Guest Post: On Becoming a Grandparent

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A guest post by writer Carol Baldwin, with advice for grandparents everywhere:

Dear Barbara,

In your 35 years of marriage to Cliff, the two of you have experienced a lot. You accomplished all sorts of tasks: you bought houses, held down jobs, wrote books, mentored friends, nurtured many relationships, and had to say goodbye to loved ones.

You also bore and raised two lovely daughters. You were nervous as they left home for kindergarten, anxious on their first dates, and then misty-eyed when you left them at college and drove away.

In all that time, one thing stayed the same: you and Cliff had created a family. But then you walked Kath down the aisle and now are getting ready to give away Laura.

Your family has changed as you gained your sons-in-laws. So, you would think with all of those life experiences under your belt, you would be prepared for anything and everything.

You are and you’re not.

Are you prepared for the bonds you’ll feel the first time you hold your grandson in your arms? Are you ready for the awe of the continuation of generations that will fill your hearts as you try to figure out if his tiny fingers look like Cliff’s or yours?

Will he have big feet like Matt? Do his eyes look like Kath’s?  And how about all of that hair (or the lack thereof). There will be more theories flying around that labor and delivery room than receiving blankets.

But it won’t matter. All that will matter is that your very first grandchild has entered the world—and nothing will compare to the excitement and pride you both will feel.

Fast forward a few weeks. Your grandbaby will be home and Kath and Matt will be trying to get sleep and return to some semblance of order. You don’t have to tell them that what they are living through is their new normal. Eventually, they’ll figure it out.

But what they might not figure out—or so it may seem to you—are things like the proper feeding schedule, or nap schedule, or how much to let your grandson cry, or when to introduce a bottle/solid foods/or potty training.

In other words, you and Cliff have something new to learn: to discern when your advice will be wanted, and when, quite frankly, you’ll need to keep your mouths shut.  Remember when your girls announced that they knew how to drive and didn’t need your help anymore? It’s a little like that, all over again.

Very soon Kath and Matt will exhaustedly welcome your babysitting services. But they might not welcome your guidance. Biting your tongues may be the hardest task you and Cliff have embraced so far.

Your experience as parents is invaluable but may not always be appreciated. Not yet. And just as you had to watch Kath pick herself up after falling down when she was learning to walk, you will also need to take a back seat and watch her and Matt learn the tasks of parenting. These are the same tasks (with some modern twists—see picture below), which you and Cliff learned, so many years ago.

But you will be there, in the wings, waiting with a shoulder to cry on and advice on the tip of your tongue– just in case you are needed.

Just as every parent—and grandparent—always is.

Welcome to your next adventure. You’ll love it.

Fondly,

Carol

About Carol: Carol Baldwin’s most recent book is Teaching the Story: Fiction Writing in Grades 4-8 (Maupin House, 2008). She blogs at www.carolbaldwinblog.blogspot.com and is writing her first young adult novel.

She is active in SCBWI, serves on the board of the Charlotte chapter of the Women’s Novel Book Association, and is a writing instructor in the Continuing Education Department of CPCC.  She has two step-daughters and three daughters; in the last five years she has been blessed with four step-grandchildren who she enjoys reading to.

Photo above: Grandma Carol enjoying two of her step-grandchildren, alongside her husband Creighton.

Photo Below:  Carol keeps a journal for each of her grandchildren, adding bits and pieces when she sees them–what they’re doing, what they’re saying, etc.

Bottom Photo:  Carol suggests I study this one for a glimpse into my future! The photo, sent to her by a relative, is making its way around the Internet.

26 responses »

  1. Oh my goodness, Carol, your post is one of the wisest pieces of advice I’ve ever read and should be required reading by all grandparents. Great job! And wonderful idea about the grandchildren journals!! I’ll be sure to read this again if I ever get promoted to Grandmother!

