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Tips on Preparing to Become the Best Grandparents

Penelope is retired, but teaches English in Rome. She is a published feature writer, playwright and poet. She loves local Italian customs.

What Can Grandparents Do?

 © Stuart Monk |

© Stuart Monk |

How to Wait for Your First Grandchild

Your son, or your daughter have just learned that they are expecting a baby, their first. They're impatient to have their very own family.

So are you.

The pregnancy might be sublime. It may be hell on earth. Your family-to-be may be near you, or far away. You may be very wealthy, or not so. You may be secure in your relationship with your children and be truly needed, or there could be estrangement. It's a 'life' story. It's going to be different each door you knock at.

While Mummy and Dad wait for the birth of their baby, here are tips on preparing to become the best Grandparents -

  • To be useful
  • To feel useful
  • To get through the nine months without being a nuisance, or a bore, or heavy handed with advice
  • To get it right when baby arrives, (be a part of it or a step aside for a day or two)
  • To give the right gift or a thousand gifts
  • To be or not to be
  • To do or not to do

My article suggests how to create a very real bond between yourselves - even if you are distanced from your future grandchild physically, geographically or familialy.

  • Write your grandchild a letter, which is your personal history of the family they will become a part of.
  • Feel sure you are connecting with your them - through the gift of a Family Tree that you make them.
  • Have some fun making things for the baby - passing the time through those nine months of waiting!

How to Wait for New Baby

Writing Memorable Letters

Family History

When I was about 10 years old, my paternal grandmother read to me a letter that my father (her only son) had written to her from a German prison of war camp during the Second World War, which had been smuggled to her in the heel of the shoe of a friend.

My father had been shot during the Normandy Landings and his whereabouts had been uncertain. The letter told of being injured - but alive. Sadly my Grandmother's possessions did not come my way. I don't know what happened to this letter.

But I have the memory of that afternoon. I can see my Grandmother's brown linoleum floor, our shared bacon and egg pie, the blue ink-teared, closely written pages of my father's young handwriting. I could almost see my father.

In my own letter to my first grand daughter I told her all about it so that she will know and feel tenderness for her family that came before her - and from whom she came.

Write a Personal Letter

Meaningful gifts between yourselves and your grandchildren are going to be intimate, personal and create a depth of experience which bond you to each other for life and which venture beyond the mundane.

Linking your existence to theirs through writing a letter makes sense of your mutual history! It's your own way to talk to them. (Writing your letter by hand would make your letter more emotionally personal.)

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You may want to tell them about your own parents, siblings, family members (and their recollections). It will be fascinating for your grandchild in their future to know exactly where their blood relations came from - which town, in which country? When? What careers did they have, or wished they could have had? Did they fight or die in any wars? Who were their friends? Did they spend time in prison or on a Kibbutz or on a PHD in New Zealand? Did they babysit someone famous? Were they Olympic swimmers? Beauty Queens? Nearly? Did they win horticultural prizes? Where are they buried? What are the words on their graves?

You can enrich your life and theirs with decorative detail. Elaborate on what you or other members of your family remember of their homes, pets, cars, guns and journeys - whatever. Fill it with anecdotes that stick in your mind. You could add a few photographs to your memories. (You remember that Aunty May had two different colored eyes for instance. Or you want to tell your grandchild your first memory of the orange nasturtiums tumbling down the front steps of your first house. You had nasturtiums in your wedding bouquet. Your mother was the most beautiful young woman in her village).

What language or dialect did they speak, or their fathers speak?

Since this letter is so very personal from-you-to-just-your-Grandchild it is important to ensure that your Grandchild will receive it (and be able to keep it). You may want to consider the pros and cons of:

  • Giving it to them when they are born
  • Keeping for when they are older
  • Entrusting it to your spouse, or lawyer, to give it to them in the case of your death.
  • Mention it specifically in your will. Leave a copy with your lawyer.

A Family Tree Wall Painting

By takato marui from Osaka, Japan (Šternberg Family Tree) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By takato marui from Osaka, Japan (Šternberg Family Tree) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

A Genealogy Chart

Make Your Own Time Line or Family Tree

Being diplomatic and respecting the new parents wishes is the number one rule of thumb - always. Remember what it was like when you were first pregnant and just how much you desired to create your own new family nucleus? These are tender times for the new family; so it's best to be diplomatic and wait for their cue. If they need you, they will reach out!

If you live too far away, or you are disabled or estranged, or you don't feel it is appropriate to offer assistance for now, or you physically can't help your family through their pregnancy time, there are ways to feel involved with this birth (and consecutive births).

You can create a meaningful link between yourselves. You could begin an heirloom as a gift! You could begin work on a Family Tree for instance, which can be passed down through your family for generations.

If you haven't clicked on any genealogy sites yet, now is your opportunity. Nine months may not be enough time to fill in the branches of your Tree but it is a fine way to fill in those months. This is a research job that Grandfathers can do too.

You might not get the Tree done before the baby is born because it's a research job that can take time, (depending on how far back in line you want to go - on both sides of the family), but it can be a 'works in progress' and it will be finished one day!

A fellow hub writer has written eloquently about how to make a family time line and the links to these articles are included here.

