mattress on our dining room floor.  No Daughter-Of-The Year award will be received this year.  Well wait – maybe.  My dad likes to eat out. He thinks Minnesota has The Best Restaurants.  Also I’m busy.  So we ate out a lot including ice cream every night.  Guess who paid?  Every. Single. Time.  (it was NOT dad)

I spent the week entertaining (and feeding) my dad while simultaneously helping an 18 year-old shop and pack for college.  Let’s be clear on the “helping” – I did it all.  Also I do indeed work full-time.  I mean someone has to pay for all of this.

And now I’m sick.  I mean physically. I have a headache, my nose is running, and my throat hurts, and I’m about to board a flight to “help” my college kid get settled in at his new digs.

If I was a sandwich, I’d be a grilled cheese.  The kind that’s flat and oozes cheese out the sides.  stretchy-vegan-rainbow-grilled-cheese-637x320-1491866355

Maybe I’m just an enabler but I’m wondering … how are YOU managing being in that sandwich?

Christmas, family

Christmas Gifts – Don’t Get Crazy

It’s time to start talking Christmas.   We probably should have started talking about this a few months ago but here we are.  By now, I hope your Christmas shopping is well underway.

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(FYI:  This is NOT my tree or gift pile!) 

I’ve made good progress on everyone – everyone that is, but the littles.  On one hand, they are super easy to buy for but on the other hand, what on earth could a two and one year-old possibly need?  If there was a year where we could probably get away with very small gifts, this might be the one.

Nonetheless, buying Christmas gifts for grandchildren is different than for your own children.  It seems that there might be some sensitivities surrounding it.  For example, grandpa found a “kitchen” that he thought would be a great gift for the littles.  It was huge!  It was expensive.  I said absolutely not!

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… and these two cuties are NOT my littles

I feel like it’s not our responsibility or our place to outdo the parents – which is an easy thing to do when the parents are just starting out and have a mountain in student loans.

I just might have some backup on this philosophy.  Here’s what I read over at Grandparents.com:

From the moment Dorothea Hover-Kramer’s oldest grandson asked her for a bike, she dreamed of Christmas morning — and the look on the boy’s face when he’d find the shiny two-wheeler under the tree. Still, she says, “it was kind of a big present, so I thought I’d run it by my daughter [the boy’s mother].” Her daydream was quickly dashed. “My daughter said, ‘No, we’ll get him the bike.’ I said, ‘He asked me for it,'” says Hover-Kramer.

Hover-Kramer was disappointed, but she backed off. “As a grandparent, I’ve learned to be the peacemaker and accommodator,” she says. Her daughter and son-in-law bought the bike while she chipped in for the accessories, including a helmet and a lock.

I totally understand this scenario.  I would definitely be the one wanting to buy the new bike.  But really – is it my place?  I think it’s good to ask permission to buy such a gift.

Here are some other ways gift giving can go – again from Grandparents.com:

  • They ask you to buy a big gift, but you can’t afford it
  • They demand you run your gift ideas by them
  • They forbid you from buying certain toys
  • They ask you to go easy, but you had big plans

Do any of those sound familiar?  I haven’t experienced this yet but with 5 children, their spouses, and any number of grandchildren, I’m anticipating every one of those scenarios at some point!

So grandmas tread carefully.  It is Christmas but take it easy.  Let mom and dad be the hero – unless they ask you to step in.

We’ll be keeping it simple this year.  Maybe a few books and some Hot Wheels cars. I am working on a fun project for them but shhhhh… it’s a secret.  Something from my own children’s childhood that I think they might enjoy.  This might be the only year I can get away with a sentimental gift as opposed to a gift from Target.

Grandmas – tell me what you think.  Is it tricky for you?