Grandparenting can be really grand, or it can be a grand nightmare….

by Rod Smith

Take up your life

Take up your life

Being a grandparent can be tough and some circumstances make it tougher. Here are three variables for discord and three that will provide a platform of greater integrity:


1. The baby arrives embodying the hope of salvation from the dismal, ordinary lives of the men and women in the immediate family. “She gives us all a reason to live,” said grandmother* to friends, the baby ensconced in her tender grip. “This one’s going to turn out right. I will make sure of that,” she says only to herself. *Insert grandfather, mother, father, and you have fertile soil for discord and emotional entrapment.
2. The baby arrives and grandparents are well off, while the parents are in a tough financial place. Of course the parents want the best for the child and “stuff” is both needed and given. Even though the grandparents’ generosity might be benign – the platform is healthier when the child arrives and lives within the parents’ budget and is not “subsidized” by extended family. Of course I do not mean “normal” sharing of celebratory gifts.
3. Families can and often will unite or “let bygones be bygones” when a new baby enters the family (especially a first grandchild) but unresolved discord will again surface and the baby will be the (unintended) recipient of unnecessary baggage, having been unable to deliver the family from its conflict.

Three conditions that will provide a platform of greater health and integrity when a new baby enters an extended family:


1. Naming rights are the sole domain of the parents, and the parents are absolutely free of all expectations to name the baby after anyone living, dead, real, or fictional at the request of, or under pressure from, anyone in the family. [Perhaps you would believe how often this is an issue. “In THIS family ALL the first born boys are named after MY great-great uncle who was the first man to ….. (insert achievement here) ….. so do you want to be IN my will or OUT of my will,” says dad with a warm smile.]
2. The extended family provides meals and support for the new mother and father but does not take the new baby from the parents so “you can get some rest” or “here, I’ve done this before, let me do that for you.” While favors and offers of help can be very necessary and very kind the greater help is to clear the deck of extraneous tasks so the mother and father may be free to be absolutely present with the baby as much as possible. [“Here, I’ll do the shopping for you so YOU can be with the baby,” says auntie, rather than, “Here, I’ll take the baby so YOU can go shopping.”]
3. The baby arrives and joins the family much like (forgive the simple analogy) a car joins the flowing traffic on a well-run busy freeway system. Babies are better off when people are already enjoy fulfilling lives, where the baby does not become the center of the universe, where the child joins, and things continue, rather than bringing life to a standstill for everyone, and then becoming the focal point around which all meaning and purpose is derived.

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