Grandmothering

Last week Donna commented that she and her husband will soon be first time grandparents and wondered if I had any tips to pass on.  Of course I'm happy to share my own experience of being a grandma but I think that every grandmother-grandchild relationship is unique and even though there are many similarities, there are just as many differences. Children are wildly different too. What works with one grandchild, won't work on another, so you tear up the guide book and reinvent the strategy for each child. It's also worth remembering that times have changed since we raised our children and while that doesn't mean that everything is different, most things are and you'll need to be guided by the parents and do a bit of reading yourself.

These are my boys at age four and five.

It's a wonderful thing to live long enough to be able to hold your grandbaby in your arms. You get a sense of pleasure and duty but it also gives you an extremely clear perspective on your place within your family, both living and dead. I started researching my genealogy 37 years ago when my children were born but I didn't understand my significance in my family's story until my grandchildren came along. It's good for your grandchildren to know how they fit in their family history too.

Becoming a grandmother is overwhelming, mysterious, thrilling, exciting, terrifying, the most unimaginable thing and the most natural thing all at the same time. Everyone has their own take on it but no one forgets that first look on the day it all starts. I think it's my responsibility to love each of my three grandchildren, to show them respect, kindness, strength, intelligence and unconditional acceptance and love. I try harder and walk taller when they're here with me. I try to show them that I'm a hard worker, that I do what I can for myself, that I'm optimistic and content and that they make me happy. I help them solve problems, I show them how to do practical things and I teach by example.


But in those first few months, it's not only the new baby that needs nurturing; it's the parents too. They're learning how to be parents, they have the bulk of the work and they usually don't get much sleep. If you can offer practical help in the form of babysitting so they can have some time together, catch up on sleep, or just do the housework, those gestures help develop better relationships while providing practical help.

You don't need to keep much at your place but I've found it's wise to have a spare baby bottle and sippy cup in the cupboard. Buy a couple of books to read and a little teddy bear and if you have a quiet space where baby can sleep in those first few months, it will help. Take the lead from the parents on nappies - it's quite common for parents to use disposable nappies so don't lecture them if you'd prefer they used cloth nappies. Remember, this is not your baby. Think back to how you would have felt if you mother or mother-in-law told you you should be doing X when all you could manage was Y. New parents need support and help, not confrontation.


But having said that, don't be a doormat for your children either. If you're asked to babysit and you can't do it, or don't want to do it, let them know. We have a really good relationship with our kids and even now, after six years of babysitting when we're needed, our kids still ring and ask if we can look after our grandkids. They never take it for granted, and they always thank us when they leave.

I guess to sum it up, give as much as you can in the form of practical help without feeling miserable about it.  Remember that generally the more time you spend with your grandchildren the closer you'll be. Don't expect them to feel instant love, they'll have to get used to you, they'll have to spend time with you and if you can develop a strong bond with them without it involving toys and gifts, you'll be on the right track. But most of all just enjoy those new babies as they arrive and be the kind of help you'd wished for when you were a new mum. Congratulations new grandma. You're in for the ride of your life.

I wonder what the other grandmothers here will tell you.

20 comments

  1. Our kids are so fortunate to have great grandparents. They are now aged 13 and 16 and love going to visit. They don't need to be taken places they just want to spend time together doing everyday things. If it's shopping day they go and help, gardening, cooking....... The time together is everything to them and they are constantly saying how much they love their Nan, Pop, Oma and Opa.
    We also have a great relationship and I know that if Mum and Dad have other plans etc. they will let me know. We always thank them and so do the kids. We are a family together and I think it's so important for all of us.

