Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Rules for New Grandparents
My first grandchild was born yesterday, a boy who my son and his wife named Atticus Jackson, also known as A.J. I think my son is already planning on his son being an athlete, so A.J. is a good athlete’s name. But he also named him after Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird fame – when my son was in law school he talked of becoming a civil rights lawyer like Atticus – so it is fitting.
The birth of my first grandchild gets me to thinking about the nature of grandparenthood.
I want to be the best grandparent I can be, but what makes a good grandparent?
Here is what I have come up with so far.
Respect the new parents. Yes, you have years of experience, but things change. When my son was born, parents were supposed to put the baby on his stomach with his head turned to the side. Now that is frowned upon. Babies are supposed to sleep on their backs. When my children were small, we were still listening to Dr. Spock. My kids think he is someone from “Star Trek.”
Be a good guest. When you visit your grandchildren, you are also a guest of your son or daughter who have set up their own homes with their spouses. Guests do not come in and take over. One time when my mother was visiting, I came home from work to find she had changed the curtains in my kitchen. That is not being a good guest.
Remember birthdays and holidays, but if you didn’t teach your own children to send thank you notes, don’t expect your grandchildren to. We aren’t born with good manners.
Show joy when you see your grandchildren, and be their biggest cheerleaders. Make them feel they light up the room and your life the instant you see them. That kind of joy aimed at them will go a long way toward good self-esteem.
Read to your grandchildren. When my children were little, the bedtime ritual was a ride on “The Old Gray Mare” to bed (me on all fours singing and swaying - not a pretty sight), and they were allowed to choose two books to be read to them. Never mind that they would always choose the longest books (The Velveteen Rabbit is so long). No matter how exhausted we might have been, if we dared to try to save some time and skip a page or even a paragraph, we would hear, “Hey you skipped that!” They knew every book by heart. Maybe that was because we had to read the same ones so many times.
Don’t break your son's or daughter’s rules. Yes, we want our grandchildren to love us and look forward to going to Glammy’s house, but if you want to continue to have a good relationship with your own child, better get hip to the new rules. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make them fun!
Leave the heavy discipline to your son or daughter. Make sure you know what your role is when it comes to discipline. You want your grandchildren to look forward to seeing you, not to go to Glammy’s kicking and screaming and crying child abuse.
You are not the only grandparent. In fact there could be four of you! If you didn’t learn to share when you were younger, you must learn to share now. I know, it's not easy.
Make memories together. Whether it’s watching old Bette Davis movies, playing Parcheesi or teaching the dog to flip a potato chip off its nose and catch it, those are all things your grandchild will remember fondly. Be a part of his or her world and really listen to their interests and ideas.
Skype. If you live too far away to see the grandchildren regularly, here is the next best thing.
Babysit. What better way to bond with your grandchildren?
I moved far away from my mother right after college. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Everyone in Michigan wanted to move to California. When my son was born, I had to hand him over to a stranger when I went back to work. It was very difficult. I remember asking my colleagues at work, "Who takes care of your children? The reply would inevitably be, “My Mom.” Never had I wished more that I had not moved away, California not withstanding. Besides, the Summer of Love was over and now I was awash in diapers and childcare issues. My mother would have loved to care for my son or daughter. Of course, they would have been in a high chair until they were 6, wearing bibs and eating toast every morning to “keep them regular,” but still… There is a saying, “A grandmother is a babysitter who watches the kids instead of television.” That would have given me a peace of mind I never had as a working Mom.
Speaking of babysitting…
DRUM ROLL PLEASE…as I make this segue…C'mon folks, you know me by now.
If you have been reading this blog, you know it's all about Polaris right now. Our new computer system is due to go live on March 30, and in the meantime, we are asking you all to "Babysit-a-Book." Spend some extra quality time with your borrowed library materials, check out more than usual,and keep them until after April 9.
That will really help us. The fewer returned materials for us to check in means we can focus on getting Polaris up and running to serve you better. No library materials will be due from March 21 to April 9 (however, this does not apply to materials that are currently overdue).
So if you don't have grandchildren or you live too far away to babysit, you can babysit our books for us!
Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go practice my “Good Grandparenting” skills!
And you experienced grandparents out there…Anything you want to share?