The 2020 Grandparent: New ways grandparents are connecting with their grandchildren.
In a few frantic moments and six weeks earlier than anyone anticipated, I watched my firstborn become a mother, her husband become a dad and I, after many years of dreaming and wishing, become a grandmother.
The room was strangely quiet. Strange because this beautiful little girl was surrounded by 20 people. She’d been born early, weighed 3 lb. 9 oz., and had this sweet and tiny cry that made us all marvel. We were instantly in love.
Since then a few things have happened. First, her parents are rocking it. They didn’t miss a beat even though they are both very organized people that hadn’t had time to even unpack the shower gifts or set up the nursery furniture yet. They navigated the NICU and all that comes with that; kept their spirits up and loved their baby girl home five weeks later.
The other thing that happened is my husband and I turned into “those” grandparents. Everyone we run into gets a visit from our iPhones with the newest photo of our little angel.
We weren’t quite prepared for this beautiful change in our lives, thinking we had six more weeks to go. But, as we know, life has a way of throwing you curve balls. It so happens, we caught this one.
Those first days were most stressful. We watched doctors, pediatricians, and NICU specialists come in and out of the room to check on our granddaughter. We tried to support our daughter and son-in-law. Through all of it, we didn’t have time to think of what it means to actively grandparent. As things settled down, we took a breath.
We were grandparents. Finally, one of the last of our group of friends to get that title and it felt amazing. What everyone said was true. Immediately in awe –our hearts melted. It was like seeing our children as newborns again. We couldn’t stop staring at her big dark eyes and wondering why we felt like we already knew her.
She was part of our family. She carried generations of each of our families. She took our breath away.
On one of those early days, while sitting outside of the Children’s Hospital, I started to watch parents and grandparents with their little ones. Mostly grandparents. And I realized that this was uncharted territory for me- this grandma thing. It had come a little later in life for me than what I had thought it would. And now it was here and I was tearfully happy. But I also knew that grandmas now aren’t the same as grandmas when I was young — or even when my own kids were small. How would I be the kind of grandma she wanted … and what did that even mean?
Most of the grandmas I know, myself included, are still working — five days a week and at this point in our careers, working hard at often stressful jobs. We aren’t the grandmothers that can watch the babies while their parents return to work. We aren’t available at any given time because now we have a conference to attend or budget meetings. I was afraid my life was moving too fast to be able to soak up precious moments with this little girl.
We Don’t Look Much Like Our Grandparents Did
Today, grandmas do not often live in the same city or even the same state. Our adult kids are mobile and most have moved from where they grew up.
And as their parents, we’ve moved, too, to accommodate our own new jobs, care for our parents or if lucky enough, retire. Adventurous and fulfilling but not always convenient.
And we don’t look much like our grandparents did. Healthy lifestyles and active schedules keep us young, which is probably why so many are gazing at long lists of suggested names for modern day grandparents. I guess somehow “Glamma” sounds slightly more hip than grandma or makes you feel younger.
My close friend, who is a grandma and about to be one again, told me that Grandma is the sweetest name on the earth. I tend to agree even though I eventually opted for “Nana”. Only because I’ve always loved it and my own mom has the crown of Grandma and is wearing it well!
Stepping Into Modern Day Grandparenting is a Whole New Book
So, stepping into modern day grandparenting is a whole new book for me but I am excited to open the first chapter. I still have to go to work. But doing so makes it possible for me to afford to often catch that flight for a few days of cuddling and stroller walks. This sweet little baby slows me down and makes me present like no yoga or mediation class could ever accomplish.
Not living around the corner is sometimes substituted with technology. We were there for her first day home and Thanksgiving. But, Christmas and flu season for a preemie, called for our new little family to stay safely away from anyone that had been on a plane or even thought about being on a plane. So they opened gifts with the rest of the family that gathered at our house, via FaceTime on our big television screen. We shipped their gifts and we carried on the same tradition of opening presents together while our little Christmas elf slept soundly in her mama’s arms and we all oooh-ed and ahhh-ed at her as if she were in the same room.
Yes, grandparenting has changed. No, we don’t look much like or act the same as our grandmas- but how great is it to be healthier and more energetic versions because of the information we now have to make our lives longer and more vibrant? Where travel is easier and we have bigger worlds to share with our grandchildren? We can pay forward the sweetness and special bonds that our grandmothers created with us and that our mothers created with our children to our own grandbabies, but with a contemporary twist.
It’s a new chapter for baby-boomer grandparents and we’ve got this!
Written by: Pam Lang