Be the “Fairest in All the Land!”
The thought of becoming a grandparent comes with mixed reactions for people. Yet you have no ability to control whether or not you actually get to (or have to) become a grandparent.
It’s totally out of your control!
For some it’s sheer terror!
For others, it’s just a natural part of the circle of life and they take it in stride.
However, for some, it is pure elation! Often this is coupled with complete impatience until the day arrives when that first grandchild is born.
I’m in that last category. Yep! That was me! I was 38 when my oldest son got married. I didn’t care that I was in my 30’s, I just wanted to be a grandma. The thought of becoming a grandparent meant that I was determined to learn how to be a good grandma – but not just an average one! I wanted to be the “fairest grandma in all the land!”
You see, although I’m one of the lucky people who got to grow up with grandparents close by, it wasn’t exactly the kind of experience that you dream of as a child. My paternal grandmother was elderly and in ill health, and although she lived with us, she could never play with us or take us anywhere – she didn’t even drive. (Come to think of it, I wonder if she ever drove a car??)
My other grandparents on my mom’s side were almost non-existent. I saw them on holidays and the occasional visit in which just the adults talked, and we kids had to entertain ourselves. I was grateful that I was a bookworm from an early age, because we couldn’t touch ANYTHING in my grandparents’ house! If we so much as looked at it with any amount of curiosity, we were certainly going to hear, “Don’t touch that!” from my grandmother. So, I curled up with a good book in a corner and kept my hands to myself.
And. . .I don’t ever remember even getting any cookies!! I felt pretty ripped off!
I won’t even get started with my own parents, but let’s just say that they weren’t really “kid people.”
And the in-laws just lived too far away. They were loving and did visit a couple of times a year. However, they didn’t know how to be awesome long-distance grandparents, and there wasn’t the technology that there is now, but they did their best.
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So, becoming a grandparent was new territory for me. I had no role models except for what I knew I DIDN’T want to be. But. . .that was a start. Remember. . .all I wanted was to be the “fairest grandmother in all the land.” Well. . .there were lots of things to consider before taking my place among the world’s elite grandmothers. Here are the questions that I have been asked the most about becoming a grandparent:
What Are the Best Things About Becoming a Grandparent?
- First off, you get a new name! And if you play your cards right, you get to choose it yourself. Although, once that first little person arrives, they may choose it for you! Ha ha!
- Generally speaking, most grandparents are in a better financial position to where they have a little bit of disposable income for spoiling the grandkids with.
- Speaking of spoiling, you can give them cookies before dinner and let them run wild and then just send them home when they start to throw tantrums. Well. . .maybe you should consider whether or not the parents will let them come back if you do that. However, most parents understand that we spoil the grandkids because we are just old people trying to get into heaven.
- You can have all the fun with the kids without having all the responsibility. You have earned this! Know that while there is still a responsibility to make sure the kids are safe and happy, you can still let your hair down and play with them. Generally, when the kids know that you are truly interested in them, they will love being with you. Give them your time and attention. (Our Littles are often better behaved with us than with their parents. I sometimes wonder if it is because we give them so much of our attention.)
- One of the greatest things about becoming a grandparent is to see your children become parents. Now there are two sides to this. One is that you just can’t wait to see the “curse” in in action. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read our 10 Commandments for Grandparents and pay close attention to Grandparent Commandment #3.)The other side of this is the sweet, wonderful sense of pride as you watch your children with their children. We all know it can be frustrating or difficult at times to raise children. However, there really is a satisfaction to knowing that you started something good and that it will go on.
What Things Should I Talk to MY Children About Before I Become a Grandparent?
Here are a few reasons/suggestions for talking to your children before that first baby arrives:
Communication is a big – maybe the biggest – part of building the relationship with your adult children that will make or break you becoming a grandparent. If you don’t listen to what they want and in turn, communicate what your expectations are, you may find yourself not having to worry about becoming a grandparent. Because chances are they won’t allow you into their children’s lives. Did you know there are whole Facebook groups dedicated to this very subject?
