From the moment you become a parent, you learn quickly that there’s often no “parenting” in grand-parenting.
Your mum and/or dad morph into these strange unfamiliar creatures that don’t resemble the people who raised you, and it can be a bit bewildering.
No enforced bed or nap times. No boundaries about screen time. No random rules about things like buying gifts, or saying nonsense like “you can’t get a present every time we leave the house.”
You know, the rules that you hated when you were a kid, but that you fully intend on enforcing now you’re a parent.
This change in your parents comes on suddenly, and it’s a bit of a shock. One day you hear, “Of course darling, you don’t need to eat your peas,” and you think, “Hold up, what’s this?”
All of those rules, which you literally learnt about through the dark years of your childhood from your parent-overlords, have suddenly vanished from their dialogue.
The ‘no’ people have become ‘yes’ people, and the people who swore they’d never become their parents are now dark overlord enforcers themselves.
Which is, if you’re honest, kind of nice. Really nice, actually. It’s a joy to see someone adore your kids as much as you do – even if it means your parents are nicer to these little people than they are to you.
Once you recover from the shock, a part of you resigns yourself to the fact your kids will be overindulged when they’re with nonna, nana or nan, and that your rules about ‘sometimes treats’ may for a couple of hours (or twenty-four if you’re super #blessed) be ignored.
But happens when that crosses a boundary? A boundary that you, as the parent, have every right to set?
Is it possible that the grandies' treat-time is teaching the kids unhealthy, life-long habits about 'sometimes' foods being the main way to express love, to celebrate and to reward? And if so, do we need to have a serious conversation with the grandies about it?
This was the concern that a dad expressed when he wrote to Mamamia's parenting podcast This Glorious Mess.
The listener asked hosts Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo, "I have a six year old daughter. She is overweight. My wife is overweight and my mother-in-law is overweight.
"I'm having a lot of trouble with the mother-in-law feeding my daughter junk food. I'm at my wit's end. I just want my daughter to be happy and healthy. It's hard enough for a girl growing up without being an unhealthy weight."
The Butterfly Foundation CEO Christine Morgan advises exactly how to speak to grandparents who won't stop feeding the kids unhealthy food.
It's a tricky subject, which is why the hosts referred the issue to Christine Morgan, CEO of The Butterfly Foundation, for advice. The Butterfly Foundation is an organisation that supports and advises people affected by eating disorders and negative body image.
Morgan told the hosts the most important thing is to not let a young person feel that their size or shape makes them a good, bad, acceptable or not.
"Because if they think they don't look right, they will pick that up and focus on that. Focus in on talking to them about healthy eating, a healthy relationship with food, and let's go and see what our bodies can do outside, let's go and play some games."
In terms of conversations with the grandparents, Morgan admitted that she loves to indulge her own grandchildren with ice cream. But she suggested that the concerned parent who wrote in could say, "I want my daughter to be as healthy as she can be, and I don't ban foods from her, but I like her to have a healthy relationship with them, and can we be alert to that."
Morgan also observed that there's a big difference between the occasional treat, and behaviour that's having "a significant influence over their daily diet."
The conversation should focus on the health of the child - which everyone wants, because we all love the child. It's not advisable to approach the discussion from a 'I'm worried he/she's overweight' perspective. The grandparent is then less likely to take the feedback as personal criticism.
Which of course, we don't want to do - we don't want to hurt the feelings of any well-meaning and loving grandparent. Because we're all on the same team.
And, apart from anything else, grand-sitting is one of the perks of being a parent. So just remember the occasional treat is their right - nay, their duty - just as it will hopefully one day be ours.