The Modern Art of Grandparenting
Last week, my daughter arrived in Seattle with her husband and her 6-month-old daughter in tow! She is spending two weeks with us, camped out in our bedroom with a “pack and play” crib. Of course, the easiest and most enjoyable part of her visit is holding our granddaughter and watching her put all manner of things in her mouth. Needless to say, she has completely charmed us. We are putty in her hands.
Despite raising two daughter’s ourselves, who turned out perfectly well, we are learning that we didn’t know anything, and by modern standards, were complete idiots. It’s a good thing that we were lucky and they made it into adulthood with all of their fingers and toes. It’s as if this new generation has discovered how to take care of babies and the rest of us were in the dark ages. We listened to our pediatrician, read Dr. Spock, and talked to friends and family members. Did you know that babies should take several naps a day that must be a certain length? And we are learning all about the rigors of “sleep training”, which is the newest approach to helping parents and babies get a good night’s sleep. There is new knowledge about all aspects of baby care that Diane and I knew nothing about. And there is a multitude of new, expensive gadgets too.
Here is what we have learned:
Keep your mouth shut.
This is hard to do! There have been countless moments where I wanted to share an observation about my daughter’s new parenting. But I realized very quickly that silence is golden. Both my daughter and her husband have given us long discourses on the newest theories of baby care (notice I said theories…). Even asking a question can be dangerous! I am learned to listen politely and look stupid.
The internet is evil.
Forget about books! Forget about calling your pediatrician! You can read threads on the internet about child care that will keep you up all night. Everyone has a different opinion and parents love to share their experiences with the rest of the world. It’s easy to pick out the opinions you agree with and the experiences that validate your own. My daughter has spent endless hours reading everything on the internet about sleep. Unfortunately for her (and us), she has a photographic memory and can recite word for word everything she has read.
Make meals, wash dishes, and do laundry.
New parents do need practical help. We have been shopping, cooking, and cleaning endlessly. I have washed, dried, and folded vast loads of laundry. My mother was a great role model—she would come and visit and go through all of the lonely socks and find matches. She was great at straightening up the kitchen too.
Buy stuff your kids can’t afford.
I forget how expensive it is raising children and how little money we had. Now that we don’t actually have to pay for college, we can buy our kids stuff for their children. It’s fun too!
Find other ways of helping.
My granddaughter hates to sleep at night and wants to cry herself to sleep whenever she wakes up in the middle of the night. My poor daughter is dying. She has been getting up 4-5 times a night to soothe her baby who immediately starts crying again when she gets put down. During her visit, I volunteered to take care of my granddaughter during the night while she and her husband slept. It was an adventure! Trust me, in my daughters and son-in-law’s eyes, I have reached sainthood.
Every generation has different ideas, theories, and methods of raising babies. Parents have been taking care of these little ones since the beginning of time. The good news—look around, we humans have done pretty darn well. There are a lot of us. So I’m not too worried.
As for me, I’m going to take a nap. I’m exhausted. But I’m excited about this new adventure in my life—helping my daughters with their daughters. What could be better?