Open Letter To New Grandparents

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Some extraordinary advice for new grandparents by Rose Paddick, a very experienced GRANDmom. 

Dear New Grandparents,

Welcome…Welcome…Welcome…to the most wonderful club in the universe!

Whether you’re Grammy, Poppi, Nana, Gigi or have chosen your very own special name – with just the simple act of entering your world this new addition or additions have forever changed your very soul. I thank The One Above every day for blessing me with 19 amazing second generation additions to my soul. I still can’t believe how incredibly lucky my husband and I are.

Grandchildren are indeed your second chance to enjoy the perfection of each rose …this time without the thorns.

If you are of my vintage it may take a little while to figure out caring for babies has changed drastically in the years since our equipment has been discontinued.

We were “With Child”. Modern ladies are pregnant.

new grandparentsWe wore blouses gathered under our breast and flared out like a circus tent lest anyone see our bulging belly, even in silhouette. Modern ladies wear stretch shirts that accentuate the beach ball sitting in their laps.

We boiled everything…water for formula…glass bottles…nipples…feeding spoons. Modern mothers use bottled water for formula and put everything else in the dishwasher.

We mixed 16 ounces of the boiled water with 13 ounces of canned milk with two ounces of clear corn syrup, and poured it into the boiled glass bottles, Modern mothers take the plastic bottles and nipples out of the dishwasher, pour in 6 ounces of bottled water, 2 scoops of powder and dad feeds the baby.

Diapers were held together with pins and covered with plastic pants. They had to be changed at least hourly during waking hours. They were rinsed and stored in diaper pails in a bleach solution. They were washed in more bleach-rinsed twice to get rid of all that bleach- rinsed again with fabric softener-hung on the clothes line to dry.  Modern diapers come complete with tape or Velcro, only need changing every couple of hours, are twisted in plastic and thrown away.

Most of the changes are wonderful, due to better prenatal care babies are healthier now than ever before – dads are much more involved in the baby – both parents have more time and energy to just enjoy the baby and each other.

But some things will never change; it still takes 35 pounds of stuff to transport a six pound baby from home to the grocery store.

Moms the world over still pace for hours with colicky babies, have a zombie-like appearance and stains on the shoulders of good blouses.

new grandparentBabies smile and coo right up to the moment they are being shown off, at which time they begin a three hour non-stop scream fest.

But most the most important thing that will never change…Grandparents love.

Doctors say even before birth babies are able to recognize familiar voices and they begin recognizing faces almost at birth, this gives grandparents a wide spoiling window.

It may take a little while but you will soon learn it’s OK to enjoy the time spent holding and rocking a colicky infant to give mom a little break without feeling guilty because you will be getting a full nights sleep later. Staring into the unblinking-seemingly all knowing eyes of a newborn while nourishing his body with a warm bottle was even more indescribably wondrous to my grandmother heart as it was when the infant was mine. I usually took this opportunity to regale the child with tales of how much fun we would be having as we go through this life together, this seemed to help the baby connect my voice with my face…and with fun a little later.

Welcoming a new grandchild not of your gene pool is every bit as awesome. We became the proud grandparents of a beautiful ten year old who we began to spoil the moment she shyly ventured into our large boisterous family during a holiday dinner. Since her biological grandmother was very ill at the time and subsequently passed away I was honored to become a sort-of surrogate. This girl has blossomed into one of the most wonderful college students I have ever had the pleasure of hugging. I believe that hugging is the key to reaching straight to any childs heart.

If you have the good fortune to live close enough to your grandchildren to watch as they grow please take every opportunity to spend time with them. Unfortunately most grandparents are employed now-a-days, but the times I was able to take a half day off work to ‘kidnap’ a grandchild from daycare and treat them to ice cream have become some of the most memorable hours…to myself, the child and to the mother…for varied reasons concerning the ice cream before dinner.

Allow me to explain my actions, my husband and I have five children, four of them being girls…We survived five teenagehoods, this included five gamuts of wails-tears-and broken bones… Having done that I now believe that grandparents have certain responsibilities…that grandchildren are your reward for not throttling your teenagers…and that vengeance may not be ours, but there are times when retribution makes my world go around…And I am having a wonderful time living my beliefs.

