active and meaningful grandparenting

Maggie’s Story: Reflections on Becoming a Grandparent

“The miracle of birth; a blank slate; unconditional love; the
projection of my own needs; the giving response to helplessness;
smooth, soft, warm, cuddly skin; the reflexive finger grasp;
the thrill of the first smile, the first of many firsts; an
endorphin rush.”

I had heard from other friends who had already been there that
the pleasure of grandparenting was the only activity that was
not overly exaggerated. So I was looking forward to it with
great glee, yet also with some trepidation. I didn’t really
know what to expect – from the baby, from our children, from my
husband, from our co-grandparents or even from myself in this
new situation.

Initially, I tried to do what I was used to doing – researching,
organizing, planning. This helped a little, but I realized that
I would also need to just “be,” to relax and let things take
their own course. After awhile it was liberating not to feel
the need to be in control at all times. I could just enjoy the
experience without preconceived expectations about what would
happen next.

However, I cannot deny the ambivalent feelings at this time in
my life. I find myself wanting to be available to help my
children. Yet it is also crucial for me to continue to pursue
my own personal interests. Balancing these needs is not always
easy. I want to have it all – my work, my exercise, my social
life – as well as a close relationship with my grandchild.

I am amazed by the changes that have taken place in the
relationship with my children since the baby was born. When
they were first married, I understood their need to bond with
each other, but I often felt neglected. Now that they are
parents themselves and use my help, I am more included. There
is a new mutual respect between us and we work to keep it growing.

I try hard not to interfere in how they are parenting, but I
must admit that I am not always successful. I want to jump in,
to say too much, to give advice, to share the “wisdom” of my
experience. When I am able to hold back, then I truly notice
how naturally and competently my children love and care for my


Stepping Stones to Meaningful Gandparenting

ENJOY THE PROCESS. Don’t worry about the old image of
“grandmother” – you don’t have to be defined by it. You can
add to your image of yourself without subtracting all that you
have gained over the years. Allow yourself to accept and take
pleasure in the insight that you gain about yourself and your

RESPECT YOUR CHILDREN. You have spend years raising your
sons and daughters; now allow them to raise their own children.
Things have changed since you raised them – new theories of
child-rearing, new equipment, new techniques. Don’t assume
that just because you did things in a certain way that that
way is still considered to be the best way. You may see your
relationship with your children changing as you see them in a
new light.

DON’T OFFER ADVICE UNLESS ASKED. You don’t have to say
everything that you are thinking. If you are asked for your
opinion or advice, present it in such a way that your children
are free to accept or reject it as they choose. Remember how
you felt when your mother or mother-in-law was giving advice
on how to raise your children.

BE AWARE OF YOUR FEELINGS. Initially, since it may have
been a long time since you cared for an infant, you may feel
anxious about your abilities. Later, you may feel ambivalent
about being asked to care for your grandchild. Choose for
yourself a balance between your own personal needs and the
responsibilities of your new grandparenting role. It is
important to set limits that work for you.

BE HELPFUL. Think ahead about ways that you can help your
children and offer to do them even if they are not your first
choice – running errands, doing a middle of the night feeding,
babysitting early on a weekend morning. You will feel closer
to your grandchild after putting in the effort and your
children will be more relaxed without having to do the extra

communicate with your children in a non-confrontational way.
You will all appreciate your relationship more if you do not
let issues fester. However, don’t expect that the results of
your talk will follow a pre-determined path. Often the fact
that there is discussion is more important than the outcome of
any one particular discussion.

living in the same city, use all of the tactile senses to begin
to maintain a relationship with your grandchild. Use a special
song that you always sing while holding him; have a special book
that you always read to her; wear the same perfume when you
visit; have your child hold the telephone up to your grandchild’s
ear so that he can hear your voice; send pictures or videos of
you and your grandchild so that she can “see” you often; give
him a special soft animal or toy that can remind him of you.
As they get older, continue these and add new rituals.


Recommended Resources: Websites and Books to Explore

This comprehensive website provides the opportunity to both
learn about and discuss issues relative to being a grandparent.
You may participate in message boards and chat rooms on the site.
There are columns and articles covering subjects from health
and safety to finance and communication. You can come away with
ideas about how to enrich your relationship with your
grandchildren through games, hobbies and other activities. If
you are not showing enough pictures of your grandchildren, you
can even enter a photo contest!

On the American Association for Retired Persons’ website, you
can search “grandparents” and access numerous articles published
in association with their Grandparent Information Center. Some
of the topics include how to relate to grandchildren through
reading, travel and sharing family history. Other articles
focus on tips to improve the physical, relational and mental
health of your grandchildren. The results of the 2001
grandparent survey, published in the AARP Bulletin, contains
statistics and other pertinent information you may find helpful.

“The Nanas and the Papas: A Boomer’s Guide to Grandparenting”
by Kathryn and Allan Zullo

This husband and wife team consulted leading experts in
childcare, parenting and grandparenting on issues concerning
first time grandparents. They gained further information and
insight through personal interviews. The result is this book,
full of good sense, for the modern day healthier and more
active grandparent.


Our Invitation to You

Do you have your own transition story? We invite you to
share it with our readers for the benefit of women who
themselves may be dealing with similar changes. The skills you
used may be Stepping Stones for others. If you are interested,
please e-mail us.

(c) HerMentorCenter, 2001