It doesn’t take a pandemic to keep grandparents from being able to help out after a new baby arrives. Work schedules, finances, geography, ill health—there are many reasons why you may not be able to be on the scene to help the new parents. That doesn’t mean you can’t help out, though. In the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some ways that you can support new parents without being there.
Today, we’ll hear from Sheryl Cooksley, a postpartum doula from Family Tree Doula Services. Enjoy!
Not so long ago, grandparents were allowed inside the hospitals, birth centers or homes where their latest grandbaby (or babies) was being born. Not now.
Grandparents could fly across the country without hesitation and race in to see the new family all in the same day. Not now.
Grandparents were retired, empty nesters with unlimited time on their hands to provide endless joyful hours providing care to the new family. Not now.
Although grandparents had to be very cautious, especially during flu season, they did not have to follow the protocols that are becoming the new normal during this pandemic. Washing hands and using hand sanitizer has always been a requirement to be around new babies, but donning masks, self-isolation, even quarantining are all present-day necessities for new grandparents. These obstacles may leave grandparents feeling helpless and angry.
They wanted to cook meals and fold those cute tiny baby clothes and HOLD THEIR GRANDBABY. They wanted to guide the new parents using the knowledge they gathered in their Grandparent Bootcamp and from a lifetime of caring for children and babies. They took the time to get up-to-date and learn all about the mountains of baby gear, new parenting philosophies and grandparent etiquette. They had planned on doing the night shift and making sure the new parents were well prepared to be on their own. They were ready to be the best grandparents (and parents) EVER.
This was not how it was supposed to be!
This was not what they had planned.
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"[Grandmother and I] approached every day together as an adventure, filled with the simple joys and discoveries that are fresh and new to a child and that can also make a grandmother feel fresh and new again.” Sharon Lovejoy, Camp Granny
If you want to impart a sense of wonder in your grandchildren, this book is a must. Building on the legacy of her own grandmother, Lovejoy provides simple, inexpensive ideas for tapping into your grandchild’s curiosity and creativity. From setting up your home before your grandchildren come to visit to making bean soup into a lesson in growing, she will guide you through adventures that you’ll enjoy as much as your grandchildren will. The book itself is beautiful and well-written. Put Camp Granny on your wish list, or treat yourself to it today. Just make sure you read it before your grandchildren’s next visit!
Anyone else feeling sad that the trip to or from the grandkids just isn’t going to happen this summer? How about creating a virtual vacation?
Last year, we had an idyllic week by the lake with all of our kids and grandkids. We watched the 14-month-old learn to walk, pushing a milk crate around the deck. Pops had a ready helper for every chore and a willing companion for errands. We had long dinners outside, early morning kayak rides, and endless bowls of cherries. One evening a raccoon even came by and washed his hands in the stream on the property right in front of us, like the universe had gifted us a special memory.
I spent every afternoon luxuriating in having my family all in one place. I knew then that we were lucky to be able to gather everyone, and that I shouldn’t expect it to happen every year. It’s hard to get everyone’s schedule to align, and with their third baby in four years, my son’s family warned us that they won’t be traveling for a couple of years.
Still, I didn’t expect a pandemic to make it even harder to be together.
When you first heard what your future grandchild was to be named, were you instantly alarmed?
"Muriel is too old-fashioned!" "Juniper is too modern!"
"Slade is just weird!" "Feebee? Spell it right!"
"I knew a dreadful girl named Lindsay!"
"George is such an ugly name!"
Of course you have opinions—names are powerful and, usually, permanent. One in five grandparents admits to hating a grandchild’s name. Actually hating it! What do you do if you are one of them?
First, what you don’t do: tell your grandchild’s parents that you hate it. You don’t need to fake enthusiasm, but you do not want to be among the 2% of grandparents who have a permanent falling-out over something that is, ultimately, none of your business. Grandparenting is one long lesson in when to bite your tongue, and it starts here.
If you can do so without revealing how much you dislike their choice, ask why the name is meaningful to them. Their reasons may help you see the name in a different light. Perhaps George was a beloved uncle, or Lindsay a best friend who died young.
Next, realize that the name will likely grow on you as soon as you have a delightful baby to attach it to--more than 75% of the grandparents who initially disliked their grandchild's name have learned to accept it over time. If you really can’t stand it, try out a nickname that will be your special name for the child. Two things to be careful of: if the parents object, respect their wishes. And make sure it’s something that you can use when they are a teenager!
Did you hate your grandchild's name when you first heard it? Please share your experience in the comments!
