Grandmothering

14 August 2017
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.