Having grandchildren ranging from crawling to college affords me many opportunities to put those beliefs into action. As you become more comfortable with the role of grandparent you will carve your own path in your grandchildren’s lives, allow me to share a few of my better days just to get you started on the right path.

When our children were young we counted every gram of sugar and caffeine that entered their little bodies. I made sure they had as many of the seven food groups as I could put in their mouth, scrape off their chin, put in their mouth, scrape off their chin, Etc. Etc. I also dealt with a grandparent who gave them sips of her iced tea with sugar at bedtime and ice cream for breakfast. So I’m just passing on a family tradition, albeit enjoying it more.

To keep peace in the family I have become quite good at covert feeding. A half spoonful of vanilla pudding quickly pushed into an appreciative baby mouth while mom’s head is turned is easier to get away with than the same amount of blue birthday cake frosting.

The child’s age is also a factor. I can share a spoonful of cake, a bit of ice cream, and a few sips of soda with a nine month old and all his mom will see is a “ Hi mom I love you “ smile from both of us, the appearance of innocents reigns.

A six-month-old is still in the tattletale stage. A bit of blue frosting will somehow double in the few seconds it spends inside his mouth, dribble down his chin, slime his little fist, which somehow always finds it’s way to Grammy’s hair, and drips onto his new shoes, all in the couple of seconds it takes for his mother to glance over and catch us.

At which time I declare I have no idea how the child was able to reach far enough to grab my cake and escape by rushing out of the room to clean the childs face.

You may begin to notice more and more similarities recently between the recently mobile grandchild and yourself.

I have found the moment the child discovers those two things his mother keeps forcing shoes on have the power to transport him – is the last moment they crawl. One minor problem being many times they take longer steps on one side than the other, causing thier chubby little legs to carry them in wide arcs. They look just a little surprised about where they end up, rarely in the place they were aiming for.

I can commiserate, many times a day I find myself in places and have absolutely no idea why I am there.

It comes as no surprise when they find themselves in an unplanned area they grab the first thing not nailed down and pop it into their mouth.

It also comes as no surprise most of my “Why the heck did I come in here?” moments end in the kitchen and I pop anything that is not nailed down in my mouth.

I think the most striking similarity is the way we both react to a big wide smile and snuggly hug. We both smile bigger and snuggle closer, especially if we are smiling and hugging each other.

That is the absolute best place for anyone to end up, no matter where you were aiming for, or how you got there.

I love going to my grandchildren’s sports events…The enjoyment is intensified by the fact that this time around I was not the one picking them up at school-taking them to practice-taking them home-bathing-dinner-homework…All I have to do is go to the game and cheer…and try not to get in trouble.

When one of my special little guys veered off line to bring me a flower during a soccer game recently he was followed closely by an overly excited Shrek look-alike in a coaches shirt.

Just as my little guy reached me – the ogre reached him, I saw one massive paw stretch toward a little shoulder and instinct kicked in.

I realized my little guy had darted behind me when I heard an awed “Awwriiiight Grammy!”

I found out how much trouble a Grammy can get into for shin kicking, BUT I went to the “time-out seat” with my head held high, clutching a slightly bedraggled Black-Eye Susan, basking in the admiration of a group of two-foot-tall Munchkins in uniform.

Sometimes we have to be a little inventive in our approach to making memories. A few months ago I accompanied my daughter and her family to a theme park so I could help keep my grandson ‘reined in’ while mom and dad had a few moments to enjoy the park sans “Can we?” and “I want”.

The weather was beautiful, the park beautiful, Mom and Dad wandering ahead a few yards…beautiful!

A contest to see who could hop on one foot the longest while holding hands (I won) led to a contest to see who could hop on one foot the longest without holding hands (he won). I was able to stay on tip-toe longer, but he could walk backwards with his eyes crossed the longest. All of the above done in spurts while the adults (Mom and Dad) were otherwise occupied.

My daughter will someday forget there’s a picture floating around of her bending over the dolphin tank, but I sure hope he and I don’t ever forget taking it.

New grandparentsOne of the absolute best perks of being a grandparent is sleepovers.

