My daughter and her husband had their first baby a month ago. A sweet, adorable little girl. My first grandchild. They live out of state, but we (and her other grandparents) were able to meet her a few hours after she was born.
It’s just like my friends who are already grandparents told me it would be. I’m enchanted. I can’t wait for the next new picture to pop up in our shared photo album. Eyes wide open. Eyes shut tight. Getting her first bath. Staring into her daddy’s eyes. Grasping her mother’s finger. No matter what the camera has caught her doing, I have to stop what I’m doing and stare at the pictures.
I think about my daughter when she was an infant. How she smelled. How smooth her skin was. How afraid I was that I would do something wrong. And yet, instinctively I knew. Now she is the mother. And I can tell that she knows, too.
This week I get to be Nannie up close (I decided I want to be called Nannie because that’s what we called one of my beloved grandmothers.) I’m helping out for the entire week because my son-in-law’s paternity leave ended.
I’m loving every single minute of being here. Watching how my daughter and her husband interact and seeing what wonderful parents they are fills me with joy. And holding that precious baby — whether she’s crying or cooing — well, there are no words!
As I prepared for my visit, I thought a lot about how I would be the most helpful during my stay. I also thought about what it means to be a grandparent. Because it’s my first time, I decided to reach out to other grandparents for advice. They had a lot to share!
Advice on being a grandparent
Lee One of the things that I didn’t do well as a single parent was to be truly present with my daughters. I felt so overwhelmed with life, work, finances, and single parenting that I was eternally distracted.
As a grandparent, I give my grandchildren my full and complete attention when I am with them. I try to think of special things to do together that are suited for each of their personalities. And take them one at a time to do that. I never thought I could love more than I loved my children until I had grandchildren.
Jennifer There are so many phases of grandparenting and I’m only in year 5! I have so much to learn, but this much I know is important: Play, laugh, explore, be amazed, be present, tell stories, teach new things, hug, be adventurous, be willing to be part of their world and love, love, love them like you’ve never loved before.
I would add that I feel it’s a privilege to be part of my grandchildren’s lives because they are local and I am available. This isn’t the case for some. I know being distant is harder, but I would just say do what you can, however you can, to be a part of the child’s life. It’s a gift for both of you!
Cheryl Don’t interfere with your kids raising their children. Lots of hugs love and kisses. Always be there when they need you. Being a grandparent is the best.
Joyce Hug and kiss them.
Brenda On being a good grandparent: Rule No. 1. Never undermine your kids’ parenting. THEY are the parents, not you.
Linda Love them unconditionally. I’m a very lucky Grammi. I spend every day with my granddaughters because they live right upstairs. Teach them to be kind and loving and to respect others.
I tell them stories all the time about their daddy and the things he did growing up. I also tell them about myself and their aunts. And I let them know about ALL my relatives, even the ones they have never even met. I want them to know where they came from — the history of the family.
Kathy Treat them to things as a family. Don’t forget to include the in-law(s). Don’t interfere with parenting choices unless extreme. Mostly, enjoy!
Terrilynn Let them be themselves. (Our society controls kids too much). Hug and love them like crazy! Time spent doing special activities is more important than giving gifts. I try to find activities that the parents do not do with them. Give them unique memories. (And sometimes a photo book afterward).
For example, I took my 5-year-old granddaughter to Monhegan Island. We hiked and went on the community swing, looked for special shells and rocks on the beach, built fairy houses, enjoyed sunsets etc. amazing time. And then I gave her a photo memory book!!
Kaitlyn If you go to visit, make yourselves useful. My mom is an incredible grandparent in part because not only does she love her little ones but she helps mom and dad out so much! Cooking, cleaning, you name it she chips in.
Kim I like that I can be their friend. Not that I don’t discipline, but my role can be more as a knowledgeable companion. My grandkids — one 17 and headed to college and one 8 and smart as a whip, teach me as much as I share with them. Even more the definition of unconditional love than with my kids!
Woody The absolute best thing is that you can be what the parents can’t. You can be crazy, artistic, messy, a wild explorer, a joyous dancer — you don’t have to worry about discipline because that’s the parents’ job 🙂
Barb Enjoy making memories.
Shirley Grandchildren are wonderful. God’s gift to parents who raised theirs and can now relax and enjoy these wee blessings. Just love them and enjoy them.
Michael Spoil them happy.
Lisa Be yourself. Share your love and support.
Pete Love and understanding but solid advice.
Cathy Spend as much time as you can with them doing things you both enjoy. They grow up very quickly. Have fun with them.
Anne The big thing is support, not advice!
Malory Grandparenting the grandkids: When they are little, love them with no conditions. They will need that. Remember, too, that it doesn’t matter if they make a mess, you can clean it up. When they are older, be the one they can confide in when they can’t tell the parents. You don’t have to discipline them, so can offer good advice.
Being a good grandparent to the parents: Try to honor their choices, even when they are different from what you did. Read about their choices, so you can show interest, know what they are doing and still offer some subtle advice. 🙂 And tell them a lot how great a job they are doing because no new parent feels like they know what they are doing.
Are you a grandparent? What advice do you have to share?
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Our Aging in Place blog is written by Diane Atwood, who also writes the blogs Catching Health with Diane Atwood and mylatestart. If you have any topics you’d like us to cover, please let us know in the comments box below. Thank you!