Friday, July 25, 2008

A New Adventure in Life—Grandparenting

I have heard that there is nothing like being a grandmother and very recently have been privileged to experience this reality. I must admit that with the emphasis for young people on careers today, I was wondering if my son and daughter-in-law might decide to pursue their careers over having a family.

After thinking I received a present by mistake last Christmas from my son and daughter-in-law, I was thrilled and filled with joy when I realized the meaning behind an ornament with the word “Grandma” on it. It was the first time that I seriously considered moving to Iowa to be closer than four hours away from my son, daughter-in-law, and future grandbaby! It was also the first time that we learned that this was their second pregnancy and she had miscarried her last child. So they were very excited but hesitant to tell us and asked that we not tell the rest of the family until things were a little further along.

Watching my daughter-in-law go through morning sickness, a scare of blood spotting, and proclaim “It takes a lot of energy to grow a baby” has kept me in prayer. Seeing my son, while talking with me and his father, move to stand protectively behind his wife with his arms stretched out as she climbed a step-stool to reach something out of the kitchen cabinet made me feel proud. Observing his excitement of making the baby move when he spoke or massaged his wife’s stomach brought smiles to my face.

Three weeks before the baby’s due date on a Sunday morning before church we got an email that Kelly’s, (my daughter-in-law’s) water had broke at 4 a.m. and she might be going into labor. We called my son, Tim, and they were already at the hospital. Things were going slow and Tim said he would call when they knew more. We told him we would keep the phone on during church which we had never done before.

Sure enough the call came at 11:33 am during church service and my husband went out in the hallway to answer it. Kelly had delivered a 5 lb. 15 oz. healthy baby girl with no name yet. But most importantly, mom and baby were doing fine. Eventually the name came, Abigail Ann. They wanted to call her, Abby. We love the name.
Part of the challenge of being a grandmother is abiding by the unwritten in-law rules that say “If it is my daughter, I get to see her and the baby first and if it is your daughter, you get to see her and the baby first.” Letting the other set of grandparents have first priority at seeing the baby when I so wanted to get into the car and drive to Iowa NOW was the first place I felt myself needing to adapt.

I knew I had to consider Kelly and Tim’s feelings and plans and put them before mine, no matter how strongly my desires felt. Kelly planned on her parents being the first to see little Abby. So rather than feeling sorry for myself since I did happen to take the week as vacation and could have easily driven up to see them, I used my extra time to cook up some casseroles that Kelly could freeze as I waited for the weekend--our scheduled time to see them. It was also the time when Mike and I could both go together.

A jaundice scare put Abby back in the hospital in an incubator under lights for an additional night. Again we were asked to wait until she was released from the hospital. Ughh! Couldn’t we be a help and support? It was getting difficult to wait, but eventually our time came.

Nothing prepares you for seeing your grandbaby for the first time. Besides the joy of holding Abby, I so enjoyed watching Tim and Kelly interact with her.

My son is an engineer so he loves to solve problems. When Abby began to fuss in my arms, Kelly came over and immediately quieted her down. We assumed it was mamma’s voice that calmed her. But then we learned something endearing.

When Abby had cried at the hospital, Tim would try different things to calm her down. He tried rubbing her head gently, it didn’t faze her. He tried massaging her legs, her stomach, but nothing stopped her crying until he took both of her arms and gently held them close to her chest while placing his two thumbs up for her to wrap her palms and fingers around. She immediately quieted down and stopped crying. “I don’t know why it works Mom, but she obviously finds it very comforting.” We realized that this is what we had witnessed Kelly do to calm Abby when she was upset in my arms. I loved to see Tim apply his engineering skills in his new role as a father.

Following are a couple of websites that are useful to new (and old) grandparents: Benefits of Grandparenting, Ohio State, Grandletters (a correspondence program for grandparents of grandchildren 7-12 years old), Kansas State University,

My next challenge will be grandparenting from a distance. How do I form a close bond with my grandchild when I am hours away? Phone calls, letters, emails, birthday cards, photos and small gifts are probably the most common ways of staying in touch. Holiday and summer visits to our home and attending special child events are also important ways to build the relationship. Audio or video tapes with a bedtime story that I read or stories about grandpa or myself as a child could be other ways. What have you found to be the best way to build relationships with those who are far away?

This entry submitted by Patti Faughn, Family Life Educator.

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