New Baby Expectations
By Lauren Teegarden
Anticipating the arrival of a new grandchild can be wonderful, but there are several points to keep in mind when preparing to assume the role of a grandparent. Follow these tips to strike the balance between active involvement and courteous distance.
First of all, once the parents share the exciting news with you, do not take their confidence as a license to tell every coworker, neighbor, friend, and grocery store clerk about the new baby. While your child clearly wanted you to know the news, the world does not need to know--at least not yet. Ask explicit permission before sharing the news of the pregnancy with anyone.
Additionally, leave the name decision up to the parents. Do not interfere in this special process unless directly asked. The parents will tell you if they would like to honor you by passing along a family name to the child. Otherwise, even subtle naming hints are off-limits. Do not say, "I know that Aunt Margaret would have loved having your baby named after her"--the parents will feel guilty if they do not take your suggestion, and this is not a fair position to put them in.
Make sure that you always ask before buying any new baby gear. While it might seem like a good idea to surprise the expectant parents with a new crib, stroller, or rocking chair, it is always a good idea to check with them first. Perhaps the stroller has already been purchased, or there is a particular model that they would like. Avoid the potential of hurt feelings by clearing any purchases with the parents first.
Don't just drop by. While it might be convenient in your schedule to stop by and visit the new baby at will, new parents will appreciate it if you call ahead of time and ask if it is a good time. Being a new parent is both stressful and chaotic, and having some forewarning to clean up the house and ready the baby is appreciated. Remember that when you do visit, the parents will most likely be distracted by the baby. Make your visits short and sweet. Get your fix of baby time by offering to watch the baby for a few hours while the parents go shopping, out to dinner, or just get out of the house.
Keep childrearing wisdom to yourself, unless asked a specific question. While you clearly have experience raising children, things are done differently than they were a generation ago. First time parents especially are trying to figure everything out and would appreciate as little criticism of their efforts as possible. If you are asked a question, answer graciously and succinctly with as little "I told you so" as possible.
Remember that while loving your new grandchild as much as possible is great, you are not raising the child. Follow the guidelines that the parents create, even if you do not agree with them. Be respectful of their values and beliefs. By making yourself available if the parents ever have questions or concerned--but not allowing your presence to be overwhelming--you will create the foundation for a close relationship in the years to come.
Lauren Teegarden is a student at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. With grandparents of her own, Lauren recognized the value of strong grandparent-grandchild interactions and started "The Grandparent Connection," a free monthly email newsletter with articles, advice, and activities for grandparents. Visit her website, www.thegrandparentconnection.org, to sign up for the newsletter.