[The Kid is, once again, spending part of his annual school break at "Camp Manga and Panga", thus a few words about the awesomeness of grandparents seem timely.]
1. It's their job to spoil the kids a little.
The first few years after the Kid was born, I was super uptight about toys/sugar/rules in general. Then I read an article suggesting that the amount to which your parents should be allowed to spoil your kids should be proportional to the amount of time they spend with them. That made a lot of sense.
Sweet Husband's parents probably see the Kid the most, but even that's only once every few months. If a few days of semi-lawlessness once every few months is enough to completely undermine our house rules, I think we have bigger problems.
Now, of course, your mileage may vary. If your parents are your next door neighbors, this might be harder.
And I won't pretend I'm totally cool about everything--If you give my child caffeine you're putting him to bed. Good luck with that! Nothin' but love!--but it has helped me to loosen up a little and to realize that it's kind of fun to have a few days of frolic every so often.
2. They are the keepers of your childhood memories.
"I remember when you used to ask questions all the time, just like that!"
"You were cautious when you were that age, too."
There's something reassuring about knowing that your kids are, well, yours. Whether it's a quirk-of-the-day or an overarching personality trait, it's good to know where those bits of our children's personalities come from. And unless you have an unnatural memory of your formative years, those early comparisons have to be made by your kiddo's grandparents.
3. They expose your kids to things you might not have.
While we have numerous family faults and virtues, there are certain things that we just never/very rarely do on our own.
Example? Fast-food cheeseburgers. But, while it's definitely a bad idea to have fast food everyday, it's also weird to reach a certain age having never, ever tried it. Like it or not, there's a certain amount of cultural literacy and bonding that comes with having experienced a McDonald's cheeseburger. Or M&M's. Or the redwoods. Or the beach. Or the old-school merry-go-round at the park. Or going fishing.
Grandparents are pretty good at picking up and supplementing in the places you might otherwise miss.
4. They love your kids like crazy.
We have a regular sitter that we adore and the Kid stays with close friends every now and then, too, but there's nothing like leaving your child with his grandparents for a few hours for a real vacation from parenthood.
It's not that I worry about our other caretakers, but the Kid's grandparents have that same "jump-in-front-of-a-train" kind of love that I do. This is good in case they would have to actually jump in front of a train for him, of course, but it works out for other reasons, too.
If the Kid doesn't say "please" at the dinner table, his grandpa is going to let him know, but he won't really think that the Kid is an impolite heathen. If he picks his nose (all. the. time.) his grandma will insist that he use a Kleenex, but she won't be grossed out beyond belief. There's just a different level of forgiveness and acceptance that extends to the little people who are carrying on your DNA.
Thank goodness for the grandparents!