My baby cousin has been staying with his parents in my grandparents' house this week (which is also where I am staying) and seeing how my grandparents interact with him in person is helping me understand quite a lot about why I am how I am.
You see, I have two living sets of grandparents that I have grown up knowing and seeing at least once a year. I'm also the oldest cousin on both sides of the family, so not only was I lucky enough to spend time with these grandparents, I also have been able to see how they treat babies/toddlers as my little cousins joined the family.
I've always been closer to my maternal grandparents. I go out of my way to visit them, talk to them on the phone without too much complaint (I really hate talking on the phone, so there's always a bit of resistance regardless), and genuinely enjoy spending time with them. My other grandparents though I have never been close to, regardless of how much they try to force me to be.
For example: My maternal grandparents have always lived on the east coast. My family, along with my paternal grandparents, all live in the midwest. My family home is only 2 hours away from my paternal grandparents' (PG) house, while it was a 1.5 hour plane ride to visit my maternal grandparents (MG). Because of this, when I was younger and had no choice, my parents always forced me to spend at least a few days every summer at my PG's house.
Every summer I was miserable. I hated it there. I spent the entire visit waiting to go home, even when I was so young that I barely even knew what was happening. I think it was finally around age 8 that, compounded with a move to a place further away from them, I was allowed to stop the visits. Even when we moved back to our original, 2-hour-away home, I wasn't made to start them up again.
On the other hand, by my own accord, I visited my MG every summer. It started out with two week visits and evolved, over the 8 years that I did it, into 2.5 month visits--almost the entire summer. Part of this want to be there has be attributed to the fact that my grandpa was a veterinarian and brought me to work with him every day. I can't fairly leave that out. But the thing is, a lot of my later years, I got tired of going to work every day and chose to stay home. The times when I was home because there was no work to go to (days off, nights, etc), I enjoyed my time. My grandparents wanted to spend time with me of course, but it wasn't forced, it wasn't in a condescending way, and it was, to a point, on my own terms.
What I remember of being with my PG though is that we always did what they wanted to. I never had a choice. My grandma was super into crafts, so she'd always have a craft for us to do. I did not like crafts. I still don't, really. I don't have the patience for them. And even as a child, I was a loner. I had friends at school and I even spent time with a few of them outside of school (the few that lived in my neighborhood, anyway), but I enjoyed having time to myself. With my grandparents, it was either "do what we want to or entertain yourself." And as is typical in a house with parents like that and a bunch of boys (my grandparents had three sons), there isn't much for a young child to do. Sure, there were video games, but I wasn't allowed to play them. I was basically put in front of the tv every time I refused to do yet another craft. They weren't the greatest memories.
Seeing them spend time with my baby cousin only compacts these memories. Obviously I can't remember how they treated me specifically when I was that young, but again, I can compare how each set of grandparents treat my younger cousins. It's not as if older people change that much over the years, so I think it's fair to compare them in this way.
In my few days here alongside my cousin, my grandparents have yelled (yes, yelled, not just scolded) him for doing things he didn't know were wrong to do, treated him like an animal (my grandpa tends to use the same tone he uses for his dog to tell the baby not to do things, or to tell him to "come."), and been insistent on what he should be doing and helping him do it. Of course everything just rolls right off him. He's two. But it irks me.
My MG, when I had a baby cousin on that side, just treated him like a little person. They helped him when he needed it, scolded him when he needed it, and respected him.
I understand that young kids need to be taught to respect their elders. Obviously they can't be allowed to make their own rules or do whatever they want or refuse to do something they're told. But young kids still are people. They still deserve respect. My baby cousin isn't going to remember being treated like this, since he's too young to be making memories at this point. But the problem is that they don't stop treating people like this once they're old enough to have true autonomy.
I'm 22 years old. I was told just the other day to go to my room by my grandpa because I told him not to yell at my cousin when he didn't even know he was doing something wrong. Yelling at him is pointless, because he's an obedient kid. He's come up and touched my phone and I've told him not to do that and he's walked away and found something else. I stupidly left my laptop on the floor when he was running around and realized the problem just as he was approaching it and all I said was, "No, don't touch that" and he just backed off and went to find something else to do. You don't have to yell at him to get him to stop doing something. He's obedient! Just tell him not to do it in a normal tone of voice!!
But no, grandpa knows best because he has raised kids before. Sure, you did a great job doing that, and alienated one of your grandkids with your infinite knowledge on childrearing.
I feel like I had a point to this when I started this entry, but I have lost it along the way. So I'll just leave it at this. Whatever. I'm sure they don't care that every moment in this house is torture for me and that the only reason they've managed to trap me here is because my job is only 20 minutes away. I may sound like an ingrate, and I probably am, but. I still think that everyone, even young people, deserve basic respect. Sorry if that's "controversial."