A few years ago on Christmas, my son and his wife gathered my husband, my daughters and me together in my mother’s dining room. Now, Christmas morning at my mother’s house is utter chaos. Picture over 20 people crammed in one room to open gifts. There are children and dogs running in circles, wrapping paper and ribbons in constant motion, champagned glasses being passed across the room, and hot ham rolls disappearing as quickly as they appear. When we were summoned to the dining room, my head was swimming with the overstimulation of the last few hours, so I never wondered what was going on. When they handed us an ultrasound picture, I was completely and totally surprised.
And I was thrilled. Thrilled that my son was going to be a father. Some people are just born nurturers, and he is one. He was the older cousin the younger ones always latched onto, sensing in him someone they could play with, cuddle with, and rely on. He never objected to taking care of his little sisters, and was unfailingly responsible. And now he was going to have a child of his own! I had no doubt that he and his wife were going to be the best parents in the world. I was so excited for them!
But something even more unexpected happened when I showed the ultrasound picture to my siblings and the rest of the family. They congratulated me. That was when I realized that in addition to my son becoming a father, I was going to be a grandmother! I had barely even considered what being a grandparent would mean, since I was still a full-time parent. I wasn’t expecting congratulations for my new status—after all, it wasn’t due to any achievement of my own.
Yet the word “congratulate” is defined by Merriam-Webster as a way “to express vicarious pleasure to (a person) on the occasion of success or good fortune.” And what is being a grandparent, if not a vicarious pleasure? We congratulate new grandparents because we are excited that they will have a new person to love and dote upon. When it is someone who we know has been longing for grandchildren, our pleasure for them them is even deeper and more sincere.
If you are wondering how to congratulate grandparents, it’s easy. A simple spoken “Congratulations! I’m so happy for your family!” is plenty. If you want to do more, send a card or note. Gifts are not expected, but if you want to mark the occasion for a close friend or relative, I highly recommend a book on grandparenting or one of the other suggestions in our “Gifts for New Grandparents” post. Gifts for the baby should be given to the parents of the baby, not the grandparents. Grandparent showers are a newish trend that some parents are strongly against, so tread carefully before organizing one.
The best way to celebrate a new grandparent is by sharing your own wisdom. After you’ve congratulated the new grandparent, make sure you send them to More Than Grand!