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  2. This is such great advice Rhonda! My parents are excellent grandparents - always willing to help, and happy to listen when I need to have a little complain about something! Also always willing to help - my mother has taken days off work when I had to take my son to the hospital, and my husband was overseas so couldn't look after the other kids. I appreciate her so much. She never lectures me, but does give advice and suggestions. :) Most of all both my parents earnestly love each of my children will all their hearts - their love for them is deep and strong, and they are patient and caring with them. :)

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  3. Wonderful comments, Rhonda! There is not a better feeling in the world than to be a grandparent. It's almost like you get a second chance at making things right, that you thought you had done wrong...almost. I just love your practical approach to the most simple everyday things, thank you for sharing your thoughts today!

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  4. I'm a Grammie and a Granddaughter and I have one wee bit of advice.... acceptance... because with acceptance comes love... and that is what we Grammies do best --- love.

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  5. I am not a grandparent, but Rhonda what great advice. Thank you for all you do and your inspiration.

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  6. I was very close to my maternal grandparents. I used to stay with them every year during school holidays. I've never seen my dad's mom as she passed away before I was born. Dad's dad lived with us and he used to sing until I fell asleep when I was very young. They are all gone now, but I still cherish the memories.

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  7. We now have 8 beautiful (some teenagers) grandchildren, but I DO remember "that first look"! What a feeling--she was perfectly formed, and my heart melted as she lay in her mother's arms.

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  8. I didn't know any of my Grandparents as they all died before I was born, I was always very envious of other children's relationship with their grandparents. I now have 7 grandchildren of my own & I try to be the grandmother I wish I had. I love spending time with them and I don't give them lollies or presents, just my time & attention, we cook,do craft, ride bikes and they love coming to Nanny's house.

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  9. We just became grandparents on Tuesday, it's been such an exciting time and so amazing to watch my own son holding and loving his son xx

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  10. What a lovely post, Rhonda. The photos are beautiful and expressive. I didn't see much of my grandparents, but I had an adopted grandmother up the street. She was just wonderful. She taught me all kinds of things: knitting, weaving, gardening, baking, and dog training. She also would watch my tap dance when I asked her. I knit blankets and sweaters for my friends' grandbabies. They are so sweet...

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  11. My mom's parents were the most perfect grandparents...my hubby and I have tried to practice much of what they did...but a lot depends upon the spouse of your child, we have found. And if there is jealousy from the other side of the house, you will find yourself in a very back seat position. We now live a continent away (because when our daughter had children she badly needed us...still does in fact)...but we and our other grandchildren do miss each other...I try to send newspaper clippings of subjects the children might find of interest, we write them postcards (all go into one big manila envelope so that all arrive together and no one's gets "lost" by the post office)...we are allowed to skype with them a couple times a year and we go to visit when we can...this next visit will be almost 2 years since the last one...it is not satisfactory...but we have come to accept how it is. I used to think we could someway have avoided this but with the grandma on the other side who wants ALL the time and attention, we are glad to be needed elsewhere. Though our sadness over the other coast grandchildren will never be gone. So if your family is one that everyone loves everyone else and acts like it, you are indeed blessed...and enjoy all the minutes you have with the grandchildren!!

    Elizabeth

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  12. Thank you Rhonda for your advice.
    I am looking forward to many firsts as a new Grandma it is lovely to be a member of the club!
    May I ask another favour of you? My mum is chasing a baby pattern(she's an avid knitter) it was one produced from Gaurdian Chemist a few years ago of a baby cardigan with hoodie. Mum loaned to a friend and it has now gone missing.
    Looking forward to the arrival of our grandson(told last weekend it's a boy due early Dec).

    Thanks

    Doonna:)


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  13. Thank you. My first grandchild is due soon and all the little reminders help.

