The Grand Adventure 20 things I’ve learned as a grandparent
There’s a wonderful souvenir coffee cup from the popular PBS drama Downton Abbey with a wonderful quote from the Dowager Countess, Lady Violet. It goes: “It’s a grandmother’s job to interfere.”
Guilty as charged. But after 20-odd years as a grandmother, I’ve also learned many lessons and gained much wisdom (mainly from my mistakes).
I’d like to share some of these eye-opening truths with you here:
1. Never have a visible candy jar. Instead, keep your candy stash in a place only you and your grand darlings know. Then swear them to secrecy. By doing so, you avoid lectures from moms and dads.
2. Respect your grandchildren as people and individuals for their opinions, their strengths and achievements, as well as their weaknesses and their failures.
3. Be unconditional. Don’t judge. If you disagree with a decision or a situation, offer to hear their reasons so you can understand their positions. Do this always with love.
4. Be positive. All too soon, these grand darlings will meet a tsunami of negatives. “That may be the world,” you say, “but that isn’t you.”
5. Be a role model as much as you can, but we grandparents are but mere humans. That said, when we make mistakes, we should model true humility and let them hear us say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.”
6. Be there whenever it is possible. Make certain they have your full attention whenever they want to talk — and make sure they feel like they are the only ones in the world at those times.
7. Teach the value of learning by sharing a book, a family story, a trip to the library, zoo, museum, art exhibit, a park or a trip to another place.
8. Don’t expect grand darlings to love what you love. Be interested in their passion for whatever they might care about at any age. Remember, the little boy who loves dinosaurs in January may be passionate about baseball in May.
9. Show them what caring looks like — collecting canned goods for the food bank, shopping for a shut-in neighbor, donating pet food to the animal shelter or finding activities where you can volunteer together.
10. Choosing a college is difficult. Listen to your grandchild’s thoughts; ask questions to help them clarify their needs, such as, “What about campus size? What was the vibe when you visited the dorm? What was impressive about the engineering department?”
11. If a grand darling is fearful of something, i.e., going to a new school, taking the SAT or giving a speech, talk them through it. If you live at a distance, use “face time” or Skype. At the very least, send an email or a text. Let them know you’re thinking of them.
12. Putting down their phones for a meal won’t kill them or their social lives. One grandma I know takes up phones on game night and gives them back the next morning in the name of quality time.
13. Help them build a faith foundation. Once they are old enough to make a decision, be supportive, whatever they choose.
14. As they go through life experiences, share your own. Be mindful of their ages, and only share what they can easily relate to.
15. Always tell the truth. Explain whatever they ask about in age-appropriate terms.
16. Teach them to show love — to you, each other, animals, people less fortunate. Do this by showing them love.
17. Teach them to respect others, their “things” and the property of others.
Do this by showing them how to take care of their property — by hanging up their clothing when possible or putting their dirty clothes in a hamper or laundry bag.
18. NEVER share your disapproval of others.
19. For pre-teen grand darlings, remember — growing up is hard work. Sometimes they’re so overwhelmed. Help them to stop and take a breath…to think about how they feel, their goal and strategy.
20. For older teens/young adult grand darlings, be honest, be direct and be supportive. In all cases, be authentic. Never sugar-coat reality. Do this always with love.
I am truly blessed to have learned these truisms. It’s an adventure.