When we think about grandparents, we typically think of what we see in Hallmark commercials – loving and encouraging parents who become amazing grandparents with gray hair, big hearts, and the ones who try to override mom’s rules of no cookies before dinner. Sadly, that’s not the case for many.
My girls are some of the lucky and unlucky ones.
You see, I’m fortunate to have two parents who have been married for over 40 years and are active participants in my children’s lives. They have never lived within two hours of us, but my girls know their love through their genuine actions and true words.
Then, there’s my husband’s family. His mother was taken from him when he was a young child, so all we have of her are a few memories, a handful of photos, and a plaque at a gravesite. His father is alive, but that’s a story for another day. So, for sake of simplicity for my girls, we refer to my husband’s mom as “Grandma Mary Beth” and his father by his first name.
Through the relationships, I’ve seen with my girls have with their grandparents and my own relationship with my grandparents, I’ve come to learn a few lessons. I hope these help you when it comes to the grandparents in your life, whether they’re yours or your children’s.
1. Celebrate them while they’re here and remember them when they’re gone.
I love that most major holidays and birthdays can be celebrated with my parents. Birthdays are a big deal in our home and holidays are always grand. My girls have dozens upon dozens of photos and videos from times with my parents. I’m grateful for that. What they don’t have is any with my mother-in-law. That will always make me sad, but I can still celebrate her with them. We have photos of her around our home and we visit her gravesite on holidays and even ordinary days. She is the woman who gave birth to their daddy and the man who I chose to marry. We will always celebrate her life.
2. Work to maintain healthy relationships and boundaries.
As much as I adore my parents, I also knew I needed to establish boundaries on how I wanted to parent and how I wanted them to be a part of my daughters’ lives. If it weren’t for establishing those boundaries, we would have issues. People will only know how to treat you (and your children) the way you allow them and that comes with communication.
3. Grandparents don’t need to share your name.
When I was in the fourth grade, there was a “Grandparents’ Day” at my school. By this time, I had two living grandparents, but they weren’t an active part of my life. I remember feeling pretty sheepish when I asked my mom if the couple that loved me and my parents as bonus grandparents could come that morning. That couple showed up and loved on me like their own blood. I’ll never forget how their presence made a difference in my day and established my definition of family.
When it comes to Grandparents’ Day, you may be ready to celebrate with gifts of handprint crafts or you may want to erase it from all calendars. Either way, can I encourage you to do something? Be grateful – yes, even if you don’t have grandparents. Be grateful you have examples of loving grandparents to look toward on challenging parenting days or an older person who gave you a piece of advice when you needed it most.