Moving From Motherhood to Grandma-hood
Becoming a Grandma that your grandkids AND your children love
Let me introduce you to the first two children who've made me "grandma." Since this picture was taken, two little cousins have joined them, and even though their name for me is "Hada," these four little ones are the reason I want to be the best grandma on the earth. I want them to become the best they can be, and I want to do my part to set them on the road to that goal. This picture is at least 6 years old, so they don't look like this anymore. Neither looks like a baby, they both can read and do basic math already! Time has flown, and I expect it won't slow down any as they move through their elementary years.
Most of what you'll read below are things I've learned from my mother and mother-in-law as well as my own grandparents. Some comes from just paying attention to other mothers whose well meaning parents and in-laws made mothering tougher than it needed to be. There's so much information, opinions and philosophies out there about parenting, but grandparents are kind of on their own. The information on how to make the transition from mom to grandma seems a bit scarce.
I'm just starting into this phase of my life, so I obviously don't have all the answers. Below you'll see a place to add your tips or, if you're a mom, add a brief tidbit to help grandmas know the kinds of things that are wonderful or less than helpful. Stop back often as I work to build this over the next few months.
I Know, we're Grandparent's, It's our Job!
This is a really difficult concept. So many grandparents really think that's their primary job, to spoil their grandkids. But when we spend too much time spoiling, it makes it more difficult on our kids.
We can love our grandchildren and even treat them "different" than their parents do without spoiling them. I was blessed to have excellent role models in the grandparenting arena. My own grandparents never let me break the rules my parent's set, yet at the same time I always felt as though there was something magic about Grandma's house. I generally stayed up past my bedtime and ate brown sugar sandwiches. Grandma used to put my milk for my cereal in my own private tiny pitcher so I could add it to my cereal myself. Plus one Grandma always had cookies, and the other always had pies!
In my own grandchildren's lives, they often pick a movie and bring it with them. We'll all get on the couch together and eat popcorn while we watch. One of the main differences between home and grandma's house is that unless it's an unplanned visit, I can stop everything I'm doing to play and spend time with them. Mom obviously doesn't have that luxury 24 hours a day.
I also find that I have more patience with my grandchildren than I did my own children. I know my mom has said that often about her grandchildren. I think it's because we know that our care of these wee ones we love is limited. We know they'll be going home soon, so it's easier to be patient for the short time they are around.
I believe the key to helping raise productive children is to teaching them to love Christ, and grandparents can play a HUGE part in this endeavor. My own grandmother had the greatest influence over my faith even though she went to be with Christ when I was 16. As a grandparent, just the fact I enjoy going to church and make it seem as though I'd never miss it (because I wouldn't want to), is a tremendous witness to my grandkids. They want to do what I do!
As grandparents, it's our job to help raise our grandkids into productive adults without undermining what our children are trying to do. Spoiling can be that undermining action. So let's be excellent grandparents, fun, spontaneous and the kind who don't spoil!
(PS - I uploaded that picture of my granddaughter from her 1st dance recital - she was only 2! I know that's a hard face not to spoil, but believe me, her personality with a little too much spoiling would have been a disaster! She looks almost too grown up in her dance pictures now and because she's loved, but not spoiled, she's becoming a beautiful little lady)
Do be Supportive
Your kids will need your help!
Sometimes supporting our children can be difficult. We won't always agree with all of their parenting techniques; however, unless they are being abusive or negligent, it's our job to be behind them! My own mother and mother-in-law helped me out so much this way.
When your grandchildren are grounded or being disciplined for any reason, show support. If you feel the need to voice your opinion, do so when the young ones are out of earshot so they learn to respect their parents. It's so tempting to correct your own children or offer consolment to your grandchildren when they're crying or look sad. Often we'd like to intervene, we feel a need to rescue our grandkids, or sometimes, if it's been hard to let our own children grow up, discipline our adult children. But if we want our grandchildren to grow up to respect their own parents, none of these can be an option.
Likewise, if our children say "no" to any kinds of gifts, toys, candy, etc., it's our job to respect that. Buying them that gift that their parent said they had to work for or be older to get will undermine their authority and cause all kinds of stress. When we do that we're also setting ourselves up to be "played" as they get older. I've seen teen grandchildren "use" their grandparents terribly, but it's almost always those grandparents who've demonstrated that there is no need to respect parents. The grandkids eventually come to the assumption that it's not necessary to respect any adults, so the grandparents get abused too.
On the other hand, if we see our grandchildren being abused, physically, verbally, sexually or emotionally, not only can we step in, but we should feel obligated to do so. Don't hesitate to rescue your grandchildren if necessary. And if anyone accuses another person in their family of abuse or shares a situation that sounds like abuse, don't blow it off because it "can't happen in your family." Even (and especially) if it's your own child who may be the abuser, take time to investigate the possibility with an open mind. Don't ever let pride or denial keep you from doing what's best for your grandchildren.
Another form of support can be keeping the grandkids from time to time. Whether it's babysitting because we've been asked or the grandkids spending the night because it's fun night at grandma's, giving your children a break, a night out or a relaxing weekend can be a tremendous amount of support. One of the greatest gifts my in-laws gave my husband and I was keeping the girls two Summers in a row five days a week at the campground with them. I was forced to go back to work because of my husband's layoff at the steel mill. He and I both had to work jobs that paid less to make ends meet. We were preparing to hire a sitter for the Summer when Mom and Dad came to the rescue and volunteered to keep the girls from Sunday night through Friday evening every week all Summer. It was a relief to know they'd be well cared for and it wouldn't cost anything.
