Eighteen short years ago, I learned that I would have a new title in this life. Twelve grandchildren later, I have become very fond of my name of endearment, Grandma . With this phase of my life have come several motivating challenges for which I am grateful. I have endeavored to be the best grandmother I know how, and in the process, have found that there are times when I need to speak up and times when I need to be quiet. There is an art to being a grandmother that involves knowing when to stop the spoiling and when to start the disciplining.
Grandparents are generally well known for their spoiling abilities, but it can cause deep troubles with their parents. I enjoy teaching my grandbabies how to handle a mouse and a computer when they are barely old enough to talk. The problem with that, I have come to realize, is that whenever they are with me, they think we should just play computer games together. Their parents won’t even allow them to touch their computer because they know their children will monopolize it. So, I have discovered that in order to develop a special bond with my grandchildren I should spend our time together reading, singing, playing outside and also offer other educational and fun things to do.
Spoiling the grandchildren can also be hazardous. An example is the time when I thought I was ready to take care of my oldest grandson for an extended period of time – almost a month. Since he has three other siblings, I usually don’t get enough one-on-one time with him. We had many happy times together, but the poor child nearly starved to death because I didn’t force him to eat all of hisfood. He would find every clever little excuse not to eat what I gave him, especially food that was good for him. He was used to his parents forcing him to eat everything on his plate. I felt very guilty handing him back to his parents a few pounds thinner than when he arrived. I decided after that experience not to take any child for more than a week until they have developed a very healthy eating habit without coercion.
It is universally known that Grandma’s house is the place to get candy or treats. I usually keep a stash on hand to reward little acts of kindness or thoughtful words by the grandchildren. Bribery with goodies is also a very useful tool when a job needs to get done. However, this action gives a bit too much added pressure on the parents, because they don’t have the means to reward or bribe them constantly, or the money for the dental bills resulting from overindulgence.
I started lavishing gifts for every holiday, birthday, Christmas, and sometimes for no reason at all on the first grandchild. Now that I have twelve young ones to worry about, this seems like a never-ending challenge as well as being quite expensive. The older ones compare their gifts from Grandma with the others, and will ask me why I prefer the one grandchild to the other. I have found that occasional telephone conversations with those that are far away help out the situation.
Discipline should ultimately be done by the parents of my grandchildren, but it is my duty to uphold the rules they have already set and support their family goals. When I am with my grandchildren, I try to be patient and loving, but must get firm when they get out of line. It is important that I am cheerful and optimistic, demonstrating by the way I live that “life is good,” but that we also need order, discipline and respect for others to be successful.
This new phase of my life has brought many challenges I didn’t expect. Being a loving grandparent does not necessarily mean merely spoiling the child. It involves a strategy for teaching, supporting, comforting, supplementing, and advising when asked. For me to positively influence these precious little ones, I must learn the basic principles of being a grandparent. I would hope that in the next few years my relationship with my grandchildren would grow. What I do and say will have a great impact on my grandchildren and influence our relationship for many years to come.