Surprising Facts about Grandparents

They represent 1/3 of the population.

72% think being a Grandparent is the single most important and satisfying thing in their life.

They are younger than ever before. 43% become Grandparents in their late 50's.

45% of Grandparents are on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Yahoo! Groups.

10% Grandparents have a tattoo; they are more modern.

My Cross Stitch Sampler Picture

My Cross stitch Sampler picture

My Cross stitch Sampler picture

Congratulations on New Baby

For Grandmothers who are experienced knitters or lace makers, cross stitchers or embroiderers there is no way to get you out of the craft shop. You'll have already put the bows on several pairs of baby booties, made your own octopus booty- holder and wrapped the baby's package up ready for the day. But to those of us who have never even made a paper hat, now is the time to develop some new talent.

I'm a Baby Boomer myself and like so many of us, I spent the first ten or twenty years of my adult life experimenting with new life styles oh so different from my mothers or my fathers and certainly different from my Grandparents! I did not have time to mess around with patchwork quilts (as my younger sister did) or bobble hats or lace table centerpieces.

But when I learned I was about to become a Grandmother I dashed online and searched for the prettiest sampler in the world. I placed my order. It arrived by post in no time. Then the first series of problems cropped up which made me wish I had been a bit more like my Grandmother. How do you cross stitch?

I studied and restudied the following video until I learned how to cross stitch and become an expert! The fruits of my labor are here; little nursery characters on a shelf waiting for baby to play with. Stitch by stitch I waited for my grand daughter for nine months, loving her, loving her, loving her.

Now I'm making another baby sampler for a second grand daughter.

Grandfather in Art

Die Naturkunde-Stunde

Die Naturkunde-Stunde

What Can Grandfather Do?

Since Grandparents control 75% of the wealth of the USA and have the highest average income, you could make a trip to the bank, or to your lawyer to organize a will for your Grandchild - for all your grandchildren. You may want to set up something to help them with their studies, if your children are so inclined, (when they will need some financial assistance). And have your lawyer write all about it.

Future Grandfather may go to his tool shed and nail up a frame on which to pin the aida fabric to cross stitch.You can make a palette to hold the color coded chart of threads for the cross stitch masterpiece.

When the cross stitch picture is perfectly finished, after the baby's name is cross stitched onto the flag in the middle of the picture, you can frame the picture or rush it to the framers!

There are no end of jobs you can do to participate in the arrival of your new Grandchild. You may even want to make something artistic yourself. A fellow Hub writer wrote a wonderful Hub about 'How to Paint Rocks'.

How to Make a Patchwork Quilt

Not all of us have the natural confidence to believe that we can Grandparent well enough, or in a way that will fit in with others ideas of what a Grandparent should be. Certainly cross stitching a beautiful picture is a great boost to our ego and goes a long way to helping us feel useful. Clever even. Grandparent proper.

There are other lovely objects that we can learn to make. Perhaps knitting the first baby sweater is not for the completely inexperienced knitter but perhaps sewing odd scraps of material together to make a baby quilt isn't beyond us.

It is time for Grandparents to learn new tricks too. Being a 'know it all' Grandparent is really boring. Besides we don't know it all. Grand parenting is yet another learning experience which is fraught with secret mine fields.

Loving your new family member is the easy part. Showing your love often requires a diplomatic tact you need to cultivate - and very quickly if you want to be allowed to stick around.

Unique Gifts

If you have a ton of money, why not buy a bar of gold, spend over $55000 on it and put it in a bank somewhere for a rainy day? Have your Grandchild's name carved on it too.

If you don't have a ton of money there are some less expensive but nevertheless original ideas for your grandchild, after baby shower gifts have been received and the dust (or is it talcum powder) has settled.

Here are a few items that are very special.

  • Music boxes
  • Antique dolls
  • Musical instrument such as a flute, or an oboe, or a violin
  • Collection of illustrated first edition children's books
  • Lord of the Rings Collection of Pewter Mugs
  • An original print or painting or portrait, signed, with a dedication to your Grandchild from you, Grandparents - with date of birth.

And if money is, was and always will be a problem, there is always the piggy- bank method of putting money together to pay for something practical, later on - for the always needed very-nice-when-new cotton vests, fleece lined pajamas, a waterproof pram cover.

I asked my nieces what they love most about their Grandparents and they said:

"It's do do with the warm cosy hug or being wrapped by them in a soft towel and knowing you're in the arms of experience"

"My Nanny is warm, she loves and giggles. She's always there for me to reach out to and has neither expectations nor criticisms"

It isn't their Grandparent's economic situation that they love, it is who they are and the special kind of grandparent's love that they are wrapped-up-tight in.

  • The Joys and Trials of Grandparenting
    Being a grandparent can be difficult - here are some tips for being a good grandparent.
  • Games on the iPad for the Elderly
    Playing games on the The New iPad is a fun way for the elderly to constantly be in touch and connect with family and friends. Just two fingers tapping on a light portable screen is all it takes, it's so easy! Through playing games with apps like 'Wor

© 2012 Penelope Hart


Apostle Redwood from Liberty Temple, Chicago on March 09, 2018:

Interesting and very foundational article

Catherine Worcester from California on March 03, 2018:

Thank you for sharing your story. I especially liked your idea of the genealogy tree. My grandson is 9 years old and he has been showing an interest in family history. He is half Mexican and half from the UK so an interesting mix.

