It is a grand moment when you learn you are going to be a grand parent. Hopefully this is good news, but sometimes the circumstances make it a difficult moment to celebrate. However, for most of us this news of pending grandparenthood is very emotional and thrilling.
I remember the first time we heard this news. Our daughter and son-in-law came by to give us our Valentine- one for grandpa and grandma! We were stunned, thrilled, pleased, and momentarily shocked. We were going to be grandparents- we just looked at each other with huge smiles and some tears. Immediately I went to my daughter to hug her and ask how she was feeling- my baby was going to have a baby! A grand moment! Amazingly my other daughter surprised us just two months later with a gift of two baby picture frames- one for both grandchildren- another due in November! We were overflowing with joy and gratitude! We wanted the whole world to know and I am sure we bored our very patient and loving friends with this happy news.
So now what do you do? You’re going to be grandparents but still have many months to wait for the blessed event. What can grandparents do to prepare for grandchildren? Do we need special training? Being the organizer I am, I really took this time seriously and had a lot of fun being creative in the planning. Now that I have nine grandchildren, each as special as the first one, I have a few suggestions for how to make this waiting time fun, meaningful, and productive.
When a new life in the family is being formed it is a unique time to consider your family relationships and the heritage of this child. Family relationships do not occur in isolation, but are imbedded within a family system. A 2003 study by Mueller and Elder on “Family Contingencies Across the Generations” found grandparent involvement contingent upon their relationship with their own grandparents, and nuances in the relationship with their own children as they become parents. It is important at this time to strive for strengthening family bonds, clearing up strained relationships, asking forgiveness, and communicating on a positive level. Establishing a healthy relationship with your own children will do nothing but benefit a future relationship with their children, your grandchildren! Do what is needed, as much as possible, to make peace in your family or get the help necessary to achieve it. So a good step in preparation is to establish family bonds and a legacy that will bless the new life that will be added to your family.
We began thinking about what we would be called? For me, I loved my maternal grandmother and preferred to call her grandma. My fraternal grandmother was a fine woman, but more distant to me and she remained grandmother. So, I was hoping to be called grandma. However, there would be two sets of grandparents, so now is the time to talk about this issue, if it is important to you.
Now that I have become a grandmother nine precious times, I would like to share with you some things I enjoyed doing to prepare for these new lives. Perhaps these ideas might inspire you during your grandparent-waiting period.
- Being a child development teacher I am very aware of life that is forming prenatally. I was already attached to this beginning life and wanted its reality to be tangible. So I copied a prenatal chart that illustrates each month of growth and put it on my kitchen wall. I used a post-it note that said Grandbaby #1 and moved it along as the baby grew and then added Grandbaby #2. My guests and students enjoyed watching this progression and I took a picture of it for the baby’s scrapbook.
- Part of becoming a grandparent is realizing that your own child is going to be a parent. I became nostalgic about their early lives and wondered if their child would be like them. So I put together a scrapbook of the expectant parent’s young life to tell my grandchild their story. I selected pictures that highlighted my child’s life and interests and wrote it for my grandbaby commenting that I wondered if it will be like mommy or daddy.
- As I was becoming attached to this unborn baby I thought it would be fun to write it a letter. So, before each grandchild was born I wrote a letter telling how excited we were to have him/her join the family and the preparations being made. I described their parents, how mommy was looking, how the siblings were preparing for them, and what the nursery was looking like. However, I also told the baby something special about its unique position in the family, how I was praying for the special life God had planned for it, and that I was looking forward to watching it grow and seeing what gifts God would grant him/her.
- Naturally we were eager to start buying things for the child. I find it important to communicate with the expectant parents about their needs and desires before going too far with purchasing. I enjoyed shopping for a maternity outfit with them and also selecting a crib of their choice as our main purchase, which would last for all the children they would have. I enjoyed making a quilt that matched the selected color scheme. For the second child I might buy a double stroller or make a quilt for the older child as he/she moves into a big bed.
Amazingly, God can use this waiting period creatively for grandparents. In the next article, I will suggest some practical ways to prepare for your role at the birth of your grandchild.
Susan Giboney, MA, CFLE, a Pepperdine University Professor, has over 20 years of experience teaching in college and church settings. In addition to her teaching experience, she is a certified family life educator, and she and her late husband wrote course material and taught marriage and parenting seminars around the nation and in foreign countries. As a couple, they also wrote class study guides for premarital courses which they taught together and Susan continues to teach. Susan is a popular teacher for women’s seminars and retreats, parent groups, and premarital classes. She also authors articles on family issues.