You need to let your children know that you are going to be accepting of them as parents. You can give their self-confidence a shot in the arm if you will let them know up front that you understand that they will need to do things their way. It will go a long way to create a relationship of mutual respect. It’s the #1 commandment for grandparents! Oh, and by the way. . .you can’t just say it. . .you have to MEAN it!
Take it from me! It’s easier to set boundaries before you need them! While it may be a bit uncomfortable at first, you need to talk about the boundaries. Things concerning how often you are welcome to “pop in” and see the baby. What about how much spoiling is too much? And the big one. . .babysitting! Find out what their expectations are. Especially if you have a job, other commitments, or still have other children at home.
While we’re on the subject. . .
Are Grandparents Obligated to Babysit?
After surveying lots and lots of sites, forums and Facebook groups, I’ve decided that this is touchy territory. So I think the best thing I can do with this is pipe in with my own opinion and a few things to think about.
I, personally, don’t feel that anyone should ever feel obligated to anything just because they are related. However, that may be different for your family. While this is going to vary from family to family, here are some things to consider before jumping into a conversation with your kids:
- How often? Full time? Part time? Occasionally?
- Do you have a full time or part time job?
- Are you dependent on that job for steady income?
- Do you work at home?
- Do you have other commitments (community, church, personal)?
- Will you expect/need to get paid?
- How is your health?
- How are your nerves?
- Can you handle being the disciplinarian and not just the “super sappy spoiler”?
If you want to dive a bit deeper into this subject, we talk about using grandparents as babysitters, all the ins and outs, and even a few surprises. (Soon we will post our funny story about why we don’t let our Papa babysit the Littles who are still in diapers when he is by himself. It’s a great story!!)
What Can Grandparents Actually Do for Their Grandchildren?
There was a time, anciently (like when I was a kid), when becoming a grandparent meant that you were more hands off and visited only on holidays and other special occasions. But in more recent years, families are more intermingled than ever. Some families even live together in a multi-generational household. Grandparents are living longer, more healthy lives allowing them to be more involved in their grandchildren’s lives.
- Grandparents can be mentors – there is so much that grandkids can learn from their grandparents like life skills, crafts & hobbies, manners, compassion, and how to relate to older people.
- They can be a source of refuge (if they live close). You know, those times when kids and parents need a break from one another.
- Some grandparents are a grandchild’s biggest fan – everyone on the sidelines knows whose grandma I am! And. . .I always clap loudest at the recitals.
- They can be a port in the storm – sometimes a kid just needs someone to listen who will not judge them.
- Grandparents can be the emergency support system – when a kid needs a ride somewhere, a baby needs tending, or to make cupcakes because mom forgot.
- This grandma is always available as a playmate – I especially like playing board or dice games!
- They can even volunteer their time in a classroom, or with a community or church organization that their grandchild is involved in.
- And of course. . .they should always be good for spoiling and cookies!
What Are the Benefits for Grandparents Who Interact with Their Grandchildren?
There are lots of obvious emotional fuzzy, feel-good benefits. Is there anything better than snuggling a newborn grandbaby? Or cuddling with a toddler to read? Or beaming proudly as your grandchild earns an award in front of his peers?
I don’t know about you, but my grandchildren keep me young. While they definitely keep me young at heart, they also keep me more in shape! This is especially true during our Grandma Camp – Camp NanaPapa. Running after 14 grandkids for 3 or 4 days will test your physical ability like no other!
However, did you know that there are actual studies that claim there may be a connection between grandparents tending grandchildren and having a longer, healthier life?? Who knew? Maybe it’s because of the extra “happy” times and the physical demand that helps grandparents live longer. While the science might be speculative, I’m all for testing the theory!
Don’t Worry About Becoming a Grandparent!
If you’re worried about be a good grandparent, don’t be! Rest assured that there are many who have gone through this before. Grandmas and grandpas are the nicest people to get advice from about becoming a grandparent. Most of them will beam with pride as they brag about having the cutest, sweetest, smartest, most talented, grandchildren in the whole world. . .regardless if it’s the truth or not!
Of course, here in NanaLand, we are always happy to share our experiences! And, of course, teach you how to become the “fairest grandparent in all the land.”
Cookies & Milk for Everyone!