By Denise Young
I became a grandmother for the first time in June this year with the birth of my grandson, Sunny. I’ve already developed a few Rules for Grannies that I thought I’d share:
Rule 1: Keep your mouth shut!
Times have changed and though babies haven’t, you’ve grown twenty or thirty years older. And if you’re anything like me, you can’t remember a lot about babies, especially the early horror of sleepless nights, endless feeding and inexplicable crying. As my son says, “Babies have so many options when it comes to problems!” I’d defy anyone to know exactly what’s wrong with a baby you don’t live with nor really know, apart from the odd cooing visit. There are times when you see your son or daughter-in-law doing something you wouldn’t do, or “making a rod for their own back”, by feeding at every cry, or always holding and rocking them to sleep… but unless they ask for advice, it is best to keep quiet. It’s not going to be your problem in the end!
Rule 2: Offer help regularly, but don’t be offended if it isn’t taken up.
Since Sunny was born, I’ve been essential only once: they’d brought him home from the hospital on a night of storms, blackouts and freezing cold winds. The baby cried all night and they couldn’t get him or themselves warm, sitting shivering through the darkness. In the morning my son rang and asked me to come over. I leaped into action. All I did was hold Sunny and provide a soothing presence, while they caught up on various things, but I was certainly needed that day. They are now managing very well since that first Night of Gothic Horror. Sunny is well fed and very contented. He looks as if all his needs are being met. I can delight in taking him for a walk and getting to know him without feeling any pressure. All fun and very little responsibility!
Sure, we all have images of the old granny dressed in black who lives with her family, quietly rocking the baby in a corner: a treasured part of the family!
Rule 3: Don’t arrive without being invited.
We have dropped in a couple of times and realised it is Not A Good Time with both parents stressed and trying to get Sunny to sleep. Grandparents really want to be useful and helpful but need to realise they could be stepping into a minefield where everything is on the line: your relationship with your son or daughter as well as their relationship with their partner, which can be stretched and unbelievably fraught with a young baby in the house. Sure, we all have images of the old granny dressed in black who lives with her family, quietly rocking the baby in a corner: a treasured part of the family! That is not a reality for many young couples, who have to work it out for themselves while often still trying to work and keep the bills paid. As well, lots of grandparents are working themselves and haven’t been warehoused in the corner this way yet!
Ultimately, parents, especially new mothers, have to find their own way. Most grannies won’t be there through the long dark nights. It’s up to a mother how she wants to mother her baby and new parents should be the ones calling the shots: inviting us in, asking advice, accepting help when they need it. We just need to be open to them and to be there when required.
Denise Young is a mother of three and a grandma to Sunny. She is also an award winning author. Check out her work at her website.