That new baby is here and we get to love her up! Great, but that’s just part of it. The parents hold all the cards and there may be new rules to the game since our own babies were born.
1. We could love that new baby tirelessly but we must remember that he or she is not ours. While that makes perfect sense, for some reason it sometimes comes as a shock to grandparents– especially with new parents who are young and inexperienced. For grandparents who are accustomed to being in charge, deferring to the rules and wishes of their children can be humbling. After all, they reason, we’ve raised our own children and feel like veterans in the child-rearing game.
2. Even when there is a lack of parenting books around the house, new parents have no problem finding all the information they need.
3. Sometimes less said is better, even if you are an expert in childcare. We should let new parents discover things that they assume we do not know. Not all advice and wisdom is appreciated, unless directly solicited. At the same time, not all traditional advice is good. For example, past generations of parents have rubbed baby’s sore gums with brandy or whiskey to soother teething pain. No amount of alcohol is thought to be safe for infants, so resist any urge you may have to follow in that tradition. Another example is car seat safety; Baby Boomers mostly rode without benefit of seatbelt restraint!
4. Fellow grandparents, despite all of your experience you will still be told how to hold a baby, burp her, swaddle, and have tummy time. The names have changed but not the methods. Of course we all know you never put a newborn on her stomach but watch out, it may take a while to secure a new parent’s trust. Don’t take it personally.
5. With the wealth of childrearing information online, most new parents are up to speed — and beyond — but we grandparents may not be. Scan through catalogs and magazines for baby items to familiarize yourself with new products and their functions. Boppies, sound machines, plastic grass trays that you stand baby bottles up in. There’s a lot of cool new gear, but we do pick up quickly.
6. Now may be the time for grandparents to get a life. Some new parents become overly dependent on their parents for babysitting, providing meals, or financial support. Conversely, grandparents can become immersed in the young family’s day-to-day life, putting their own desires on the back burner. Here is when grandparents need to take a step back. “Boundaries” is not a dirty word. It’s good to have your own life and let them figure out theirs.
7. Let go of all expectations. Many grandparents are heartbroken when their children and grandchildren move out of their first apartment and out of state or (gasp!) out of the country. Remember, it is your children’s story and they get to write it. It may not be the way you wanted things to go, but once you let go of your own agenda, you will realize that in today’s world of technology and transportation, no distance could break the bonds of love between grandparents and grandchildren.
8. Lastly, Rudolph Giuliani put it best, “What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, and lessons in life. And, most importantly, cookies.”
By Staten Islander Marianna Randazzo, author, educator, and grandmother.