I do have a word of caution about childcare, however. Don't feel guilty if your children CHOOSE to have careers, and you'd rather not raise your grandchildren. I've seen folks have their grandkids from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 52 weeks a year from the time the baby is six weeks old until he goes to Kindergarten. Should a family like this have three children two years apart, this could mean nine years of permanent childcare duties for a grandparent, plus picking the kids up after school and watching them for another nine. If you LOVE to do this, then great, go for it. But, if you have a life, a job or just prefer to not be your grandchildren's primary caretaker, you shouldn't feel guilty if you can't or don't want to have this responsibility. We never dreamt Steve's parents would be so generous as to offer to watch the girls around the clock for three months out of the year. We're blessed that they did, but to expect it of them would have been disrespectful and rude. Grandparents should feel free to set their own boundaries and rules and not allow themselves to be taken advantage of and walked on. I am particularly blessed to be able to keep my grandchildren about once or twice a week, let them spend the night once a month or so and get them from school one or two days a week as needed. I'm also free to say, "no" when it's inconvenient and no one gets upset with me. I hope you find yourselves as blessed!
Remember that your way is not the RIGHT way
and Your Child's way is NOT the WRONG way
Recently I heard a brand new grandmother telling others about her daughter's parenting techniques. She used the phrase, "she's only doing a few little things wrong." While this grandma is at least 10 years my senior, I really wanted to ask her what, exactly, her daughter was doing wrong. Was she holding the baby upside down by his foot? Perhaps she'd left him alone while she went to the grocery store.
In my opinion, as long as child services doesn't need called in because a parent is abusive or neglectful, it's not wrong! Your child may not parent like you do, like I do or even the way your grandmother did, but I believe there are as many parenting techniques and ideas as there are children and mothers, and none of those techniques are any better or worse than the other.
The stuff you read on this page and my parenting tips page is my opinion. It's not necessarily the RIGHT way to do it. These tips are just things that have worked for me and those who've gone before me. I figure if they can help someone along the way, why not share them.
Bottom line, if your child loves your grandchildren and is teaching them to respect themselves and others even from infancy, it can never be wrong. Clothing options, cleaning styles, feeding schedules, toilet training, tooth fairy guidelines and appropriate gifts are all a matter of preference. There is no right or wrong.
As a grandparent, it's my job to give advice from time to time. If it's heeded, I consider it a compliment. if not, that's OK too. One of the most important lessons a grandparent has to learn is that we don't know it all. Give your children permission, by your encouragement, to parent in their own way. Every time you say, "I would do it this way," you undermine them and make them feel as though they don't know what they are doing. It's perfectly acceptable to withhold unsolicited advice.
Most of all, pray over your grandchild, ask your Heavenly Father, the only Perfect Parent, to help your child raise your grandchild. He knows every little idiosyncrasy, every small detail that makes your grandchild who she is. He is that Parent who can give perfect advice, and the One who loves you, your child and your grandchild the most. Hopefully, you've lived such a Christ centered existence that your own child WANTS to raise his or her child up to be like Christ. And if you and your child truly trust in Him, there is no way any of you can mess it up so bad He can't make something beautiful out of it! (Romans 8:28)
Get this book for your grandchild's mother - Devotions for Moms
Your children will not use all the child-rearing techniques you used. You may not even approve of all their parenting strategies. Hopefully, they learned a bit from you, the bad as well as the good. As parents, we didn't always do things right. The best thing that can happen is that our children learn from our mistakes. Part of our grandparenting may need to include admitting to ourselves that our parenting choices are not the only correct ones.
The merging of two families will also provide opportunities for your children to discover different traditions and modes of discipline. As grandparents one of the hardest jobs we'll have is to not judge our children or her in-laws because they don't do things exactly the same way we do. Give your children permission and room to make their own mistakes without fear of hearing, "I told you so."
And never forget that your actions, every thing you do, teaches your grandchild a lesson of some sort. You can teach them to be judgemental and disrespectful. Or you can demonstrate an attitude of respect and care. Our grandchildren will often love to imitate us. Be someone worth imitating.
Your Grandchidren AND Your Children
This seems so obvious; however, we may need to learn about true love in order to really carry this out. Love is not merely saying the words and giving the hugs, and no matter what the movie "Love Story" said, sometimes Love means you DO have to say you're sorry!
According to 1 Corinthians 13, love means that you are patient and kind. You won't place unrealistic expectations on your children or your grandchildren. A patient and kind love will always listen first and speak honestly, but with words selected carefully. Love also means that you are never self-seeking or easily angered. That means you'll never pout when you don't get your own way or use you grandchildren to manipulate your children or their spouse. It also means that you won't take it personally when your kids are making a life of their own and have their own friends. As a grandmother, if I would buy gifts for my grandchildren that my daughters didn't approve, that would be self-seeking.
If you aren't really that good at showing love, I encourage you to read Dr. Gary Chapman's book, "The Five Love Languages." Dr. Chapman does a tremendous job of teaching us how to love in real and tangible ways that will help our children and grandchildren feel loved more than ever before.
Of all the things you do for your children and grandchildren, love will be the most effective and appreciated. A child can never have too much love!