Priceless Grandparents

Welcome to the May 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With or Without Extended Family
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how relatives help or hinder their parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

As I write, I’m sipping a mug of warm Ovaltine.

Ovaltine is special to me because it was a love my Grammy and I shared. Technically, I’m guessing it started as a love of hers; one she was eager to pass on to her grandchildren. No matter how I came about it, I love it. I love the way it makes me feel. I love the memories it recreates. Many of my memories with Grammy surround food – peanut butter and banana, sugar cookies with sprinkles, huckleberry chocolates, apples from the orchard, and graham crackers dipped in milk.

Grammy was my last grandparent. My paternal grandfather passed away years before I was born, even before my parents met. His wife, my Grandma Sarah, died when I was 6, and my maternal grandfather went to Heaven when I was 4 months old. All that to say, Grammy was the only grandparent I knew. Plus, I was named after her and always felt like we had a special bond because of it.

Grammy and I – 1988

I share about Grammy because she is part of the reason I always wanted to be a young mom. I was 12 when she died at 75 years of age and part of me felt so empty after she left. At 12, Grammy was one of my best friends. Our time together was always rich, and fun, and perfect.

Over the years I’ve missed Grammy so much. Of course the big milestone felt her absence, but even in the daily things she is extremely missed. For a long time I’ve dealt with the pain of a grandparent-less life. Thankfully I have fond memories. I have peace that Grammy is in Heaven. I know I’ll see her again some day. But still, as a mom, I hope to evade a similar pain for my children. I’m not talking about beating death, but rather, I knew I always wanted to be a young mom so I could provide as many grandparent-filled years as possible for my children. The opportunity to make memories. To feel the love I so fondly remember. A chance to have them be a part of milestones and the every day.

Jemma is blessed to have all four grandparents alive and well. She has a special bond with each one and I can’t wait to see their relationships grow in the coming years. It is my prayer that we have many years to foster those relationships; grandparents are priceless.

From my own memories with Grammy and now, seeing Jemma with her grandparents, I’ve discovered many ways to ensure that she’ll always have fond memories of Boo Daddy, Gran Jan, Pops, and Mimi. Here are a few ideas to incorporate into your children’s grandparent relationships …

  • Discuss them when they are absent. Whether they have passed away, are across town, or across the country. Make grandparents a part of every day conversation.
  • Create a grandparent picture book. You know those little baby flip books? This is my favorite since it easily fits 4×6 photos with no trimming. Devote one to grandparent photos!
  • Record a book. Once your children learn their grandparent’s faces, they’ll be quick to connect their voice as well. Rather than Skype or phone calls, why not allow your child instant access to their grandparent’s voice with a recorded book? Hallmark offers quite a few stories and I’ve seen them sold at Kohl’s as well.
  • Daily activity companion. If grandparents are close by allow them to take part in daily activities. It doesn’t always have to be a birthday party or event to arrange a get together. Invite them over for a weeding party or closet sort. Many daily activities can be made extra fun with a special visitor
  • Establish traditions. Grammy and I always watched Rogers and Hammerstein movies together. I don’t recall watching them with anyone else. It was something special that was just for us. Encourage your parents and children to establish traditions that are unique to them. 
  • Help them remember. For grandparents who have passed, don’t allow their memory to die. Keep pictures around, watch family videos, and honor their memory by initiating and carrying conversations based on your child’s comfort level.
  • Write grandma or grandpa’s biography. In third grade, as a part of a school project, I wrote Grammy’s biography. It started as an interview and morphed into a full story of her childhood, meeting my grandpa, and other life highlights.
  • Take pictures together. My mom is a fabulous photo journalist. She has documented so many small moments from over the years and I am blessed to have many pictures of Grammy and I together. Still, I wish I had more. It has reminded me to take more pictures of Jemma nad each of her grandparents.
  • Adopt a grandparent. Once Grammy passed away, my parents helped us adopt grandparents so we could continue experiencing the blessing of a having a relationship with an older generation. I have many adopted grandparents – friend’s grandparents, couples from church, etc. – and they too, are priceless!
What was your relationship with your grandparents like? 
How do you help foster a positive relationship between your children and their grandparents?

