Every grandchild arrives with an endless list of potential firsts to be lovingly noted and duly checked off by his or her doting grandparents. Even the oh-so-mellow baby boomers can be ruthless when it comes to measuring our grandchildren’s milestones against those of our friends’ grandkids.
*Baby Matthew rolled over in his crib. Check.
*Emily ate two spoonfuls of strained peas. Check, check.
*Little Gavin’s hair is finally coming in. Check it out.
*Maya was all smiles for her Santa photo op. Checking it twice.
*The twins are starting to walk. That’s checkmate. At least as far as any low-lying objects in your townhome are concerned.
For successful grandboasting, the key is in revealing only those details that paint your grandchild—and, by association, you—in the best light.
For instance, there’s no need to mention the dozen spoonfuls of strained peas the dog lapped up from the kitchen floor before Emily decided to try some. Or how those toddling twins wiped out two orchid plants, put a dent in your walnut coffee table and did serious damage to a trio of Limoges boxes during last week’s visit.
Be on the lookout for any mega-milestones, which you have to share with your friends immediately. Like when that precocious Elijah points right at you and utters something that resembles “grr-um-ph,” but which you might exaggerate ever so slightly in the retelling into a nearly crystal-clear version of “Grandma” or “Grandpa.”
You’ll want to bring up the fun smaller accomplishments, too, such as brilliant young Zoe beating you at Cootie or assembling a whole Mr. Potato Head on her own.
What to do when another grandparent emails all your friends about three-year-old Alexander’s recent encounter with his first onion ring at Applebee’s? You simply click on “Reply All” and tell your tale of exiting Denny’s the other day with four-year-old Isabella, who sashayed past each booth and table on her way to the door. This diva-in-training wasn’t leaving before she got a smile or wave from every other patron in the place.
With today’s cell-phone video capabilities, a friend can capture his darling granddaughter and her playmates splashing around in an alligator-shaped inflatable pool and broadcast the show to an extensive network of grandparents in seconds. Be prepared to fire right back with the latest footage from the petting zoo, featuring your cute and fearless grandson getting up close and personal with a lamb.
And that’s only the beginning because these brag-worthy firsts never stop. Multiply by two or three or more as additional grandchildren join the family, and you’ll have miles of milestones stretching out before you.
Everybody knows that babies have to crawl before they can walk. Grandpas and grandmas go through quite a learning process of our own as our grandchildren progress from infancy and toddlerhood through the tween years and beyond.
We boomers thought we were pretty squared away raising our kids, but it’s been a long time since we navigated that bumpy road. Now we’re at a new starting line as grandparents. We’ll take some wrong turns and plenty of detours as we go because being a grandparent is totally different from being a parent.
You don’t have all the responsibility except when you sometimes do. It isn’t a full-time gig except when it occasionally is. And nobody wants your advice except on the days when they ask. So you’re constantly walking a tightrope between do/say too much and do/say too little. To help you on your grandparenting way, here are the three most important things for you to remember. Make them your mantras and recite each several times a day.
1. My child is every bit as capable of good parenting as I was. (Heaven help us.)
2. Better to stuff a cookie in my mouth than give unsolicited advice. (Make that chocolate chip.)
3. I may have strong opinions, but it doesn’t mean I’m always right. (Pffft!)
First smiles. First hugs. First words. Enjoy them while you can in that initial delirium of new grandparenthood, when you feel as if the smallest thing your darling Hailey or Michael does is nothing short of perfection. Then you can start over again each time a new grandchild arrives.
All too soon, however, grandkids are talking back, acting defiant and blurting out embarrassing words at the most awkward moments. That’s when you realize they’re only human, just like you.
Except when they turn into teenagers and you wonder if they’ve changed into a different species altogether. But that’s another story.
Diana J. Ewing is the author of The Baby Boomers’ Guide to Grandparenting