Eight ways to make the most of a special relationship.
A bundle of joy comes into your world, and you have the option as to whether you change the dirty diaper; enter grandchildren, with so much of the joys of parenthood, without all the other stuff.
I certainly couldn't see my parents as grandparents, until they were, and then it was as if the role was made for them. I am blessed to have had wonderful grandparents in my life, and love watching my parents take on the role with my children.
While it's an organic transformation, grandparenting isn't as simple as always having a piece of candy for your grandkids (though it helps). Here are some tips about how to make the relationship even more special for you, your child, and your grandchild.
1. Talk to your kids about their parenting guidelines, and defer to the rules they have established with the kids. This is no time to play "good cop, bad cop." This also goes for the bedtime/naptime schedule. You can discuss parenting styles and share your opinion with your child, but not at the moment of rule enforcement. Never undermine your kids' authority in front of the grandchildren. Wait until they go out for dinner to serve up an extra helping of dessert (even if they didn't eat their veggies.)
2. Always carry gum in your purse, or have a coin for their piggy bank.
3. Time with the grandkids doesn't have to be over-the-top. Invite them to help you water flowers outside, sit with you at your workbench or at the kitchen counter. Kids won't remember the trip to Chuck E. Cheese's, but they'll remember that Grandma showed them how to crack an egg, or Grandpa taught them what a Phillips head screw driver is.
4. Have a special 'thing' you do with your grandkids. My Pepa had a gum all machine filled with roasted peanuts. We'd take a trip to the basement machine where he'd pull a nickel out from behind my ear to "purchase" a handful of peanuts. They were the best peanuts ever!
5. Use your power wisely. As a grandparent, you have a special authority as the person who raised their parents. While parents may try and try, you may be the only one who can convince your grandchildren to stop sucking her thumb, give up the binkie, or mail her tattered blankie to Grandma for safekeeping. Whatever prize or promise you make, make it worth the sacrifice they've made, because they'll remember that moment forever.
6. Tell stories about your children growing up. Tell all about when they were little and got into trouble, their favorite foods, games they played, or how they fought with their siblings. Show old family photos, old home movies, etc. You are the family historian, so share about where they came from and what you've experienced. It not only brings you and your grandchild closer together, but it reveals their parents in a new light for your grandchild: they were once kids too.
7. Spend quality time with each child individually. Your grandkids may not get the one-on-one attention from their parents very often, so doing an activity with one of your grandchildren will make that child feel super special, and build a closer relationship between the two of you.
8. Be there for your child, not just the grandkids. You may not be able to advise your daughter about how to correctly breastfeed, what to say when your grandchild is bullied, or how to get their two-year old to sleep in her own bed all night, but you do probably remember that parenting is stressful. You can be who your kids vent to, who will listen to them freak out about their child's teacher, temper tantrums, or kids' toys and clothes all over the floor.
As comical as it may be watching your child struggle with the same things they inflicted grief for you once upon a time, your kids need your support. A kind ear, a shoulder, a night (or weekend!) of babysitting may be just the relief they need. And know, that with every parenting dilemma your kids encounter, they love you even more and value all you did for them growing up.
Your kids appreciate you more. Your grandkids think you're fun and a fountain of knowledge. That's why they call it grand.