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Attached Grandparenting

Spring, for many, signals the birth of new life after a cold blustery winter. For the Bowen family, before the end of the day March 6, 1903, Spring and "new life" took on a whole new meaning and set off a flurry of activity that lasted for some time.

Little Audrey arrived unexpectedly weeks before she was supposed to make her scheduled appearance. In 1903, the birth of a premature baby usually meant the infant had little chance of survival. Little Audrey, weighing in at around 3 pounds by all accounts had "no" chance. Tender, loving hands washed her, wrapped her in a soft cloth, placed her in a shoebox, and then placed the shoebox in the warmer of the oven to help keep the baby warm. Tender, loving hands, administered to the needs of Audrey's mother, weak and frightened over the birth of her first child, so soon, and so unexpectedly. Tender and loving hands helped Audrey's mother learn to nurse this tiny fragile baby, keeping the baby in the warmer of the oven when not in mother's arms. The tender, loving hands, were those of her grandmother.

What I have learned about being a mother, and now a grandmother, comes from my experiences with my own mother, grandmothers, and aunts. "Mothering", in our family, is in reality, a "family affair". We rely on the wisdom of generations before us, to help us hold fast to our mothering instincts, to guide us gently, and to reap the rewards of developing strong family ties in the Golden Years.

"Attachment Grandparenting" does not mean that "you" do the parenting "for" your child, nor that your child has to do everything "your" way. However, as a grandparent, I believe you do have a responsibility to be "up to date" on current childrearing practices; to research "trends"; to be willing to acknowledge that things you did as a parent may not be the "best" way. As the medical field gained more control of women's bodies, so they also gained "control" of parenting practices. The ideas that followed were "man-made" and were (and are) often contrary to the way we are intended to parent, contrary to our instincts. These ideas have persisted in our society, making "natural" parenting almost a thing of the past.

When I learned I was expecting my first child, I was 19 years old. There was never any question that I would nurse my child. My mother nursed, my grandmother nursed, and their influence was such that any other way of feeding my baby never entered my mind. However, once my child was born, and although I did nurse him without hesitation, I followed my doctor's instructions about how and when to feed him, offering the appropriate water bottles, and introducing solids by the time he was eight weeks old. Of course I cringe now looking back, and wish I had listened to the wise council of my mother and grandmothers. At 19 I could only look at them and think "what did THEY know?! Surely the doctor knows what he is talking about!" (boy was I wrong) What I did not see then, but see clearly now, is that my mother, and grandmother were drawing upon the wisdom of generations.

I draw upon this same wisdom now, along with researching the latest data that might affect or influence the health and happiness of my precious grandchildren. I take my new role as "Grandma" quite seriously and strive to maintain a balance that makes it easy for my daughter (and someday my sons and daughters-in-law) to listen should I have concerns, to know I would not voice them if I felt it wasn't important, and to know I've researched to see if my concerns about something are justified.

To be an "attached" Grandparent, I think one must strive to have an "attachment parent" or close relationship with your child. In maintaining the interpersonal relationship with your child, you reduce any chance that your attachment to grandbaby would be "threatening" in any way to mom and/or dad.

It is natural and appropriate for Grandma to share her life's experiences with her daughters and sons. This is how generations have been able to maintain close relationships and be each other's biggest support system.

An example might be if Grandmother had an experience with what is often referred to as "nipple confusion", Grandma should be able to "forewarn" of the risks involved, drawing upon her own experience and also offering information from breastfeeding experts. This is not "butting in" or interfering, its information the daughter can use to make in informed choice.

"How" the information is related does make a difference! If one were to say "Don't do that" or "you don't want to do that" it might put new mom "off" before one has a chance to explain why. If one says something like "I introduced the bottle early, and wish I had had access to this info that explains how it can mess things up. You might want to know more about it before you go ahead, so if there IS a problem you'll know more how to take care of it." - it might encourage mom to do more research. Offering or relaying information can be - and should be - done lovingly and respectfully.

It is important to let your daughter (or daughter-in-law) BE the mom, and for Grandmother to support her the best she can, even if there is a difference of opinion on "how" to be a mom. If there is a difference of opinion try approaching it by doing some research, then sitting down to talk about it with some supporting information for your position. In the end, let mom know that you respect that she will try to make the choices that fit her family the best, and that you may not always agree, but you can disagree respectfully (that means no little "digs"!).

Our family (for generations) have believed in and practiced a nurturing (and more natural) parent/child relationship. Working to keep our interpersonal relationships strong has enabled us to be a close-knit group of men & women, and usually enables us to be able to offer gentle parenting tips without a problem. More than that, though, it shows by example, so often "direction" or "tips" are not needed.

For us, this example has never been more strongly portrayed than on that day in March, 1903, when my dear Grandmother, Audrey, was born into this world too soon, and amazingly enough with the care given by her Grandmother, Audrey and her mother survived to share with us the art of Attachment Parenting - and Attachment Grandparenting.

Copyright 2000 - 2003  Jim Yount

Send email to Paula Yount for any questions or comments about this site.

Disclaimer:  The pages contained herein are meant purely for informational purposes and every effort is made to provide accurate and up-to-date information. This information, however, is not meant to take the place of your doctor, nor should the information contained on this web site be considered specific medical advice with respect to any specific person and/or any specific condition. The author, therefore respectfully but specifically disclaims any liability, loss or risk - personal or otherwise - that is, or may be, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from use or application of any of the information provided on this web site.