Whether your children are presenting you with your first grandchild or your tenth, there are some guidelines to follow that will keep you in good graces with both your child and your son or daughter in law. Much has changed in parenting in the generation since you and I were holding our firstborn: the way to put a child to bed, the way to keep him safe, the way to discipline her. We were free to make our decisions and a few mistakes in parenting when our own children were small, and now it’s our children’s turn take on the responsibility. So just what will your role as grandparent be? Here are five helpful areas in which to find your boundaries and set the standards that will make that unique and wonderful role—grandparent—be all it can be.
You’re Not in Charge.
You used to be in charge. You had the responsibility for bedtimes, potty training, discipline and all the rest. What you said, was the law of the land. Sadly, or maybe not so sadly, now you are extended family. You get to love the children, but the standards and rules are set by someone else. That’s not easy, but it does have its benefits. Your role is simpler, just follow the standards set by the parents. Your natural grandparenting style will shine through, but it’s very important to let your children know you’ll respect the guidelines they’ve set in place.
You Have a Lot to Give
Now that you’re a grandparent, you have the pleasure of giving to your grand- children. Yes, you’ll give presents and sometimes money. You’ll pay for travel and food and maybe some vacation fun. But you have much more than that to offer your grandchildren. You have your experience, your stories, your wisdom, your listening ear. You have your sense of humor, your hobbies, your interests and your zest for life. And, you have time. When parents are rushed and exhausted from the rigors of their busy work schedules and all the busy-ness of family life, you have your time to offer. Don’t underestimate the little conversations you may have while driving your grandson to soccer practice.
You’ll Learn to be Flexible
Learning to give up expectations may be one of the most challenging of all grandparenting traits. Most of us would like our children to live just a few minutes down the block so we could keep close tabs on their daily life. In real life this seldom occurs. Jobs take our families long miles away, sometimes even to other countries. And although there are lots of ways to connect with today’s technologies, we still miss out on much of our grandchildren’s day to day lives. We also have to respect the rights of other family members including the time the other grandparents and great grandparents need with the children.
Holidays and special days such as birthdays may prove quite a struggle until the law of flexibility is established. Planning ahead with everyone involved is one way to avoid big disappointments.
You’ll Learn When to Speak
Yes, you’ll learn when to speak and conversely, when to keep quiet. As we mentioned earlier, many of the basics of child rearing that were gospel when we were young parents are no longer held to be true. Now there are car seats to manage, new ways to hold and cuddle and lay into a bed. There are new thoughts on whether or not to breast feed and when and how long to do so.
There are new shots and medicines and new ideas on when to introduce solid foods. Discipline may be more strict or more lenient than you’re comfortable with. But, no matter what the issue, it will be far better to hold your tongue unless asked for advice. And even then, your children have the choice of whether or not to heed our advice. Most of these issues are not black and white one answer fits all kinds of questions. Be willing to help, but slow to criticize.
You’ll Love More Than You Thought Possible
You loved your own children. They were remarkable little miracles and you still think back fondly on their growing-up years. You even enjoy thinking back on some of the difficult times because family is of ultimate importance. But nothing prepares one for the rush of love experienced for grandchildren. They are wonderful beyond words. You’ll find that they wear you out at times, but the special times you have with them will fill your heart with joy. And one of the unique benefits of grandparenting is that you get to spend quality time with the grandchildren and then move back into the slower-paced life you now live.
It’s the best of both worlds.