When your furry family members get displaced
A couple of years before our first grandchild was born, one of our daughters adopted a dog from a local shelter. “Reggie” was a strikingly handsome dog with an unknown, but clearly complicated, history. He was scared to go through half open doors and terrified by the low-battery chirp of a smoke detector. He almost never barked, and looked scared and apologetic when he did. But he had at one point been loved and well trained: he was impeccably housetrained and could sit, lie down, shake and beg on command. As he became confident that he was in a permanent, loving home, he learned to play and even bark without fear. Part cattle dog, he was smart and loyal, and, for this independent daughter, he was the perfect addition to her family—and ours.
Eventually, however, Reggie’s reign as the most charming addition to the family was threatened by the birth of our grandson. When Thanksgiving rolled around, the two of them were both visiting us. This was when the admittedly competitive daughter started a running list of Reasons Why Dogs Are Superior to Babies. Granted, at this point Reggie was clearly smarter and more capable than the 5-month-old grandson. It wasn’t hard for her to feel sure she was making a better choice in family expansion than her brother!
And so, in no particular order, here are ten points in favor of skipping the whole grandbaby thing and just heading to the shelter:
It took almost a year before my daughter conceded that her nephew might have an edge in some areas. One of them is pictured above: dogs will never be great artists!
Why is this story included on a grandparenting blog? Because a new grandchild creates changing family dynamics that aren't limited to the new roles of parents and grandparents. It's important to be aware of the ways that aunts and uncles, cousins and, yes, even pets, are affected.
Do you have a family member who prefers dogs to babies? Let me know in the comments!
When Donne Davis became a grandmother, she gathered a circle of women who were as “gaga” over their grandbabies as she was. They named themselves the GaGa Sisterhood, and became an important source of support for one another as they navigated their new role. Over the years, she has shared the collective wisdom of the GaGa Sisterhood on her website and blog, and in a small but mighty book called “When Being a Grandma isn’t So Grand”.
Davis’ book is a quick read, but offers a valuable lesson for all grandparents about prioritizing the relationship with your grandchild's parents. Although it is aimed at grandmothers, the insight it offers will be just as beneficial for grandfathers. Davis interviewed 50 mothers to better understand what they needed—and didn’t need—from grandparents. She shares her discoveries in a few short chapters, often in the moms’ own words. Her clear and engaging writing will give the reader a better understanding of how to support parents and avoid some of the pitfalls that can sour a relationship.
“When Being a Grandma isn’t So Grand” is a great companion to New Grandparents Essentials, and a worthwhile addition to any grandparent’s library. Click here to order a copy from Amazon.
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10 Ways to Make Visits from Your Grandchildren Go Smoothly
Focus on preparation and keep expectations low to keep everyone happy when your grandchildren visit.
When is the last time your grandchildren visited? For many of us, it’s been well over a year. For some of you, your new grandbaby has never been a visitor to your home! Now that more and more of us are vaccinated and summer is approaching, many of us are looking forward to summer visits from our children and grandchildren. It’s time to think about what we can do to make sure everyone enjoys the visit—or at least departs without swearing never to return!
First, keep your expectations realistic. Yes, there will be hugs and funny faces and love flowing all day long. But there will also be crying, and small bodies whacking you behind the knees when you least expect it, and crumbs and stickiness everywhere. There will be parents having bad moments, and children having worse ones. It will not be a small slice of heaven. There will be wonderful memories made, but it will be hard work for all the adults in the house.
What can you do to make more memories and less hard work? Parents want you to know that each of the following will make their, and consequently your, life easier:
Make an effort now to make stays at your house as easy as possible for the parents. This will ensure that visits will continue long into the future. Think of it as investment: As your grandchildren get older, visits will be more and more rewarding for you.
Do you have other suggestions to make visits go smoothly? Share them in the comments!
Remember, you are all on the same team
The last time I was visiting my son and his family, my granddaughter called me Grandma more than once. She usually corrected herself, but I didn’t make a big deal out of it either way. We both know I’m DeeDee. Grandma is her other grandmother.
She loves Grandma. She loves me. And if her three-year-old mind confuses two people who love her dearly, she’s human. (There is fascinating research on the way we confuse the names of family members, and dogs, but not cats!)
My grandchildren have, somewhat quaintly, just four grandparents. They are, against the odds, the products of two adults whose parents are still married to each other. Many of our friends have grandchildren with multiple sets of grandparents. One of our best friends, Stu, is one of four grandfathers to his grandchildren: Stu, Stu’s son-in-law’s father, and Stu’s step-daughter’s father and his husband. That’s a lot of names for Grandpa for those kids to keep straight! There are also, rather mundanely, two grandmothers.
I suspect many of you have Other Grandparents in your life. If you are lucky, as I am, they are lovely people with whom you feel fortunate to share grandchildren. But even then, it’s inevitable that you will sometimes feel jealous or left out. It’s human nature.
So how do you deal with it if you find yourself wondering if the other grandparents are going to be the favorites because they can afford more lavish gifts, live closer, or are able to be more active in your grandchildren’s lives? What if you are dealing with jealousy, inferiority, or competitiveness—on your side or on the part of the other grandparents? This can be especially difficult if the other grandparents include ex-spouses.