Help! - I'm a Grandma

Can you describe what it is like becoming a grandparent?

I had mixed feelings when our son and his wife, Tim and Claire, announced that they were expecting their first child. I had always very much looked forward to grandchildren, having greatly enjoyed being a mum, but was worried on two counts.

I was concerned for the safety of Claire and the baby, mainly because I had just heard of two different friends who had been told that the babies they were carrying would be stillborn. I was also slightly sad at the reaction of people in a Bible Study group Claire went to in the Church. Their immediate reaction on hearing the news was "Barbara will be pleased". I was worried that Claire would think I only regarded her as a potential 'breeding ground' rather than a person in her own right.

 

As it happens, Callum and, two years later, Hazel have brought nothing but pleasure so far and, as far as I can tell, Claire is as fond of my husband Tony and me as we are of her.

When Tim & Claire moved to Yorkshire, just at the point when we were facing retirement and were wondering where we should be settling, we were delighted to find that they were very happy for us to move to Yorkshire as well. We have recently moved to a house a few miles away from them and we are available to baby-sit whenever needed.

 

What impact did it have on you and how does it make a difference to your day to day life?

I was fascinated to discover how emotional I became when Claire was in labour the first time. I was pacing round the living room and wanting to phone the hospital for news. Claire didn't have an easy time over Callum and I was worried that she would be put off and not want any more. I don't think this was a selfish thought but, rather, that I didn't want her longing for a family to be marred. I also knew how much Tim had been looking forward to children and was worried that things would be spoiled. This all happened on Good Friday and, though we went to church in the morning, I have to confess that the Crucifixion took second place that year!

When Callum was first put into my arms, it took me straight back to Tim's birth. I found it interesting that it was him only and not his brother or sister - I wonder whether, when they start a family, I will find all my thoughts on the birth of the one who has just become a parent.

I was much less emotional over the birth of Hazel, our second grandchild. We didn't see Hazel until she was a few days old and her birth was a much less traumatic affair - maybe this was why, or it might be that the first is much more special in a way. It is not that we don't love Hazel just as much - she is a delightful character, but, I suppose, it wasn't a totally new experience this time.

We have tried very hard not to interfere in the way Tim & Claire are bringing up the children and never to give advice. The only risk with this is that they could have taken it as lack of interest - fortunately they don't seem to have. There are, of course differences, partly because the world has moved on, (Callum loved watching the Screen Saver on their computer from a very early age, whereas we didn't get our first computer until Tim was about eight) and partly because Tim is not Tony and Claire is not me. I'm not sure I can think of any examples at the moment, which suggests that they are very low in importance. I have to say that we both feel that Tim & Claire are making an excellent job of it, anyway.

Callum and Hazel love coming to the house without their parents, so we try to have them over for a day sometimes, giving Claire 'time off' to do just what she wants. When our children were small, this was something I longed for but didn't get. Sometimes, being a full time mother can be very restricting - conversation is limited and moments of peace and quiet are rare, so it is good to get the occasional rest, however much one loves one's children!

Tony and I have always prayed for our children and their partners every evening and, of course, we now pray for Callum and Hazel as well. The more contact we have with them all, the more intelligently we can pray.

 

What would you want to say to someone who was about to become a grandparent?

I think it is important to think about what you felt when your own children were born and were growing up and what annoyed you then and what you wished could happen. This means that you can avoid the first and enable the second.

It is also worth thinking about your own grandparents and your relationship with them I was very close to mine and would stay with them and, as a teenager, discuss my parents with them. I remember how often, when I had said something about my mother, my grandmother, her mother-in-law, would say "But she had a very hard childhood".

I can't imagine our grandchildren as rebellious teenagers but would hope that, if that stage comes, our relationship would be close enough for us to be able to be a safe place for them to vent their feelings and a place where we can pour oil on troubled waters.

 

What would you say to parents who struggle to relate to their kids' grandparents?

If your parents-in-law were responsible for bringing up that spouse you love, they don't seem to have made too much of a mess of it, on the whole! Even if there were parts of the upbringing which could have been improved on, remember just how much you love those children you have brought into the world and you will realise how much they have loved the ones they brought into the world.

It was only when I had started producing my own family that I realised that my mother must have loved me. (She was very shy and undemonstrative so I had doubts for many years.) Unfortunately, she died before I could share this realisation with her - don't miss your chance!

 

Can you recommend any good resources on this subject?

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