Grandparents playing with their grandchild.

Becoming a First Time Grandparent

How to Be the Best Grandparent

Your kids have shared their exciting news with you. They are going to be parents and you are going to be a first time grandparent. You want to shout it to the world.It is important to know how to be the best grandparent.

When You First Find Out

My kids told me when it was early in their pregnancy and they asked me to keep their secret until my daughter was farther along and past the miscarriage stage. Now I had to find out how to be the best grandparent. I am good at keeping secrets, but that was excruciating. The majority of my friends already had grandchildren. I was finally going to join their club and I so wanted to tell them, but I respected my kids’ wishes and waited until they told me it was okay.

How to Be the Best Grandparent by Listening to What Your Children Want

One of the first things I asked was if they wanted me there for the baby’s birth. What they decided was that they wanted me there for the birth, then once they were home with the baby, they wanted me to leave so they would have time alone to bond as a family.

Then, when my son-in-law went back to work, they wanted me to come back and help out for a couple of weeks. Planning ahead like this made it easier for me to clear my work schedule and start looking for flights since we did not live in the same city.

I felt as if I was going through the pregnancy with my daughter. I had forgotten how long nine months could seem.

Baby Shopping

In her fifth or sixth month, Laurie asked if I would come down and go baby furniture and gift registry shopping with her. I was so excited. Shopping was going to be such fun. On the selected Saturday, we went to lunch and then to Toys R Us.

I definitely was not prepared for what happened. The minute we stepped into the store, Laurie took one look around and started crying. She was feeling overwhelmed by the thought of becoming responsible for another human, working full-time, being a wife and mother.

I knew what she was feeling had more to do with the hormonal changes in her body than her ability to be a parent. I told her we could come back another time, or we could just tackle a little bit while we were in the store — the decision was hers. She chose to tackle a couple of aisles then.

By the time we reached the clothes aisle, she was well into it with a huge smile on her face. We got a lot accomplished that afternoon. She picked out and ordered the furniture she wanted (she took pictures and sent them to her husband so he would have a say) and we got a good start on her registry list. The rest she could put on the list online.

Make a Plan

One thing she did before we went to the store, which I thought was a great idea, was research the big ticket items they were going to buy. She found reviews from parents who had bought those items and from Parents Guide to Choosing the Best Baby Crib.

While she was taking one of her bathroom breaks, I had the opportunity to secretly buy a few things she had been looking at and that night, after dinner, I gave them to her and Joel. My start at spoiling my grandchild.

I did not want the kids to think that from now on everything was going to be for the baby, so I also bought each of them a little something.

Making Special Gifts

At this point, there was still about three months until the baby was due. I wanted to make some special things for him or her that no one else would have.

The first thing I made was a blanket that could be used for both the crib and stroller. Now, almost five years later, the blanket’s in their den and still used by all of them!

Next, I contacted Joel’s parents and asked them for some baby and childhood pictures of him. Between Laurie’s dad and myself, we had a ton of pictures of her. I put together a photo album for the baby, complete with captions under the pictures.

Lastly, I wrote a letter to the baby. I wrote about my parents, where they came from, how they met and what a wonderful love story they had their whole lives together. I wrote about their relationship with his mommy: how they would play Scrabble and Monopoly when she slept at their house; how Mee-Maw would take her to the theater and taught her to cook; how Pop-Pop was “king of the magicians,” pulling lollipops magically out of the air for her.

I wrote about what his mommy was like as a baby and child, what she liked to do and what she did not like. The things we did together. The funny things she did and said. I added a few photographs along with some of the pictures she had made me and put them into a sealed envelope so they will have it when they get older.

The Big Day

At last, after nine months and two baby showers, the time arrived for the baby to make an appearance. I went to North Carolina the weekend of her due date. Like all babies, it decided to come out on its own schedule, a few days later.

They had decided they did not want anyone in the birthing room but themselves, so her dad and I sat in the waiting room at the hospital for hours and hours, but boy, was it worth every second when we got called into her room for our first peek at our new grandson. He was magnificent.

My Suggestions for How to Be the Best Grandparent

All of this brings me back to some suggestions that took a while to put into place and get the hang of, but which have helped us create a really good relationship:

  • Be respectful of your kid’s wishes, always.
  • The baby likely has at least two sets of grandparents, so be prepared to share.
  • Take an infant CPR class at your local hospital or wherever it is offered.
  • Offer to babysit when it is convenient for the parents so they can have some “alone” time.
  • Respect the kids’ boundaries. Remember it is their child and they need to do things their way.
  • Keep your lips zipped if you do not agree with their choices. I did not agree with their choice of a first name for the baby if it was a boy and I made a joke about it. Oops. My bad. Today, it fits him perfectly and I cannot even imagine him with another name.
  • Do not take it personally if the baby cries every time you pick him or her up. It really has nothing to do with you. You will bond as time goes on.
  • Follow the kids’ rules when babysitting. You may think you know better, but this is their child.
  • Go with the flow on what your grandchild calls you. I wanted to be called Grammie, so I would practice saying that to him. What am I called? Mimi, and I love it!

And finally, enjoy every minute you have with your tiny miraculous wonder because it all goes by way too fast! Now you know how to be the best grandparent.