- Friday, 03 August 2012
When we first became grandparents (4 years and 4 months ago now) the whole experience came as surprising thrill. I guess many of us don’t want to acknowledge that we’re ‘old’ enough to be grandparents, so during our daughter-in-law’s pregnancy things had been pretty low key. I remember telling friends that I didn’t feel ready to be a granny.
It felt like only yesterday that my own children were small and it certainly hadn’t been long since I’d cleared out all the left-over baby things and toys.
And yet, of course, it had been 30 years since my first child was born – plenty of time for him to reproduce - and many people become grandparents in their late 30’s or early 40’s, so age doesn’t really come into it.
But having been laid back during the pregnancy, the moment of birth and of first meeting our grandson hit us all like a great wave. He was born in Washington DC in early December, so we didn’t meet him until he was 3 weeks old when he was presented to us – his uncle and aunt and two grandparents – on Boxing Day wearing a miniature Father Christmas suit! That moment is etched in all our memories: we all cried. We couldn’t believe how small he was and how fragile and precious. We’d crossed the Atlantic to meet him and he made it so worthwhile.
I remember saying to my daughter that it’s not until you hold a baby in your arms that you realise what your arms are for. And she understood totally.
Sadly, we only stayed for a few days but in that time got to know him quite well and then various members of the family crossed the Atlantic as often as we dared (bearing in mind our carbon footprints) until, happily our son was posted back to the UK and Lucas arrived to live here aged 9 months holding both a British and an American passport.
At that point, we became rapidly involved in baby-sitting and child-care: his mother returned to work as a nurse which involved overnight shifts and 12 hour days so he came to stay with us for two nights most weeks.
Those nights were hard: he’d get me up very early and often during the night as well. He seemed to suffer from every childhood ailment, so I had to deal with broken nights while he coughed or threw up all over me, or ran a high temperature. But I grew to love him so much during that time; it felt like a chance to relive my own parenting days when my children were small.
I’ve always loved the baby stage. Tiny people evoke a real sense of compassion and protection in me – I just want to pick them up and cuddle them and take care of them for ever after! And I enjoy watching their every tiny development: there are things you miss as a parent when you’re rushing hither and thither with a young family, so it felt like a real privilege to be involved so closely with this our first grandchild and be able to notice his attempts to crawl and walk and talk.
And, naturally we were bursting with pride of him and his achievements. He was a happy, sunny baby and delighted all who met him, but we learned an important lesson early on when we found that we could never talk about him with friends who weren’t grandparents!
There seems to be silent understanding amongst grandparents that you don’t probably nothing more boring than tales of other peoples’ grandchildren..
Yet when we started talking to other grandparents, we found the conversation just ran away with itself - indeed sparks would often fly!
There seemed so much to discuss: how the sudden appearance of new love in your life utterly bowled you over; how wonderful it was to meet this little person who seemed unquestioningly to love you back; how parenting styles have changed since we had our own children; whether we approved of all the advice coming from the so-called TV gurus; how late they leave potty-training nowadays; what we think of lunchtime naps; and how much child-care we’re asked – or not asked! – to do.
So it wasn’t long after we became grandparents for the first time that we had the idea of starting a new website for grandparents to share ideas, swap tips and advice, offload if they needed to and, above all, celebrate this new stage of their lives.
And so www.GrandparentsNow.com was born. We’ve been going for just over a year and it’s developed roughly as we’d hoped. We have a forum where grandparents can register and chat. We have interviews with some celebrity friends about what they get out of being grandparents and what they do with their grandchildren.
We share tips on feeding and meal ideas, on the kind of equipment every grandparent needs, on crafty things to do with grandchildren at home and interesting places to take them out. And I blog about grandparenting issues that are in the news of that happen to me.
We’re always looking for new ideas and new input so we’d love to hear from Mature Times readers about what they’d like to see in a website for Grandparents. And we’d love people to send in their tips on everything to do with looking after and entertaining the little ones.
We realise that there’ll be many amongst you who are old hands at this and we’re keen to learn from anyone who has advice to offer. We realise too that grandparenting changes as the children grow up. Our eldest is about to start school - so we enter a whole new phase in September.
It’ll be particularly interesting to look after the younger one on his own – for his entire life we’ve never had him to ourselves, always with his brother. That’s the lot of younger siblings clearly, so it’ll be lovely for him to have our full attention.
And I guess there are many more landmarks that change the whole grandparent/grandchild relationship. I can’t imagine remaining so close to ours when they’re teenagers, as I’m sure they’ll then be far too busy with their own lives. On the other hand, I do remember that when my own children were in their late teens and early twenties, they’d take a train to go and eat fish and chips with my mother when she was in her late 80’s. So it is obviously possible to stay on your grandchildrens’ wavelength as they grow, to remain interested in their lives and to continue being friends.
I personally plan to keep up with new technology, be prepared to listen to their music and watch their TV programmes. I may not enjoy all of that but it’ll enable me to appear in touch and to have something to talk about with them. I desperately don’t want to be known as the crusty old relative in the corner that everyone feels they have to entertain!
So if you have any advice to add about how to maintain great relationships with grandchildren as they grow – do let us know!
by Dilys Morgan
Do you need help and advice with relationships? - 27 July 2012