When Lesley Stahl became a grandmother, she was stunned by the way it affected her emotionally. Ever the reporter, she set about to find out whether her experience was the norm. Becoming Grandma is the engaging, informative result of her research. As she shares stories of her transformation into Grandma, she explores the ways grandparents can play an important role in their grandchildren’s lives. Stahl offers insight into the complexities of a being a grandparent in today’s world, where a child may have four sets of grandparents and parents are inundated with parenting advice from the internet. This well-researched book is well worth reading--buy a copy and lend it out to your grandmother friends.
Have you read this book? What did you think?
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What if you don’t have a backyard?
Nature buffers the impact of life’s stresses on children and helps them deal with adversity. The greater the amount of nature exposure, the greater the benefits.” *
Our last post gave you some ideas for creating a nature rich experience for your grandchildren in your backyard. But not everyone has a backyard! Don’t let that stop you from sharing the wonders and benefits of the natural world with your grandchildren.
With a little effort, you can take them regularly to wild places. What counts as wild? Anywhere that lets them explore and experience nature. Let them climb boulders and balance on logs, let them try to dam up a stream, let them feel the power of a wave. Need help finding somewhere near you? Here are some places to look:
Botanic gardens and arboretums often have spaces designed for children to play and explore. Even those that don’t have plenty of places to roam and engage with nature. Click here to find one near you.
Nature preserves and wildlife refuges are wonderful places to search for lizards or wander through trees and over bridges. They range from redwood forests to coastal wetlands, and can be located here.
National Parks are home to over 17,000 miles of trails and habitat protection for endangered species, and provide bountiful opportunities to explore nature. Find a park here.
The shores of lakes, rivers and oceans are varied and fascinating to children. Sandy beaches provide the chance to dig, sift, and search for different kinds of shells and sea life. Rocky shorelines provide boulders to climb and tidepools inhabited by sea stars and crabs. The Travel Channel has a great guide to beaches.
Aquariums allow kids to see what’s under the sea, and most have touch tanks that let kids see and feel sea life up close. To find an aquarium near you, search here.
What’s your favorite place to take kids to interact with nature?
*Wells & Evans 2003
Do you remember playing outside as a child? I spent hours upon hours playing in the woods: making elaborate houses with fallen branches, shaping dishes out of the clay we found in the soil, decorating with flowers and leaves. I remember climbing trees so high I got dizzy and had to be coached back down. There were games of hide and seek in the tall grass of an empty lot across the street, and in the winter, elaborate snow forts and all-neighborhood snowball fights.
Children need nature. And not just seeing it, but experiencing it: the feel of grass under their feet, the sound of the birds in the woods, the smell of wet dirt. Studies have shown that children who play regularly in natural environments exhibit more advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility, and they are sick less often*. But for too many children, time playing in nature is a rare treat.
So how can we, as grandparents, help?
Make your yard a place for exploration.
Provide them with natural elements for creative play: sticks and stones and leaves and dirt and water. Keep a place for them to dig for worms. Let them make forts in your bushes and move the rocks in your border. Let them climb your trees and hang from the branches. Let them lie on the grass and watch the bugs. Let them go barefoot and let them get dirty.
It can be that easy. But if you want more ideas for making your backyard into a child-friendly play space, I highly recommend Molly Dannenmaier’s book, A Child’s Garden. She provides dozens of ideas and inspiration for creating natural play areas that fit into adult gardens.
For more about the crucial role nature plays for all of us, read The Nature Fix by Florence Williams.
No backyard? No problem. I’ll share ideas for connecting children to nature in my next post.
*Grahn, et al. 1997, Fjortoft & Sageie 2001
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The Secrets to Making a Difference While Having the Time of Your Life
Linda Eyre has a large family: nine children and 31 grandchildren (as of the writing of the book in 2018). Her previous books on motherhood gained her loyal followers across the globe, and it is those fans who will probably enjoy this book most.
Eyre shares the steps she and her husband have taken to strengthen the bonds with their large and far-flung brood, but many of them are very specific to a large, religious, financially advantaged family. Much of the book is a walk through her own stories and relationships.
While there are some useful ideas and inspiring stories buried within, I found myself skimming through the personal parts to get to the promised secrets. Ultimately, I didn’t find much advice that hadn’t been covered more succinctly in other books, such as Jane Isay’s Unconditional Love.
Eyre ends the book with a chapter of recipes to feed a crowd. It’s a nice touch, but for those of us not cooking for 20+ people, not very valuable. If your library has a copy of Grandmothering, it’s worth taking a look to see if you think it will be useful for you.
This site contains affiliate links to products I have personally chosen to share. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Every penny helps support this site and allows me to visit my grandchildren, so thank you for your support!