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
"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
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
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.