Allowing the wee ones to stay up as later than “Anyone else in the whole world!” guarantees late mornings…sometimes.  Slipping quietly into the back yard in bare feet to wiggle toes in damp grass and listen to the sounds of the night is magical.

Breakfast is also a wonderful privilege. Granting a wish of “Chocolate Everything!” is so gratifying it’s almost worth the explanation to parents later.

Chocolate chip pancakes, (Made with milk and eggs…that’s healthy isn’t it?) Maple syrup and chocolate milk is great sleepover fare.

Spending the morning in deep conversation, “Do you think the blobby thing on the Sponge Bob show is a plankton or a jelly fish?” (Must be a jelly fish-I’ve never seen plankton wear blue shorts.) One of my more shining moments (I think) came when my grandson exclaimed “Tommy said he has the bestus Gramma but I told him MY Grammy is the bestus…You’re bigger than his and your face is crinklier than his Grammas!”

Remember each child is their own individual and watching each personality emerge is made more fascinating viewed from a grandparent perspective.

I admit it’s a tad difficult to just watch from the sidelines without trying to coax grandchildren one way or another, but for the most part I quietly cross my fingers… and mentally try to steer them in the right direction…I have been rewarded many times over.

Twin granddaughters changed their majors almost monthly while in college, but knowing they each settled on a vocation that will be enriching the lives of others who are in the midst of life changing emergencies pops the buttons off this old Grammy’s shirt

I have a grandson who is the offspring of wonderfully musically talented parents but showed absolutely no interest in music until his 11th birthday then took off like a rocket. I unashamedly bawl like a baby every time I watch him coax the voices of angels from his violin. This also triggered his siblings who are each mastering their own instruments. I have a feeling I’ll be tearing a lot in the years to come.

I have many other success stories but I think you get the gist…

Remembering how much I appreciated an evening out once in a while when my children were little I try to make it a point to offer to sit whenever needed. As in everything else I put a personal spin on the evening.

A dear friend of mine recently became an instant grandmother when her son married a wonderful lady with two small children.

Eagerly awaiting her first babysitting invitation, she confided she wanted to be very careful to follow the parents’ rules and never step over the line to becoming an interfering grandmother. She then asked me (of all people) for tips.

I wrote down a few items in chronological order that I feel are most important, I’d like to share them with you.

  1. Arrive early toting a bag full of nutritious snacks and a few good books.
  2. Smile and nod while Mom and Dad drone on and on about emergency numbers, bedtimes, not waking the baby up, and which T.V. shows are absolutely forbidden.
  3. Lock the door and watch to be sure Mom and Dad actually make it out of the driveway.
  4. Send one of the older kids out to get the bag holding the REAL goodies out of its hiding place under your car seat.
  5. Wake the baby, savoring the moment he opens those beautiful green eyes, recognizes you, and his whole face smiles at you.
  6. Turn the radio on LOUD and everybody dance in the kitchen while you make microwave Smores.
  7. While the Smores cool, bunny hop into the back yard and howl at the moon.
  8. Wolf down the treats (with milk of course) so you can enjoy a game of hide and seek in the (almost) dark.
  9. Change the baby’s pajamas — and try to rinse all the chocolate out before hiding them in the washer.
  10. Pop a video in, in an attempt to quiet the sugar and energy laden children before Mom and Dad come home.
  11. Make a quick exit when they do get home, hastily explaining the baby just woke up when you went to check on him and you are sure he will go right back down.
  12. Deny everything! Especially when Dad calls the next day wondering how the baby managed to change his own P.J.s and why his neighbor reported hearing really strange noises coming from somewhere in the vicinity of his back yard.
  13. Don’t sweat the repercussions, the parents will eventually forget you didn’t follow their silly rules, but hopefully the kids never will.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is to relax and concentrate on enjoying each grandchild The One Above blesses you with. I live by the adage He gave children parents to make the rules and regulations to help them grow into fine upstanding adults…He gave children grandparents to bend the rules, disregard the regulations to help them grow into fine adults that had the bestus Grammy’s in the world…And he gave us grandchildren because he loves us.

Author – Rose Paddick

NEW GRANDPARENTS

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