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Thanks Grandma, Now My Kid Needs a Reality Check

'Tis the season of love, lights, elves on shelves and visits with the grandparents—visits that will inevitably result in a level of spoiling that will leave you wondering if you should cart your kid off to boot camp for recalibration after.

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You may be one of the lucky ones who raise your kids with grandma and grandpa nearby. You drop your little ones off if you find yourself needing a drink with the girls, they're always available to help with preschool pickups if you get behind at work, and because they're there and part of your day-to-day lives, they're mostly on board with your parenting philosophies and the rules by which you try to raise your children. Or if they're not totally on board, they're at least willing to do their best to abide by those rules when your kids are in their care.

For those of us with parents living states away, the visits don't go quite the same way. Grandma and grandpa are so excited to see the little loves of their lives, and they know those visits are in the short term, so they kind of go all out.

The spoiling has a way of turning your polite, well-behaved, independent children into needy, demanding, bratty iterations.

You're being reminded at every turn: "That's what grandparents are for!"

We recently had our annual two-week trip to visit the grandparents for Thanksgiving, and I've already been bemoaning the recalibration my toddler is going to need. On the short list of new habits she's going to need to be broken of?

1. Undivided Attention

After two weeks with grandma and grandpa, my kiddo now thinks she is the deserving benefactor of 24/7 attention. Meanwhile, I'm a single mom who has to do laundry, and who values raising an independent child capable of entertaining herself. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely spend loads of time playing with my girl—but I also appreciate that before we visited the grandparents, I could count on her to play in her room for up to an hour by herself whenever I needed to get other things done. Now? I'll be lucky if I get five minutes alone for the next month.

My parents may just have broken my toddler.

2. Doting Care

I walked around the corner one day to find my stepmom feeding my almost-3-year-old with a spoon and making choo-choo noises—like one might do while feeding a baby. Ever since, my kiddo has been asking for the "choo-choo!" at mealtimes. Look, I enjoy being able to eat with my daughter now, rather than focusing on feeding her while stuffing my own face in the rare free moments I might find. I do not want to have to go back to feeding her when she is perfectly capable of feeding herself.

3. Bedtime Routines

My girl and I have a pretty solid bedtime routine that helps to mellow her out before lights out. But while visiting her grandparents, just as I would get her mellowed—grandpa would engage her in a tickle fest or start throwing her around over his head. And she would laugh and laugh, loving every minute, and getting riled up to the point where she would then spend the next two hours coming out of her room every five minutes looking for more. Yeah … getting back to a solid bedtime routine (one where she doesn't think it's OK to keep seeking out playtime, long after lights out) is going to be a bitch.

4. Junk Food

I am, admittedly, not the best cook in the world. But I work hard to ensure my daughter is always getting a healthy, well-rounded diet, without a lot of room for sweets or junk food. Before this last visit, I had my kid convinced that frozen berries were the best dessert ever. Now? She's been introduced to potato chips, cotton candy and more ice cream and sweets than any little girl could ever possibly need. She legitimately asks for candy every day. How am I supposed to get her back on organic chicken and whole grain breads?

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So, yeah … I'm considering boot camp now that we're home. Because my parents may just have broken my toddler.

Of course, by the end of our trip, she was calling her grandmother her best friend and clinging to her papa like he was the most amazing human being she had ever met. And they were literally shedding tears as we walked away to find our plane. Because damn if those old people don't love her.

So what are you gonna do? Yeah, she got spoiled rotten for two straight weeks, and yes, it is going to take a bit of work to get her back to "normal."

But hey … isn't that what grandparents are for?

Photograph by: Leah Campbell

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