by Leanne Phillips
I am expecting my first grandchild next month, a precious little baby who I have yet to meet, but whom I have seen pictures of courtesy of today's remarkable ultrasound technology. My grandchild is an adorable little baby with whom I have already fallen head over heels in love. As the birth of my first grandchild approaches, I have lately been giving a lot of thought to the kind of grandmother I want to be.
My own mother was a wonderful grandmother to my children. My kids called her "Grandma Lockwood," because she lived in Lockwood, California, as opposed to other grandmas and great-grandmas who lived in other places. (This was true, of course, until she moved to Pine Canyon, whereupon she quickly became Grandma Pine Canyon.)
I watched in awe as my mother completely transformed into another person when her grandchildren were born. This same woman who for some reason refused to let me stay out after dark when I was in junior high school was suddenly open to anything. This same woman who made me do homework and wash dishes and clean my room was suddenly relaxed and had other priorities. This was the same woman who wouldn't let me use the family car to go to a Cheap Trick concert when I was in high school, for the ridiculous reason that it was an hour's drive away in pea soup fog. Now, she was suddenly a proponent of skipping school in favor of going out for breakfast followed by a trip to the toy store.
Grandma Lockwood was happy and bubbly and full of light at all times. She always said the right thing. She always had plenty of love and hugs and snacks on hand. She was always right there when she was needed for even the smallest of emergencies. My children loved her dearly.
Here are some lessons I learned from watching my own mother on how to be a terrific grandmother:
1. Being a grandmother starts before baby is even born. Just as new parents prepare for the arrival of their child, grandmothers also begin preparing for the birth of their new baby grandchildren. Now is the time to stock up on baby supplies so that you are prepared for visits with your grandchild. It is never too early to buy your grandchild that first doll or favorite story book, even if he or she has not yet been born. Grandmothers generally have more disposable cash than moms and dads. Now is the time to put that spending power to work and shop 'til you drop.
2. Being a grandmother means baking. Lots and lots of baking. Grandma Lockwood always had cookies and cakes and pies on hand. She loved it when the grandchildren helped her make batches and batches of waffles from scratch, which were then frozen so they could have homemade toaster waffles for breakfast each morning during their visits. She was famous for her chocolate chip cookies, a recipe I could never quite replicate. (I remain convinced she had a secret ingredient she never disclosed.) Now that you are a grandma, it is time to come up with your own secret, special recipe that you, and only you, can make to perfection. The goal here is to have your grandchildren ask their parents, "How come your chocolate chip cookies never taste as good as Grandma's?"
3. Being a grandmother means being supportive. When your grandchild is born, be ready to be supportive of the newborn baby's parents. Help with housekeeping and meals is always appreciated. Be willing to dispense endless parenting advice as well. Regale the new parents with stories of how difficult they were as children and how adept you were at handling any and every little thing. The new parents will surely appreciate your words of wisdom and take them to heart, despite any protests to the contrary.
4. Being a grandmother means taking sides. As a parent, you can't take sides between your children. You have to be fair and weigh the facts and do what is right. As a grandma, you can always take a side! your grandchild's side. Whatever the argument, the dispute, the controversy, your grandchild is always right and, conversely, his or her parents are always wrong. Whatever your grandchild wants to do, it is perfectly reasonable. On the other hand, whatever reasons your child gives to your grandchild for not allowing him or her to do something are perfectly unreasonable and ridiculous. This is truly one of the most fun aspects of being a grandmother. All those years when your own children were embarrassed by your silly behavior and pretended not to know you will now come back to haunt them!
5. Being a grandmother means relaxing and being yourself. As a parent, you don't always have the luxury of relaxing and being yourself with your children. You have responsibilities and obligations. You have been entrusted with the care and feeding of this tiny little baby. You have to protect this baby from harm. You have to shape this baby's character. You have to set an example. As a grandmother, you are suddenly freed from the constraints of parenting and are able to experience "grandparenting." Grandparenting means setting an example in a different way and playing a different role in your grandchild's life. You get to be the one to teach your grandchild that everything is possible, there are no limits, he or she can do or be anything and everything. You get to be silly or goofy or whatever you want to be. Your children were embarrassed and pretended not to know you when, for example, you wore silly hats, told stupid jokes or sang loudly (and badly) in public. Your grandchildren, on the other hand, will love you for it.
6. Being a grandmother means presents and packages. Grandmothers should always come bearing gifts. When they cannot bring gifts to their grandchildren in person for a special occasion, this is where the United States Postal Service comes into play. Packages received from grandma are always special, no matter what they may contain. Be sure to send packages for every holiday, no matter how small the occasion. Fill them with lots of candy and noisy toys that will drive your grandchild's parents up the wall.
7. Being a grandmother means being available. Grandmothers drop anything and everything for the opportunity to visit with or babysit for their grandchildren. Once you become a grandmother, your sole goal in life is to be there for your grandchildren and to make them happy. There is always time to read a story, listen to your budding comedian tell his or her first jokes or play outside. Everything else can wait. Being available means being available to the new parents as well. You know better than anyone how challenging parenting small children can be. Be available to do whatever you can to help out on a moment's notice.
8. Being a grandmother means never having to say no. As a parent, you have to discipline your children. Sometimes, you have to be the bad guy. And you always, always, always have to say, "No!" For parents, saying no becomes almost a reflex. But (and here's the fun part), when you become a grandmother, you can drop the word no from your vocabulary. Whatever your precious grandchild asks you, the answer is always yes, yes and more yes. You want to skip doing your homework and play outside instead? Sure! You want to stay up until midnight watching television, eating candy and drinking soda? By all means! You want to dress up like a cowboy and lasso the poor, helpless ducks out in the yard? Go for it! The goal here is for your grandchildren to say to their parents, "But why not? Grandma always lets me."
9. Being a grandmother means having your priorities straight. As moms, we are often juggling so many responsibilities to our children, homes, husbands, careers and communities that we can lose sight of what is truly important. By the time grandmotherhood rolls around, we have learned from our mistakes and have our priorities in order. We now know that nothing should ever come before our children or grandchildren and we are ready to walk the walk. Everything else, whether it's housekeeping, husbands, or our next-door neighbor's weekly crisis, takes a back seat where our grandchildren are concerned.
10. Being a grandmother means adoring and being adored. As moms, we certainly adore our children. But when we become grandmothers, we learn the true meaning of the word "adore." As parents, we are forced to acknowledge the faults in our children in order to help them grow. At times, we have to point out our children's mistakes so that we can help them to correct them and to learn from them. However, with our grandchildren, we have a different sort of luxury. Our grandchildren have absolutely no faults and are completely perfect and adored in our eyes. Because we are able to look upon our grandchildren with pure, unadulterated adoration, we are able to receive the same in return. As grandmothers, we assume our rightful place on the matriarchal throne. As grandmothers, we are finally appreciated and adored the way all women deserve to be!
Copyright (c) 2005 by Leni Leanne Phillips