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  14. I have four grandchildren, one boy and three girls, and my relationship with each of them is different for a variety of reasons. My husband and I are caretakers for one of my granddaughters on a daily basis and have been since she was about two. I have become more Mommy than Nona, on certain days, and it is a relationship that I would never trade for anything. However, the one piece of advice I can give is -- never forget -- it isn't YOUR baby. The parents must be upheld as the ultimate authority over their child (whether you agree with something or not) and the parents need to be supported in their decisions. Just like a husband and wife need to be a united front, grandparents need to be part of that united front. That cute little catchphrase "what happens at Grandma's stays at Grandma's" doesn't happen here. When my granddaughter is here, or I am with her at her home, we follow her parents rules. Another piece of advice -- you can't over love them. You just can't. Loving them doesn't spoil them. Everything else will fall into place -- it is like riding a bicycle -- you don't forget. Some things are new, learn about that, some ways of thinking are new, see the parents ideas about that but basically, a diaper is a diaper, a burp is a burp, a hug is a hug -- just love them and all will be well.

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  15. We have six grandchildren from age 9 down to a few weeks. Two of them are local and we see them most weeks but in a few months they are moving from the USA to Germany and we not have them back here to visit for 4 years. Our hearts are hurting. The other 4 live 300 to 500 miles away. We maintain two closets of toys that were from our children's childhood years. These toys don't take batteries or sing the ABC's and they love to play with them because they are so different. We also made one of our guest rooms into the grandchildren's room and keep a crib and toddler bed along with a youth size bed for spend the nights and naps. The call it 'our room' which makes us happy that they feel they have a place here. We do simple things with them when they are here. They love our large property and woods and long driveway and outdoor toys that we store in the garage. They love to eat meals in our big screen porch and swing on our porch swing. We have a player piano and they love to pick piano rolls for me to play while they sit beside me on the bench. A long fork and a marshmallow over Poppa's gas grill makes them happy (and sticky) and is something they do not get to do at home. All that to say that what we and they enjoy most is the simple things here at our home. One week we offered McDonald's and the play area for lunch and faces fell and they said they wanted to eat here on our screen porch. They just want our time and hugs and someone who has the time to listen. Enjoy!

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  16. This is a wonderful blog and I hope that many new grandparents read it and act upon it especially the bit about thinking how you felt when as parents you were given advice or, even worse, told the "right" way to do things.
    One of the things we find most difficult is the amount of entertainment that comes via technology.
    If allowed our grandchildren would remain permanently on line!
    There is no point banning tablets etc but we tempt the kids away with activities they don't do at home. Baking, model making, playing on the beach and picnicking are some of their favourites at the moment.
    One thing we do give them is time. The lives of their parents are busy and there isn't the chance to have a non working parent. Children's lives are also highly organised with weekend and after school activities that to be able to have time to sit and do very little, or even feel bored, is a luxury for them.
    Time and love are precious gifts that they'll remember all their lives. I know I remember receiving those from my own grandmother and how much I valued them. Sue

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  17. I'm not a grandma yet but I have a nice little stash of story books, just waiting to be read to a grand-little on my lap...

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  18. I'm grandma to four. Two girls and two boys. All between the ages of 3-7. I have such wonderful memories of my grandmothers that I wanted to make sure my grands develop those good memories to carry with them all their life. I try to have special activities for them when they're here so Nana's house will be fun. It may be painting a picture, making a simple craft, planting seeds or making a special recipe. They all seem to love to come and I'm exhausted when they leave.

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  19. I adore being a Grandma. I have 4 grandchildren and each of them is so very precious to me. I work hard to support my daughters in law and encourage them as they are both wonderful women and great Mums. Its important to not undermine their parenting so I am mindful of that. Cuddling my grandchildren and talking to them and playing with them and snuggling with them is an absolute joy for me. Three of them live in Perth - we are in New Zealand, so I keep working to pay for trips to Perth to keep in relationship with my family there. I do skype a bit but you cant cuddle or hold a child close and sniff their hair on skype. Thats what I love the most. And when they get older I do so hope they will enjoy my company and we can be good friends.

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  20. We're grandparents for the first time and are loving it. Slightly complicated by the fact that our daughter and granddaughter moved back with us last year, Millie is now 2 1/2 years old.We do get tired but are just waiting for them to have enough saved for their own place!

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