Summer is coming and I am looking forward to spending time with my grandchildren. But, planning that time is a challenge that changes every year as my grandchildren get older and have plans of their own. They are about to turn 7 and my calendar notes family travel as well other activities.
So, what I have learned is that I will have to flex each year with the needs and activities of the kids.
I now share with you some of my thoughts on grand-parenting.
Grandparents Have a Special Role In the Lives of Children
The day I became a Grandma is one that I will never forget. We got the word from our son-in-law when he phoned and said, “Hi Grandma.” Our daughter Chelsea had delivered twins, and so a little boy and a little girl entered our lives.
We met the children at the hospital. I walked into the room and was still just Mom. My eyes went directly to my daughter. Was she okay? She was glowing. Then I walked over to the bassinette that contained two swaddled bundles. I looked down in awe and my daughter said, “It’s okay Mom, you can pick her up.” And I did and that is the moment I truly became Grandma.
And then, sixteen days later, our daughter-in-law delivered a little boy to complete what we were calling the Grandparent hat trick.
The babies are now almost 7 years old and it has been a time of magic and of learning. No matter how many people tell you how magical it is to become a grandparent and how very different it is from being a parent; it’s one of those ‘you have to experience it’ realities.
The biggest difference is the ability to totally focus. For example, let’s say I am about to change a diaper. Well that activity with that child can be my total preoccupation. I do not need to wonder if there are enough diapers, if the sheet on the changing table in clean or whether there is a change of clothes available. When I was the parent all of these considerations came into play but now none of that is my problem. It’s just my grandchild and me in that moment and it’s fantastic.
New Grandparents are told they need to learn to bite their tongue when they see their child parenting in a way different to what they would do. And it’s true because you have raised your children and now it’s their turn.
On the other hand, sitting by worrying about what you are seeing is not the most productive way to maintain a healthy family relationship. So, put the judgment and criticism aside and be curious. “I notice you are giving your children the same food as you eat. Tell me about that.”
Your children are keen to tell you about the parenting decisions they are making and where they are getting their information as long as you will listen respectfully and understand they will not raise their children exactly as you did. Times change. Let’s face it, you didn’t raise your kids exactly the way your parents raised you.
There is much grandparents can do to help aside from taking care of the baby from time to time.
Grandparents are the keepers of the family stories. As your grandchildren grow they will love to hear the stories about their family history, about their parents and about your childhood.
If you are lucky enough to live close to your grandchildren there is the question of childcare. It’s important to be clear with yourself and your children about your wishes on this matter. During the pregnancies I let the kids know that I was not willing or able to handle full-time childcare. And to be honest, that isn’t the role I want to play. Fortunately, both families shared that feeling. Today, seven years later childcare has worked well. We step up to the plate when other plans break down, we provide date nights (and if they don’t go out often enough we suggest they do so). We take all three to events such as the Kids Symphony concerts and occasionally host three kid sleep-overs.
When the kids were newborns, we not only showed up to help with the babies, we brought food for the freezer and I am assured that this was extremely helpful.
The trick is to make concrete offers; “would you like to go out for dinner this coming Saturday because we are free and would love to look after the babies?”
Be honest with your kids. If they know that you will say no to a request if it just doesn’t fit your schedule, they are more likely to ask.
When you are with the grandchildren, make sure you are up-to-date on their schedules. Last time you were with the kids they needed to be fed, but this time they are ready to feel themselves. Nothing changes faster than babies and toddlers, so have their parents take you through the new reality.
Grandparenting is a joyful experience. Make that true for the parents and the grandchildren as well as for yourselves.
Digital Books Make Parenting Information More Accessible.
Next time you’re sitting in the doctor’s office, lying on the couch fighting a cold or on transit and wish you had something to read, think about Parenting Today’s digital parenting books.
You can choose from Who’s in Charge Anyway? which talks about roots. It provides a clear road map for parent to focus on the tough but rewarding job of raising children to be responsible, self-disciplined adults. But Nobody Told Me I’d Ever Have to Leave Home talks about raising children to become capable young men and women.Vive la Différence focuses on specific parenting issues.
The first two are also available in print. Just log onto the store on the site and they are yours for the reading.