A few years ago I couldn’t have written honestly on grandparenting. For one thing, I didn’t have any experience with being a grandma. For another, I was approaching becoming a grandmother with some trepidation. My grandkids are adopted. Who knew I’d be the one who had issues with that? I had so many concerns that I had a hard time looking forward to the event. I was concerned in a selfish way about my own daughter who has a serious chronic health issue. I thought these babies might jeopardize my daughter’s health and well being. She, after all, was my first priority.
As a highly protective mom of a child with a long term health issue, I have always been inclined to slightly overreact to things both big and small. This seemed big and I for sure overreacted. Although I had some vicarious experience with adoption because my best friend adopted three children, and I thought I was hip and comfortable with all the makings of that process and the outcome, it was different when my daughter chose this route. When she began the adoption process I responded first by separating myself, and later by insinuating myself right in the middle of it and having a very serious talk with my son-in-law. Looking back I’m sure that talk was too much for my son-in-law. It stemmed from my fear for my daughter’s well being.
Fortunately, those days are behind us. Thankfully my daughter and son-in-law have been very forgiving. My daughter actually built the bridge for this to happen by expressing that she understood what my fears might be, while several people who’d adopted said I should be happy she was happy and pursuing her heart’s desire. She actually dug deeper and said she could see why I was fearful. Actually, she was able to identify things I didn’t even recognize. Thankfully we have a relationship that has weathered many important life issues. This acknowledgment was freeing. Their family is now four instead of two, and I’m included in most everything. My two year old granddaughter “loves me very much” and my eight month old grandson smiles like a goofy bubbly boy whenever I look at him. I’m lucky.
Now, after having reached complete acceptance, I see how grandparenting with these three basics is the best way to impact my three precious grandchildren.
Love trumps just about any rule or suggestion for direction in any kind of relationship. It’s no different for ways to have a positive influence in your grandchildren’s lives. Before you start anything, and when all else fails, love them. Interestingly, this statement, which is invaluable, came from my daughter’s mother-in-law. When I was struggling with my own 18-year-old, I called her to ask for advice. “What do you suggest,” I asked and she said “just love her.” I tried to respond with “but what about…” and she said, “just love her.” Those are words I sometimes forget but always go back to. There is no better advice. We’ll all try to take that apart and decide what it means but generally, we know. Lots of times it isn’t what we want to do because we have been so programmed with “advice”, but it is the most important grandparenting advice. Soul searching for what that love looks like is sometimes required, but with the grandkids, we usually are cut a break, and it’s easy. Just love them. Figure out what that really looks like, and do it. Do it softly, do it loudly, do it happily and do it often.
“Time well spent” is a forgotten phrase. We all crave time from loved ones. We want as much as we can get. Time to talk. Time to laugh. Time to walk. Time to play. Time to sing. Time to be listened to. Find the time to be with your grandchildren. Don’t forget about finding time to be with your adult child, too. They benefit from time with you one on one and also with time including your grandchildren. Our children want to show off their children. They also want to watch their children love us. They really want to see us loving their kids and spending easy time with them. Spending time with grandchildren gives us an excuse to act silly again. It gives them a chance to learn from us how to interact socially and emotionally. It gives them a chance to have the responses of their parents repeated by others. It’s funny how much our own children will parent like we did.
Share with your grandchildren. Share your time. Share your things. Share them with the world. Grandkids love our stuff. They love to dress up in our clothes and shoes. They love our makeup. They love our jewelry and ties. What grandkid doesn’t love to come over and find their own cabinet or drawer in our house with our stuff that is now theirs? Share your plate. You might as well not waste a plate because your food is always going to look better than theirs and your plate is free game with the young kids. It probably goes the same way with older ones if you let them. It’s like when someone brings you food. It doesn’t matter what it is but it always seems better cooked when brought to you by someone else. Put those nasty peas on your plate and for some reason, they seem a little better. Share these things by making videos and you get double your money for the time. First, you get the actual time. But then they love watching the videos afterward. I’m sure our friends love watching these videos, too.
There’s a lot of expert grandparenting advice out there. I think we forget that we are what makes for the advice. We are studied. We are practiced. We are consulted. Sometimes you can give advice when you haven’t experienced something but things just seem more authentic when it comes from experience. I’m not an expert on anything, I’m just a “learn as I go” person. I find I learn best from people willing to share their secrets, especially if they come from the humility of a mistake or misunderstanding. We senior women are a community of people trying to find our way into the next phase. We have so much to offer if we are willing to share. The people that we love, spend time with, and share with now are the parents and grandparents of the future. It’s our duty to try to do this well to set a good example. If you can remember to impart these crucial three gifts to your grandchildren, your example will go far.