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on August 24, 2014:

Your comment is so appreciated, so sincerely heartfelt. Thank you.

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on August 23, 2014:

I love being a grandparent to our 14 year old grandson and looking forward to the arrival of our twin grandchildren in December. Thanks for this wonderful information. I loved reading the story of your grandmother reading the letter about your dad and then you sharing that memory with your grandchild. It is so important that we teach the young ones about their family. Enjoyed!

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on October 10, 2013:

Yea happy guys! Thanks for sharing your happiness.

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on October 08, 2013:

Most folks our age are becoming great-grandparents - but, we now have a boy 9 and a girl 5 as grandchildren. Yes, we are thrilled. Thanks for the neat Hub on grandparenting! ;-)

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on February 21, 2013:

Your quilt sounds as exciting as my first patchwork picture, which was also made with love, stitch by stitch. I'm sure your grandchild will cherish it all his/her life and congratulations on both babies!!

Beautiful, wonderful news for everyone!

Many thanks for your comment.

Cvarmymom on February 21, 2013:

I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my first grandchild in March. I made him a quilt ( my 1st attempt!) so it wasn't perfect but made with love. I also just found out that we are going to have another one in June! Very excited, and now have to figure out another something special for little Karter!

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on December 15, 2012:

It's such a new role and not always plain sailing. Thank you for your comment.

lex123 on December 13, 2012:

An interesting hub with wonderful ideas to prepare for the new position of grandparents. Enjoyed reading it.

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on July 14, 2012:

Thanks Sharyn. Must be wonderful to be a caring aunt and I'm sure you are wonderful.

Sharon Smith from Northeast Ohio USA on July 14, 2012:

Hi Penelope ~ Well, gosh, I love this hub. And I can see we both think alike. Thank you so much for linking my personal legacy letter hub. I feel a little saddened that I will never be a parent/grandparent, although I really try to be the best auntie and great aunt that I can be. All the children in my life mean the world to me.

The detail and suggestions in your article are simply awesome. So heartfelt and creative. I chuckled a few times too.

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on July 08, 2012:

It can be incredibly hard to get it right. I found out too. I think all we grandparents do. Especially being grandparents to our son's children. Might be easier to be grandparents to our daughters children. Anyway wilderness, it isn't over with yet and we are the role models for them all, however hard it is. Greatly appreciate your heartfelt comment.

Dan Harmon from Boise, Idaho on July 08, 2012:

I wish we had been able to do some of these things as we became grandparents. Our son married into an existing family and there was little to no preparation time.

It was tense for us as the new family lived with us and we had no idea of what our role as a grandparent was, while the new wife was uprooted and moved to a new setting with new people (us) to contend with and our son had a new family living with him in his parents home. No one really knew how to act.

Hubs like this can hopefully help others avoid the problems we fought to so hard to overcome.

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on July 07, 2012:

Yes, we have stories to tell and our grandparents before us had all theirs - and we could know so much more about each other and our pasts through these family histories.

Ronna Pennington from Arkansas on July 07, 2012:

How nice it would have been to have had a family history for our daughter before her grandmother passed! A lovely idea!

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on July 07, 2012:

Loved linking to your hubs! Thanks. The letter is an invaluable document and I wish I too had one (at least ). What a sad thing to have lost both grandparents. I'm very sorry. It is a great loss.

Judi Brown from UK on July 07, 2012:

There are some great ideas for expectant grandparents here. I think you are right about giving personal gifts that connect children with their heritage. Sadly, both my grandfathers were dead before I was born and one grandmother died when I was two, so I only really knew one grandparent. It would have been great to have had something personal from them.

Thanks for linking to one of my hubs too!

Voted up etc.

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on July 07, 2012:

Oh how lovely to have that letter! I completely understand how powerful it is, what a link to your dear past. Thank you for your votes and for passing it on to your friends too.

Shelley Watson on July 07, 2012:

GoodLady, an excellent very informative hub, and I will definitely pass it on to my friends who are grandparents, I too loved the letter idea, I have one for my son from my now dead mother-in-law. So lovely to be able to read her words again! Voted up and beautiful.

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on July 07, 2012:

Goodlady, not a problem and glad to comment here, because this was such a wonderful article and really hit all the right now notes. Great Job!!!

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on July 07, 2012:

Oh, thanks you! you have no idea how much I appreciate your words. Yes, the letter is a really wonderful thing to do. I did it and it makes so much sense. Thanks so much for your kind comments.

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on July 07, 2012:

I am no where near being a grandparent, but loved this article and all your ideas on what a grandparent can do to wait for the arrival of their grandchild. I honestly loved the letter to pieces, because this is something your grandchild gave have from you the rest of their lives and can read over and over. What I wouldn't have given to have a letter from my grandmother to know exactly why she was feeling and thinking waiting for my arrival. Well done and shared and voted up too.

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