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Dealing With Unsupportive Grandparents — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, The Pistachio Project tells what to do when your child’s grandparents are less than thrilled about your parenting choices.
  • Parenting With Extended Family — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares the pros and cons of parenting with extended family…
  • Parental Support for an AP Mama — Meegs at A New Day talks about the invaluable support of her parents in her journey to be an AP mama.
  • Priceless GrandparentsThat Mama Gretchen reflects on her relationship with her priceless Grammy while sharing ways to help children preserve memories of their own special grandparents.
  • Routines Are Meant To Be Broken — Olga at Around The Birthing Ball urges us to see Extended Family as a crucial and necessary link between what children are used to at home and the world at large.
  • It Helps To Have A Village – Even A Small One — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she has flourished as a mother due to the support of her parents.
  • The Orange Week — Erika at Cinco de Mommy lets go of some rules when her family finally visits extended family in San Diego.
  • One Size Doesn’t Fit All — Kellie at Our Mindful Life realizes that when it comes to family, some like it bigger and some like it smaller.
  • It Takes a Family — Alicia at What’s Next can’t imagine raising a child without the help of her family.
  • A new foray into family — As someone who never experienced close extended family, Lauren at Hobo Mama wrestles with how to raise her kids — and herself — to restart that type of community.
  • My Mama Rocks! — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment is one lucky Mama to have the support and presence of her own awesome Mama.
  • Embracing Our Extended Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares 7 ideas for nurturing relationships with extended family members.
  • Doing Things Differently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares how parenting her children far away from extended family improved her confidence in her choices.
  • Snapshots of love — Caroline at stoneageparent describes the joys of sharing her young son’s life with her own parents.
  • Parenting with Relies – A mixed bagUrsula Ciller shares some of her viewpoints on the pros and cons of parenting with relatives and extended family.
  • Tante and Uncles — How a great adult sibling relationship begets a great relationship with aunt and uncles from Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy.
  • Tips for Traveling With Twins — Megan at the Boho Mama shares some tips for traveling with infant twins (or two or more babies!).
  • Parenting passed through the generations — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about the incredible parenting resource that is her found family, and how she hopes to continue the trend.
  • My Family and My Kids — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders whether she distrusts her family or if she is simply a control freak.
  • Parenting with a Hero — Rachel at Lautaret Bohemiet reminisces about the relationship she shared with her younger brother, and how he now shares that closeness in a relationship with her son.
  • Text/ended Family — Kenna of A Million Tiny Things wishes her family was around for the Easter egg hunt… until she remembers what it’s actually like having her family around.
  • Two Kinds of Families — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how her extended family is just as valuable to her mommying as her church family.
  • My ‘high-needs’ child and ‘strangers’ — With a ‘high-needs’ daughter, aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings has had to manage without the help of family or friends, adapting to her daughter’s extreme shyness and allowing her to socialise on her own terms.
  • Our Summer Tribe — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a love of her family’s summer reunion, her secret to getting the wisdom of the “village” even as she lives 1,000 miles away.
  • My Life Boat {Well, One of Them} — What good is a life boat if you don’t get it? Grandparents are a life boat MomeeeZen loves!
  • Dear Children — In an open letter to her children, Laura at Pug in the Kitchen promises to support them as needed in her early days of parenting.
  • Yearning for Tribal Times — Ever had one of those days where everything seems to keep going wrong? Amy at Anktangle recounts one such day and how it inspired her to think about what life must’ve been like when we lived together in large family units.
  • I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their support and respect.
  • Trouble With MILs– Ourselves? — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake Half Asleep explains how her arguments with her mother-in-law may have something to do with herself.
  • A Family Apart — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings writes about the challenges, and the benefits, of building a family apart from relatives.
  • First Do No Harm — Zoie at TouchstoneZ asks: How do you write about making different parenting choices than your own family experience without criticizing your parents?
  • Military Family SeparationAmy Willa shares her feelings about being separated from extended family during her military family journey.
  • Forging A Village In The Absence Of One — Luschka from Diary of a First Child writes about the importance of creating a support network, a village, when family isn’t an option.
  • Respecting My Sister’s Parenting Decisions — Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s sister is guest posting on the many roles she has as an aunt. The most important? She is the named guardian, and she takes that role seriously.
  • Multi-Generational Living: An Exercise in Love, Patience, and Co-Parenting — Boomerang Mama at The Other Baby Book shares her experience of moving back in with Mom and Dad for 7 months, and the unexpected connection that followed.
  • A Heartfelt Letter to Family: Yes, We’re Weird, but Please Respect Us Anyway — Sheila of A Living Family sincerely expresses ways she would appreciate her extended family’s support for her and her children, despite their “weird” parenting choices.
  • The nuclear family is insane! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle is grateful for family support, wishes her Mum lived closer, and feels an intentional community would be the ideal way to raise her children.

