(Bi-Coastal for grandchildren)
"Well, THE BOOK SAYS! to do it this way or that way, but NEVER your way. Now, thanks to the internet, everyone is an expert, and child rearing is included in the short list of 'how to's'. For example, I've seen a mountain of books about breastfeeding stacked next to an expectant mother's chair, but not one word of it is useful when all of a sudden you are holding this living entity in your arms. And, well, the mothering magazine image of that perfect moment is suddenly lost in a state of awkward panic. In the din of what certainly must be the screams of a child who has never eaten before, one forgets everything that has ever been read. Why else would the baby be screaming so loud and turning shades of pink and purple? "Hmmmm, let's check what the book has to say. Do not call family members yet. One might look stupid, like....well, we don't really know what we're doing. At all costs, let's try everything the book says. Surely this can't be a big deal, and it will stop soon."
It's not always easy to watch your first born grandchild have to experience the same rigors of Experimental Boot Camp that your own first born child did. Heck, I knew that I didn't know what I was doing, and that was before the internet. We had one book, and it was Dr. Spock. Did he really have all the answers? No, but we sure wanted to believe he did. We learned by trial and error. Surely some of that knowledge can be passed on, right?
Well, living in the information age and the technical world of e-mail, webcams, YouTube and more, has changed how we all interact in our social circles. Above all, it has redefined the family unit as well. Communication has become less 'touchy feely,' and more like sound bytes from a radio dial. You'd better learn the social networking lingo if you want to converse with your kids, and what language will we have to speak to communicate with our grandchildren?
So, what is a grandparent to do? How do we stay connected and keep a loving family unit whole while we watch our babies suffer from colic, sleep deprivation, and other common growing pains, without being able to utter a single, helpful word? How do we gently and courageously lend advice without offending? Without grabbing that baby and running for the hills just long enough to get them through a crisis? (Just kidding!)
How do we genuinely and quietly lend a helping hand without offending or diminishing anyone's self confidence? I can tell you this, it's not always easy! (Especially if you are not the maternal grandparent.) We have the battle scars to prove that silence is golden, especially when a simple remedy or cup of tea might be considered voodoo, and a smile or home cooked meal potentially misinterpreted as meddling during a postpartum moment.
The world of online information has not helped to soften the trials and tribulations of that first experimental child. In fact, I believe it has made things worse. Gone are the days when the grandparents or extended family were considered to have valuable experience or knowledge to draw from. That may sound like an extreme statement, especially if you are raising your grandchildren, or very close to the new parents and they welcome your every word. If that is the case, let's hear about those relationships, and if not...let's look at how we can be more effective at being supportive in a healthy way. Send your thoughts and letters to me at [email protected]
, and we will build upon our own grand-parenting family network.
Best Wishes to All! There is no greater gift in life than that of a grandchild. Well, of course we said that about our children, but once the grandchildren arrive, we become whole different beings. We do things we would never have thought possible, and buy the corniest gifts. It's a miracle!