Chances are, you’ve given your kids’ grandparents — your parents or your partner’s parents — plenty of framed photos and handmade gifts. So if you’d like to show your appreciation in a way that is meaningful, original, and ever so slightly corporate, consider giving your kids’ grandparents a performance review!
Yes, you read that correctly. My husband and I are in our sixth year as grandparents, and here’s how this unconventional idea took shape in our family.
Our three married children (a fourth child will marry this summer) are the parents of our eight grandchildren. From 2013 to 2017, they orchestrated their own baby boom, producing four boys and four girls in just four years. Some of our grandkids were born weeks apart, with one set of little girls born one day apart.
From the outset, we’ve tried to be helpful in every way we can. Two of our kids and their families live minutes away in suburban Minneapolis, but the third family lives in Chicago, six hours away by car. For the local families it’s easy to help with spontaneous requests. And while we can’t provide day-to-day help for our Chicago kids, we head there every month or two, giving the grandkids our undivided attention and their parents some much-needed free time.
We also give each couple a week off every year to go on vacation, because couples need time away from kids to recharge as loving partners. Our kids even set up an online family calendar to manage their various requests. However, while we cherish the close relationship we have with each grandchild, we know our role — we are supporting actors, not the primary players. These kids are not ours to raise.
The idea of a performance evaluation arose when the three couples went out for dinner a few years ago. One of our sons was in the midst of doing performance evaluations for several employees. He mentioned that in conversation, and then mused, “What if we did a performance evaluation for Mom and Dad?” The idea caught the imaginations of all the siblings and spouses at the table. They began laying out the evaluation criteria. There was probably some wine involved and plenty of laughs.
Afterwards, when they told us that they’d done a job review of us as grandparents and were ready to present it, we were a bit startled. Where, exactly, are they going with this? The kids are evaluating us? Well, that takes come chutzpah… but my split-second of anxiety gave way to intrigue. Our kids have great senses of humor, so we figured something pretty funny was in store.
They presented us with a WRITTEN evaluation based on numerous grandparenting criteria: scheduling, creativity, communication, kiss quota, to name but a few. Each item had a grade and space for comments.
Fortunately, the presentation was both hilarious and heartwarming. Some examples:
1. Bodily Fluids and Crisis Management
All emergencies, large and small, covered with great calm. All poop, puke, spit-up, lake water, chlorine, and more handled with grace and sanitizer.
Grading was sometimes split, with my husband and I receiving different marks.
Dad Grade: A
Mom Grade: Incomplete
Mom Grade: A
Excellent Facebooking, texting, emailing, etc.
Dad Grade: C-
Answer the phone!
While we were surprised by our kids’ idea, nothing about this was hurtful — it was all hilariously true. My husband is a better driver than me, and he’s much more comfortable driving the grandkids around — I know it, he knows it, our kids know it. But trying to reach him on his cell phone can be maddening. You can get angry or play it for laughs. Guess which way our family rolls?
The feedback can also be quite helpful. Last year, for our third annual evaluation, we got a low grade for security, because of how often we would absent-mindedly leave the garage door open. We don’t do that anymore.
There is, however, one aspect of the feedback that highlights the natural push-pull that is part of the parent-child relationship. That’s the category of scheduling. In other words, how do we balance the competing needs for our time? Our help lightens our kids’ loads at this busy stage of life, when sick days, snow days, and work deadline days stack up one after the other. I’m grateful my husband and I have the energy and stamina to care for these busy little kids. But we also have some dreams of our own — namely, to travel and to take breaks from the long, harsh Minnesota winters. Now that my husband and I are in our early 60s, we know there’s no time like the present to do these things. Time is our most precious currency.
So just as diapers and car seats have popped back into our lives, so has a new version of the balancing act we remember so well from decades ago, when we struggled with juggling our roles as parents, as a couple, and as individuals. Now that we’ve swapped “grandparents” for “parents,” we’re trying our best to get it right. Last year we got a B- on scheduling (oof). This year, our scheduling grade will probably be lower, because we took a three-month break from winter (too long — I got homesick). Finding the balance between our life and grandparent duties is clearly a work in progress, though by its very nature it is also imperfect. And there are some things that I have to let go of — for example, I can accept some lower grades as a grandparent if it means I’m earning high grades as a wife.
Our performance evaluation has become an annual ritual for our family. It takes place every August, when our Chicago family comes to visit for a week. The local families get babysitters, our visiting grandkids stay with us, and the three couples head to a nice restaurant. The camaraderie among our kids and their spouses is the part I love best; they really see themselves as a team. Getting together to reflect on the past year, to laugh, and say thank you to us deepens their bond — a bond meant to outlast us. This makes me happy beyond measure.
This job review is a testament to a precious relationship, and it is also an admission that in families we all want more from each other than any of us can deliver. And while having a sense of humor and an open mind are both essential, above all, the evaluation is a way for our kids to say thank you.
It’s hard to believe, but August is just around the corner. So, over the coming weeks, if we are babysitting more, cooking more, and generally squiring those cute kids around more, you’ll know why. We aim for high marks over here!
Header image via Romeocane/iStock/Getty Images Plus