  2. What a sweet post and such great suggestions. My husband’s family never liked how “I” raised our children and was always giving advice and getting upset when I didn’t take it. My family never offered any advice unless I asked for it except once. And it was valuable advice that I definitely used when the kids were little. So “keeping your mouth shut” is a good suggestion. I used to dread going to visit my inlaws because of the criticism. But what fun lies ahead! Everyone says being a grandparent is so much more fun than being a parent–you get to play and cuddle and give them back when they need changed or are throwing a tantrum! And I love that picture at the end too.

  3. Great post! Brought back a lot of memories of my mom giving advice. She did a lot of comparing to how it was when I was a child (bumpers in crib, no carseats-or even seatbelts, eating rice cereal at just a few months old) and when I would say that things had changed her answer was always the same, “well you and your brother survived just fine.” I remember once when she was babysitting, she and my dad drove my daughter, with no carseat, to a friend’s to show her off! I was very upset to say the least. But when I think of it now, I do know that it was all done or said in love.

    As I look at Kath’s blog, I see products and read of things that are so different than when I had my kids 16 years ago. I’m sure when I am a grandparent I will be tempted to make my own comparisons and give my own advice, but I hopefully I will remember how I felt back in my early parenting days and just let it be and enjoy being the grandparent.

    ps-Love the idea of having grandam journals!

  4. Thanks, ladies–I’m glad you all enjoyed this post. ANd yes Leslie, I have also heard, “You and your brother and sister came out just fine” from both my parents and in-laws. And yes, they were right! I guess at every stage in life we are likely to look back and compare what we had or what we experienced with the way things are now.

  5. This was a wonderful post, Carol. Really enjoyed it. And I, too, love the idea of the journals for your grandchildren. What a creative and generous thing to do! They will certainly be treasured.

  6. I took so much of my mother’s advice but I didn’t always let on that I did!! Wonderful post and will remember for future when it is my turn to be a grandparent.

  7. Carol, what a wonderful way to share all the wisdom that comes with the privilege of being a grandparent. And even if our adult kids don’t want to hear it sometimes, it is wisdom well-earned and well-spent!

  8. What a great post about being a grandparent! There is such a special bond you feel with the new generation. Very good advice about the advice.

  9. What a beautiful post! My husband and I had a daughter two years ago, and she is very close to my parents (which we LOVE). Thank you for posting this so that we can see things from the grandparents’ side.

  10. What a great post! And so true!! In fact, just today I kept our almost 5 month old granddaughter. My daughter said, “She’ll be asleep as soon as we get in the car.” My daughter had just mentioned that she was stopping for take-out on her way home. I said, “Now you know not to leave her in the car, right?” She looked at me like I had three heads. Probably could have kept that in. :)

  11. Tender, lovely advice, Carol. Keeping your mouth shut is one of the hardest, and wisest, things a grandparent can do.

    Yesterday, Thursday, God blessed us with our 7th grandchild. Our princess has 3 older brothers. You don’t have to guess who is going to be queen in that house!

    Blessings to you all,
    Meme Jean

  12. My tongue has bled on many occasions. We try very hard to not give advice or compare how things were when our girls were little. I laugh when one of the girls asks me what I did in a situation because I usually can’t remember. We have 4 grandchildren, ages 1-5, I am starting journals this weekend! Barbara, I live in Cville if you ever need someone to talk to:)

  13. Thanks, ladies, for taking the time to comment on my blog. Rena, I’m glad that I’m not the only one with a “bleeding tongue” (What an awful image though!!) Hope the journal writing goes well! Congratulations, Jean, on your new princess granddaughter!!

  14. This is from Margaret Federlin, my 88-year-old mother who is the one who often listened to me while I have figured out my grandparenting role: “Reading this brings back so many memories. And brings tears to my eyes. Sometimes I wish I could live my life all over again.”

  15. Carol,

    Thanks so much for this wonderful post. I need to post it on the refrigerator, near the phone, and in my purse for when I got to visit! And thanks to all of you for your comments. Carol, please give your mom our best. She must be a great mom to raise you!

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