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  1. Megan Hannan says

    My maternal grandparents passed when I was in high school. My paternal grandfather passed about two years ago. My paternal grandmother was my last one left and we got even closer in the last two years. Unfortunately she just passed a month ago. I was so glad my daughter got to have time with her, but I'm sad to think that she'll forget. We have a picture of my Gram in the living room and I love that Gwen will look at her and smile and say "Gram." Thankfully both of my parents and my husbands parents are happy and healthy, and Gwen adores them all.

  2. hobomama says

    You're making me feel sad now that I've done all my timing wrong, lol. No, I do think about the fact that my kids will likely grow up not really knowing their grandparents, same as my experience with mine. I hope I'll be able to be close my own grandkids, but I'll probably be dead… ;) We've totally done the flip book thing, with aunts and uncles, too. I wanted our kids to know our relatives' faces and names for when we visit. I love the ideas of establishing a special tradition and writing the life story. I'll have to try those ones next time we're there! Thanks so much for your post — I really appreciated the tips and the perspective!

  3. says

    This post is totally making me cry. I have always been very close to my paternal grandparents – I even moved 4000 miles to live with them in Dominica. They are such a support for me and so very close to my children, especially with my Mum living in the place I left and thus at a huge distance. I had a thought just last night of the extreme loss I will feel when they are gone. They are both 78 years old and while they often say that they won't be around much longer I tell them that they will still be around to watch my children drive their first car! You've reminded me to start taking much more photos and movies as I know that whatever happens in life they will forever be a part of my children's world even when that is just in memories. Thanks for such a touching post even though you have me sobbing at the screen.

  4. ThatMamaGretchen says

    That's so sweet that she recognizes Gram. My youngest sister was only 6 when Grammy passed away, but I think our pictures, discussions, and stories have helped keep her memories alive too :)

  5. ThatMamaGretchen says

    Sorry I made you cry :( But, glad to know that others have the same love for their grandparents! I'm definitely planning to take more pictures and videos in the coming months/years/decades too!

  6. ThatMamaGretchen says

    Your timing isn't wrong – it's perfect :) No matter the situation you/your kids are in, I think you gain appreciation and perspective from each experience. Plus, with technology these days distance doesn't have to be near the obstacle it has in generations past!

  7. hnimble says

    This is such a touching beautiful post. I never actually met or even know any of my grandparents. Albeit, I do get along very well with the older generation. There is one picture of my great grandma at my parents place and on my computer. As I did not experience grandparents personally, I made sure to take my little one on a long car journey (not even 4 months old at the time) to see her great grandmother. This was very fortunate as she passed away shortly thereafter. I get her to visit her great grandfather frequently at the nursing home. Both sets of grandparents get to see their granddaughter, but my parents place is my 2nd home and accomodates babies/toddlers so I go there often :)

  8. says

    I love these ideas! I was SO close to my maternal grandmother. She was basically my second mother, and I am so grateful that my mom made it possible for me to have a close relationship with my grandma. All of your ideas are excellent. Some of my most special times were when my mom let me take the greyhound bus to grandma’s house for a week – I felt so grown up, and then we had so much fun together while I was in town!

  9. Darah Hulse says

    oh your Grammy. Afternoons that I am home I try to make myself a pot of tea and these days I'm favoring the teacup Grammy gave me when I turned 16. Such an honor. I forgot that you girls were so young when she died. I'll never forget when we went to her house the first time and we left with some sort of produce – I think a squash of some sort – and I questioned my mom about it. She told me that that's just what women of Grammy's generation do, they share and you never leave their home without something to take with you. I think she was really my first study in graciousness. off to make a pot of tea . . . hugs!

  10. ThatMamaGretchen says

    Thank you so much for sharing – I love hearing other stories of how wonderful Grammy was! It's so true – she always did send you home with something. I love that about her generation and hope it is something we can resurrect! Graciousness is sure a beautiful thing :)

  11. ThatMamaGretchen says

    How fun to take the greyhound to your grandma's house! For quite awhile we lived next door to Grammy and we had a trail through the woods between our two houses – affectionately known as "The Grammy Trail".

  12. ThatMamaGretchen says

    Both sets of Jem's grandparents have done a great job at making their home welcome to little ones. Isn't that so nice?

  13. hnimble says

    Yes it is! And it makes for much greater quality interactions. :)

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  1. […] Priceless Grandparents — That Mama Gretchen reflects on her relationship with her priceless Grammy while sharing ways to help children preserve memories of their own special grandparents. […]

  2. […] Priceless Grandparents — That Mama Gretchen reflects on her relationship with her priceless Grammy while sharing ways to help children preserve memories of their own special grandparents. […]