Being the best grandparent sometimes means admitting the old ways aren't the best ways.
What is the best way to introduce solid food to a baby?
Surprisingly, each answer to that question was the right one at one point in time. (Yes, some experts in the 1940s recommended liver soup for babies starting at three months!)
Can you imagine the conversations when those parents became grandparents in the 1960s and '70s? They probably weren’t too different than the ones happening today as grandparents watch their 7-month-old grandchild gnawing on a steak bone or a slice of melon! (Read more about the baby-led weaning method that many of today’s parents are following in this post.)
Child rearing recommendations change regularly, as research and science reveal new information about what is best for babies. In the 1920’s, parents were warned that affection could psychologically damage their babies. One kiss a day, on the forehead, was more than enough, said some experts. Mothers in the 1950s were told that babyproofing was the lazy way out: they should teach their children to stay away from dangers or breakables by yelling at them if they tried to touch something they shouldn’t. These, of course, are the more extreme examples, but they underline the point that advice to new parents is constantly changing.
I clearly remember the thrill I got buying a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting when I was pregnant with my first child. It was one of three books that guided me through my pregnancy and early days of parenting. Besides that, my sources of advice were my mother and my family doctor. But by the time my last two children came along, the internet had opened up a whole new world of parenting advice. In an online group for new moms that I joined, I discovered that some of the things I was confident were the best way to raise a child were just one of several “best ways”, and that parents who did things differently weren’t worse parents than we were.
Today, with the addition of social media, parents have advice and information coming at them from all directions! For each tiny aspect of baby’s care, there are multiple sources of authority that parents have to sort through. Whether they come to a decision after careful research and reflection, or just do what feels right in the moment, today’s parents have a lot more information than we did. They really do know better than us about some things!
One of the things I hear from parents over and over again is that grandparents don’t respect the choices they are making about the way they are raising their baby. Things like feeding on a schedule, swaddling for sleep time, keeping a child rear-facing in a car seat--anything that is different than the way we did it can raise tension. Both sides can feel criticized. Grandparents often feel that the message is “you did it wrong.” Parents, on the other hand, feel they are being told, “You don’t know what you are doing.”
As grandparents, it’s helpful to remember that the way we did things wasn’t THE right way. It was the best way at that moment in time, for our family. Our adult children are making parenting choices for their family, based on the information they have at this moment in time. To be the best grandparent, the most important thing we can do is to support them in those decisions.
How to do that?
First and foremost, by never saying, “We did/didn’t do that and you turned out fine.” That may be true, but it’s entirely beside the point. Instead say, “You take such good care of that baby. You are an amazing parent!”
If you find yourself thinking, “I don’t understand why they would do that!”, make it your mission to come to an understanding! Educate yourself on what the latest trends are. Search online for more information. Ask the parents for help in learning what’s new. Subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already. Check out New Grandparent Essentials, which includes a section on current trends in baby care!
Old-school parenting methods aren’t better by virtue of being older. If that were true, we would have been serving our babies liver soup and kissing them once a day. Just as we should be grateful that we didn’t have to conform to the standards of the past, we should be grateful that our grandchild’s parents have the most up-to-date information as they raise our grandchildren.