When I was expecting my daughter, and then my son, the information I received came from two sources – a well-thumbed Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, and whatever my Lamaze teacher told me about delivering my child naturally yet (LOL) painlessly. Mom didn’t offer much advice, and I did my best to ignore the heavy-handed warnings my mother-in-law dispensed. My kids were born, and are now fully functioning adults.
The first edition of What To Expect When You’re Expecting didn’t come out until 1984, several years after my final child arrived. It’s still a bestseller, which I find heartening in this era of Internet myths and distortions. As the Baby Boomers age, a cottage industry of books and blogs by and for new grandparents has sprung up like dandelions in a May lawn, but I’m steering clear of them. Despite the fact that my son and his lovely wife are expecting their babies any day now, I think I can figure this out for myself. Here’s what I’ve been telling myself, as I contemplate impending grandmotherhood:
This is their baby, not yours. True, you are becoming a grandparent, but that is not the same. Just as you can’t take the pain out of labor for the new mom, neither should you dictate how she and the new dad should name, feed, dress, travel with, or educate this new little human.
However: You may hold, burp, shop for, coo at, spoil, and hand back the baby when it won’t stop fussing. You may also tell anyone you want just how perfect this child is, within reason.
It’s best not to worry. Knowing this is about as simple as delivering a load of cargo to the International Space Station, you can at least try to keep your concerns to yourself. As happy and excited as the parents-to-be may appear, you can be sure they are doing all the worrying necessary to ferry this child safely into the world. Besides, there is, if you’re lucky, another grandma-to-be who is already doing more than her share of worrying, so believe me, if worry does any good at all, that baby is covered.
To backtrack just a bit: When they tell you they’re expecting, you will be 1) shocked, 2) over the moon, 3) already starting your new blog, or some comedic combination of all three. When my son put me on speakerphone so they could both hear me, I thought, “What?” Holy cow. I did not see that one coming. I was upstairs, so after a riotous conversation, I hung up and went down to tell my husband. Only I couldn’t speak. Instead, I burst into tears and put my head against his chest. Finally I got out, “You know? What they told me?” He said he had pretty much figured it out.
So yeah, tears. Expect a lot of them. As Dan said, smiling, when they announced their engagement at Christmas 2013, “We sure made a lot of grown people cry today.” I cried then, I cried all the way through the rehearsal, the wedding, the gift opening, and the last hugs goodbye before they took off for their honeymoon. Did I cry some more when they called from the doctor’s office to say they’d just found out there were two girls on the way? Oh, please.
Speaking of telling others about your impending grandchild, I got that call while I was working, at Mercy Medical Center’s library. The only other person there at that moment was a physician, one of my own passel of healthcare providers. Such a nice guy. He let me tell him way more than any non-obstetrician should have to hear about twins coming. But he’s young; he’s raising kids of his own. He got it.
This joy will transfer into your life in interesting ways. For the baby shower, my daughter and I gave them books. Many books. We’re librarians, after all. You will shower them with not only material goods, but outrageous promises.
In my case, I vowed to give them every single winner of the Caldecott Medal. This is a prize given to the previous year’s “most distinguished picture book for children” by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association. (Librarians rock!) I made this promise before looking into how many books have received this medal. I gulped when I learned the total, for books published since 1937, is now, well, it’s 78. But a promise is a promise, and these kids are never going to lack for reading material.
You may find that doing the math can be sobering. It’s one thing to think about how cool it will be when they’re old enough to read those books – not to mention the 88 Newberry winners, for older readers. I can’t keep my eyes off twins I encounter who look to be 5, or 12, or 20. But then I realize how old I’ll be when they graduate high school. Maybe I’ll be there; maybe I won’t. But I plan to treasure every moment I can have with them.
Finally, when your grandchildren are born, you will find it difficult not to picture that young man, that young woman, who is your child but also someone else’s husband or wife, as he or she was as a newborn, or entering kindergarten. How can it be that the towheaded boy clutching his favorite Care Bear is now a father himself?
If you worry about being a good enough grandparent, it’s best to return to the wisdom of Dr. Spock. Remember the first sentence of that classic book: “You know more than you think you do.” I think we all do.