With the aging of our population, most of us can expect to be grandparents and even great-grand parents. Our health may be better than our own grandparents, and we will have the opportunity to play a significant and influential role in the lives of our grandchildren. There are books on how to be a grandparent, but little material on how to prepare for this role. In the previous article, practical ideas were suggested on how to start a legacy and a relationship for the pending grandchild. Now we will move closer to the birth.
As the time for the birth of a grandchild approaches, it was important to communicate with the expectant parents their desires and needs. Some might want you in the birthing room, some won’t, some want you to help at their home after the birth and some won’t. Respect their wishes and do not have your own personal agenda- they are the main players in this drama. Be a welcome help and not an unwelcome intrusion. Remember that birthing procedures and methods change, so be ready to be flexible. As you prepare for your role during and after the birth, you might consider:
- Getting a map to the hospital, a list of who to call and the phone numbers, and having the camera and camcorder ready and loaded with film
- If you are going to stay with them, have your bags packed and clear your schedule as much as possible. I also liked to tuck in my favorite recipes and some non-perishable food ingredients.
- If it is not the first child, be sure to take something to do with the other children. They will need your attention most of all.
- Remember that your role is to be a support and encouragement to the new parents. It is good to allow them to enjoy focused time on the new baby and let them be the parent, not you. Your role is to keep the home, food, laundry, and activities running smoothly so the new parents can rest as much as possible and bond with the baby. Respond only when asked for advise and be a source of unconditional love and faith in their ability to be parents. Have a resilient spirit. If this is not the first child, your greatest value will be in loving and entertaining the older children.
- This is a good time to start journaling about this child’s life. I have nine separate journals, one for each grandchild, and periodically I write things the grandchildren have said or done or about events we have experienced together. Sometimes I have the children draw or write in them so their development will be recorded. Hopefully these journals will be a source of fun memories and delight when the grand children are older.
- I keep a prayer list on which I add each developing new life. This entry continues to focus me prayerfully on their developing lives and that of their future mates.
During the first year of the new grandchild’s life my husband started an IRA account as a savings for future education. I have enjoyed keeping that tradition since he died. There may be other creative ways you can help insure the child’s future. My children gave me a grandmother necklace with charms for each grand child, and that very full necklace is a treasure.
For some, becoming a grandparent may be stressful or not in the way desired. Special situations of single parenting, illness, fragmented relationships, or distance may dampen the joy. God will grant courage, wisdom, and love beyond what was thought possible in these special circumstances. A grand child is a new life, a new beginning, a new hope. Some have found good friends, wise elders, and helpful resources to gather the needed approach to the pending event.
Enjoy this magical time and anticipate all the delightful years ahead as a grand parent. There is nothing quite so special as driving up to your grandchild’s home and have them run out and say, “Yeah, grandma is here!” You feel like a celebrity – and to them you are!
(Read Part I here.)
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.