Why Not Top 10 Commandments?
- Thou Shalt Not Judge the Mother of Thy Grandchildren
- Thou Shalt Tell the Parents of Thy Grandchildren They Are Doing a Good Job
- Thou Shalt Tell Thyself If Your Grandchildren Have Love, Food and Shelter, They Are OK
- Thou Shalt Tell Or Write Down Thy Own Stories for Thy Grandchildren
- Thou Shalt Attempt to Follow Thy Grandchildren’s Parents’ Rules
I’ve been asking mothers and grandmothers recently what they think A Grandmother’s Top 10 Commandments should be.
I stopped at five because most of the rest were variations of Respect the Parents of Your Grandchildren.
One of my favorite variations was:
Be a balcony grandparent.
They have enough voices in their heads telling them what to do.
Grandparents should be their cheering section.
Then, there was:
Understand that they are going to find their own way.
I don’t know about you, but when I had my first son I thought I was perfectly capable of raising him.
I’d been a baby-sitter since the age of 13, after all.
And, by the time he was born, I’d turned 21, plenty of experience to raise a baby, right?
Actually, my Mom had influenced me, but it was long before I had my own children.
She had a younger friend who had a baby that she used to take me over to visit.
When that infant cried on my Mom’s lap, my Mom wasn’t upset at all.
She just cooed to him about how he must be upset about something, checked to make sure he was dry and fed, rocked him on her lap and talked to him.
Within a few minutes, she had soothed him.
I learned that babies cry and it’s OK.
You don’t have to get upset about it.
This lesson not only served me with my own children, it gave me confidence when I encouraged my mother-in-law to keep walking, years after she had descended into dementia.
My nephew, walking with us one day, kept wanting to turn back when she yelled and swore at us, behavior totally out-of-character for a former 5th-grade school teacher.
“Use it or lose it,” I told him.
She lived to 94.
Then, there was my next-door neighbor who had a teenage boy my age I had a crush on, and a brand new baby she let me hold.
Once, when I tried to feed the baby, he pushed out the baby food as fast as I fed him and fussed besides.
She, observing, said, “He’s crying because he’s hungry. You have to feed him faster.”
So, teenage girls often get practice with babies.
Your daughter or daughter-in-law may very well be comfortable around babies by the time she has your first grandchild.
Affirm them. They are going to find their own way.
As a recent series of posts prompted by a pediatrician’s survey of grandparents revealed, what we know about babies has changed.
From furniture, like drop-side cribs and walkers that have been found to be dangerous, to bedding, with a sheet and crib alone found to be the safest sleep environment – no crib bumpers – grandparents need to know that some of their beliefs about what is safe for babies are out-of-date.
So, some of what your children do to raise their children is because that is what the latest research is telling them.
Do not use the argument, “Well, I raised x-number of children and they all turned out OK.”
It is defensive.
No one is saying you were a bad Mother because you didn’t do it that way.
No one is saying you wouldn’t have done it differently if you had known what your children know now.
Your children agree that the odds are most of these things will never happen.
But, we don’t want to play the odds with our grandchildren now that we know some things, like second-hand smoke, sleeping on their stomach, and riding in the front seat of a car before the age of 8 is dangerous.
If it comes out of your mouth, it needs to be positive.
The baby is not going to die under their care.
Parents are feeling their way, but, short of an addiction or anger management problem, babies are resilient and thrive under vastly varying circumstances, where there is love and attention.
Know that you’re not always going to get it right, apologize and ask for forgiveness.
Giving an opinion is often seen by the parents as judging.
You may think you are just trying to help.
The parents of your grandchildren may think you are intruding on their supremacy as parents.
If they call you on advice you are giving, thinking it disrespectful, then apologize.
You are in your grandchildren’s lives to broaden the circle of love.
But, it is their parents who are responsible for them.
Be willing to share your wisdom.
This may seem contradictory, but your wisdom comes from seeing the arc of life, something your children haven’t seen yet.
What characteristics are you proud of in your family?
Which do you think should stop at your generation?
What are the stories that explain why you are who you are?
You have seen what values last – honesty, love, family relationships.
Your children are busy building their careers, their marriages, their families, their communities.
It may be hard for them to step back and sort out the things that will still be important in 30 years.
And, a final Commandment a young mother added to my list:
Thou Shalt Not Ask to Be in the Delivery Room.
What would you add to this list?
What do you think the mother of your grandchildren would add?
Have you compared lists with other grandmothers?
To you and the loving relationship you build with the parents of your grandchildren.
Carol Covin, Granny-Guru
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