Interrupting with a Grandma Tap of Love
I get a lot of questions about being a grandparent to older teens and college-aged kids. There’s no doubt, just like it was with our own children, an older teen, especially a college-aged young adult, has a life of their own and it’s easy to think we’re not needed anymore. And, quite frankly, it’s not fun to realize someone doesn’t need us. So, we have to change our thinking. That’s “stinking thinking” to tell ourselves they don’t need us. Instead, we need to tell ourselves they need us in a different way and be alert to those different ways.
There’s no doubt, the game does change. No more after school practices to haul them to and games to watch and cheer from the sidelines. No more pushing on the swing or catching at the end of the slide. No more snuggles in bed. (Okay, I’m getting sad just writing this! LOL)
To make matters worse, many grandmas are reluctant to “interrupt” and I get it. While I was born in California and lived a few years in Oklahoma, I am a true southerner with deep-seated feeling about “interrupting” others, which is “just not done” according to my mother. My mom lived in California during her teen years and married a marine in San Diego, but her roots are deep and wide from the south. True old-time southerners know you don’t stir the pot, air your dirty linens, or impose on other folks’ time or attention. Southerners know their boundaries and, out of respect for others, keep them. I do realize I might be speaking for us older southerners, but that’s how I was raised. Interfering on the life of anyone, including a grandchild, is handled with kid gloves (a term used to mean very carefully) which can cause a grandma to choose to leave a grandchild alone at the risk of interrupting them. With older grandkids, it just takes being aware of their new life and not hanging on to the past life, as you find a way to “interrupt” for just a few minutes with a “love tap” from grandma.
There are so many ways your “interruption” will be loved, even adored! This is true if your grandchildren are completely grown as well. My mom who is now a great-great grandma loves being a part of her grands’ lives and they range from newborn to 50 years old. Oh, it can be part-time job. On some days she finds herself at home with nothing to do and other days she’s going from morning to night. And, it’s the same for me. One day this week at had our 18 month old great-grand in the morning, our 2 year old great-grand in the afternoon, and attended a grandchild’s honor’s event that night. Another day this week, I had all day to myself. The phone didn’t ring and no one came over. It’s what I call the grandkid rollercoaster. Some days you’re riding high, some days you’re upside down and some days, you’re just coasting along. My mom used to call it “doing the immediate.” She said she just did whatever the next phone call asked her to do. Before I go any further, I should tell you mom worked full time until she was 84 (she’s 90 now), so she certainly didn’t just sit around and wait for the phone to ring. She had plenty to do running her own real estate company, but she still found time to be involved in her grands’ lives.
So back to our topic at hand, if you find yourself wondering what to do with your big grandkids, I’ve compiled a list of things I have done or am doing now to stay connected with my older grand. Hopefully, if you are in this stage of life, it will help you. .
- Texting is the absolute best! I hope you’ve embraced this technology because a text is the perfect way to interrupt without interference. You can cheer on, pray for, encourage, and love on your grand and they can read it at their convenience. For a quick example, my 16 year old grandson recently attended a school event that he wasn’t participating in, just watching. At one point, I texted, “How is it going?” His response, “They’re doing great.” My response, “Great. Have fun.” In that little exchange, I let him know I see him, love him and want him to enjoy his life today. This is where we realize our words have power. Just a few words can build up or destroy. As grandmas, our words should always be used to build up. I love putting the picture in my mind of my grand seeing a text from me and smiling because they know it’s going to be something encouraging.
- The next great thing is facetime. On my word!! Are we The Jetsons or what??? I love it! My two granddaughters who are away at college right now are so good at this. For the most part, any time we talk, it is on facetime. Here’s a really great example. Recently, one of the girls called while she was cooking a meal for her roommates. I happened to be in the kitchen cooking too, so I put the phone on the counter and we just talked while we both worked. It was almost as good as her standing right in my kitchen, minus the hugs, but still great. You might have littles right now and use them to visit with them, but don’t stop it when they become teens. God gave us this tool so let’s put it to work in a good way.
- Here’s an old standby that never goes out of style. FOOD! Way back when my kids were away at college, their grandmothers would bake cookies and send them to them either by mail or with someone headed that direction. That is still a great way to tell your grands you love them, but in today’s world, you can also put a Starbucks or Chic fil A gift card in the mail and they will think you hung the moon! If you’re grands live close by, you’re solid gold any time you cook for them. The trick is to not put undue pressure on them. For example, I will often text the family who live close by and say, “Taco night at 2 mamas for anyone who’s available! Let me know if you plan to come and who you’re bringing with you.” This send the right message. You totally get it that they are super busy and you’re acknowledging that if they can come, great. If not, you still love them. No pressure. Of course, another way that involves food and some one-on-one time is to text one of them and say, “If you have time this week, I would love to treat you to dinner at the restaurant of your choice.”
- Stay connected by hosting an event at your home. If you are able, offer your home for any event your grands are involved in. Since we have a large front yard, when my grands were younger, we hosted their class Easter and end of the year parties. Because of this, I was able to get to know their classmates and enjoy watching them grow up too. For many of the parties, I did very little work. I just offered my home and the mommas took over. I loved being able to see the kids play with their classmates and meeting the moms of the kids my grands were hanging with. When they reached their teen years, it was easy to have them over for a birthday party or end of the year party as well. They were familiar with the house and felt welcomed. I always host the grad party for my graduating grandkids. Last year, I had four graduating so it was a huge party. This year, I just have one. That tradition is such a fun way to connect with my senior grandkid. We get to collaborate on the food, decorations, etc., which makes the whole event FUN!
- It may seem like a low-level job, but nothing for a grandkids is low-level so offer your services in any way you’re capable. Things like hemming a dress, braiding hair before a game, ironing a suit, shirt or dress, pinning on a corsage or boutonniere, picking up a dress from alterations, holding the phone while pictures are being taken, bringing water to the track meet, make cookies for the team. All of these activities are easy ways to connect, stay involved and stay relevant to what is going on with your teen or young adult grand. My recent example: One of my grands is getting married. I was asked to be at her bridal portraits. Yippee! Of course, I wanted to be there. I didn’t want to interfere with the mom or the photographer, so I just watched to see where a need might be. Soon the need arose. Bride had to walk in a pasture where the horses walked. I put myself on poop patrol. Yep! I walked ahead of the sweet bride and warned of upcoming areas where she shouldn’t walk. I also helped hold the bridal train, the phone, the veil, the whatever! I just did whatever was needed. No interference. Just help.
- One last thing. If you have a skill, job, talent or hobby you can share with them, of course, do it! I play tennis with several of mine, I sew with another, I cook with another, (and cooking is not my thing) I help write and edit their work with any of them who ask (editing was my job), I watch and keep up with baseball and basketball with another, I watch American Idol with a few of them…basically, I just look for ways to connect with them like I would if I were mentoring anyone. A good mentor is someone who does what they do and takes someone with them to do it.
To all you rock stars out there. I know you’re killing this grandma thing. I just want to encourage you and let you know how loved and valued you are. Your legacy is being lived out right now in the lives of your grandchildren. Keep on ROCKING!