I'm a Grandma. Now What?

I am new to the world of grandparents.

You see, I had my children late and now they are having children in their thirties.  So, it took me awhile to get here.  On the way, I saw many of my friends enter that special world and they all told me that it would be something like I had never experienced before.  It is true that navigating through one’s life, I don’t think many think far enough ahead to the grandparent goal.  I mean, after all, grandparenting means that we are getting older and we are no longer in control of our own kids, thank goodness.  It’s a phase that maybe we just didn’t think about.  By now, I'm sure you have read Carolina's perspective in Grandma Rule at

I don’t want to be that grandma that posts pictures of the child three times a day, of every outfit, of every first (although that is really hard to not do.)  I mean, enough already.  You don’t really have to convince the world of how special your grandchild is.  We know.  Or how much the child “worships” you.  We know. Those are not the things that matter most, anyway.

My first grandson is super special.  He’s even cuter than we could have envisioned.  When people remark about him, I simply say,

“He’s Perfect.”  And he is.

What I’ve realized is that really, they are all perfect.  Just the way they are!  When I see the sheer joy and love in the faces of my friends in the pics with their grandchildren, it gives a unique perspective to this phase of life.  And to see those new little wonders of life, it makes my heart smile.  They are all so precious.  They are all so unique. 

They define the meaning of potential.  They are the future. 

So, what is our role, now?  Or, to better phrase it, Now What?  In the New York Times bestseller, How to Raise an Adult, an elite college admissions officer remarked that a common answer to the application essay question, “What is the best gift you gave or received?” was “time spent with grandparents.”  Applicants wrote pieces that said, ‘he took me fishing,’ ‘she taught me to bake bread from the old country.’  She goes on to say, ‘Simple family time spent with someone who loved them unconditionally is clearly a well-valued gift.’ My brother recently remarked with pride and nostalgia about our grandfather, a southern tobacco farmer; how he taught him respect and hard work, how he taught him how, and why, to say ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir’ and how he never saw him lose his temper. My brother worked for a few summers in the tobacco barn during the pulling and curing of the crop.  It was hot and hard work.  Yet, look what he remembers.

I have a great friend, and she is always talking about making memories with her children and now grandchildren.  She is on to something.  What really matters.

It is the gift of time. It is the gift of guidance.

We have the opportunity to make a memorable lasting effect on these little ones now new to this world.  We can pass on our thoughts and beliefs; let them know how it was for their grandparents and great grandparents to grow up. Let them know what our dreams were, what it is like to have a fancy dinner at home, how we had to wear dresses to school, how marriage was valued, what Sunday School and Vacation Bible school were. 

Mostly, we just need to be there for them, with them.  In case they need us.

Our gift of time.



Competing Grandmas. Now What?

When are gifts not just gifts, but bribes or status symbols? 

 Oh, this is a tricky area and never more evident than when coming out of the holiday season.  As I sit here on New Year’s Day reading everyone’s idea of a good New Year’s resolution and with the current craze of tiny houses and reading the life –changing magic of tidying up, it seems in quite contrast to the proliferation of video games, smart phones and kids’ cars that really run. Who knows what to give kids? Personally, I think those cars are the bomb.

 Having my first grandson brings it all back to life. 

There are two, or more, families with one new little bright star to dote on.  For his first Christmas, I just bought him his next size up basic clothes.  It’s what I’ve been doing to help the new parents out this first year.  He grows so fast, my brother likes to say, “You don’t even have to wash his clothes, just move up to the next size.”  His other grandma let me know she got him a few special outfits for the holidays. Not my thing, I must admit, but he looked darling in all his photo ops.  So, it looks like we are off to a good start, so far.  We both kept it pretty practical and real.

But, as parents and grandparents, it doesn’t always go so well.

I talked with a good friend and she said in the week before Christmas, “So no competition with the gift giving?”  I said, “No, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.”  She is very attuned to that because for her, it is a BIG problem, a source of hurt and resentment.  Her grandchildren’s grandmother on the other side just goes over the top with material gifts.  She can’t give just one American Girls doll; she gives three! She buys outfit after outfit, items the children will never wear.  I witnessed it myself at the baby shower – a top-flight stroller filled with at lease 10 baby outfits.  It looked ridiculous!  In the first place, it is the parents place to be Santa Claus for Christmas, not the grandmas.  Also, kids don’t need all that stuff on one day! They don’t need all that stuff, period.  What are you teaching them to value?  And at some point, children need to get the concept of value of money, or guess what?  They will think they are entitled to a showering of gifts.  All the time. Then, a gift is not a gift; it’s an expectation. But, what is she to do?  Easy.  Switch to an entirely different approach. 

She can be the Grandma of experiences, not things. 

For gifts, she can give games that she plays with the children.  She can give a cooking set, and cook with the children, both boys and girls, mind you.  Her gift can be tickets to the local children’s museum, children’s ballet or theatre that she attends with them.  They get to dress up (working on those social skills) and go out for a special dessert afterwards.  But, most spectacularly, she can be the Grandma of travel!  She can give a small suitcase and inside is an itinerary for a trip she takes with her grandchildren.  It doesn’t have to be expensive; day trips or one night overnights are usually the most fun!  Any new mode of transportation that can be involved just rocks. Kids love to ride on buses, metros, ferries, trains or boats.  I went with this friend to take her grandkids to sightsee in Washington, DC.  I think riding the metro, ordering their own food in a restaurant and swimming in the indoor hotel pool were their highlights of the trip.  So fun!! And by the end of the trip, the 10 year old could navigate that metro system as well as I could.  What a learning experience for all.

 What if you have the opposite problem, grandparents who give their grandchildren very little?  It can be as equally baffling as the ones who give too much.  To the parents, it may seem like the grandparents do not take the time to know their grandchildren.  It’s not that hard or expensive to find a gift that fits. Eventually it hurts the children. But people are people and like the overindulgent grandparent, there is really not a lot you can do.  I wouldn’t put combined gift giving from both sets of grandparents in the same room at the same time.  I also wouldn’t worry about limiting the grandparents that want to give. 

Eventually, the kids figure it all out for themselves. 

 As I touched on above, if you feel the grandparents are overshadowing your role as parents, then you can definitely say something about it.  Not that it will change their behavior, but at least you got your feelings out.  For grandparents who don’t give, there is not too much you can do. Before the next birthday or Christmas, you might make a suggestion on something the children might like.

 For me, I want to be the Grandma of gifts and experiences! 

Keep the gifts in line, but oh just watch me on the experiences.  The sky is the limit.  It’s a good thing his birthday is just before summer, cause I can’t wait to buy that boogie board and head to the beach.  Do I really have to wait until he’s two?

Actually, it’s a win-win, because I get to go, too!!