A baby shower is such a fun place to be. A longtime friend of mine is becoming a grandmother for the first time next month. The gathering of family and friends to share food and gifts with the new parents-to-be was this afternoon. When the new mother-to-be was 5 months old I gave her a first taste of the joy of ice cream. Times were different back then. Introducing foods slowly and being careful about sugar, eggs and preservatives were not even on our radar screen.
My friend asked me how being a grandparent is different than being a parent. I think there is a more relaxed joy in welcoming this new little person into your life. Certainly there is less accountability for the outcome most of the time. A grandparent has already experienced the child life stages so is generally more relaxed when the new baby cries, the toddler throws a tantrum, the adolescent has a crying jag and the teenager spouts vows of hatred.
Parenting is like a journey without an updated map, filled with the scramble and stress to find the most useful updates before they are obsolete. Grand parenting is less stressful and less of a scramble. You and your grandchild update the map as you travel.
Here are a few guiding principles to being a grandparent;
1. The feeling of love for a grandchild is often instantaneous and overwhelming. I think the lifetime act of loving a grandchild requires effort and action on the part of the grandparent.
The first definition, by Merriam and Webster Dictionary, of love as a noun, is “a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties.” In Merriam and Webster, love as a verb is “to hold dear: cherish” and “to like actively” as in “take pleasure in.” This may mean kissing baby necks while making funny noises, dancing to the oldies while holding tiny hands, crawling around Discovery Zone tunnels, reading a wide variety of children books and/or watching adolescent angst movies about vampires, werewolves and the teenagers who love them.
2. Have conversations with the child’s parents regarding the role of a grandparent, or grandparents, in the life of their child.
Set up boundaries and guidelines with your child (see Parenting is a journey without an updated map…. above) and their parenting partner flexible enough to accommodate both parenting and grand parenting desires. Be sure and repeat back to them how you see the boundaries and guidelines unfolding. They might have a different vision than you. Repeat this guiding principle as often as necessary. It helps if you spend a little time thinking about what kind of grandparent you want to be. Talk it over with your co-grandparent partner, if you have one, and/or other grandparent friends. Remember your own grandparents and your children’s grandparents? What did you like? What did you not like?
3. Whatever the age of the child their needs, wants and desires are important to a positive, healthy, loving relationship with you.
Pay attention to your grandchild’s cues, physical and verbal, and respond with sincerity. Make time to sit down and play with them. Tea parties, storming the castle and Go Fish are part of my repertoire.
These basic guiding principles will serve you well on your grand parenting journey. You might come up with a few more as you and your grandchild update your map. Your reward is lots of hugs and a lifetime of love.
©2011 Susan Kendall. All rights reserved
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