Are your kids growing up with a grandparent in the house?

April's guest blogger, Andrea Mulder Slater, realizes that her family situation isn't as unconventional as she first thought.

Photo: Andrea Mulder-Slater

My daughter and I were at a playdate recently. Truthfully, it was more of a play “party”, involving delightful heart-shaped cucumbers, an inspired craft table and numerous children, ranging in ages from four weeks to four years.

With two newborns pooping up a storm, the topic soon turned to potty training. A couple of the toddler moms were commiserating about how difficult they were finding the transition from diaper to underwear, when one of them solicited my advice.

“Do you have any potty training tips for us Andrea?”

I was hesitant to answer. At three years old, my kiddo has been dry for nearly a year, and although I always snicker at using the word “dry” when talking about kids and toilets (for me, it conjures up images of Prohibition instead of pee), I know that potty training is no laughing matter for most parents.

I explained to the other moms that my daughter was seven months old when she first used the potty and so by the time she turned two, graduating to a toilet was no big deal. Then I recoiled and readied myself for the dirty looks.

The room grew quiet. Even the babies stopped cooing and — although I might have imagined it — I think I heard crickets chirping.

Hoping to break the ice, I explained, “My mother’s European.”

It wasn’t a lie. Jantje was born in the Netherlands and in addition to her suggestion of gently introducing her granddaughter to the potty before she could walk, she provided (and still provides) my husband and I with invaluable child rearing advice, when we ask.

From suggestions on diaper rash remedies and nasal aspiration techniques during the first few months, to guidance on how to not be so rigid (hey, it’s ok to let a toddler play with water in the middle of the living room) and welcome assurances (“She’ll do it when she’s ready.”) my mom is the best friend my daughter could ever ask for.

Contrary to the illusions of some of our acquaintances, Jantje is not a built-in babysitter and as for parenting roles my daughter knows she has only one mom, just as she has only one dad. But for her, having access to her devoted and imaginative Nan on a daily basis is precious (and commonplace). Once, at the library, the storyteller began reading a tale about a little girl and her mommy and her daddy when my little one quickly piped up, “And a nana too!”

At our house the ratio of three adults to one child means that the littlest member of the household benefits tremendously. Someone is always available to share a story, make a craft or go for a walk. As a result, there is almost no television, oodles of creativity and an endless flow of communication.

My daughter lives in a multigenerational household and although she doesn’t know it yet, she is part of a growing group of Canadians. According to Statistics Canada, nearly half a million grandparents in this country live in the same home as their grandchild(ren). And, of those grandparents, more than 50 percent live with their adult child, his or her spouse and the grandchild(ren).

And here I thought we were so unconventional.

 So, I’m curious …Are your kids growing up with a grandparent in the house? Did you?

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